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Updated:  December 29, 2005

If you're anything like me, this time of year lends itself to many things – holiday recovery, loosening of belts, planning and hopes for 2006 - and a time of reflection on the past year, it's highs and lows and the lessons, if any, learned. This week's newsletter is mostly a reflection on the past year - not just in entertainment but global news as well.

Shorter, more concise this week but back to the full gamut next week! By no means is this some sort of complete list of goings on in 2005 - just a few tidbits and opinions.

And YES, this IS a
NEW FORMAT that I'm trying out on you guys this week and next ... please click YES if you like it or NO if you prefer the other style - either way, let me know. FYI, the purpose is to drive more hits to my actual site - if you read the email only that I send out each week, this means that you are not generating a hit for my site - which is how I can look more alluring to potential advertisers. So, let's see what happens ...

The events or stories that touched me or experiences that I'm proud of this year include:


the stories covering Hurricane Katrina (as my brother-in-law went down to Texas and then Missouri to assist the devastated people with The Salvation Army);


the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams (as my good friends Vondie Curtis Hall and Rudy Langlais directed and produced the film on his story - Redemption - go rent it!);


the visible rise in Canadian urban artists exposure in this country with many new releases covered in this newsletter (go pick up your favourite Canadian content CD to help sales climb - the only measure of success that the world understands!);


being able to profile more Canadian artists in my INTERVIEWS section and being given the opportunity to secure these interviews;


travelling to St. Kitts for the Music Festival in June 2005 - my first out of town gig!;


having the opportunity to begin working with the five-time World and Olympic Champion, Donovan Bailey (more to follow on that in 2006!);


and having the opportunity to know and help to cultivate exposure of Canadian talent through your wonderful support!

Now, as 2005 comes to a close ... why not celebrate the incoming year 2006 at Irie Food Joint on New Year's Eve? (Details below!) Again, my people at Universal Music Canada offer us a special deal - the new Mary J. Blige CD! Do you know the title? If so, CLICK HERE to become a winner! (Hint here.)

Welcome to those who are new members. Want your events listed by date? Check out EVENTS. Want to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.






New Year's Eve at IRIE FOOD JOINT

Carl Cassell invites you to come through your fav hangout on New Year’s Eve for the unique and laid back vibe of Irie.  Enjoy the buffet dinner for the mere cost of $30 per person and stay on for the party at no extra cost!   

Live music will be featured and DJ Carl Allen will be representing on the turntables and you know how he brings it – old school mixed with the new!  Throw your favourite jeans on or dress to the nines.  Everyone is welcome!  The party will include all night Irie hors d’oeurves, party favours, and champagne at midnight.  Deny winter and party on the heated patio.  Join us at Irie on New Year’s Eve – what a deal – for the cost of dinner, you get a New Year’s Eve party as well!  As always, Irie brings you - food – music – culture all under one roof. 

Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
Dinner:  $30.00 and party for free
9:00 pm



::2005 IN REVIEW::

Updated Katrina Fast Facts

Excerpt from

(Dec. 2, 2005) The Salvation Army responded immediately following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, serving the immediate needs of survivors by providing shelter, food, water, ice, cleaning supplies, baby supplies, and hygiene products. Over One Million have been served in at least 30 states. The following information represents the Southern Territory’s fifteen states and the District of Columbia.

The Salvation Army has served 5,324,043 hot meals, 7,516,515 sandwiches, snacks & drinks. 

The Salvation Army has provided 178 Mobile Feeding Units (Canteens), 11 Field Kitchens, capable of producing 20,000 hot meals per day (each), (Incl. 8 Southern Baptist Kitchens.) in the many areas affected.

The Salvation Army has distributed 157,957 Cleaning Kits. (Broom, bucket, mop & detergent) and 185,363 Food Boxes (groceries.)

The Salvation Army has ministered through Pastoral Care to 238,134 individuals.

The Salvation Army has registered and begun helping with 263,608 Social Services Cases.

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has received over 61,000 inquiries and has found 25,508 survivors.

Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers have served a total of 751,062 hours.

The Salvation Army has assisted a total of 1,368,603 individuals.

Donate by phone:
1-800-725-2769 (in Canada only) or GIVE HERE

 With Your Help, We All Make A Difference

Excerpt from

(Dec. 26, 2005) The devastation and human suffering caused by natural disasters seems to be the ‘new normal’ in which we live. Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Pakistan and Hurricane Wilma have served to take the focus off of the ongoing struggles and rebuilding in South Asia. Now, almost a year later, The Salvation Army remains committed to the ongoing task of long-term sustainable development in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.  From the very outset, Salvation Army emergency disaster response teams were among the first to provide relief to people in great need throughout the tsunami affected region. With our long standing record of humanitarian service in these countries, The Salvation Army was able to mobilize immediately to provide rescue and relief services.   With continued and generous support from the public, The Salvation Army remains actively engaged in the holistic rebuilding of lives, livelihoods and communities.  The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory is part of a global network of partners including the Canadian International Development Agency, our International Headquarters in London, England, other Salvation Army Territories and other agencies such as OXFAM and the Adventist Disaster Relief Agency.

Your practical support has enabled us to assist thousands of people as they struggle to rebuild their lives, homes and families. We have worked diligently with communities to help them identify their needs so lives are rebuilt with dignity. Our offers of a ‘hand up’ have been warmly received and it has been inspirational to see the hard work undertaken by so many as they strive to work their way back to a life without chaos.  This information presented on our website will provide you with some factual details which will outline the progress made to date in our projects in South Asia. The work is far from over and I want to assure you that The Salvation Army will stay the course and deliver services in a people-centered focus of action.   Thank you again for your kindness and generosity which is helping to bring thousands of people the long-term assistance they so desperately need. With your help, we all make a difference.

May God bless you,

Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan
Territorial Commander
Leader of The Salvation Army Canada & Bermuda Territory

K-os and Divine Brown Winners at Canadian Urban Music Awards

Source: Canadian Press - Angela Pacienza

(Nov. 29, 2005) TORONTO (CP) - Rapper K-os and singer Divine Brown were feted Tuesday with two Canadian Urban Music Awards at a concert ceremony that illustrated the genre's growth in the past year.  Kevin Brereton, a.k.a. K-os, was named songwriter of the year and fan's choice. He'd been nominated in five categories for his album Joyful Rebellion. Toronto singer Divine Brown won best R&B recording for Old Skool Love from her debut CD. She also won the coveted best new artist, beating out Jully Black, Massari and Rochester a.k.a. Juice.  The awards, which aim to raise the profile of home-grown urban artists who are often drowned out by their American counterparts, were distributed at Kool Haus, a downtown nightclub.

"We've grown quite a bit this past year. Normally there's one big album that comes out and there were a lot of artists that came out this year," said Black as she entered the venue. "We're building soldiers. It's great for the urban community." WWE superstar Trish Stratus, rapper Kardinal Offishall and runner Donovan Bailey were among the attendees. It's the seventh year the non-profit Urban Music Association of Canada has organized the awards, which cover 25 categories including soca, gospel, jazz and spoken word. For the first time, the organization split the categories over two nights. The majority were distributed Monday during an industry dinner. Somalian-born, Toronto-based rapper K'naan won best hip hop recording for his song Strugglin'. Reggae artist of the year went to Blessed for Reggae Time. Saukrates was named producer of the year, while Ranee Lee and Oliver Jones were awarded best jazz recording for their collaboration, Just You, Just Me. Archie Alleyne received a lifetime achievement award. The Toronto-born jazz drummer has played with an array of talent including Billie Holiday, Mel Torme and Nancy Wilson. He currently performs in the jazz group Kollage.

Farley Flex was honoured with a special achievement award for helping to raise the profile of urban music in Canada. Before becoming a Canadian Idol judge, Flex helped launch urban music radio stations in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. He also helped break artists like Maestro to mainstream audiences. On the red carpet, he recalled how some fans attending the first Maestro concerts had never seen an urban artist live before. "We went to places like Glace Bay, N.S. . . . people hadn't had that interaction," said Flex, who brought his three children to watch him receive the accolade. "We made sure that we went there to represent the music in the best way that we could." He said today's artists need to do more touring if they want to find bigger audiences. "It's a big deficiency in urban music. There's not a lot of opportunity to tour. Until we can get urban artists on 15-, 20-and 30-city tours in Canada we won't have the groundswell that the indie rock groups have," he said prior to the show.  But he said artists like K-os are proving that things are getting better because they are able to have multiple-city tours and plenty of radio exposure.  Sun TV was to film Tuesday's concert and ceremony for broadcast on Dec. 21.

Celebrating Unsung Heroes

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christian Cotroneo, Staff Reporter

(Dec. 28, 2005) When Velieta James first landed in the neighbourhood, the mission was simple: Hold on to your purse.  After all, she was looking at a new home in the Jane and Finch area at night — and the neighbourhood's reputation had her on edge.  "The only thing I knew about Jane and Finch was what I heard in the news," she explains. "When I came over here, I remember I was holding on to my purse thinking some people are going to rip my purse."  But after moving in, her second mission became only too clear: Open up that purse.  Her heart was already there.  An avid churchgoer for more than 25 years, she was hearing the voices of too few children at services.  "Everybody has been going after the adults," she says. "And the kids have been left out."  It was the same oft-touted maxim: Mend your ways. But what ever happened to shaping those ways — before they needed mending?  "The word of God states you have to train up a child in the way they should grow so that when they're old they will not depart from it," James says.

"Kids are growing up faster than they really should be ... becoming adults overnight. And missing out on the purpose of why they're even here."  So James, who works as a nurse, decided to let those voices ring out. She started her own children's choir, culling the ranks of neighbourhood families, and eventually coming up with a group of between 20 and 30 children.  Her love for children — and the hope she sees in them — is reflected in the name she chose for the group: The Precious Jewels of Toronto Youth Choir.  "Some of them are pretty rough," she admits. "Considering they have been going to school, they have to be tough to survive.  "At first, they were not respectful. But because we have been instilling the word of God in them and showing love and teaching them to share, I've seen the changes.  "I know changes can take place."  The wages of change, for the most part, come from James' own pocket. She pays much of the group's expenses, even renting rehearsal space at a nearby community centre by the hour — or bringing the children to her own living room.  Her church lends a hand on occasion. And over the holidays, a group of area teachers has promised gifts of food and toys for her young charges. All the while, James brings her choir from churches to seniors' residences, where generational bridges are built.

Of course, James knows a thing or two about those bridges. Her daughter, Cypriana, has become a major part of the mission. As well as her 9-year-old granddaughter, Takisha.  "We're training her, too," James says, laughing.  "If something happens to me, my daughter takes over. Something happens to my daughter, then her daughter takes over."

Chords Of A Canadian Tipping Point

Excerpt From The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic

(Dec. 29, 2005) I like lists as much as the next guy — unless, maybe, the next guy is CBC Radio's Jian Ghomeshi who seemingly will not rest until some sort of ranking has been assigned to every popular song ever recorded.  With Ghomeshi at the helm and Promo Girl beating the bushes on a half-hourly basis, Radio One's Sounds Like Canada has fallen completely under the spell of list-o-mania.  The obsession began a couple of years ago with an attempt to identify the 50 greatest pop songs ever, followed by an exclusively Canadian version, followed by this year's effort to produce a "National Playlist," whatever that is.  Presumably it's great fun and the loyal audience — invited to participate — is eating it up. But it's interesting that this fixation comes at a time when there is an awful lot of good music around — and precious little consensus about what it is.  Exclaim!, the exhaustively authoritative Canadian music monthly, doesn't even attempt to come up with a generic list in its year-end issue, but categorizes preferences by genre, even to the point of separating hip hop from funk/soul, electronic from experimental and punk from pop/rock and metal/hardcore.  The Toronto weekly Eye renders an omnibus reckoning, a result achieved by soliciting the opinions of dozens of critics from coast to coast, and crunching the numbers. Published each January, it's the closest thing we have to a national, musical accord — at least in terms of punditry.  

My list is the exact opposite, reflecting nothing more than personal bias, individual taste and the reflexive enthusiasms that attend the uncorking of another bottle in the wee hours of the morning.

In that sense, the 2005 honour roll is no different than in previous years with one wrinkle: this time all of the entries are Canadian.  The point is not to pander to narrow, parochial interest but to acknowledge that a tipping point was reached this year. Quantitatively, there was more outstanding Canadian music this year than last year, or the year before that, and so on.  True, no single album exceeded my fondness for Sarah Harmer's You Were Here (2000), Broken Social Scene's You Forgot it in People (2002), Metric's Old World Underground, Where are You Now (2003), and Stars' Heart (2003) or Set Yourself on Fire (2004). But there was a lot to choose from.  Last year's tentative resolve to present an all-Canadian list was abandoned when I couldn't come up with 25 homegrown albums I liked well enough to include. Whereas this year, it was no sweat.  And here they are.

1. FemBots, The City (Paper Bag): Accessibility is entirely overused as a pejorative. Toronto's alt-folk tinkerers traded some, but not all, of the experimentalism of 2003's Small Town Murder Scene for a more disciplined regard for conventional song structures — with enchanting results.  
2. Black Mountain, Black Mountain (Scratch): Stoner rock concoction by Vancouver collective produces suitably narcotic effect.  
3. Constantines, Tournament of Hearts (Three Gut): Local club heroes' distinctive brand of soulful punk tilts decisively to the soulful side of that appetizing equation.  
4. New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (Mint): Although less immediately delirious than previous efforts by Vancouver supergroup, the charms are more insidious and just as irresistible.  
5. Final Fantasy, Has a Good Home (Blocks): Violinist Owen Pallett, indie rock's prince of pizzicato, contorts the boundaries of pop into captivating shapes.  
6. Jason Collett, Idols of Exile (Arts & Crafts): Broken Social Scene mainstay calls in a lot of favours on what proved to be the summer's sunniest release.  
7. Snailhouse, The Silence Show (Scratch): Montreal-based singer/songwriter Mike Feuerstack turns out an introspective, understated, perfectly-realized gem.  
8. The Deadly Snakes, Porcella (Paper Bag): By turns messy and refined but always unsettling, it moves from the garage to Nick Cave's house of horrors.  
9. Jon-Rae and the River, Old Songs for the New Town (Permafrost): Kelowna transplant Jon-Rae Fletcher orchestrates a spirited slam dance between the sacred and the profane.  
10. Justin Rutledge and the Junction Forty, No Never Alone (Six Shooter): Reflective, articulate songwriting, smartly framed by crisp, rootsy arrangements.  
Fifteen more (in no order): Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene (Arts & Crafts); Sarah Harmer, I'm a Mountain (Cold Snap/Universal); Metric, Live it Out (Last Gang); Martha Wainwright, Martha Wainwright (MapleMusic); Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mary (Sub Pop); Great Lake Swimmers, Bodies and Minds (Weewerk); Joel Plaskett, La De Da (MapleMusic); The Remains of Brian Borcherdt, Vol. 2 (Dependent); Luke Doucet, Broken (and other Rogue States) (Six Shooter); Bell Orchestre, Recording a Tape the Colour of Light (Rough Trade); High Dials, War of the Wakening Phantoms (Rainbow Quartz); Caribou, The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino); A Northern Chorus, Bitter Hands Resign (Sonic Unyon); Daniel Lanois, Belladonna (Anti-); The Vertical Struts, The Vertical Struts (Pop Echo).

Stanley "Tookie" Williams: A Day Late And A Life Short

Excerpt from

(Dec 23, 2005) Stanley Tookie Williams had a homegoing celebration fit for a king and rightfully so.  For two days, people from all over Los Angeles, California and the world came to pay their respects to a man whose life was ended prematurely.  Masses of Black people filed in one after another to view Williams' body at a Los Angeles Mortuary.  Young, old, rich, poor, gang bangers, ex-bangers, teachers, students, activists and the like all came to see the man who California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency to and executed. The attendance at Williams' funeral was massive.  Thousands of people crowded the streets in front of Bethel A.M.E. to participate in what easily could be named the largest gathering of Blacks in Los Angeles this year.  The Rosa Parks Memorial filled with all of Los Angeles' Black bourgeoisies didn't even garner the attendance both from the public and the media that Williams' funeral garnered.   But what's troubling to me about Williams' send off is that when the man was alive and we were campaigning around Los Angeles in support of clemency for him, very few of the people who attended his service were anywhere to be found. If the impressive number of people that showed up to Williams' funeral could have found it in themselves to gather together and speak out prior to his execution, there's a good chance that he might be alive today.  I mean imagine if the masses of people who came to Williams' funeral would have showed up at the Governor's mansion or his church prior to the execution.  What if we had descended upon the Capitol the way we flocked to the corner of 79th and Western?  It's obvious that we haven't figured out that together we're a force that must be reckoned with and can't be simply ignored. But we didn't and we let the "homeboy" who we claimed to care about die only to show up a day late and life short hollering, "they killed the homie." It's a hard pill to swallow, but most of the people that attended the Williams' service had a hand to play in killing "Big Took" as well.  Let's keep it real.  How much did we really care about saving Tookie's life when we couldn't even show up when he was alive?

The deafening silence in the hood throughout the last months of Williams' life allowed the elected officials who represent the hood to believe that the hood really didn't care about Tookie so why should they.  After all, their constituents weren't pressuring them to get involved and they weren't going to get involved voluntarily. Our hip-hop radio stations played their part as well.  Many know that the hip-hop stations are the drumbeat of our community these days.  Fewer and fewer people are reading the paper on a daily basis, especially in our communities.  While the stations couldn't alert the community of the Save Tookie rallies and protests, somehow they managed the wherewithal to alert the community of his funeral.  And we dutifully answered the call by arriving in droves.  Go figure. The irony in the death of Stanley Tookie Williams is that the community he was trying to save couldn't pull it together to save him.  Which is not to discount any of efforts made by community activists, including myself, who worked tirelessly for clemency, but it must be said.  40 community activists demanding clemency for Williams' is not as persuading as 4,000 community activists making the demand. Let's keep it real. Tookie is dead and no amount of beer on the ground, rolled up blunts and reminiscing is going to bring him back.  Meanwhile, we have a crisis in the city of Compton with over 70 murders taking place this year and gang violence is still running rampant through South Los Angeles.  Tookie's redemptive message was one of peace, anti-gangs, and anti-drugs.  For all of the people who cared so much about Tookie, there's no better way to honour the "homeboy" and his wishes than by working on ending the madness in our communities. Until we can figure out how to harness our power as people in ways that are proactive verses reactive, we will continue to come up a day late and many, many lives short.

Clarence Ray Allen -- No Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, But Worthy of Clemency

Excerpt from - By
Jasmyne Cannick

(Dec. 29, 2005) In the wee hours of the morning on January 17 another man will be put to death by lethal injection in the State of California.  This comes exactly thirty-six days after the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. Clarence Ray Allen, who will have just turned 76 the day before his scheduled execution, is literally being kept alive so that the State can execute him for three counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances and one count of conspiracy. Since being on California’s death row, Allen has suffered a heart attack and is now nearly blind and deaf and confined to a wheelchair.  The oldest man on death row, the attorney general's office recently argued against granting him clemency because Allen had ordered the killings from inside prison and keeping him alive could be a security risk. With less than a month until his execution, there has been no public outcry of support for clemency for Allen, a non-Black.  There’s no scheduled protests and celebrity read-ins in support of saving an old man’s life and community activists and civil rights leaders aren’t organizing state-wide tours to bring attention to Allen’s execution.  There hasn’t even been one “Kill Clarence Ray Allen Hour” from KFI’s John and Ken Show. Was the community cry for clemency for Williams because he was a Black man or was it because the death penalty is immoral, inhumane and cruel punishment? Granted, Allen hasn’t written any children’s books, been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, or had a Hollywood actor play him in a film, but that doesn’t mean his life isn’t worth saving. The fight for clemency should not have died with Stanley Tookie Williams.  With two more executions scheduled in the New Year, including Michael Morales, who was convicted at the age of 21 for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old female, now is not the time for all of Williams’ supporters to retreat back to their separate corners of the world.  In fact, it’s time for the opposite.  We need to get back into action and show the world that the fight for clemency for Williams was not solely based on that fact that he was a Black man but rather that he was a man who did not deserve to have his life prematurely taken from him no matter how heinous the crimes were that he was accused of committing.

Californian’s are very close to establishing a moratorium on the death penalty and although the vote didn’t come soon enough to save Williams’ life, our work today and though the 10th of January, when an Assembly committee plans to consider the legislation, could aide in saving the lives of many condemned prisoners, including Blacks, while a state panel reviews the system.   California’s Blacks that supported clemency for Williams need to re-examine their reasons for wanting Williams to live.  Was it because he was a Black man?  Was it because he co-founded the Crips?  Was it because of his anti-gang and anti-drug work?  Or was it because you abhor the death penalty? Allen poses no significant risk.  An old man confined to a wheelchair, blind, and deaf, it’s very unlikely that he will be ordering the killing of anyone if left to live his remaining days on death row.  Allen may not have been your homeboy from back in the day, or demonstrated to the world that he is a redeemed man, he may not even be likeable, but his life is worth trying to save. And if all of the protests around clemency for Williams were not just for show, it should be no problem for the community to reassemble for the fight to save Clarence Ray Allen. 

After all, what kind of message would it send if we sat back and did nothing while another person was systematically put to death on our watch? 

Ageing Pop Star Tops 2005 Google Searches

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Mike Oliveira, Canadian Press

(Dec. 26, 2005) In a year of devastating natural disasters and terrorist attacks, Janet Jackson was the most popular search on Google.  Even though her infamous wardrobe malfunction happened in February 2004 and her brother Michael beat child molestation charges, Janet managed to surpass hurricane Katrina, the tsunami and the launch of Microsoft's new Xbox 360 as the most popular search of the year.  The 39-year-old made the news in 2005 with tabloid rumours that she secretly had a daughter about 18 years ago — a claim she denied. And she surely racked up her Google hits when paparazzi video of her sunbathing naked appeared online.  The information Canadians sought online varied month to month but the keywords that made the list again and again offer an interesting insight into Internet use in the country.  While search results in Canada were only available through the first half of the year, the most popular queries suggest kids may be doing the most Googling in the country.  Ask an adult what Inuyasha is and you might get a puzzled look. But the Japanese anime cartoon was the most popular search in February, March and April and the third most popular search in January and June.  Inuyasha is a half-human, half-demon character searching for a jewel that would give him tremendous power. He and the female protagonist, Kagome Higurashi, are characters in the popular cartoon that first aired overseas from 2000 to 2004 and was brought to North America to great success.  Teen favourites Hilary Duff, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Chad Michael Murray also made the list. With the exception of May, Duff was on the Top 10 most searched list every month in the first half of the year.  Rapper 50 Cent was also a mainstay on the list, and made a steady climb from No. 9 in February to as high as No. 2 and never dropped out of the Top 10 through July.  In the airline wars, Air Canada and Westjet tied by appearing the Top 10 four times apiece.  Last week's most popular searches around the world were topical, with the New York transit strike coming in at No. 1 and the death of West Wing star John Spencer at No. 2.  Canadian actress Rachel McAdams was the ninth most popular search. Her movie The Family Stone was this week's No. 3 movie at the North American box offices.

Tourist Videos Vs. Unseen Anguish: From Katrina To Angelina

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Antonia Zerbisias

(Dec. 28, 2005) The media year started with a tsunami and ended with a leak.  The first event changed the Earth; the second may alter history.  But will the media stay with the latter for longer than they did the former? Or will their attention span move on to the next bright shiny object?  The tsunami that rocked the Indian Ocean last year sent waves into this one, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives, in remote places many of us had never heard of.  The media were inundated with heartrending images and stories for weeks. For a while, it seemed as if the world had achieved one-ness, regardless of race, colour and creed.  But then, when the tourist videos stopped rolling in, the media moved on to the Michael Jackson trial. Those left behind in devastated places such as Banda Aceh were largely forgotten, which they would have been in the first place had their tragedy not occurred on a slow news day between Christmas and New Year's Day in places where white people were holidaying with video cameras.  Ten months later, when regions of Pakistan were rocked by a 7.6 trembler, it barely registered on the newsworthiness scale. We could kid ourselves and pretend it was "disaster fatigue.'' But truth is, it would have been ignored even if there had been no tsunami earlier in 2005. That's because there were no videos, no Swedish orphans, no Victoria's Secret supermodels stuck naked in palm trees.  Even today, but for the dogged determination of a few such as CNN's Anderson Cooper, the victims of Hurricane Katrina have been forgotten, their lost homes, businesses and lives meriting less coverage then, say, Brad Pitt wanting to adopt Angelina Jolie's children.  As the shell-shocked Iraq vet B.D. said in Doonesbury the other day, "Why is Jennifer Aniston on all the magazine covers?"  More to the point, why is one missing blonde American girl worth more sustained airtime than tens or even hundreds of thousands of drowned Indonesians, buried alive Kashmiris, homeless Gulf coast Americans, dead Iraqis and AIDS-plagued Africans?  Why does the focus on world poverty last no longer than it does to get a bunch of musicians together, set up the show and then strike the sets?

Why does everybody talk about the weather but nobody talks about what's causing it?  Why even bother asking? It's just the media business as usual.  But it was indeed an extraordinary year, both north and south of the border: the mostly ignored Downing Street memo on the weapons of mass destruction that never were; fake White House reporter/male escort Jeff Gannon; CNN ex-pundit Bob Novak's move to Fox News; CNN's Aaron Brown getting bumped; Martha Stewart, ex-con; Terry Schiavo, still dead; the allegedly almost-bombing of Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar by the U.S.; the Pentagon's international buying spree of good press; Dan Rather's retirement; Peter Jennings' death; Judith Miller and Plamegate; Bob Woodward and the outing of Deep Throat; putting the Christ back in Christmas; and last but not least, the complete collapse of any credibility the New York Times had left when, two weeks ago, it published what may have been the scoop of the century, one that could bring down President George W. Bush — a year after it had the story.  The Times has yet to explain why it put off its report on how Bush, in the wake of 9/11, authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, in what many legal experts charge is a blatant breach of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act.  The implications of the leak are so enormous that last week there was talk of impeachment.  In Canada, the story of the year was the destructive CBC lockout of 5,500 workers — and the fact that top management was able to get away unscathed for making that damaging decision. Parliament's Heritage Committee, which was to call the CBC bosses to account for the costly work stoppage, never completed its work, either due to the election call or, more likely, a lack of political will.

Right behind the CBC lockout, although farther down the scale of momentousness, was the end of Saturday Night magazine, perhaps this time for good, and the overhaul and rightward swing of the 100-year-old Maclean's under new publisher/editor Kenneth Whyte.  The National Post made it through another year, another publisher and another editor — and even made money for about a minute last month.  Torstar, which owns the Star, bought 20 per cent of Bell Globemedia, which owns CTV and the Globe and Mail. It's a deal that has many of us in the newsroom wondering what kind of effect, if any, it will have on our journalism.  Oh, and Frank magazine returned while Torstar launched Weekly Scoop, Canada's very own celebrity rag.  Meanwhile, in both the U.S. and Canada, online media continued to grow, while presenting both a threat and an opportunity to traditional news organs.  Then there's the blogosphere, that which watches the watchers who should be doing a better job of monitoring power.  Some U.S.-based blogs such as Daily Kos have readerships exceeding some of the biggest dailies in the country.

Of course 2005 did have some extra-special highs and lows.  No doubt the Katrina coverage in the U.S., especially by Cooper, Fox News' Shepard Smith and NBC's Brian Williams, gave hope to many that the American news pack had finally re-attached their collective balls, the ones they themselves chewed off in the wake of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  Just a few months earlier, they had seem hopelessly castrated when Newsweek backed down and away from its story about a Koran being flushed down the toilet, as politicians and other media piled on to accuse the magazine of sparking deadly riots in Afghanistan.  That, despite an explanation by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told reporters at the Pentagon that the riots were more about local politics than hatred of Americans.  And so, the man who lied about starting, waging and ending a war, U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was able to get away with his admonishment: "People need to be very careful about what they say just as people need to be careful about what they do."  And the media were, to the point of docility.  It was only after the levees of New Orleans broke that they let slip the news dogs of war.  Now they're out for blood — and, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, that leak about eavesdropping might well be its tsunami.


Ten Things...

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian


1. David Mirvish
He moved Heaven and Middle-earth to bring The Lord of the Rings to
Toronto, uniting all three levels of government, some major corporations and a trio of the city's most contentious unions to do it. Maybe he should run for mayor.  As if that wasn't enough, he gave a large-scale home to 'Da Kink In My Hair, making it the most commercially successful Canadian play in this city's history, and provided a dynamite subscription season, including Wicked, Movin' Out and 700 Sundays. Give the man a great big hand.

2. As You Like It
If I had one favourite show from the year, this Stratford production would be it. The idea of moving William Shakespeare's romantic romp into the "Summer Of Love" could have been a gimmicky disaster, but it wasn't. Antoni Cimolino's sensitive direction, Steven Page's haunting score and a wondrous cast, headed by Sara Topham, Graham Abbey, Dion Johnstone and Stephen Ouimette kept it fresh and appealing. I saw it again at its closing performance in October and it was even better than at its June opening — a rare achievement.

3. Harbourfront World Stage's "Flying Solo"
This was one of the best assortments of talents ever presented in a single series, offering everything from Caroline O'Connor's smashing Bombshells to the inspired insanity of Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure. Cheers to artistic director Tina Rasmussen.

4. William Hutt
One of the greatest actors in the English-speaking theatre retired from live performance at the age of 85 with an unforgettable rendition of Prospero in the Stratford production of The Tempest. Hutt's closing night performance was an object lesson in grace, dignity and style.

5. Necessary Angel
Ever since Daniel Brooks took over as artistic director, this company has been hotter than ever. Their co-production (with Tarragon) of John Mighton's Half-Life was the unequivocal solid-gold smash of the year, a play that delighted audiences, critics and award-givers as well. They also brought back Rick Miller's winning Bigger Than Jesus and have several exciting projects in development.

6. The Wild Duck
This was Soulpepper at its finest. Henrik Ibsen's difficult drama was given a searing interpretation by László Marton and a blue-chip cast headed by Brent Carver. It sold out rapidly and deservedly so. Ibsen in July as an artistic and commercial hit? Leave it to artistic director Albert Schultz.

7. The Fringe
This mainstay of Toronto theatre keeps getting better every summer. This past summer brought us such winners as BoyGroove and SARSical, proving that some of the best things come in small (and sometimes un-air-conditioned) packages. Four past productions also went on to triumph in the U.S., a record none of our larger theatres could ever dream of equalling.

8. Nicole Underhay
This spectacularly talented young woman lit up the sky in Morris Panych's giddily enjoyable revival of You Never Can Tell at the Shaw Festival. Why hasn't someone written a show for her? Or a TV series? If there was a star system in this country, she'd have been snatched up.

9. Trying
CanStage offered us a lovely play by Joanna Glass, sensitive direction from Marti Maraden and a pair of beautiful characterizations from Paul Soles and Caroline Cave. A simple, but simply wonderful piece of theatre.

10. Stage 3
Theatre Passe Muraille tried something different this Fall, eschewing the usual sequential lineup of shows for nine new plays running in repertory. The quality varied greatly, but the courage couldn't be questioned and there was one positively thrilling new script: Joseph Jomo Pierre's Born Ready.


1. Stratford schizophrenia
Isn't anyone minding the store here? An example of how varied the production quality can be occurred with two pairs of shows. On the musical front, in Hello, Dolly!, Susan H. Schulman's staging was so pedestrian you wanted to buy the woman a Metropass. When it came time to go Into The Woods, Peter Hinton's re-imagining of this Stephen Sondheim musical had its ups and downs, but was the most boldly original thing at Stratford in years. Then, in Tennessee Williams land, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof never got much more than lukewarm, due to Richard Monette's portentous staging and David Snelgrove's Abercrombie & Fitch acting. But, in Orpheus Descending, director Miles Potter showed how Williams ought to be done, with knockout work from Seana McKenna and Jonathan Goad.

2. Blue Man Group
This worldwide success story blotted its Toronto copybook by an ugly confrontation with our city's performing-arts organizations over hiring non-union members to staff their show. What should have been a slam-dunk smash became better known as a contentious labour flashpoint. Everyone wound up singing the blues.

3. Fishwrap
David Macfarlane writes lovely prose, but it doesn't translate to the stage. His saga of being fired from his newspaper column made an excruciating piece of theatre. Let's hope it encourages Tarragon to vet future scripts more carefully and that we won't be seeing a similar show from Rebecca Eckler next season.

4. Vanity productions
A critic's heart sinks when he sees that an unknown company is presenting a show its founder either wrote, directed or is starring in. Just because someone can find the money to produce doesn't mean they ought to. You have to pass a test and earn a licence to drive a car; why aren't audiences as well protected as pedestrians?

5. The Long Valley
This painful exercise in artsiness inspired by three John Steinbeck stories was presented under the aegis of Soulpepper, but they mercifully didn't create it. That can be blamed on the "This Is A Bird" collective, who obviously told each other the wobbly script, pretentious direction and erratic acting were just peachy. Theatre is no place for democracy.

6. Anachronisms in the classics
Doesn't anyone pay attention to what century a play is supposed to be set in? Jason Sherman's adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov at the Stratford Festival featured such decidedly non-period statements as "you must be über-bad" and "get the money up front." Kewl, dude.

7. Crowns
For the third time in as many seasons, CanStage paired star Jackie Richardson with director Marion J. Caffey in a musical revue based on African-American themes. The first two were winners, but this had the sad scent of opportunism wafting over it from start to finish. Let's pray that there are no plans to unite them in 2006 for Othello.

8. Suzanne Somers
The former Three's Company star announced that Toronto was going to be the starting point for her one-woman show, The Blonde in the Thunderbird, but then she cancelled here and opened cold in New York. I would dearly love to have seen what the New York Times called "a drab and embarrassing display of emotional exhibitionism masquerading as entertainment." Why should the Big Apple have all the fun?

9. Something on the Side
The low point of the Shaw Festival season, this relentlessly unfunny Georges Feydeau farce seemed like the longest lunch-hour show in memory. A restraining order should be taken out to keep director/adaptor Neil Munro at least 500 metres away from all comedy in the future.

10. The Merry Wives of Windsor
Yes, it's possible to have too much summertime Shakespeare, especially when it's as bad as this one. Director Jeanette Lambermont didn't seem to know what she was doing, but then neither did most of the cast, so they had that in common. It closed early, but not early enough. Spotlight on 2005:

There's No Going Back To What We Once Were

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rosie Dimanno

(Dec. 28, 2005) My hometown has become unrecognizable, angry and malevolent.  No longer a city that boasted all the dazzle of cosmopolitan life while retaining a cozy sense of felicity and small-town decorum.  It doesn't make one feel a whole lot comforted — or convinced — that Toronto is not yet quite in the big leagues of urban chaos and bleak metropolis rot, despite 52 firearm homicides this year.  But it's getting increasingly difficult to assure ourselves that this long-enviable city is not headed for irreversible ruin, a place of besiegement by crime and wicked malaise.  For how many years have we been telling anyone who would listen — most especially one another — that sporadic murders and a few neighbourhoods stricken by chronic violence did not characterize the city as a whole? Endlessly, we patted ourselves on the back for resisting the calamities that have befallen other decaying fortress-cities; that we were still essentially safe and civilized, where murders and gang-banging villainy were not so common an occurrence that we no longer responded with shock.

What happened as dusk fell on Boxing Day, at the very heart of our town, sickens but does not shock.  This is where we've been heading for a long time, to gunfire at a crowded intersection and innocent bystanders riddled with bullets sinking to the sidewalk clutching their wounds, seven of them shot, a 15-year-old killed, a dozen youths sought by police, purportedly two gangs having at one another with firearms over some undisclosed grudge, a jacked-up grievance, a cause for bloodshed.  Where it will end, no one can say, for all that distraught citizens wring their hands and politicians offer up placebo solutions, shortcuts and long-way-around fixes for the terrible thing that ails us.  The truth is, there's no going back to what we once were. A culture of nihilism and reckless wrongdoing has caught up with us. A decade ago, we ignored the warnings. I don't know when exactly it started to go disastrously wrong, but I do remember how, incrementally, this city became transformed, even as our leaders — cops, elected officials, the tall foreheads who proclaim to be experts in human behaviour — urged us not to overreact, to keep things in perspective, pointing to U.S. cities that were so much worse off, and promoting a sense of invulnerability, the lulling view that destiny had somehow set us apart, as if merely by wishing it, Toronto would avoid a similar fate.  But these things — the killings and shootings that don't result in death but shred our sense of security — have become too commonplace, reaching deep into residential communities and public places, into apartment clusters and subsidized housing monstrosities, into malls and schoolyards and playgrounds and buses and, three times this year, the great commercial swath that is Yonge St.

A year ago, a young girl on an uptown bus was shot in the head by a bullet intended for someone else and, while horrified, the city took solace in the mistaken notion this was an aberration. And a mother of three was shot while placing an order at a sandwich shop, her spine splintered.  This year, a 4-year-old, by the grace of God, survived a hail of bullets that left metal in his shin, thigh and hip — purportedly the victim of stray gunfire, but according to another version of events, the sniper fire was intended for an older brother who was apparently envied by others because of his potential as a basketball prospect. And another young man, 18, shot and slain outside a Rexdale church where he had gone, against the urgings of his family, to mourn a best friend also killed by a gun only a week earlier.  Each time, there has been talk of an imaginary line in the sand and how it had been crossed by one atrocity after another. The problem with drawing lines in the sand is that there are always bullies to kick dirt over them.  Toronto has taken a boot in the gut the last year. While most of us, in fact, have little to fear from the callous disregard for life exhibited by urban savages (except the hug-a-thug crowd won't have us demonize these poor, misbegotten youth, so "victimized'' by the root causes of their own misanthropy — Prime Minister Paul Martin, without any supporting evidence at hand, yesterday described Monday's dreadful incident as a tragedy and "consequence of exclusion''), we certainly should worry for distant neighbours, who cannot just shut the door to keep out violence. It follows them inside; it strangles their households.

And there is always, as was proven Boxing Day, the chance — however slim — the gunfire will come to us, in our shared communal spaces, to our innocent children, a parent rushing past with shopping bags in hand, an off-duty police officer.  Tell their families Toronto is still a safe city, and that they should fear not.

Turbo-Charged Twists And Shocking Moments

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(Dec. 28, 2005) From Homeless Vagabond to Big Shot Frontman — The Fall and Rise of a Canadian Singer:

Mississauga's J.D. Fortune won Rock Star: INXS and temporarily helped renew interest in faded Australian pop acts from the '80s.

TV Trend Or Cover For Evil Mind Control — The Aliens Are Coming:

With the success of Lost, other paranormal shows stormed network television this fall. Four of them had one-word titles — Invasion, Threshold, Surface, and Supernatural. Hmm.

Oh My God! A Woman In The White House! — Most Overrated New Show:

Can 14 million viewers be wrong? Yes. Commander-in-Chief.

Looking To The Under-Class For Laughs — Best New Comedies:

What do white trailer trash (My Name Is Earl) and a poor black family (Everybody Hates Chris) have in common? They provide the hilarious backdrop to the year's freshest and funniest new sitcoms.

Random Shocking Moment:

Nate Fisher dies on Six Feet Under.

Lost Is Found — Biggest Award Surprise:

J.J. Abrams' willfully puzzling series collected an Emmy in the drama category after vanquishing The West Wing, 24, Deadwood, and Six Feet Under. Or did it?

Art Imitates Life — Proof Nobody Really Cares About the Iraq War:

F/X cancels its gritty Over There after one season over here.

Hug It Out — Best Scene Stealing:

Nobody portrays the ruthless, scheming and Machiavellian life of a Hollywood power agent with more artful nuance than Jeremy Piven. On HBO's Entourage, his character Ari is a lovable lout, a braggadocio, a shark among sharks. In other words, the character is remarkably real.

Bluth Inc. — Biggest Source of Anxiety:

The perpetual near-death existence of Arrested Development has been positively gut wrenching for loyal fans. Has this too-smart-for-its-own-good comedy been cancelled? Will it be rescued by another network? And why, oh why, aren't more people watching it?

She Just Didn't Fit In — Biggest Bomb:

Martha Stewart finds she missed the simple pleasures of prison life after her abysmal version of The Apprentice fails to attract a significant audience.

First Friends. Now This — It's The End of An Era. The End. Really:

No, not Everybody Loves Raymond. But when the long-running comedy bid adieu in the spring, it triggered breathless dispatches about the end of "the traditional sitcom." A week later, nobody cared.

The Sophomore Slump — Biggest Critical Flip-Flop:

Desperate Housewives earned harsh rebukes this season from TV scribes for becoming "boring," "lame" and "predictable." (Ed. note: Boring, lame and predictable punchline was removed from this entry.)

Prescription for Confusion: Silliest Show That's Somehow Engaging:

Absurd story lines, questionable medical practices, doctors who look and sound like they should be working at the Gap. Yes, Grey's Anatomy may be the most ridiculous hospital drama in television history. So why is it addictive?

Brotherly Love — Most Underrated New Show:

The turbo-charged twists of Prison Break.

Random Shocking Moment:

Denis Leary's son is killed on Rescue Me.

This Medium Shops at Victoria's Secret — A Ratings Mystery Solved:

The premise of Ghost Whisperer — Jennifer Love Hewitt sees dead people! — may be laughable. But, lordy, people are watching it. This confirms one of television's long-standing formulas: Inane dialogue and/or limp storytelling and/or one-dimensional characters don't matter if the star has really large breasts. (See also: Stacked.)

First Porn, Now This — The Television Event That Wasn't:

The series of Live 8 concerts was mostly a bust on television, which couldn't match the choice and real-time global access of the Internet.

Hey, Make Up Your Own Ending — Proof Networks Don't Care About Viewers:

Fox abruptly cancelled Reunion before the murder mystery was solved.

And Then There Were None — Most Audacious Farewell:

Alan Ball removed any possibility of sequel profits from his masterful series Six Feet Under. The finale closed with an emotional punch to the ribcage as the death of each character was revealed in a future-tense montage.  Oh yeah, don't read this if you're still on Season 2.

Celebrate Good Times — A Year of Anniversaries:

The Oprah Winfrey Show turned 20, Entertainment Tonight hit 25 and NBC's Days of Our Lives marked 40 years. The moral of this story? We have way too much time on our hands.

I Said Supersize It, Bitch — Best Celebrity Meltdown Captured on Tape:

Ashlee Simpson freaks out inside a McDonald's in downtown Toronto. Witnesses say verbal abuse was lip synched.

Multiple Shocking Moments:

The troubling and brilliant news coverage of Hurricane Katrina's brutal aftermath and even more brutal response from the U.S. government.

Even Whedon Is A Fan — Best Way To Stop Missing Buffy:

Start watching Veronica Mars.

Random Shocking Moment:

John O'Hurley loses to Kelly Monaco on Dancing With The Stars. In related news, Google searches for "Kelly Monaco" and "Playboy pics" bring Internet to a crawl for days.

Who Says Torture Is Always Bad? — Most Engaging Drama:

The non-stop thrill ride that was 24.

The Nerd Is Dethroned — Proof KenJen Is Not The Smartest Person on This Planet:

Jeopardy! phenom Ken Jennings had his frontal lobes handed to him by Brad Rutter, who won the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, dividing the Mensa set into two camps. Note: Both camps can name the capital of Botswana.

I Can't Tell If That's Susan or Lynette — The Revolution is Small:

Apple unveiled an iPod that can play videos. For a cost of $1.99 per episode, viewers can now download shows such as Lost or Desperate Housewives (though not yet in Canada). A secret meeting of world optometrists later hailed this as the most lucrative opportunity since the introduction of video-game watches.

Star Gazing '05: Feudin and fussin'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rita Zekas

(Dec. 27, 2005) It was a year of celeb feudin', fussin' and a-fightin'. They got hitched, ditched and preggers. Tom Cruise jumped the couch, fired his PR woman Pat Kingsley, hired and fired his sister and bought his pregnant fiancée Katie Holmes a sonogram machine. When what she really wanted was a hair dryer.

Fore-closing time
Leonard Cohen
sued his business manager Kelley Lynch for allegedly stealing more than $6.6 million over the past 12 years, thereby bilking him of his retirement funds. The upside is, Cohen is a Buddhist. He is a minimalist. How much does he need in this life?

Celeb recycling depot
Paris Hilton
and Nicole Richie are still not speaking but will resume their Simple Life series. Money talks louder than words.  Nicole was dumped by her deejay boyfriend Adam Goldstein (D.J. AM) while Paris keeps dumping and poaching Greek tycoon beaus. Out: Paris Latsis. In: Stavros Niarchos, whom she allegedly snatched from under the turned-up nose of munchkin Mary Kate Olsen, who has dropped out of NYU to recover.  OC's Mischa Barton split with oil heir Brandon Davis to take up with Whitestarr singer Cisco Adler, who was engaged to Paris Hilton's best bud Kimberly Stewart, 26, who broke an 11-day engagement with Laguna Beach star Talan Torriero, 19, only to reunite. It's all one big trust-fund-baby/celebutante blur.  Jessica Simpson gave Nick Lachey his marching orders on Thanksgiving. She's entertaining offers to play the next Bond babe in Casino Royale; he's entertaining Simpson ringers who love to pole dance.

Hello, officer
Hope Lindsay Lohan, who went through a Benjamin Moore chart of hair colours and beaus this year — including perennial cast-off Jared Leto — got driving lessons for Christmas. Lohan was involved in two fender-benders while allegedly being pursued by paparazzi.  Paris Hilton and a trio of inebriated accomplices were in a pap-free accident in the parking lot of an L.A. hotspot, with her Greek chew toy du jour crashing her Bentley into a truck. When the investigating cops allowed them to get out of jail free, Paris blew kisses braying, "Thank you officers. We love the police."  And we just upchuck.  Jennifer Aniston and her rebound lover Vince Vaughn were pulled over for impaired driving during Thanksgiving vacation in Arizona but allowed to leave their vehicle at the side of the road and hitch a ride with friends. Gotta love the reach of Wedding Crashers.  Aniston's ex Brad Pitt and his new inamorata Angelina Jolie must be too busy buying orphans and saving the world's refugees to teach Maddox to walk. Do his feet ever touch ground? The joke circulating in L.A. is that trendoid Kitson boutique had slashed prices on its inventory of Cambodian orphans — but the Zahara line of Ethiopian babies had sold out weeks earlier.

One Tree Hill co-stars Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush are kaput, after Murray was busted at a Toronto strip club while still technically on his honeymoon. Elisha Cuthbert was outed in Toronto strolling arm in arm through Yorkville with hockey player Sean Avery while otherwise engaged.  Nicollette Sheridan dumped her fitness instructor fiancé Nicklas Soderblom to go back to her drug-dealer ex.   Ivana Trump, 56, traded in her lover Rossano Rubicondi, 32, on a younger man, Prince Max of Schaumburg-Lippe, 27. Is there a Eurotrash databank?

Gisele Bundchen and Leonardo DiCaprio are finally finito, with Leo reportedly locking lips with Kirsten Dunst/Drunkst and Bundchen bronzing with surfer superstar Kelly Slater.  Mike Myers and Robin Ruzan are history after a dozen years of marriage. Does Myers get custody of the Linda Richman "Coffee Talk" character, modelled after Ruzan's mom?  Eddie Murphy and wife Nicole also split after 12 years and five kids. She is seeking custody of his money.

Celeb baby boom
Britney Spears
and Kevin Federline, dubbed "Spenderline" for his lack of employment and facility in spending Brit's money, became parents of Sean Preston and it didn't put a dent in their lifestyle. Hope Sean digests Red Bull.  Penny Lancaster, 34, presented Rod Stewart, 60, with his sixth child, a boy named Alastair, the same week Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck welcomed daughter, Violet, at a local Starbucks.  Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams had a baby girl, leaving his Brokeback Mountain co-star Jake Gyllenhaal out there all alone in having to proclaim his heterosexuality. Proudly and loudly. Ledger's ex, Naomi Watts, is not only rumoured to be engaged to Liev Schreiber, but reportedly preggers.  

Heidi Klum had a son, Henry, with new hubby Seal, who serenaded her in all her voluptuous glory at the Victoria's Secret fashion show. The bitch.  A pregnant Denise Richards filed for divorce from Charlie Sheen before the birth of their second child, Lola Rose, and they are reunited once again. Can you say hormones, kiddies?  Nicole Kidman denies rumours that she is knocked up by beau Keith Urban, dubbed "The Australian Stud" by Kenny Chesney, who was shed by Renée Zellweger after 128 days — not for that tired old "incompatibility," but "fraud."   Gwen Stefani admits to being pregnant, unlike Tori Spelling, who dumped husband Charlie Shanian when she fell for Canuck Dean McDermott while shooting a TV movie in Ottawa.

Ashton Kutcher 27, married Demi Moore, 43, becoming stepdad to three girls and Bruce Willis. Buzz is that Russell Crowe and wife Danielle Spencer are expecting another child. But daddy won't be in the big house. Crowe escaped serious criminal charges after chucking a phone at Mercer Hotel employee Nestor Estradar. We expect Naomi Campbell is in Crowe's tele-rage support group.  Donald Trump married and impregnated Melania Knauss and fired ex-felon Martha Stewart as his Apprentice spin-off. He should snap up Stewart's daughter, Alexis Gilbert Stewart, who is morphing into a Candice Bushnell character. Alexis admitted on her AOL radio show that she has experimented with lesbianism and dated a cameraman on her mom's Apprentice show.

Celebrity justice
Robert Blake
was acquitted of murdering Bonnie Lee Blakely, only to lose the civil suit.  Michael Jackson, acquitted of child molestation charges, is battling default on a $272 million debt and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe, who filed legal papers accusing him of "abducting" their kids Prince Michael I and Paris and spiriting them to Bahrain, where he is in hiding and reportedly stumbling into women's washrooms at malls.

Courtney Love is all around
Kate Moss
was busted for doing coke, went into rehab and dumped her junkie beau, Johnny Doherty, Babyshambles lead singer, who was axed as fashion muse for designer Heidi Slimane. Hey, wait. Martha Stewart's prison poncho made such fashion waves; perhaps Slimane should reconsider and collaborate on a Prison Break line.  Colin Farrell is being treated for exhaustion and dependency on prescription medication, but not for bad hair and lousy general grooming.
Ashlee Simpson collapsed in Tokyo following an MTV Japan performance. In a preview performance, she insulted staffers at a McDonald's in T.O. while in a drunken stupor after partying hearty.  Lost co-stars Michelle Rodriquez and Cynthia Watros were both busted for drunk driving on the same night. Must have been ladies' night at the bars.

Desperate measures
Desperate Housewives' Page Kennedy, who played Caleb, the man shackled in the basement, was canned for allegedly flashing two female co-workers.  The femme leads had a hissy fit while posing for the cover of Vanity Fair, with Teri Hatcher in tears because she was exiled from the vanity centre slot. But at least she had the red bathing suit.

Diss and makeup
made peace with David Letterman after a 16-year absence from his show and Letterman joked that he is pencilling her in for the next 16. Unlike Chris Rock, who bombed at the Oscars and is not getting invited back.

Mags gone mild
Celeb mag Scoop was launched in Canada and the British-based Ok! in North America, with the latter doing less than okay in newsstand sales despite paying big bucks for Jessica Simpson and Eva Longoria sit-down-suck-ups.  Inside TV, TV Guide's new celeb lifestyle and gossip weekly, bit the dust after just seven months of publication, and Variety's monthly glossy V Life folded because of disappointing ad sales. Radar mag, which also has been scrapped but may be resurrected, purports that Vogue editor Anna Wintour is claiming she orchestrated V's demise because the mag dared to put a movie star (Gwyneth Paltrow) on its cover that Wintour had earmarked for hers. That same audacity catapulted Bonnie Fuller from Glamour to US mag.

Lovely bones
fell off a horse on her 47th birthday and broke an assortment of bones. She bought a $3,500 Personal Power Plate, a vibrating platform that supposedly builds bone mass. Presumably she already had a hair dryer.

Search For Gold: Only A Few Highlights On Toronto Stages

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(Dec. 26, 2005) The thrill of the dance was hard to find in 2005. Measured in terms of innovation, exciting performances or moving spectacle, there were only a few highlights on Toronto stages this year.  But behind the scenes, on the screen or in the streets, there were some notable stories.  In time, 2005 might be viewed as a transitional year for dance organizations. The big news out of the National Ballet of Canada came in May when then-artistic director James Kudelka announced he would be leaving the post after nine years. "I feel this is the right time to allow someone else to lead the company into its next stage at the Four Seasons Centre," he said in a curt release. The creator of four full-length and five one-act ballets during his tenure, Kudelka remains the company's resident choreographer.  To no one's surprise, the ballet board announced the appointment of his replacement, Karen Kain, within weeks. The popularity of this choice was evident everywhere that the former prima ballerina appeared, from performances to fundraisers to book signings. Kain, with one year to run as unpaid chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, promised to revive more of the classical ballets in the company's repertoire. 

Serge Bennathan, artistic director of Dancemakers since 1990, also announced he would be leaving once his company's season ends in the spring. The French-born choreographer is reportedly heading to Vancouver.  Danny Grossman Dance Company prepared to shift away from production to preservation. Grossman is re-fashioning the company as an institute designed to promote, license and teach his choreography and preserve his 41 works, choreographed over more than 30 years. The company steps into its new guise with Greatest Hits, Volume I, at the Premiere Dance Theatre Jan. 25.  It was a change year for Martine Lamy, in which she did her final performances as a principal dancer with the National Ballet, appearing in her starring role in The Contract and finally in Etudes, in a part she first performed in 1984. But it was not the end of Lamy's stage life. She danced up a storm in ProArteDanza's October show.  National Ballet principal dancer Sonia Rodriguez left a lasting impression in Nikolaj Hübbe's staging of La Sylphide. She had dazzled earlier in the season with partner Aleksandar Antonijevic in the ballet's premiere of Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer.

During the long stretches between National Ballet shows, balletomanes have cause to be grateful for Solomon Tencer's Stars of the 21st Century. The April gala at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts featured New York dancer Desmond Richardson, Daria Pavlenko of the Kirov Ballet, Ivan Putrov of Britain's Royal Ballet and the National Ballet's Guillaume Côté.  Compagnie Marie Chouinard brought the Montreal choreographer's biggest show to date, body_remix/goldberg_variations to the Hummingbird in November. Visually arresting and musically challenging, the dance put dancers on crutches, in harness or manoeuvring on bars that looked like a musical stave.  For sheer pizzazz, nothing could beat The Stolen Show, with the athletic and ever-adaptable dancers of Montreal's bjm_danse, formerly Ballets Jazz de Montreal, performing three pieces by the inventive Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite in the Harbourfront Dance Season earlier this month.  Another dancer/choreographer with lots of new angles is Sasha Ivanochko, whose two-part show at the Winchester Street Theatre in June displayed to best advantage her own quirky style and the talents of Kate Holden, Julia Sasso, Susie Burpee and Michael Trent. 

Toronto's Denise Fujiwara and South African dancer/choreographer Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe made the most memorable solos of the year, Fujiwara in a stunningly emotional Butoh dance, Komachi, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, and Mantsoe in a trance-inducing piece called Ntu for the DanceWorks series.  Santee Smith advanced her very particular form of modern dance fused to aboriginal music and movement with Here on Earth at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre in October.  On screen, Ballets Russes, a documentary from American filmmakers Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, brought back a truly exciting era as well as two dancers with amazing histories of their own, Frederic Franklin, 91, and Raven Wilkinson, 70  Television and the movies seemed to encourage a new passion for social dancing, especially with the independent film Mad Hot Ballroom and the summer hit series Dancing With the Stars. The latter series is scheduled to start up again in January. Dave Chappelle called attention to a new street dancing craze, krumping, in his film Rize; Bravo!FACT dance shorts celebrated 10 years of dance on film at the Lincoln Center's Dance on Camera festival. Another Bravo! broadcast, Perreault Dancer, directed by Tim Southam, was a moving account of the life and works of the late Montreal choreographer Jean-Pierre Perreault. It was a tribute, but also a sad reminder of more fertile days in contemporary dance.

Clark's New Year's Stand-In Turns Competitor

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Bauder, Associated Press

(Dec. 26, 2005) NEW YORK - New Year's Eve is the biggest party night of the year, and television is among the most youth-obsessed media, so guess who will be the top hosts this weekend when the ball drops in Times Square?  A couple of guys in their 70s, that's who.  Dick Clark and Regis Philbin have long cultivated a sort of ageless appeal and that will be put to the test during New Year's Eve specials on ABC and Fox, respectively. Clark partner Ryan Seacrest and NBC's Carson Daly are also on duty.  The septuagenarian send-off to 2005, one of a handful of interesting television subplots for the night, is particularly rich in irony. ABC and Fox are among those TV networks that usually pretend people over age 50 don't exist.  "Regis can do anything these young punks can do," said Philbin, 74. "I fit right in there with my Fox people. They want Regis to dance, Regis will dance. They want Regis to lift weights with them, Regis will lift weights with them. Whatever they want!"  Good thing he's bringing a fighting spirit, because the lineup of performers Fox has given him, including Nick Cannon, Tyler Hilton and John O'Hurley, is awfully thin.  The fact that Clark, 76, is now the father figure of New Year's Eve is a vivid example of how time flies. Some revellers, the ones with grey hairs, can remember when he started New Year's Rockin' Eve in 1972 as a hipper alternative to Guy Lombardo.  Despite increased competition, it's still the dominant show of the evening. This year, Rockin' Eve adds a curiosity factor: It will be Clark's first appearance on television since he suffered a stroke last December. Philbin was his emergency sub last year.  Rumours that Clark would not appear again have been fuelled by his decision not to give interviews and a doctored publicity photo distributed by ABC that inserts an image of a pre-stroke Clark supposedly standing next to co-hosts Ryan Seacrest and Hilary Duff. Clark's representatives insist he will be in Times Square this week.  Clark can do as much or as little as he wants, Seacrest said.  "For those who have grown up watching him, they want to see him," he said. "They want to see him doing all right, and they want to see him on the show. But we haven't nailed down exactly what he's going to do."

Seacrest will be with Clark in New York, while Duff will anchor and perform at a Hollywood segment. ABC nailed the night's biggest booking with the year's dominant singer, Mariah Carey, set to perform in Times Square.  The Bangles, Chris Brown, Sean Paul, the Pussycat Dolls, Sugarland, 3 Doors Down and 311 will also be part of ABC's party.  Seacrest spent the last few years competing against Clark on Fox. But this year he signed a deal with Clark and ABC to co-produce the show and essentially become Clark's heir apparent. The hope is that Seacrest will seamlessly take over when Clark decides he doesn't want to do it anymore.  Seacrest, 31 on Christmas Eve, said he always watched New Year's Rockin' Eve while growing up in Atlanta.  "My parents would leave me at home with a baby sitter," he said. "It was my sister, me and Dick Clark celebrating New Year's."  As an adult, he's studied Clark's career and used him for a model. "One of the reasons I wanted to do a New Year's Eve show was because Dick did a New Year's Eve show," he said.  In one sense, that's already a big victory for Seacrest over NBC's Carson Daly, 32, another Clark acolyte. Daly takes pains to avoid being seen as a competitor to Clark. Even though there's a clear opportunity to paint himself as the youthful alternative on New Year's Eve, he almost needs to be coaxed into it.  "There will be something for everyone," Daly said. "If my dad wants to watch Regis, and I'm sure he will, then God bless him. If my brother, who's my age, and I know he's a big Mary J. Blige fan, I know he'll watch my show. We're all going to have the ball drop and we're all going to have a good time."  Comic Wanda Sykes joins Blige as Daly's featured performers. Daly gets his shot this year because of the calendar; lately NBC has let Jay Leno's Tonight show keep the time slot when New Year's Eve landed on a weeknight.  Prime-time champ CBS is sitting out New Year's Eve.  Young viewers certainly have other options. MTV's annual soiree features Kanye West, Shakira and Adam Levine. ESPN is also getting into the New Year's business, with Stuart Scott as host of a party on ESPN2 with guest Little Steven Van Zandt, mixing sports highlights with a roster of garage rockers.  ESPN sensed that more and more of its young male viewers were interested in inviting friends over rather than going out on New Year's Eve, Scott said.  CNN's Anderson Cooper will also be prowling Times Square for a special on the news network.

May Good Fun Prevail Over Hype, For Once

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Brett Dawson, Video Game Columnist

(Dec. 26, 2005) So you didn't manage to put an Xbox 360 under the tree. You are a rotten parent. Buck up. Maybe, with a few moments of sober second thought, you will realize you are not a lemming and you don't have to buy the new machine just because everybody else is. Maybe you will put your dollars where the real fun is instead. Let this list be your salvation. Think of it as a gift guide, in hindsight.

1. RESIDENT EVIL 4 (GameCube/Playstation 2)

Somewhere in rural Spain, the villagers are losing their minds. And somewhere in their midst, the U.S. president's daughter has gone missing. It falls to you, unflappable super-agent Leon Kennedy, to find the truth and the girl, and to make it out alive.

Previous Resident Evil games were gory and frightening but also kind of stupid, in a B-movie way. This one is deadly serious. Its Spaniards are quick on their feet and smarter than just about anything that's ever attacked you in a game. They know to surround the house you're hiding in. They know to split up so that a few of them can leap on you from behind. They can take a bullet in the eye and keep on lunging at you. They are quicker and sharper than zombies. They are driven not by hunger, but by hatred. They will alarm you.


In all defiance of video game convention, Colossus asks you to spend hours doing nothing but riding a horse. It is quiet and gentle and contemplative. Then you get off your horse, and you begin climbing up a monster tall as a mountain. While it bucks like an earthquake, you cling to a patch of its fur and look for a weak spot to stab with your sword. If you succeed, and if it falls down dead, and if you also manage to kill 15 of its brethren, the spirits in the temple may bring your true love back to life. You keep telling yourself that's what you want, but with every beast you slay, it feels less like a heroic quest and more like serial killing. Video games are normally terrible at moral subtlety, but this one will tie your conscience in knots.

3. MARIOKART DS (Nintendo DS)

The formula is older than many of its fans, but here it is executed with such polish and such giddy excitement that it feels completely and wholly fresh. You control a little friendly cartoon character in a series of go-kart races. You have weapons at your disposal, which you fire at your competitors, trying to knock them and their karts out of first place. You drop slippery banana peels on the track, hoping to cause a wreck. And if you should live or work in range of a wireless network, you will never again have to go without a person to play against. Possibly the best handheld game ever.

4. WARIOWARE TWISTED (Game Boy Advance)

Like previous WarioWare efforts, Twisted is another collection of dumb mini-games that last five seconds each, many of which lean heavily on barfy snot jokes for their impact. But the controls are amazing. Instead of fiddling with a directional pad or tapping buttons, Twisted turns the whole Game Boy into the controller, asking you to shake it and twirl it and even blow on it. The result is something a 4-year-old or a 70-year-old can grasp in a morning. Preferably a 70-year-old who thinks snot jokes are funny.

5. METEOS (Nintendo DS)/ LUMINES (PSP)

When Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the designer behind the outrageous and beautiful Space Channel Five and Rez, announced in 2004 that he would be concentrating on a pair of puzzle games for the new handheld systems, many thought he had lost his edge or sold out. Oh, how wrong those many were. Lumines was about coloured blocks and a throbbing soundtrack: Tetris set to music, basically. Meteos was about coloured blocks and the end of the world. Both were impossibly, irresistibly fun.


How could this, a strategy game that owes a big debt to Risk and casts mouthy teenagers as commanding officers, possibly be worth your time? That is a mystery. The idea still doesn't work on paper. Just play it, is all.

7. NINTENDOGS (Nintendo DS)

Here is another idea that doesn't work on paper. You own a dog. You take it for a walk. You give it a bath. You teach it to come when you call. It is less a game than a little pal who helps keep your blood pressure down.

8. KILLER7 (PlayStation 2/GameCube)

Five years from now, this game, which is about suicide bombers and fear and multiple personalities and television, will probably come off as pretentious. Today, it is shocking and disorienting and, somehow, urgent. It is of its time.


Its online multiplayer segment was too unforgiving and too complicated and frankly too boring, but the main game was splendid. The segment in which the hero, a friendly drunken squirrel, does battle with something called the Great and Mighty Poo, may just be the best-ever use of expensive graphics hardware.


Here, a game that is audacious in its pointlessness. You are a little person living in a town of friendly stuffed animals. You have a home and a job. Sometimes you write letters. You hope to one day put an addition on your house. Sometimes you plant flowers. Nearly all the time, the upper screen shows a crystal blue sky.

Video game machine of the year: The Nintendo DS  It is, in the words of one smart, design-conscious blogger, "a brick." It is ugly. But this weird little box is the launch pad for some of the boldest ideas ever to grace gaming. Last year, nine of the Top 10 were sequels. This year, the DS stood for creativity and freshness, and somehow it managed to become a bestseller in the process. Quirky won, for once.

By, Of And For Canadians

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Lisa Rochon

(Dec. 29, 2005) While ugly buildings and soulless suburbs continue to pummel Canadians with their stupidity, the year 2005 gave the country a taste of architecture defined by its daring, clarity and spectacle. Canada's National Ballet School, the Canadian War Museum and the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec rank as exceptional works of architecture. All three buildings opened this year. All three are transforming. And, all three happen to be designed by Canadians. Architecture can allow any one of us to lose ourselves in space. Such is the achievement of the Canadian War Museum, a masterful building designed by Raymond Moriyama with his son, Jason, in a joint venture with Griffiths Rankin Cook Architects. Whereas much of Ottawa is a triumph of neo-Gothic boosterism of the federal government, the museum kneels its heavy concrete shape down by the edge of the Ottawa River. A visit requires time -- you'll find the doubt and terror of war in the slanted walls and floors. The memorial hall, cast in light on Remembrance Day, is otherwise awash in sorrow. If most buildings make us feel like androids rather than sentient beings, there is richly deserved succour to be gained from a visit to the National Ballet School (NBS) in Toronto or the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec (GBQ) in Montreal. It's okay to feel alive in such places. In fact, it can't be helped. At the GBQ, designed by Patkau Architects of Vancouver, the public library is interpreted as a dramatic stage, with patrons exposed to the grand stairs, promenades and elevators and thrust through space to the greatest props of all: books. A similar kind of strategy has been used by the Patkaus to reinvent the Winnipeg Centennial Library, once considered to be a bit of a concrete bunker from the brutalism era of architecture. After three years of design and construction, the library reopened in November. The NBS is all energy and grace, a heroic exemplar of a society that takes care of its young. The expanded, enlivened school is the result of a complex deal between Toronto, the CBC and Context condominium developers that allowed the school to receive half of a coveted site on Jarvis Street for a dollar. From complexity grew clarity -- the master plan by Goldsmith Borgal & Company allowed for the school to capture two historic jewels on the site while providing room for a contemporary intervention.

Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects designed glass pavilions that wrap around the existing buildings to create a poetic town square and sublime ballet studios held behind a thin veil of glass. Now, the Toronto skyline is imprinted with a generation of gifted athletes. Chucking functional, if forgettable architecture has its risks: Untested ideas almost always go over budget and past deadline.  Such is the case for the $233-million Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto designed by Daniel Libeskind, featuring a massively disturbed structure -- there are 3,000 pieces of steel engaged in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal building and every single one of them is erected at acute angles without any perpendicular surfaces.  The Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto, about a year behind schedule, has two steel pods suspended within its 16-storey atrium. They are intended as cozy lecture rooms even if they look concocted for Woody Allen's Sleeper.  And, although it can do wonders to groove-ify a lifeless Main Street, spectacular architecture means more space is devoted to public amenities and less to education facilities or galleries. For $48-million, the newly commissioned Art Gallery of Alberta will grab 20,000 more square feet for public space, retail and restaurants, but less than half that for new gallery space. This year, there were occasional glimpses of daring new ways to house Canadians in search of life in tall towers. The twisted tower might have been an innovation designed to give new sparkle to dense urban centres, such as Shanghai and Chicago, but it's also being tested in Canada's less harried zones.  In Halifax's business district, Hariri Pontarini Architects of Toronto has designed a "twisting" multiuse proposal on the site of the old TexPark. In Vancouver, Arthur Erickson -- Canada's own design superstar -- has produced schemes for two twisted towers. The 'Erickson' is to be constructed on the north shore of False Creek for the Concord Pacific Place development. His other gift to the city is a slim building on West Georgia Street that rotates 45 degrees between its base and its roof. Simon Lim, a young developer from China, has commissioned the tower in a gesture, Erickson says, "to prove to his family that he can do it." In a city in search of iconic architecture, the tower is worth watching not only for its unleashed form but for the company it'll be keeping -- the Shangri-La tower, planned to be 60 storeys, is designed by the master of contemporary point towers, the city's James Cheng, for a site across the street. It was a year when the culture of architecture engaged with atypical ferocity and citizens managed with some success to beat back the ruination of their cities. Sweet was the triumph enjoyed by untold numbers in Toronto when citizens smashed a proposal for a 46-storey luxury tower just south of the Royal Ontario Museum. At a public consultation meeting in early November, University of Toronto students and residence associations decried the museum's desperate money grab. Late into the night, they demanded that the human scale and civic spirit of the site along Queen's Park Road be honoured. The ROM's director and chief executive officer, William Thorsell, who received his share of abuse that night, withdrew the development proposal the following week.

2006 Is An '8-Year': A Year Of Action, Advancement And Harvest

Excerpt from - By Doreene Hamilton

(Dec. 29, 2005) 2006 is a year of big opportunity and advancement if you are willing to work hard and push matters to a conclusion.  This
is a year of action, therefore good judgment, efficiency in business and confidence is essential.  Avoid letting your emotions or sentiment gain an upper hand in your dealings, but face facts. You may have to let go of some things, but this may be good in the long run.  It’s also considered a harvest year. Seeds you planted eight years ago in 1998 that you have nurtured can come to fruition.   A new year always gives us that new surge of energy that makes us say "I'm going to make it happen this year!"  More often than not, by March you're feeling behind schedule and it snowballs from there.  The way to avoid the snowfall is to have a plan.  It doesn't have to be a big plan, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.   Map out what you want to do for the year.  Then break it down into three, six, nine or twelve month intervals. If you want to buy a house in September, what do you need to have accomplished by March? If you want a new job by March, what do you have to have accomplished by the end of January?  Get the picture?  The key is to work backwards. 

For many 2005 was a great year.  You became clearer on what you wanted and the foundation was laid for success. You took risks and achieved your goals.  For many, new careers were formed.  For those of you who took that leap you were pleasantly surprised.  Things had a way of working out, bigger and better than you expected.  Many of you laid the groundwork for things you wanted to manifest in 2006.  Then, there were those of you who only thought about what you wanted to do, or came to the realization that what you were doing wasn't working.  Lastly, some of you had an important door closed in your face.  All this is good believe it or not, because it made you look at your life.  You possibly made overdue changes and planned bigger and better dreams.   This year offers more than just promise or hope.  This is the year you can become the person you were born to be.  Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and claim the magnificent Being that you are.  If you’re not sure where to start ask yourself the following question:

What is the highest good that my life is here to represent?

You can do this during meditation, while working out at the gym, driving, or before you go to bed at night.  Asking this question opens you up to hear you Soul’s desire for your life.  What will come is more than a job, or a career, but a mission to infuse into any and every thing that you do.  It gives your life purpose and direction.  Even if you’re already in a career that seems satisfying, there is another level to take it to.  A deeper level.  A level that will make what you do more significant and fulfilling things for others and the planet overall.  It’s what you came to the planet to GIVE.  We all have something to give.  It may be as big as a cure for a disease, or as small as a smile to everyone you meet. Make this a year that you go after your dreams, but make sure that your dreams contribute to your personal growth and the growth of others. 

DOREENE HAMILTON is a Minister and Spiritual Life Coach.  She is the author of “Spiritually Speaking... Get Over It!” by Doreene Hamilton.  She resides in Los Angeles.