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Updated:  August 10, 2006

Are you enjoying the summer thus far?  I definitely am!   Don't forget that you can see the full newsletter with full graphics by clicking LE NEWSLETTER above! 

What a special giveaway this week!  Rob Leonard, a photographer friend of mine has a special camera to give to my distribution for FREE!  It's a Fuji Zoom Date 1000, 35mm camera. A nice, compact unit with a  powerful zoom.  Note that this is not a digital camera but a fantastic camera!  Include your full name and mailing address and whoever writes to me first HERE, WINS!

Lots of Canadian news this week so check out all the categories.  Have a read and a scroll! 
Tons of news including Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.




Fight For Next Year's Caribana Begins

Source: CBC News

(Aug. 8, 2006) While this year's
Caribana festival is being hailed as a success by the city, fighting for control of next year's event has already begun. Bickering over attendance numbers and management flared up as the 39th annual event, now called the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, drew to a close Monday.
Although attendance numbers have not yet been tallied, the festival management committee, a group of city-appointed organizers, contends the event drew the usual one million visitors. But the festival's founders disagreed, claiming the festival drew well below the average attendance because tourists were turned off over confusion about who was running the festival and whether it was still Caribana.

'We will call for a complete shutdown'

The Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) said the city had no right to take over control of the carnival and has vowed to regain control for the 40th anniversary next year. "We will call for a complete shutdown of the festival. Period," said spokesman Ellsworth James, adding that CCC owns the Caribana brand and won't let the city hold the festival next year without its input. Caribana, the largest Caribbean festival in North America, attracts thousands of tourists to Toronto for its parade, which features brightly coloured masqueraders, bands and dancers. The City of Toronto pulled funding from the event early this year after the CCC failed to hand in a clean audit for 2005. A new management group was brought in and scrambled to put the festival together in less than three months.

City group vows to present audit in fall

Eddison Doyle, Caribana's new chief operating officer, said the 2006 audit will be ready by the end of September — a first for the festival. Festival founders have come under criticism for running up deficits while attracting huge crowds of more than a million people. "It isn't really important who runs Caribana, or the festival, or whatever it's going to be named," said Toronto Coun. Joe Mihevc. "From our end, all we want is a transparent, financially responsible organization." Once the city committee completes an audit, it plans to write a report recommending the best way to manage the festival next year.

Caribana 2006 – It's Bigger Than Ever

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jeff Gray

(Aug. 4, 2006) This year's
Caribana festival, with tomorrow's signature colourful parade, will be the biggest ever, organizers say, despite the months of political wrangling that delayed preparations for the annual event. "It's not only a black community affair," festival chief executive officer Eddison Doyle said yesterday. "It's for all Torontonians. Let's enjoy and see what each other has to offer." The 39th annual parade goes west from Exhibition Place along Lake Shore Boulevard to Parkside Drive, with ticketed viewing areas along the route, which will be closed to traffic. In all, there are a record 35 bands or floats participating this year, including floats from police, the Canadian Forces and even "a Chinese marching band," Mr. Doyle said. Last night was the annual King and Queen Extravaganza competition at Lamport Stadium in the west end, the site of tonight's Pan Alive steel-drum band competition. The festival, which is technically called Toronto Caribbean Carnival this year after tortuous negotiations ended in a peace deal between rival organizers, has long been plagued by political infighting and financial problems. And police announced this week that with the blessing of organizers, closed-circuit cameras will keep watch over the informal, late-night weekend street parties along Yonge Street, where violence has broken out in the past. The festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors from the United States and the Caribbean, and has also become a draw for many black celebrities, such as National Basketball Association superstar Shaquille O'Neal and rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris.

Mayor David Miller said yesterday that he was looking forward to having curried goat in the hot sun, and that the city is committed to the festival's long-term survival. "Curried goat on the lakeshore on a steaming hot day, what more could you want? . . . Everybody's going to jump up on Saturday." Caribana's other main weekend event is the picnic on Olympic Island, which runs from noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. Organizers promise musical performances, dancing and comedy, along with Caribbean art, crafts and food, and face-painting and costume-making workshops for children. Admission is $21 for adults and $13 for children and seniors.

Chaka Khan: True ‘I-Khan’ Gets Her Due

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(Aug. 9, 2006) The introduction of a legend is rather difficult. There never seems to be enough words or accolades to shower those who need no introduction, those who have established themselves as the high standard, or those who have a lifetime of achievements – particularly those who have done all of the above. 
Chaka Khan has been a soul, pop, funk icon for decades. Her powerhouse jams and unmistakably voice, has not only been a frontal force in music, but also supportive of other great artists, as well as an icon to others. It’s no wonder that “I-Khan” is in the title of Chaka’s new project.  EUR’s Lee Bailey got the chance to chat with the original diva upon the announcement of her BET Lifetime Achievement Award last Spring, and found that though this songstress was long overdue for a lifetime achievement acknowledgement, she’s always on the cutting edge of funk. Chaka’s new disc, “I-Khan Divas” is still in the early stages. She’s in the studio working on new material with R&B super-producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.  “This CD is going to be called ‘I-Khan Divas’ and I’m going to do cover songs, mostly, of some of the artists that I love,” Chaka told the EUR. “It’s with a new label called the Burgundy label. It’s a Sony label. I am going to be covering folks like Phoebe Snow, Joni Mitchell…a few surprises, but a few that are probably expected.”

Though the disc will mostly be made up of remakes, Chaka does promise about five new tracks, of which she’s currently writing with the Jam & Lewis team. In the meantime, some Chaka fans thought that the next project would feature some gospel, but Chaka says that while a gospel disc, or at least a song or two, are in her heart, at this point in her life, they are not in the works. “There won’t be any gospel on this CD. I want to do a gospel CD, but I know how that is. I first want to be a full member of the fellowship,” she chuckled. “It’s going to be straight up funk. I’m doing everything my way – it’s gonna be friggidy-funky. You can do anything funky. I’m going to interpret the songs my way. If you’re going to redo someone’s song, either do it different or don’t. I’m all about the different.” Chaka and song covers aren’t a new story. In 1992, Whitney Houston hit the top of the charts with a remake of the disco anthem “I’m Every Woman” that Chaka recorded 1978. There were grumblings that Chaka wasn’t’ impressed. Though the buzz was alleged, the thought of Chaka doing a Houston cover came up, but Chaka says that never really crossed her mind.  “She’s done a lot of cover tunes,” she said about Houston’s body of work. “So by doing a Whitney song, you’d be doing a cover of a cover.”

Nevertheless, Chaka promises that the new disc should be at the least, interesting: “I’d be interested to see how the hell I’m going to do it,” she joked. On reflecting on the lifetime achievement accolades awarded her in June, Chaka reminisced about her career and the stages she’s surpassed, and how although she’s grown as an artist, the artistry has been a bit stifled. “When I started there were no music videos. There were still 8-tracks. I’ve been there, almost the whole run,” she said. “Now, everybody and their mother's trying to be an artist. It’s just ridiculous. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m in the circus, or a fashion show, or freak show, or what. I think the craft has suffered as far as integrity is concerned. There are exceptions, but it’s just gotten too crowded, too easy, too accessible, and the standards that dictate what an artist is has fallen tremendously. But I think music is coming back up; the future looks better.” With her optimism in tow, Chaka shared that she was honoured to find out she would receive this year’s award. “I am honoured beyond words. I’m looking forward to it,” she said weeks before the actual show, “mainly getting together and jamming with some people I really love.” As you recall, some of those artists were on hand to help award the singer at the show. Stevie Wonder, Prince, Yolanda Adams, and India.Arie performed with Chaka at the 6th annual BET ceremony and Steve Harvey presented the award. When asked if she sighed the word “Finally” as a reaction to finding out she’d be receiving the award, Chaka confessed “I said it quietly. I said it, nonetheless. I’ve supported a lot of artists and they’ve received their lifetime achievement award, so ...” To keep tabs on Chaka Khan’s new project, keep checking and

Infamous Down Low Author/Husband & Wife/Author Hook Up

Source: Ian Smith, 850-212-8840,  

(Aug. 9, 2006) Atlanta, GA and Springfield, OH Best-selling authors
J.L. King and Brenda Stone Browder are working to combat the indifference toward HIV and AIDS within the African-American community.  In a national speaking tour called "A Conversation of Reconciliation," King and Browder reunite in a forum that promotes candid, open and honest conversation between African-American men and women about sex and love and the devastating impacts of deception and denial in relationships.  The tour is being presented in conjunction with Black churches, health organizations, women's groups and other community organizations, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Lillie Mae Foundation, a family based foundation that provides financial support for families impacted by HIV/AIDS.  "The vision that Brenda and I have is that our 'Conversation of Reconciliation' tour will enable us to use our experiences to bring the discussion of HIV and AIDS to the forefront in the African-American community. We want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of brothers and sisters across this country," King added.  The 90-minute presentation sheds light on their personal struggles as a couple with two children whose private battles with deceit and deception quickly became public. They detail the pain that resulted, their individual journeys toward healing, their fight to save their family and how their faith played in the middle of everything.

"I truly give all credit to God and to a tremendously supportive family for helping me make it through one of the most difficult times in my life," Browder said. "Our community can't keep silent about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It's literally destroying our families and now more than ever we have to encourage dialogue, promote knowledge and understanding and support African-American women and men who are reaching out for help."  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a health crisis for African Americans. In 2002, HIV/AIDS was among the top three causes of death for African American men ages 25 to 54 and among the top four causes of death for African American women ages 25 to 54 years.  J.L. King first gained national and international attention for his New York Times best-selling book On the Down Low, which exposed the "DL" phenomena among some men. The terms "On the Down Low" and "DL" are often used to describe the behaviour of men who have sex with other men as well as women but do not identify as gay or bisexual.  His expertise has been cited in over 100 national publications, he has been featured on more than a thousand web sites and his television guest appearances have included the Oprah Winfrey Show, PBS, BET, CNN, The Discovery Network and over 80 national news shows.

Brenda Stone Browder, King's ex-wife and author of the Essence bestseller On the Up and Up: A Survival Guide for Women Living with Men on the Down Low, is a writer, educator, and lay speaker in Springfield, Ohio. Brenda became concerned about women's issues during a church service after she saw pain on the faces of women while listening to their testimonies.  The "Conversation of Reconciliation" tour will be traveling to major cities across the United States and the Caribbean. To request the tour in your area or for media interviews, contact Ian Smith at 850-212-8840 or  

EUR Interview With Michael Clarke Duncan

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(Aug. 3, 2006) *
Michael Clarke Duncan went from ditch-digger to bodyguard to aspiring actor to Oscar-nominee in just a few years. And the Windy City native’s career only continued to skyrocket after his critically-acclaimed performance as convict John Coffey in the screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Green Mile (1999). He’s made about 50 flicks since, including such hits as The Whole Nine Yards, Planet of the Apes, The Scorpion King, Sin City, Daredevil and The Island.  Despite being 6’5”, broad-shouldered Big Mike has refused to be pigeonholed, handling a variety of roles, the latest opposite Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in the action comedy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, where he plays Lucius Washington, a father figure of sorts to the title character.

KAM WILLIAMS: What interested you in this project?

MICHAEL CLARK DUNCAN: What got me excited was seeing John C. Reilly, Will Ferrell, Sacha Baron Cohen and Leslie Bibb, because I worked with her on another movie. [See Spot Run] To see those names up there, knowing you’re going to be a part of something great like that, that was the only thing I needed, really. And to go to the table read a year or so ago, and to see everybody at the table read, you don’t exactly what to expect, but you’re anticipating something great, and I think we did something really good.    

KW: How would you describe your character’s relationship with Ricky Bobby?

MCD: Julius is much like a father figure to him, because we see what his father was like. So, I don’t think he’d want to follow him too much, even though he did teach him how to drive. He did make a good race car driver out of him, but Ricky still needed somebody to tell him when he was wrong, and when he was doing stupid things. And that’s where I come in. I’m the crew chief, so I kinda keep everybody like a close-knit family. And we’ve all been with Ricky Bobby from day one, so there’s nobody else out there that we’d rather be with. We thought that was kinda cool.

KW: What was it like filming on location during an actual NASCAR race?

MCD: We had to wait for the accidents to happen. Any type of yellow flag, there we go. Everybody’s like, “Alright, we’re on!” I’d get up there in the booth. We’d say our little things. But as soon as the race re-started we go and sit back down.

KW: Did you find that frustrating?

MCD: No, it was actually fun because we used not only the actual racetrack but the actual fans at the racetrack. It wasn’t like we brought in 200,000 extras, or something like that. These were actual fans that were there, sitting and clapping, and they were very patient with us. So, a big up to everybody in Charlotte for being so patient.


Kevin Hearn's Solo CD A Sumptuous-Sounding Package

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

(Aug. 8, 2006)
Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn has discovered there are advantages and disadvantages to pursuing a solo career when your overriding claim to fame is membership in a famous band.  True, the affiliation buys an automatic level of interest from fans and critics who might as easily be disinclined to lend an ear. It's just as likely, however, those listeners will have preconceived notions about the music you make.  The Miracle Mile, a new album independently released by Celery Music and distributed through BNL label Warner Music, is Hearn's fourth disc with side players Thin Buckle. A contemplative, sumptuous-sounding, 10-song package that merges acoustical instruments with understated electronics, it is nothing like the boisterous pop produced by his main meal ticket.  "There are probably people who wouldn't give it the time of day or even think to listen to it because they don't like the Barenaked Ladies," Hearn says. "I also get BNL fans checking it out who don't like it because it's not what they expect.  "I really wanted to try to reach outside of BNL to see if there are other people who would like it. This music would appeal to people who like the Flaming Lips or Death Cab for Cutie and that kind of thing."  The disc is absorbing, in its own low-key way. One song, "Map of the Human Genome," is as irresistibly insinuating as anything released this summer. But Hearn concedes that a song about a hospital research laboratory's investigation into the microscopic building blocks of human life might not announce itself as commercial radio fodder.  "That's the thing about this," Hearn says. "I'm in the Barenaked Ladies. And they are making music for the radio. They're making good music. But I want to embrace my song about the human genome. I don't want to think, `It's too weird to make the radio.' I like the song and it makes me feel good to sing it.

"I love being in BNL. They have a certain sound. It's unique, but it has its parameters. I need to go outside of them sometimes, just to explore and maybe think non-commercially and play with other people and express things in my own voice."  Finding time to vent that voice can be tricky. Even as he anticipates Wednesday's show with Thin Buckle at the Drake, Hearn is also preparing to play with the Barenaked Ladies at Sunday's opening ceremonies concert for the Toronto AIDS Conference at Rogers Centre.  The band's new album, Barenaked Ladies Are Me, drops Sept. 12, leaving Hearn with a small window to promote The Miracle Mile. After Wednesday, he has gigs in Hamilton and Mount Tremblant. The album was written and recorded in similar circumstances.  "As much as I can when I'm on the road, I like to keep thinking about lyrics and progressing with them," he says. "When I do find pockets of time, I record and work out songs with my own band. I can't really do both things at once."  Much of the attention Hearn has received to this point in his career has focused on his recovery from leukemia, the subject of 2001's H-Wing, an album made up of songs composed while he was a patient at Princess Margaret Hospital.  Today, as a way of "giving back," Hearn has collaborated with California artist Natasha Sasic to create a couple of figurines, Wax and Wane, based on Hearn's doodles and drawings. The figurines are sold on Hearn's website to raise money for cancer-related charities.

"It's a way to turn something I do for fun into something other people can enjoy and benefit from," he says.  In the Barenaked Ladies, Hearn takes a back seat to voluble front men Steven Page and Ed Robertson.  During an afternoon photo shoot and interview at Queen St. W. eatery Swan, he projects the shy, self-effacing reserve of a veteran accompanist.  But appearances can be misleading. Hearn acted in a skit at last month's Toronto Fringe festival called Awesome Radical.  "I played the host of a TV show for kids. Except he's a 57-year-old man who still thinks he's a teenager and who is a total asshole."  After that, how intimidating can fronting your own band be?  "I love it," he says, "but it really makes me appreciate what Steve and Ed do every night. I don't know if I'd want to do it all the time. That might make it less fun for me. This way, I have the best of both worlds."


Canucks Add Vibe To Fest - Lollapalooza

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(Aug. 8, 2006) CHICAGO - The
Broken Social Scene/Red Hot Chili Peppers grudge match starts here.  It was revealing to step outside the Toronto bubble and confirm during BSS's gangbusters Sunday-night set at this year's massive Lollapalooza festival that our most saturation-hyped contemporary musical export is indeed as popular with the kids as we in the media often claim.  After booking the band for his aborted attempt at reviving Lollapalooza in its classic, early-'90s touring form a couple of years back, founder Perry Farrell invited Broken to play this year's fest in Chicago's Grant Park and graciously granted the crew the penultimate spot on the bill, sandwiched between a typically monstrous set from Queens of the Stone Age, hometown heroes Wilco and rather flaccid festival closers the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Most of the extended Social Scene family — including Paris-based songbird Leslie Feist, Stars' Amy Millan and Evan Cranley, and Metric's Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw — turned up for a deliciously fat-free "pop" set that found the band reining in its tendency to sprawl and concentrating on crowd pleasers like "Cause = Time," "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl," "Fire Eye'd Boy" and "7/4 (Shoreline)."  So crowd-pleasing were those treats that about a quarter of the 70,000-strong throng gathered in Grant Park for the day refused to turn its attention to the main stage at the south end of the field where the Chili Peppers were about to arrive, and began chanting "One more song! One more song!" and "We won't go! We won't go!"  Unsure what the proper etiquette was on such a tight festival schedule, the band milled around backstage until it received word from Lollapalooza organizers that an encore was okay. They just had to check with the Peppers' people.  But the Red Hot Chili Peppers' tour manager defied public opinion, leaving the Social Scenesters to conduct a sheepish group bow in front of an unruly mob that now bellowed: "F--k the Peppers! F--k the Peppers!"

It was a lovely scene, anyway, one that left the band feeling thoroughly good about itself. And it was a rare exhibition of "vibe" at an event that offered serious bang for the buck over the course of its three sweltering days in downtown Chicago, but little in the way of a heart-and-soul identity to set it apart from other festivals of the same nature.  Not that that was anything to seriously complain about, or that there was much time to complain while dashing to and fro along the kilometre or so separating the festival's nine stages. As was the case with its reinauguration last summer in Grant Park, Lollapalooza 2006 — which drew 180,000 concert-goers over the long weekend — was as smoothly run, respectfully priced ($150 for a three-day pass really did, as the website noted, work out to "about a buck a band") and well programmed as a festival can be.  Sound bleed between stages was the only common complaint, despite the fact that Lolla occupied twice the physical space it did last year in an effort to avoid just that.  Dainty popsters the Shins, for instance, were nearly drowned out completely on one of the main stages Sunday afternoon by punkabilly warhorse the Reverend Horton Heat, while Feist had to make an onstage "executive decision" whether to press on with the hushed waltz "Let It Die" when the booming Go! Team intruded from afar upon the last minutes of her solo set on Saturday afternoon. Feist's was nevertheless one of Lollapalooza's most memorable sets, not least because the Calgary-born singer and guitarist — who flitted easily from feathery ballads to brawny rockers during a captivating hour onstage — was such a charmingly serene and graceful presence amidst the testosterone-charged hubbub ("It's a bit of a sausage fest out there," BSS's Kevin Drew noted on Sunday night).  Girls ruled if you could find 'em, though.

Pint-sized British MC and general troublemaker Lady Sovereign tore up a side stage on Friday with much more danger and insouciant originality than Lolla's big hip-hop draws Kanye West and Common, if not Gnarls Barkley, would the next day. Swilling from a champagne bottle roughly a third her size, the foul-mouthed teenage rapper brought a pugilistic swagger to her curious blend of U.K. grime, rave-ready hardcore beats and snarling punk, and turned in one of the weekend's most galvanizing sets. She and tirelessly funky MC Lyrics Born both proved on Saturday that the hip-hop underground is far healthier than the mainstream lets on.  Portland, Ore., femme-punks Sleater-Kinney — fighting through the murky sound mix that had earlier in the day crippled a set by Toronto's Stars on the same stage — ended what they've hinted might be their last show ever in blistering style, amidst much duelling guitar noise on Friday night, handily trumping the day's girly-boy headliners Death Cab for Cutie in the process.  Showing no signs of packing it in or arresting the relentless forward motion that has characterized its 25 years in the business, venerable guitar-terror outfit Sonic Youth delivered Saturday's finest set by playing three-quarters of its fab new album, Rather Ripped, and only a smattering of semi-obscure oldies ("Schizophrenia," "Eric's Trip") to a reverent crowd split equally between long-time fans from the original Lollapalooza era and doting newbies. Bassist Kim Gordon, now in her 50s and still looking rather ripped herself, introduced 1983's "Shaking Hell" by pointing out that the song was "probably written before you were born."  Noise fans had much to love on Saturday, since Sonic Youth was flanked on the bill by noisemakers Built to Spill and the reliably chaotic Flaming Lips.  The former concentrated heavily on languid, Neil Young-esque jams from its new album, You In Reverse, but drew a rapturous response from the many cultists in the crowd when Doug Martsch jangled out the intro to "Carry the Zero," from 1999's wonderful Keep It Like a Secret, to close the set. The beardy band also got off a few choice quips about the level of corporate sponsorship at Lollapalooza this year.  "Does Bud Light care about us? Does Adidas care about us?" wondered guitarist Brett Nelson. "Does Perry care about us?"  Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne, an infectiously effusive presence who commenced the set by rolling into the crowd in a giant plastic ball, was less cynical. He pronounced Lollapalooza "f--king great" and reminisced fondly about the Lips' time on the original tour, and then urged the crowd to sing along with "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" so loudly that Israel would stop bombing Lebanon.  Whatever their occasional musical shortcomings, the Lips are a pleasingly lunatic force onstage and delighted the throng with a festival-sized set augmented not just with singalongs, but also a gaggle of dancing Santa Clauses, a pack of leggy ladies in alien costumes, and a phalanx of enormous inflatable astronauts, Clauses and aliens behind the drumkit. They're completely mad, but in a good way.


I'll Be Watching You – Police

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Aug. 4, 2006)
Sting wasn't interested. Drummer-composer Stewart Copeland had sent him a couple of early edits of his nostalgic, home-movie documentary about their old band, the Police. "And he'd sent me a nice e-mail back. Then I pressed him, 'Well, what's your favourite part about the movie?' He finally had to confess he hadn't seen it, and he wasn't going to see it because he doesn't watch himself on the screen. He gets all twitchy. But his kids told him that it's cool, and, most importantly, that he looks cool in it," Copeland said by phone from his studio near Los Angeles. "Back in the Police days, it was part of his job to check himself out. We used to tease him about that. It was all our jobs. It would be unprofessional of us to leave our hotel room looking like we'd be safe to be with children." But if looking edgy or mean was the intention, Copeland's assortment of Super 8 footage pieced together to make his new documentary, Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, may not have succeeded, because the band comes off as utterly human and child-friendly. The life of a rock star, at least life in the Police, had about the same level of rowdiness and misbehaviour as, say, a Jamie Oliver cooking show. It was strangely tame in its way, and that's the film's appeal. There's Sting being awkward and self-conscious, nervous about the mass of fans around the corner. And there's guitarist Andy Summers, giving hilariously wry travel commentary to the camera from various picturesque tour spots.  From the film, it's obvious that Summers was the one that gave the band that extra little sophistication that took them to the top. But there are none of the legendary fights on film. There's a coziness in Copeland's home movies -- goofing around backstage, goofing around on trains and buses, being a little more serious in the studio -- all shot for want of something to do during the endless hours of downtime as much as an attempt to document it all for posterity.

The film, which airs Sunday night on Movie Central and the Movie Network and will be available on DVD next month, isn't an exposé into the ultimate break-up. "There are those who may accuse me of avoiding the big subject, which is, 'What about all the fighting?' " Copeland said. "But I don't have any fighting on camera. Maybe I forgot to pick my camera up when I was in the middle of a screaming match. It would have been really cool if I did actually, and it would have been in the movie if I had." Copeland, who is now 54, admits that in the years after the band members split in the mid-1980s, he began to believe the stories that they had fought all the time. Yet poring over the 50 hours of footage protected by plastic wrap in his garage, he realized that the opposite was true. "It's not my intention to say that we laughed and chuckled all the time. But that's pretty much the reality. It's surprising to me, in all that footage that I have, I don't have anything other than laughing and chuckling," he said. Since the Police broke up, Copeland has been heavily involved in film composing, and he originally opened up the boxes of old Super 8 movies to get some footage for a TV program being made about him. But then he found himself digging into what amounted to a trove of found footage. He hadn't watched much of it before. Still, like any home movie, the documentary has its omissions. There's some great footage of Sting teaching Summers the chords for De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da in the studio for the first time, as well as a self-photographed scene of Copeland on stage taken from behind his drum set with the camera on a tripod. It's as if you are sitting right next to him during a concert.  And scenes of mass adulation are always fascinating, such the shots of British New Waver kids, too young and therefore a little behind the cutting edge, shouting for the band backstage. But where are the groupies?

"Well, I guess I put my camera down for some of those scenes. I haven't got any Tommy Lee footage," Copeland said. There is one brief scene with the band sitting on a boat with a bevy of bikini-clad fans. It's enough for you to get the picture. Despite Copeland's insistence that the documentary doesn't follow the typical, melodramatic docu-plot of the rise and ultimate fall of the Police, like an episode of VH1's Behind the Music, that's the general trajectory. What comes through is the isolation that occurs. Perhaps it's the same kind of isolation we all feel in our jobs. But for Copeland, Sting and Summers, it all happens on a world stage, cliché as that may sound.  As Copeland says in the movie, "The tours are so intense that the space between them -- life at home -- seems unreal, like a cartoon. Sure, we'd bought houses and tried to make families in them, but it's just going through the motions. Reality for us is the road. "Half the time, I don't know where we are . . . and it's not like we're really there anyway. It's just scenery for the next video. Every now and then, I look over my shoulder and I see a pyramid or Parthenon or some other wonder of the world. . . . There's a growing notion that there's something wrong with this. It's been years since I've bought groceries or drove my own car. Am I missing something?" What they were missing was an understanding of where the band fit in with what was truly hip at the time. For instance, the footage of the Police headlining the 1982 U.S. Festival shows is telling and contains a small piece of Canadiana. While both Sting and Summer were dressed in early eighties finery, Copeland performed in a CFOX T-shirt, complete with that Vancouver classic-rock radio station's old cartoon logo. It was an obvious coup for CFOX. But as any Vancouver New Wave or New Romantic type would have told you at the time, CFOX was the antithesis of new music and totally un-cool. Of course, that was a long time ago and the T-shirt today would be retro and ultra-hip to wear. However, it illustrates Copeland's point about staying in touch with what was happening outside the band's cocoon.

It also means that his relatively ordinary life today feels quite separate from the Police. "There's a world out there that I don't really inhabit that much, which is the Police world. There's no Police world. There's no context in my life of 'the Police.' The band broke up 30 years ago." However, "over my shoulder there is an avatar or a creature or a picture of the rock star of all those years ago. And it's invisible most of the time. When I walk down the streets of Santa Monica or wherever, it's invisible." That's not to say Police fans still haven't given up hope that the three will re-emerge together. Unlike Sting, Summers encouraged Copeland along the way with the documentary, and interest in the band seems to be building once again. Is there any chance they will they play together? "Andy and I have at various times because we live nearby. Haven't jammed with Sting since [the band's 2003 induction into the Rock and Roll] Hall of Fame." We'll take that as another of Sting's polite no-thank-yous. It's surprising to me, in all that footage that I have, I don't have anything other than laughing and chuckling.


Thousands Turn Out For American Idol Tryouts

Source: Associated Press

(Aug. 8, 2006) Pasadena, Calif. — Thousands of
American Idol hopefuls descended on the Rose Bowl before dawn Tuesday with wide-eyed dreams of becoming the next Taylor Hicks or Carrie Underwood. The competitors taking the field Tuesday had American Idol fame in mind, not football. Pasadena was the first of seven cities where producers of Fox TV's talent show planned auditions. Roads leading to the Rose Bowl were clogged as auditioners hurried to meet the supposed 6 a.m. PDT deadline to line up. Outside the stadium, early arrivals gathered — some huddled under blankets, some wearing headphones and silently mouthing lyrics. Others did last-minute makeup checks. The generally subdued early morning crowd roused itself occasionally, once when sample breath mints were tossed into the crowd and another time when TV news crews went on the air. “I've been wanting to do it for a long time,” said Corrin Moore, 19, of Oceanside. She finally got up the nerve, she said, when friend Candice Starks, 21, also of Oceanside, agreed to join her for the tryouts. Surveying the growing crowd, Moore said: “It makes me feel nervous. There's a lot of talented people out here.” American Idol has demonstrated its prowess as a starmaker by turning unknowns into overnight sensations with awards and hit records. As the top-rated TV show last season, it has shattered expectations that it couldn't sustain its popularity.

American Idol also continues to deepen its pop culture imprint. Hicks, the latest winner, and finalists from last season are on tour, other contestants are pursuing solo careers and the Lifetime channel is airing a movie about and starring past winner Fantasia this month. On the new season that begins airing in January, American Idol will up the ante with a songwriting contest in which professionals and amateurs will have the chance to compose tunes for the finalists. Upcoming auditions for singers: Alamodome, San Antonio, Friday; Continental Air Arena, East Rutherford, N.J., Aug. 14; Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 21; FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn., Sep. 3; Target Center, Minneapolis, Sep. 8; Key Arena, Seattle, Sept. 19. Those intending to try out were asked to register up to two days before an audition, but that offered no guarantee of being seen and heard on the big day. “If our time is running short the producers may walk around the venue to pick out people to audition ... based on performing ability, look, style, personality and other factors,” according to guidelines posted on the show's Web site. Passing the initial scrutiny is just the beginning, with follow-up auditions to winnow the pack even more. It's a relative handful that get to strut their stuff for Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and see their auditions — good, bad or ugly, and the judges' appropriate reactions — featured on the show. Those rejected in one city can jump to another and try again. According to the Web site, hopefuls can be accompanied to the audition by a friend or relative and can tote in items such as blankets and water. On the banned list: alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs, animals and hair dryers.


Prince's Hits And Videos Bring The Funk 2 U

Source: (CD) Lellie Capwell /; (DVD) Christopher Buerger /

(Aug. 3, 2006) LOS ANGELES - During his groundbreaking 18-year paisley reign at Warner Bros.,
Prince built a superfunkycalifragisexy legacy of genre-bending hits that made him royalty on the rock, soul, pop and R&B charts.  Warner Bros. Records salutes the Twin Cities' funknastiest son with a pair of releases: ULTIMATE PRINCE, a two-disc compilation featuring his biggest hits and hard-to-find remixes; plus DIAMONDS AND PEARLS, a DVD collection of videos, performances and more.  Both are available August 22 at regular retail outlets and online at The double-CD set can be purchased for a suggested list price of $24.98, while the DVD is available for $14.99. Featuring more than two-and-a-half hours of prime Prince, ULTIMATE includes songs recorded between 1978 and 1993. The two-disc set contains the Grammy-winning singles "Kiss" and "Purple Rain," plus #1 pop hits "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" as well as rare remixes of "Cream," "Little Red Corvette" and "Pop Life." Drawing from music Prince originally recorded with his backing bands The Revolution and The New Power Generation, ULTIMATE tracks the artist's evolution from his early albums (Prince, Dirty Mind and Controversy) and pop successes (1999, Purple Rain and Sign 'O' The Times) to more eclectic albums (Lovesexy, Diamonds And Pearls and the "symbol" album). A marathon of funky joints, sensual ballads and dynamic pop, ULTIMATE features Prince's first #1 R&B hit, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" from his self-titled 1979 sophomore album, as well as his Top 5 Pop hits: "Sign 'O' The Times," "Raspberry Beret" and "U Got The Look," and his Top 5 R&B hits: "Controversy," "1999" and "Alphabet St."

A treasure chest of royal rarities, ULTIMATE collects hard-to-find tracks including the single version of "7" from the symbol album; the 12-inch version of "Raspberry Beret" from Around The World In A Day and the classic B-side "She's Always In My Hair" rounded out with remixes of "Hot Thing" from Sign 'O' The Times and "Thieves In The Temple" from the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack.  DIAMONDS AND PEARLS contains more than an hour of music including the DVD debut of concert performances, interviews and classic videos. The collection spotlights songs from Diamonds and Pearls, Prince's thirteenth studio album and his first with the New Power Generation. Videos for the smash singles "Gett Off," "Cream" and the title track are bolstered by clips of fan favourites such as "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" and "Insatiable," as well as three more album tracks. The DVD also features concert footage of Prince and the NPG working up a sweaty funk on the Diamonds and Pearls tracks - "Thunder," "Jughead" and "Live 4 Love." The collection also captures Prince and his formidable band putting their unmistakable spin on Aretha Franklin's classic soul hit, "Dr. Feelgood." Interviews with Prince and the band round out DIAMONDS AND PEARLS. Considered a musical genius by many of his peers, Prince Rogers Nelson occupies a rarefied place in music history as: a four-time Grammy winner; a prolific hitmaker with more than 50 multi-platinum, platinum and gold release to his credit; an electrifying performer whose last tour was one the year's top-sellers; and a consummate musician dedicated to exploring new musical territory.

Ultimate Prince
Track Listing
Disc 1
1.    "I Wanna Be Your Lover"
2.    "Uptown"
3.    "Controversy"
4.    "1999"
5.    "Delirious"
6.    "When Doves Cry"
7.    "I Would Die 4 U"
8.    "Purple Rain"
9.    "Sign 'O' The Times"
10.   "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man"
11.   "Alphabet St."
12.   "Diamonds And Pearls"
13.   "Gett Off"
14.   "Money Don't Matter 2 Night"
15.   "7"
16.   "Nothing Compares 2 U"
17.   "My Name Is Prince"
Disc 2
1.    "Let's Go Crazy" - Special Dance Mix
2.    "Little Red Corvette" - Dance Remix
3.    "Let's Work" - Dance Remix
4.    "Pop Life" - Fresh Dance Mix
5.    "She's Always In My Hair" - 12" Version
6.    "Raspberry Beret" - 12" Version
7.    "Kiss" - Extended Version
8.    "U Got The Look" - Long Look
9.    "Hot Thing" - Extended Remix
10.   "Thieves In The Temple" - Remix
11.   "Cream" - N.P.G. Mix
Diamonds And Pearls
DVD Track Listing
1. "Gett Off"
2. "Cream"
3. "Diamonds And Pearls"
4. "Call The Law"
5. "Willing And Able"
6. "Insatiable"
7. "Strollin'"
8. "Money Don't Matter 2 Night"
9. "Thunder"
10. "Dr. Feelgood"
11. "Jughead"
12. "Live 4 Love"


Canadian Roots Music: A Hot Export

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Aug. 7, 2006) November, 1968. Clad in pink trousers and an Afghan jacket, with absurdly poofed-out hair and maybe even a ring on his tea-cup pinkie finger, Eric Clapton set out from England for upstate New York, intent on joining the funky, cellar-rehearsing roots-rockers the Band. He had heard a bootlegged acetate of the Basement Tapes, the no-frills recordings made by Bob Dylan with Robbie Robertson and company, and was “shook to the core” by its earthy appeal. Upon arriving at the group's house in Woodstock though, Clapton was shattered. The vibe was rustic and insular, and the posh virtuoso guitarist knew he didn't fit in. “They had a very closed scene,” he later recalled. “I wanted to be a part of it, but there was no way in. So all I could do was admire it from afar and long for something similar.” Some might describe what the Band did in the basement as “Americana music,” and even if it was being made by Canadians, the Brits dug it. They still do — except now it travels to them, instead of the other way around. Canadian bands today find receptive audiences in Britain and Europe, where fans are attracted to the rusticity and songwriting of music that falls under the genre titles “roots” and “alt-country,” as well as Americana. Those descriptors are not terribly precise, but acts such as
Elliott Brood, Blood Meridian, Lynn Miles, the Be Good Tanyas, Ox, Corb Lund and others have developed cult followings across the ocean. Grungy Vancouver crew Blood Meridian, for example, is a big deal in the Netherlands, where an Americana scene thrives. The band, whose new album Kick Up the Dust features a rifle-toting gold prospector on its cover, receives more than 90 per cent of its fan correspondence from Holland. There, radio programs and websites are dedicated to roots music: The highly informative currently highlights articles on Ox and Blue Rodeo.

It's not that Canadian fans don't appreciate their own artists, but the appeal to foreigners comes from a different mindset. “They see an authenticity to it,” says Mark Browning, the frayed-voiced singer-songwriter with Vancouver-based Ox. “We've done a lot of touring back and forth across Canada and the United States, and we do it grassroots style — in a van, sleeping on floors and driving all night. That lifestyle gets absorbed into our music, and so U.K. audiences have a glimpse of the wide open spaces, at 4 a.m. in the morning, and the caribou and moose on the road, diners and laundromats.” The lure of a life different than their own, as expressed both lyrically and in the actual life experiences of the musicians themselves, is similar to the notions that audiences overseas (and in white America) conjured up during the blues revival of the 1960s.  And like blues musicians back then, Browning sees nothing quaint or weird about his background or musical persona. “I don't romanticize it at all,” he says. “To me it's reality. But to them, it's ‘America.'  Mark Sasso, the banjo-whacking lead singer of Elliott Brood, a Toronto trio that often employs a suitcase for percussion and forcibly presents edgy, so-called “death country” music, agrees. “We're not cowboys by any means,” he says, calling from a roadside pay phone. “But there's that romanticized notion of it over there, and they kind of hold onto it.” While there's no denying that a fondness exists for a place where the buffalo roam and the antelope play, a six-shooter and a ten-gallon hat only go so far. And there's not a substantial preference for Canadian acts over American acts — the Canadian acts that are successful in Britain and Europe are so simply because they're very, very good at what they do.

“I think the attraction has to do with the quality of the music,” says David Morrison, a London-based journalist, broadcaster and promoter. “Discerning music fans that are attending the shows are rightly viewing Canada as a hotbed right now. Whenever we announce a show featuring a Canadian act there's immediate interest even if their profile is very low or non-existent. There's such consistency and diversity in roots music coming from there. It's like they've come to trust Canada in that respect.” In effect, the musical emigration is a sort of piecemeal package tour, especially in Britain where bands routinely play to the same fans along a route that takes in such major cities as London, Manchester, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham. There, according to Neville (Arbuckle) Quinlan, the leader of Toronto country-rockers NQ Arbuckle, acts are routinely branded according to nationality. “You're touted as being the next best thing from Canada, regardless of whether it's true or not.” As to whether foreign fans prefer Canadian to U.S. politics — in a sense, getting the Americana without the America — there doesn't seem to be much bias. “Most of the people we play to are bar people,” quips Quinlan, fresh from Italy.  “I see a lot more alcoholics than pundits.” Occasionally, bands find themselves the focus of unreasonable expectations. Club owners mistakenly play up the “country” angle of the music, even to the point of decking the place out with rural paraphernalia such as hay bales and mechanical bulls. Quinlan once ran into a dicey situation in a shady East London bar, where he was greeted by customers garbed in cowboy hats and Western shirts. “I don't think I've ever played a George Jones cover in my life,” he says. Playing to a hostile audience who preferred traditional twang, Quinlan endured “the most disastrous performance I've ever had.” Elliott Brood's Sasso, who has toured Europe twice in the last 10 months and is popular in Spain, hasn't run into anything along those lines, but allows that anyone who sees his banjo and expects traditional bluegrass would be “very disappointed.” So, what does it all come down to? Ox's Browning tells of British fans who get a kick out of his stories about arriving hours early for shows over there — he's simply not used to the short drives. Perhaps that's it: the lonesome highways — long stretches of desolate roads that run forever, and dusty, rugged back roads too. Saddle up, and giddy up, Canada.


TSO Music Was The Food Of Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Classical Music Writer

(Aug. 5, 2006) It's no secret that music can bring people together. But did you know that listening to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra can lead to matrimony?  At least that's what happened to Raymond and Vivian Chan, who met through the symphony's online Yak With Yara chatroom.  After a three-year courtship, they were married on July 1. Their first date was a TSO concert. And their engagement picture was shot in front of the orchestra's home at King and Simcoe Sts.  Yara Jakymiw, the real person behind the cute cartoon icon on the TSO website, didn't expect to play matchmaker when she became the moderator of one of the world's first orchestra-sponsored web chatrooms five years ago.  But, then again, life is full of surprises. Like the coincidences that Raymond and Vivian share. If the TSO hadn't brought them together, perhaps something else would have. Or maybe not ...  Both attend Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church in Markham on Sundays. Until they met, Raymond sang in the choir at the 11 a.m. Cantonese mass, while Vivian sang and played guitar for the 2 p.m. English service.  "We had seen each other at social functions but had never actually spoken," says Vivian.  Once they started dating, they discovered that they had lived in the same Hong Kong apartment building as children, that Raymond has a sister named Vivian and that Vivian has a brother called Raymond.  Raymond, who works downtown as a systems analyst, describes himself as a "music nut." He started playing the violin about 10 years ago, and figures he has about 5,000 discs in his home collection.

He is an avid subscriber to Toronto Symphony concerts and founded the Toronto Mahler Society two years ago. His other two favourite composers are Shostakovich and Bruckner — all symphonic heavyweights.  Raymond says he started listening to classical music in high school, "when my family bought a new hi-fi. CDs were still new at the time, so I had bought a few albums to listen to, and it just grew from there."  He is an enthusiastic poster on Yak With Yara, and he closes his emails with a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "Without music, life would be a mistake."  As for Vivian: "Before I met Raymond, I knew absolutely nothing about classical music." But the seeds were sown four years ago, at her 28th birthday.  She was one of her church's co-ordinators for World Youth Day in 2002, and had been inspired by the spirit of the celebration to take guitar more seriously. But a mix-up over a birthday present changed all that.  Vivian's sister gave her what she thought was a bottle shaped like a guitar. But Vivian recognized it as a cello. "I had always liked the sound of the cello," says Vivian. "And the gift woke me up."  She signed up for lessons. "Since then, I fell in love with both classical music and the cello." Vivian blushes when she admits that, at the time, "the cello was my boyfriend."

She works as an investment adviser assistant across from Roy Thomson Hall, so checking out concerts was easy — especially given "tsoundcheck," the orchestra's discount program for people under 30.  (Indarjeet Mudhar, of the TSO's marketing department, says there are 28,000 registered tsoundcheck members who bought some 20,000 tickets last season.)  The first TSO concert that really moved Vivian included Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. "I had heard it on the radio before," she says. But nothing could prepare her for the power of a live performance. "After that concert I couldn't even walk straight."  She confided in a friend that she had been daydreaming about meeting a guy who can play the violin, "because I think violin and cello sound so nice together."  Vivian started visiting Yak With Yara daily, "so that I could learn something every day."  One of the regular posters she read signed his name as raychan. "I thought, `Oh, a Chinese name' — from a guy who has no imagination," she laughs. (Some posters prefer more evocative titles, such as Music_Junkie or Crescendo.)  Vivian discovered that raychan belonged to the same church, and tracked down his email address from a friend.  "After a couple of weeks (of sending emails back and forth), we decided it was time to get together," says Raymond. "So I suggested we meet during intermission" at a concert.  Music brought them together and has kept them together. The Chinese characters on the cover of their wedding invasion read: "United in strings, united in God."  At the wedding reception, Raymond serenaded Vivian and their guests with Edward Elgar's "Salut d'amour" on the violin. They even organized their European and British honeymoon around key concert dates, including Vivian's first Proms concert in London.  They have had tickets to the Canadian Opera Company's upcoming production of Wagner's Ring Cycle since 2003 — "since even before we were engaged," laughs Vivian.

She tells of how she once chided Raymond about wearing jeans to a TSO concert. He replied that he sees no problem doing so, because Roy Thomson Hall feels "like a second home."  Whenever they can, Raymond and Vivian try to include friends in their concert plans. "I bought about 90 tickets for a Yo-Yo Ma concert," says Raymond. In this respect, the Chans are like extensions of Yara herself, who is there to answer questions of curious concertgoers and, with any luck, entice fresh ears to sample the TSO's talents.  Yara Jakymiw says that the chatroom currently has 800 registered users, and that there have been approximately 2,000 posts in the last six months. The topics range from impressions of particular performances, to trading of opinions and insights into the issue of music downloading.  Even during the quiet summer months, there are a handful of topics that generate regular postings.  And perhaps even more romantic couplings.  Check out Yak With Yara at


Tupac’s Mom To Visit South Africa Next Month

Excerpt from

(August 8, 2006) *Afeni Shakur, the mother of slain rapper Tupac Shakur, will visit South Africa from Sept. 10 through Sept. 18 to mark the 10th anniversary of her son’s passing, as previously reported. With her sister Gloria Cox and daughter Set Shakur in tow, Afeni Shakur will scatter some of Tupac’s ashes in the town of Soweto, the birthplace of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. Afeni, who once served as a section leader for the Black Panther Party, will be honoured for her contribution as an activist for the rights of black people and the oppressed as well as for her bringing her son’s ashes to Africa.   "I feel blessed to be able to visit South Africa, especially Soweto,” Afeni said in a statement. “Events that happened there are so much a part of our history and it will be an honour for my son to rest in this special place -- the birthplace of the South African struggle for democracy.”    Also during her visit, Shakur will meet with South African Kwaito star and actor Zola. As previously reported, the musician and activist will record vocals to be featured along side Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac on a 10th Anniversary CD.    Additionally, Afeni is hoping to meet with former South African president Nelson Mandela, as she works to develop a relationship between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. 

“Nelson Mandela's contribution to the people of South Africa has been immeasurable and I look forward to helping with his work all over the country," Afeni said.   The return of Tupac Amaru Shakur's remains to the birthplace of his ancestors will be celebrated in a traditional African ceremony with a praise singer on the 10th anniversary of his death, Sept. 13. In attendance will be prominent political leaders, the South African government, representatives of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and guests of the Shakur family.    In other Tupac news, the British Film Institute and National Film Theater will present an educational study focused on the rapper’s film work. Entitled "Tupac Shakur Reinterpreted," the 13-day London study will begin Sept. 15 and screen among his films 1992’s “Juice” and “1997’s Gridlock’d.” The purpose of the event is to examine the rapper’s movies as they relate to hip hop, his fans and mainstream media culture. “Reinterpreted” is scheduled to run through Sept. 28.


Rhino Brings The Funk: What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (1967-1977)

Excerpt from

(Aug. 9, 2006) LOS ANGELES - Right on. Right on. Nothing puts a dip in your hip and a glide in your stride quite like a gritty funk groove that hits the beat hard on the one.  The polyrhythmic kissing cousin of classic soul and R&B, funk's sinuous slap-bass lines and booming kick drums from its heyday in the late '60s through the late '70s went on to inspire a generation of hip-hop heads. 
Rhino rocks funk's foundation with a four-disc collection of rump-shaking beats and hard-to-find pimpalicious jams that don't fake the funk. WHAT IT IS! FUNKY SOUL AND RARE GROOVES (1967-1977) will be available October 3 at all retail outlets and at for a suggested retail price of $64.98. This compilation brings together 91 slabs of righteously funky grooves taken from the vaults of Atlantic, Atco, and Warner Bros. Records. Arranged chronologically, WHAT IT IS! contains more than five hours of wicked rhythms, badass clavinet, incendiary horn blasts, libidinous wah-wah guitar, and chirping Hammond B3.   WHAT IT IS! celebrates some of the genre's biggest names with the late Wilson Pickett's "Engine Number 9;" "I'm Just Like You," a song recorded by Sly Stone under the pseudonym 6ix, and "Stanga" a tune he wrote and produced for Little Sister (which included Vaetta Stewart, Sly's little sister); and Earth Wind & Fire's "Bad Tune" from the acclaimed group's debut. The boxed set also includes tracks by Little Richard, Allen Toussaint, The Commodores, Curtis Mayfield, Labelle, P-Funk guitar virtuoso Eddie Hazel, and The Meters, who can be heard with Cyril Neville on the classic "Gossip," performing undercover as The Rhine Oaks on "Tampin'" and under their own moniker for "Chug Chug Chug-A-Lug (Push And Shove) Part 2."

The collection also features an unreleased, alternate version of "Rock Steady" recorded in 1970 by Aretha Franklin. One of three versions recorded during the session, Franklin is backed by her red-hot studio and touring band, King Curtis and The Kingpins. With a final section that slows to a stop before disappearing in reverb, the version included here differs significantly from the previously available versions.  Teeming with rare funk tracks, WHAT IT IS! is a dream come true for groove gurus who spend hours scouring crates of used vinyl in search of lost classics. Among the rarefied gems featured are tracks such as "Improve" by Darrow Fletcher, "Cold Bear" by The Gaturs, "Funky To The Bone" by Freddie/Henchi and The Soul Setters, "Sexy Coffee Pot" by Tony Alvon and The Belairs, "It's Your Thing" by Cold Grits, "Gangster Of Love (Pts 1 & 2)" by Jimmy Norman, "Funky John" by Johnny Cameron and The Camerons, "You Gotta Know Whatcha Doin'" by Charles Wright, and The Mystic Moods' interstellar "Cosmic Sea."  Although much of the music featured on WHAT IT IS! flew under the radar, many of the break beats and riffs will sound familiar thanks to hip-hop DJs and producers who - over the years - have sampled several songs featured in this compilation in tracks from Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys, Tupac Shakur, and The Notorious B.I.G., to name a few.  WHAT IT IS! continues Rhino's tradition of deluxe, imaginative packaging with the four discs nestled in a hand-assembled clamshell box. The set includes liner notes by Wax Poetics contributor Oliver Wang, plus detailed track-by-track commentary and testimonials by such heavyweights as Fred Wesley, Howard Tate, Hank Shocklee (Public Enemy), Bootsy Collins, DJ Pooh (Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Clarence Reid, Chuck Rainey, and others featured in a stunning booklet with rare vintage photos.


Van Morrison - ‘The Man’ Remains An Enigma

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

(Aug. 9, 2006) Plenty of arena concerts end with the sights and sounds of a delirious audience standing on its feet clapping and singing along in unison to a treasured classic. Seldom, however, does this happen in the absence of the star attraction.  For that to occur,
Van Morrison has to be somewhere in the vicinity — the operative phrase being "somewhere in the vicinity."  After a perfunctory thank-you to the crowd and a verbal tip of the hat to his band, the Belfast-born legend departed the stage of a three-quarters full Air Canada Centre last night, leaving his 11 stellar accompanists to soak up the party atmosphere as they put the finishing touches on the set's last song, "Gloria."  No return bows from Morrison. No encore. No attempt by even the most devoted die-hards to try for one. The houselights came up. Everyone filed out.  Whether the fans left entirely satisfied was hard to gauge. Certainly, Morrison, who turns 61 at the end of the month, made an effort to send them home with fond memories, larding the conclusion of the show with a run of favourites that included "Have I Told You Lately that I Love You," "Wild Night" and "Brown Eyed Girl."

Prior to this onslaught, the characteristically eccentric singer-songwriter did little to curry favour. While the earlier portion of the evening featured its share of touchstones such as "Crazy Love" and "Bright Side of the Road," their inclusion sometimes seemed obligatory. "Moondance," for instance, was used as a vehicle for introducing the band, a chore the front man left to his guitarist.  Front man is maybe not the right term. When not stepping up to the microphone to sing or play the sax and harmonica, Morrison showed his back to the audience, his demeanour resembling that of a distracted conductor as he frequently signalled a stage hand to refresh the cup of whatever liquid he was endlessly draining.  The musicianship is still there, although it was sometimes hard to tell if Morrison was singing scat or the actual words to a particular song. The styles ranged over blues, rock, country and jazz, affording frequent opportunities for the accompanists, including the backing vocalists, to assume the forefront.  It is an odd gesture when the band leader can't be bothered to introduce his own accompanists. On the other hand, Morrison allowed them to more or less steal the show — right up until the final moment.  You would have thought that by now his reputation as an enigma was secure. Clearly, he's still working on the finer points.



Jody Watley Marks Return With ‘Makeover’

Excerpt from

(August 4, 2006) *Fans of Bravo’s new reality show “Workout” already know that
Jody Watley, 47, is back with a new album entitled, “The Makeover,” due in stores on Tuesday (Aug. 8). The disc’s title describes her re-emergence on the music scene as well as her own physical transformation, which involved routine visits to one of the physical trainers highlighted in the weekly Bravo series about the employees of a Los Angeles gym. Watley, who got her start in the R&B trio Shalamar, will sign autographs and perform at Virgin Megastore’s Sunset Blvd. location in Hollywood on Tuesday at 7 p.m. to promote the album release. Prior to her performance, fans will be treated to complimentary hair and make-up makeovers courtesy of Rudolphe's Salon and complimentary "Lash Makeovers" by shu uemura. After leaving Shalamar in 1984, Watley surfaced three years later with her first of three solo albums. The self-titled LP – which included the hit singles “Looking for a New Love,” “Still a Thrill,” “Don't You Want Me,” “Some Kind of Lover” and “Most of All” – cemented the singer as one of the top-selling R&B acts of the 80s.

D’Angelo Back In Studio After Rehab

Excerpt from

(August 7, 2006) *D’Angelo is reportedly all done with rehab and back in the studio recording tracks for a new album. According to Karu F. Daniels of AOL’s BV Entertainment Newswire, the Virginia native had been addressing his substance abuse problem at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua.  The 32-year-old, born Michael Eugene Archer, is now back in the States trying to get his career back on track.  BV reports that he was in New York recently meeting with Virgin Records urban music president Jermaine Dupri, veteran music executive Gary Harris, who worked with D’Angelo on his 1994 breakthrough hit “Brown Sugar,” and famous music industry manager Irving Azoff (Seal, Lenny Kravitz, Christina Aguilera). In January 2005, D’Angelo was arrested near his Richmond, VA hometown and charged with drunk driving and drug possession.  Police searched his vehicle and found substances they believed to be cocaine and marijuana. He was given a three-year suspended sentence after pleading no contest.  In November 2002, a woman alleged the singer cut her off in a lane leading to a shopping mall and then repeatedly and recklessly switched lanes. When the cops arrived at his house to serve him with misdemeanour charges of aggressive driving, the singer refuted the allegations and was further charged with resisting arrest.

LeToya’s Album Debuts At No. 1

Excerpt from

(August 3, 2006) *Whether it was calculated or not, turns out that last week’s pre-order launch for Beyonce’s upcoming album “B’Day” did nothing to clip the album sales of her former Destiny’s Child mate
LeToya Luckett, whose self-titled Capitol disc entered the Billboard 200 chart this week at No. 1. “LeToya,” led by the No. 1  Hot R&B/Hip-Hop single “Torn,” sold 165,000 copies in the U.S., more than enough to unseat the monstrous compilation “Now 22,.” which falls to No.2 this week on sales of 151,000.  As a member of Destiny’s Child, Luckett co-wrote and sang on the group's gold-certified singles "Bills Bills Bills" and "Say My Name," from their eight-times platinum album, “The Writing's On The Wall.”  As a solo artist, she is the subject of a new BET reality series, “LeToya: The H-Town Chick” and an opening act for Mary J. Blige on “The Breakthrough Experience” tour. Meanwhile, Pharrell Williams’ long-awaited solo LP “In My Mind” debuted at No. 3 this week.  Elsewhere in the top 10, Gnarls Barkley's "St. Elsewhere" (Downtown/Atlantic) drops 4-5 despite a slight sales increase to 54,000; Rihanna's "A Girl Like Me" (Def Jam) moves up 8-7 with 46,000 (+1.5%); and Nelly Furtado's "Loose" (Geffen), produced by Timbaland, inched down 7-8 on sales of 45,000. Rap outfit Jurassic 5 enters Billboard at No. 15 with "Feedback" (Interscope), which sold 34,000 copies. First single "Work It Out," featuring Dave Matthews Band, is getting spins across multiple radio formats. 

New Gospel Category For Grammy’s Announced

Excerpt from

(Aug. 3, 2006) In a progressive move, the Recording Academy (
The Grammy’s) has announced a new music category for gospel.  Titled "Best Rock or Best Rap Gospel" the category provides an opportunity for the Holy Hip Hop community and Christian Rock musicians to receive music's highest honour.   Members of the Academy will be able to submit their votes in the new category during this Summer/Fall 2006 submission window for the 49th Annual 2007 Grammy Awards.   With Christian Rock and Hip Hop accounting for 25% of Christian music (GMA Annual Report), the category is justifiably on the prestigious list.

Sean Paul Picks Up Two MTV Nominations

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Aug. 3, 2006) · 
Sean Paul earns two MTV Video Music Award nominations….Its his second time being nominated *International recording artiste and hot dancehall star Sean Paul picked up two nominations in the 23rd annual MTV Video Music Awards. The deejay's hit single Temperature figured in the categories Best Choreography in a Video and Best Dance Video. This is the second time that the platinum-plus selling toaster has picked up a nomination in the MTV VMAs. In 2003, his number one hit, Get Busy, was nominated in the category Best Dance Video. Reacting to the news, Sean Paul told this writer on Tuesday morning that his double nomination this year spelt good news for Jamaican music and our culture. "I am excited about being nominated for a second time. It goes to show that what we (Jamaicans) have here is authentic. This is another plus for Jamaican music," commented Sean Paul. In the Best Choreography in a Video category, Sean Paul goes up against Christina Aguilera's Ain't No Other Man, Madonna's Hung Up, Buttons by the Pussy Cat Dolls featuring Snoop Dogg and Hips Don't Lie by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean.  Sean Paul will once again come face to face with Madonna, the Pussy Cat Dolls and Snoop, Shakira and Wyclef Jean, along with Nelly Furtado and Timbaland (Promiscuous) in the category Best Dance Video. Temperature, taken from his platinum-plus selling VP/Atlantic Records disc The Trinity, topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart earlier this year. The Trinity has already sold in excess of three million copies worldwide. Latin superstar Shakira and re-energized rock outfit, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, top this year's nominations for the MTV VMAs with seven nominations each.  The 2006 MTV VMA's will take place on August 31 and air live from New York's Radio City Music Hall. Among those already confirmed to perform are Justin Timberlake, TI, Ludacris, The Killers and Beyonce.

Janet Exposed, Again

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Aug. 8, 2006) NEW YORK—
Janet Jackson has never been afraid to expose some skin.  The 40-year-old singer, newly svelte after losing some 60 pounds, appears on the cover of Vibe magazine wearing a skimpy bikini bottom and a necklace made of large shells. Her right arm covers her breasts.  Will she ever stop posing for sexy photos? "Of course. When I'm 80," she tells Vibe. "That's when I'll call it quits.''  Two years ago, Justin Timberlake pulled off a part of Jackson's bustier, briefly exposing one of her breasts, during the Super Bowl halftime show.  In an interview in the magazine's September issue, on newsstands Aug. 15, Jackson says the incident — variously referred to as ``Nipplegate" and the "bra-ha-ha" — is history.  "It's just over and done with. It's old. It's the past. It's history. I'm onto something new. Everybody got their licks in — those who wanted to — and it's done," she says.  Jackson credits her boyfriend, 33-year-old music producer Jermaine Dupri, for giving her self-esteem "a little boost.''  Her new album, 20 Y.O., is slated for release Sept. 26. Dupri produced a few tracks.

Idol To Add Songwriting Contest

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 8, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) —
Songwriters will get to add their voices to American Idol next season.  The Fox TV contest, which has produced instant pop stars and hit records, will allow both professional and amateur songwriters to compete for the chance to write songs for the finalists, a spokesman for series creator Simon Fuller said Monday.  In the past, the show has called on an industry songwriter or producer to write an original song for each of the two finalists, with the new "idol" or even the runner-up consistently scoring best-selling records with the tunes.  Last season's winner Taylor Hicks is on the charts with 'Do I Make You Proud', which he performed on the finale.  The songwriting contest is aimed at getting numbers that might be better matches for the contestants, Fuller told the Los Angeles Times.  Details of the new competition were not available, Fuller spokesman Eric Green said Monday.  Auditions for the sixth season of TV's top-rated series were scheduled to begin Tuesday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and continue in six other cities through September. American Idol returns in January.

Cassie’s ‘Me & U’ Video Controversy

Excerpt from

(August 8, 2006) *One look at pop singer Cassie’s video for “Me & U and one can only assume the 19-year-old is paying homage to Janet Jackson’s classic 1986 video for “Pleasure Principle,” as both clips feature the singers dancing by themselves in an empty rehearsal room. Cassie, however, says that assumption is wrong.   "I'd love to emulate her career. She's incredible, from her moves to her voice,” Cassie says about 40-year-old Janet, according to Contact Music. "I'm a diehard fan of Janet but …I was just rehearsing in the studio, they filmed me and the record label thought it would be great for the video."   The so-called “Pleasure Principle” ripoff wasn’t the first video shot for “Me & U.” A more sexually-themed clip filmed before the artist signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy label surfaced on the Internet last week. It features Cassie singing to a man (the camera) as she takes him home to have sex.    According to the latest Internet buzz, the entire song is about a specific form of sex, and the original video captured the concept more blatantly than the current version shot by Bad Boy.

“Me & U” (official)  
“Me & U” (original)    

Outkast Announces Songs For Soundtrack

Excerpt from

(August 7, 2006)  *Big Boi and Andre 3000 of OutKast have revealed the list of songs that have made the soundtrack for their upcoming film “Idlewild,” due in theatres on Aug 25.   Three days before the Universal Pictures film release, the soundtrack arrives in stores via LaFace/Zomba. “Mighty O,” produced by Organized Noize and featuring both Big Boi and Andre 3000, was the set’s first single, while “Morris Brown,” featuring Big Boi, Scar and Sleepy Brown, is the current release. Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Janelle Monae and Macy Gray make guest appearances on the soundtrack.   Set in the 1930s, "Idlewild" stars Andre 3000 as a club piano player named Percival, and Big Boi as the club's lead performer and manager, Rooster. Music video veteran Bryan Barber directs the picture, which co-stars Terrence Howard, Faizon Love, Melinda Williams and Cicely Tyson.   "This is probably the first musical that didn't have the music done before it was shot," Andre 3000 recently told Billboard. "That has been the biggest lesson I've learned in this whole thing. Next time, we'll do the music first."

Toni Braxton Debuts Vegas Act

Excerpt from

(August 7, 2006) *Toni Braxton, unveiled her Celine Dion-like live production show “Toni Braxton: Revealed” last Thursday at Flamingo Las Vegas. An invitation-only audience (that included Earvin "Magic" Johnson, 'Vegas' "Entertainer of the Year" Danny Gans, EUR's Lee Bailey, record exec Garnett March and more) saw the Severn, Maryland native perform such hits as "Unbreak My Heart" and "Breathe Again," in a production described as a musical and visual journey that showcases Braxton's recording career, family and personal voyage.”  "Toni's background is so diverse that we were able to leverage her Broadway experience and combine that with the energy of her live concert tour," said director Andrew Logan. "Her passion as a singer and skill as an actress has allowed us to take the show to another level."   Braxton’s elaborate stage show includes nine dancers and choreography that incorporates a variety of styles. Costumes range from a seductive, flamenco-style dress to vintage inspired couture. One outfit sports over 11,000 Swarovski crystals constructed on nude netting with over 25,000 decorative stones. The hand-beading process alone took 120 hours to complete.   “Revealed’s” specially-designed set features a 9' x 16' LED screen display that runs a video montage of Braxton's personal life as well as imagery tied to many of her most popular songs. Audiences are given an inside look at Braxton as a mother and an artist.   After the premiere Thursday, Braxton and her husband Keri Lewis headed to Pure Nightclub for a private afterparty.    Tickets for Toni Braxton: Revealed are available by calling 702/733.3333 or 800/221.7299 or at Ticket prices are $69, $89 and $109 (plus tax and handling fees). Showtime is 7:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday.

We Remember ‘First Black Hippie’ Arthur Lee

Excerpt from 

(August 8, 2006) *Arthur Lee, the eccentric singer/guitarist who called himself “the first so-called black hippie,” died in a Memphis hospital after a battle with leukemia, his manager said on Friday. He was 61.    A member of the influential 1960s rock band Love, Lee emerged from the Los Angeles scene that also birthed the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors and the Mamas and Papas.    The first multiracial rock band of the psychedelic era, Love recorded three groundbreaking albums fusing traditional folk rock and blues with symphonic suites and early punk.    Love’s self-titled debut features the hit single "My Little Red Book," written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. The 1967 follow-up, "Da Capo," was one of the first rock albums to feature a song, "Revelation," that took up an entire side. Their third release, 1968's "Forever Changes," was considered Love's response to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's" album. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at No. 40 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.    Lee was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia this year. After three rounds of chemotherapy failed, Lee underwent a bone marrow transplant in May, and was the first adult in Tennessee to undergo the procedure using stem cells from an umbilical cord, according to The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal.    Several benefit concerts were held in Britain and the United States to help Lee with his medical bills. Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant headlined a benefit in New York in June.   Lee married his long-time girlfriend, Diane, near the end of his life. He had no children.

Flip joins Asylum

Excerpt from

(August 7, 2006) *Houston rapper Lil Flip has signed with Asylum/Warner Music Group, reports Billboard. In June, the artist severed ties with Columbia/Sony Urban, which was supposed to release his third album, "I Need Mine." Shortly after Flip left, the album was mysteriously leaked to the Internet. "All I know is my copy is watermarked, I didn't leak it and the only other people that have it is Sony," Flip says. "The point of taking the masters was so we could release the album exactly how it was. Now we have to regroup." Asylum Records, which already features fellow Houston natives Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Pimp C,  plans to release "I Need Mine" in 2007.

Prince To Perform During Super Bowl Halftime

Excerpt from

(Aug. 9, 2006) *CBS hasn’t aired a
Super Bowl since 2004, when Janet Jackson’s breast popped out and cost them a little over half a million dollars.  Three years following Nipplegate, the NFL’s biggest game will return to CBS on Feb. 7, 2007, with the half-time show belonging to Prince -- a man who once performed on live TV with his butt cheeks exposed.   According to the New York Post, the artist has signed on to rock half-time at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium, while Cirque de Soliel has been booked to entertain fans during the pregame show. Meanwhile, Sean “Diddy” Combs and his Bad Boy artist Cassie will join country act Rascal Flatts to perform for the NFL’s "Opening Kickoff" celebration, which will air Sept. 7 on NBC.  Diddy and Cassie will perform their free concert on 7th Street in Miami’s South Beach, while the Rascal Flatts will play from Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, the site of the NFL’s first matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. Martina McBride will sing the national anthem.

People And Projects To Watch For In Gospel

Excerpt from

(Aug. 9, 2006) Grammy Award-Winning Artist
Smokie Norful will release his third full-length CD, Life Changing, on October 3, 2006.  Considered the “Voice of Inspiration,” Smokie Norful once again lives up to his name by delivering work that is expressive, heartfelt, and passionate.  The new project is a regeneration of the EMI Gospel artist, and was inspired by a series of life-changing events that have taken place in Norful’s life over the past few years: fatherhood, pastoring a rapidly growing church, and experiencing musical success.  “Since reconnecting with ministry and the true nature of my call (preaching), I have literally seen life change…in a wonderful way!” states Norful, while discussing the genesis of the project. “For me, this project is truly a rejuvenation of Smokie Norful. It is part of a series of events that have been life changing for me. I hope that listeners will be inspired to be better…to do better…to worship better…as a result of these songs.” (Source: EMI Gospel)



August 7, 2006

3rd Degree,
Since Day One, 3rd DeGree
Al Green,
Gospel Concert, Wonderful Music
Listen, Soundchron
Big B,
Random Stuff [CD/DVD], Suburban Noize
Big Prodeje,
Hood Ni**a in Charge, Triple X
Bob Marley,
18 Greatest, Direct Source
Bob Marley,
The Anthology, Cleopatra
Bob Marley,
Trilogy, Music Brokers
God Guns Money, Latino Jam
Cassie, Bad Boy
Money to Burn, West Coast Mafia
Ridin', Universal
The Definitive Groove Collection, Rhino
Defected D-Fused and Digital 06:02,
Damian "Junior Gong" Marley,
All Night, Universal
Street Music, Abb
DJ Quik,
Born and Raised in Compton: The Greatest Hits, Arista/Profile/Legacy
BME Recordings Present E-40 & The Hype O, Warner Bros.
No Breaks,
Motor City Madness: The Ultimate Collection, Westbound
Ghostface Killah,
Back Like That, Universal
Grandmaster Flash,
The Definitive Groove Collection, Rhino
James Brown,
Funk It!: Remixed Hits, Cleopatra
James Brown,
James Brown [Direct Source], Direct Source
Jay Dee,
The Shining, Bbe
Where You At [12" Single], Jive
Jurassic 5,
Feedback [UK Version] [Bonus Track], Universal International
Kool & the Gang,
Best of Kool & the Gang [Disky], Disky
Lil' Blacky,
It's a Hustler's World, Vol. 2, Triple X
Lil Dank,
Welcome 2 Da a,
Ghetto Warfare, Full Clip Media
Martha Reeves,
Martha Reeves, Direct Source
Marvin Gaye,
The Very Best of Marvin Gaye [Mastersong], Mastersong
Masta Killa,
Made in Brooklyn, Nature Sounds
Youth [Bonus CD], Red Label
MC Breed,
MC Breed & DFC,
Micall Parknsun,
Interview Mixtape, Sit Tight
Michael Watts,
Pandora's Box, Oarfin
Percy Sledge,
18 Greatest, Direct Source
Percy Sledge,
When a Man Loves a Woman/Take Time to Know Her, Direct Source
Pharrell Williams,
Number One, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Prince Po,
Prettyblack, Traffic Ent.
Ray Charles,
18 Greatest, Direct Source
Rick Ross,
Port of Miami, Def Jam
Rollah's Back, Underground Railroad
2 Face, Rap-A-Lot
Sincerely Yours, Affiliated
Sister Sledge,
The Definitive Groove Collection, Rhino
The Definitive Groove Collection, Rhino
Smokey Robinson,
Gold, Motown
The Average White Band,
The Definitive Groove Collection, Rhino
The Drifters,
18 Greatest, Direct Source
The Gap Band,
Gold, Hip-O
The Hard Boys,
A-Town Hard Heads,
The Miracles,
The Miracles, Direct Source
The Platters,
18 Greatest, Direct Source
The Pointer Sisters,
Live, Direct Source
The Staple Singers,
In the Praise of Him, Collectables
The Whispers,
For Your Ears Only,
Third World,
Riddim Haffa Rule, Music Avenue
Tippa Irie,
Divide and Rule, Music Avenue
TR Love,
Beat Terrorist vs. The Cartel, Corner Shop
Various Artists,
'70s Soul Gold, Hip-O
Various Artists,
40 R&B #1 Hits, United Audio Entertainment
Various Artists,
Smooth Soul Ballads, Direct Source
Various Artists,
Soulful Songs of Love, Direct Source
Various Artists,
The Best of R&B Soul Stars, Direct Source
Various Artists,
The Music of the Isley Brothers: Afterhours the Nightclub Tribute, Scufflin
Various Artists,
This Is R&B [Cleopatra], Cleopatra
Various Artists,
Blazin' Hip Hop, Activated
Various Artists,
Death Row Ghetto Mix, Death Row
Various Artists,
Drugs on Music: Cocaine City, Vol. 2, Tapeman
Various Artists,
Hip Hop Backstage Pass,
Various Artists,
Hip Hop: Collection, Vol. 4, Universal International
Various Artists,
Sounds of the Bullet, Double 9
Various Artists,
18 Reggaetonazos Pa'Perrear, Brentwood
Various Artists,
Reggaeton Girlies [DVD], Primo Discos
Various Artists,
Stone Love, Vol. 1.5, Sure Shot Recordings

August 14, 2006

Alton Ellis, I'm Still in Love with You, Heartbeat
B.A. Boys,
Days of Being Broke, Bungalo
Betty Everett,
They're Delicious Together, P-Vine
Betty Wright,
I Love the Way You Love Me, Water
Deja Vu, Pt. 1, BMG/RCA
Bob Marley,
Trilogy, Music Brokers
Bounty Killer,
Nah No Mercy: The Warlord Scrolls, VP / Universal
Bunny Rugs,
I'm Sure, Cof Music
Me & U, Bad Boy
Ghetto Story, Atlantic / Wea
Ridin', Universal
Unappreciated, Capitol
Knucklehead Theatre, Thizz
DJ Nelson,
The Kings of the Remix, Universal Latino
Lord Give Me a Sign, BMG/RCA
Waiting to Inhale, Awol
Field Mob,
So What, Universal
Ghostface Killah,
Back Like That, Universal
Ice Cube,
Why We Thugs, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Ice Cube,
Why We Thugs, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Ike Turner,
1951-1954, Classics R&B
J.R. Bailey,
Just Me N You, Soul Brother
Janet Jackson,
Call on Me, Virgin
Kool & the Gang,
Best of Kool & the Gang [Disky], Disky
Layzie Bone,
The New Revolution, Thump
Lil Cyco,
Get Money, Have Heart, Mob Shop Ent
Money Maker/Tell It Like It Is [Single], Def Jam
A Million Words, A Million Dollars, Awol
Lyfe Jennings,
The Phoenix, Sony
Obie Trice,
Jamaican Girl [Single], Shady/Interscope
Obie Trice,
Second Round's on Me, Shady/Interscope
Paris Hilton,
Paris, Warner Bros.
Pharrell Williams,
Number One, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Randy Crawford,
Feeling Good, Universal
Rich Boy,
Throwing Some d's [Single], Interscope
Teflon Don,
Something the Lord Made, Str8 up Music
The Distants,
Broken Gold, Blue Cave
Various Artists,
Old School, Vol. 3, Thump
Various Artists,
The Best of R&B, Madacy
Various Artists,
Anyone Can Dance: Hip Hop [CD/DVD], Style
Various Artists,
Black N Brown/Thizzed Out, Thizz
Various Artists,
G Force, Lideres
Various Artists,
Heavy Rotation All Star Compilation, Vol. 4: Hot 97 Edition, Mastertapes
Various Artists,
Heavy Rotation All Star Compilation, Vol. 5: Strictly R&B, Mastertapes
Various Artists,
Legacy of Awol Videos, Awol
Various Artists,
The New Awol Records: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, Awol
Various Artists,
The New Awol Records: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, Awol
Various Artists,
Thizz Is How We Eat!! [Bonus CD], Sumo
Various Artists,
Thizz Is How We Eat, Vol. 2 [Bonus CD], Sumo
Various Artists,
West Coast Trippin', Awol
Various Artists,
Best of Reggaeton [Madacy], Madacy
Various Artists,
D'Fame: La Fama, Machete Music
Various Artists,
Dancehall Reggae [St. Clair], St. Clair
Various Artists,
Reggaeton Extended 40 X 10, Lideres
Young Dru,
Flame Spitter/V-Town, Thizz


The Drive-In's New Heyday

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jennie Punter

(Aug. 4, 2006) In cinema lingo, twilight is the "magic hour," when light changes rapidly from golden orange to deep blue. It is also the most subtle pleasure of an evening at the
drive-in, an outing that has been making a comeback in recent years in Southern Ontario. Five years ago, the Docks Entertainment Complex in Toronto added a big screen at the end of its driving range -- which can fit up to 500 cars -- so that it could run double features on summer weekends. But for the full-on nostalgia trip, it's difficult to beat the retro-themed atmosphere of The 5 (Oakville), Mustang (London) and newly renovated Starlite (Hamilton) drive-ins, which are all celebrating the August long weekend by running mini-marathons of first-run films, including the just-released Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. "On Friday and Saturday, we run three movies and on Sunday we blow it out with four, and you can't get near the place," says Brian Allen, confessed movie fanatic and vice-president of Premier Operating, which has several theatres across Ontario including the above-mentioned retro trio. (Allen also books movies for The Docks.)  After their heydey in the 1950s, drive-in theatres went through an image change, from places for family entertainment to places where teenagers steamed up car windows and maybe caught a few minutes of the latest horror or beach movie. "In the early sixties, when TV became more popular, drive-ins and small-town theatres took a hit," says Allen, whose family has been in the movie-theatre business for almost a century. Although most big-city drive-ins were eaten up by urban sprawl, the few that survived have continued to do brisk business. The 5, Canada's largest drive-in, was bought by Allen's late father in 1962. A second screen was added in 1979, a third in 2001. While the action in the back rows hasn't changed, the action on the screen is now first-run movies with family entertainment back in focus, particularly in summer months.

"Family films drive the industry now," Allen says, "but what drive-ins offer are lower admission prices, especially for kids, plus you get to watch two or more movies." After Labour Day, Allen, who keeps his drive-ins open until the end of December and reopens in early spring, programs more restricted fare. This long weekend at The 5, you'll know the magic hour will have arrived when the line-up thins at the snack bar. Parents will retrieve their kids from the large sandlot playground. Lawn chairs will be set up, hatchbacks opened and radio dials tuned to the FM signal that broadcasts the soundtrack. Then the trailers will begin -- and not just the usual plugs for upcoming movies. After a well worn O Canada comes a series of retro food shorts (hot dogs jumping into buns, marching ice cream cones) and maybe one of the Looney Toons classics Allen picked up on eBay. "It's all part of making people feel they've left behind the aggravations of modern life," Allen says. "Like they've stepped back in time." Special to The Globe and Mail The 5 screens films seven nights a week, rain or shine. Show times vary. 2332 Ninth Line, Mississauga, 905-257-8272, (also links to the Mustang and the Starlite).

Mateen Kemet -- Speaking Loudly about “Silence”

Excerpt from - By Deardra Schuler

(August 8, 2006) *Film director Mateen Kemet plans to make films that correctly represent African culture and speak to the audience on a realistic level.  A filmmaker since 1997, Mateen has written and directed six short films, several screenplays and one music video.  He is the winner of the FESPACO Film Festival 2005 Best Director Award for his film short “Silence.”   FESPACO, held in Burkina Faso, West Africa, is the largest Arts Festival in the African diaspora.  PRAI (Promoting Reel African Images, formerly known as the Paul Robeson Award Initiative) presented the award.  Silence addresses the often hidden and shameful reality of child abuse.  A former Wall Street bond trader, Kemet currently teaches in San Francisco. “I have worked with young people who have a story to tell.  Often, it’s the hidden, shameful story of abuse.  Via my students, this tale has been told to me repeatedly.  I hear this story mainly from girls but sexual abuse happens to boys as well.  For example, I was once affiliated with a program that dealt specifically with empowering young black boys, some who were dealing with sexual identity issues stemming from paternal abuse,” claimed Kemet.  “Sexual abuse is the ultimate betrayal of a child by an adult, and the shame stays with the victims all their lives,” reveals the young filmmaker who wanted to bring this tragedy to the fore through his film.  “I have learned that we are often an amalgam of our childhood.  Every major thing that happens in our childhood somehow forms us for both good and bad.  If you have low self-esteem or you are an aggressive go-getter for instance, most likely, it started when you were a child.”

His experiences have enabled Mateen to discern the signs of sexual abuse, and through Silence he was able to visually articulate one young woman’s struggle.  Notable signs of abuse include a child not wanting to be alone with adults, appearing enraged, frightened, or acting out.  Sometimes, they even behave in an abnormal sexual manner.  “My film is very complex,” stated Mateen.  “I am proud that I presented it in layers.  It is not a simple formula of rape. For instance, there are three main characters whose individual perspectives are shown within the film.  Through the male character’s perspective, I explore the perceived power within manhood and touch on what would make this man delve into incest.  It’s not about sex, it’s about power.  What does it mean to be a man, especially a black man in our community?  If you want to say there is a sense of powerlessness, then we have to talk about the socioeconomic relevance.  An individual, who feels inept and powerless, may seek to implement power over something or someone they can control.  A child is controllable because a child does not have the wherewithal to reject a predator’s advances.  Children don’t know how to react in such a scenario.  Therefore, most predators prey on the weak. There is an old saying: It is the very small individual who can be tall only when someone else is on their knees” explained Mateen of the predator psyche.    Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Mateen had always been the kid who went to the movies and picked scenes apart; little did he realize that he was already sewing the seeds of his directorial future.  Though he excelled in football, his mother insisted he further his education. Kemet earned a degree in Economics at San Francisco State and later a MFA in Film and Television Production at Chapman University.  In 1998, his dramedy “Who’s the Mack?” helped Mateen win the Marion Knott Fellowship and introduced him to noted film and theatre director Arthur Hiller.   He was appointed the Chapman University Film Student of the Year; received student filmmaker award from the Directors Guild of America and his MFA Thesis film short “Silence” won 2nd Place at the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.  Silence has screened in over 60 festivals worldwide, winning 15 awards.  He also shot a music video for opera singer Oyendasola.  Currently Mateen is developing a documentary about Charter Schools, directing Oakland b Mine -- a short film in Oakland, California and the Sundarbans Tiger –a children’s book on tape.  The script for the Sundarbans Tiger recently won Best Screenplay at the 2006 San Francisco Black Film Festival.

“I have always been political and outspoken and felt I had something to say, which led me to the Black Studies movement at San Francisco State.”  His interest in Egypt and Kemetic Science bolstered his need to correct the misinformation surrounding the African diaspora experience chronicled in the records of Western Civilization. “I wanted to be a part of the inertia that is the affirmation of Africa.  That is why I regret I couldn’t attend the FESPACO Film Festival.  However, it’s probably good I didn’t, because had I sat among an African audience and received my Best Director Award for a Short Film, it would have culminated in the ultimate achievement.”

Filmmakers seeking to submit films to FESPACO/PRAI should know the second cycle deadline for consideration is August 31, 2006 and the third and final cycle is December 30, 2006.  Early submission offers the best chance for consideration.  For submission information see:

The Devil And Mr. Dupuis

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Etan Vlessing

(Aug. 5, 2006) KIGALI, Rwanda — That
Roy Dupuis makes a handsome Roméo Dallaire is hardly in doubt. But whether the Quebec actor can evoke the paradoxical heroism of the former Canadian lieutenant-general who valiantly fought, and yet failed to halt the 1994 Rwandan bloodbath, is being put to the test as Dupuis assumes the role of Dallaire in the Canadian feature film Shake Hands With the Devil, now shooting on location in Kigali. As three cameras start rolling, Dupuis sets his jaw square and his eyes into the distance as he draws his United Nations Jeep up to a scene right out of Dante's Inferno — ragtag Hutu killers wielding machetes and wooden clubs at a roadblock are rounding up Tutsis fleeing Kigali, while a half-dozen men in pink prisoner garb pile bloodied corpses into a dump truck. Suddenly, a young Hutu girl walking behind the truck slips and falls to the ground. Rising to her feet, the girl begins screaming on discovering her dress front is painted dark red with blood.  As Dupuis's poker face betrays controlled distress, the young girl shrieks still louder after wheeling round to see bodies stacked up in front of her. “And cut,” Ottawa-born director Roger Spottiswoode calls out before instructing the young actress, Angel Mahoro, during the next take to stand longer in place before turning toward the dump truck. With that raw moment in Dallaire's Rwandan command now set in celluloid, Spottiswoode, better known for directing Hollywood blockbusters such as the James Bond thriller Tomorrow Never Dies, is attempting that most untypical of cinematic goals — the making of a Canadian hero.

Shake Hands With the Devil distils Dallaire's memoir of the same name into a journey that sees a career soldier from Montreal be entrusted with Rwanda's future. By the movie's climax, Dallaire is laying bare his human frailty and guilt over the lives of Rwandans and UN peacekeepers he could not, or did not, save. “I'm telling the general's story, but also the story of the UN, of French treachery, of [then U.S. president] Bill Clinton's negligence and I'm telling it all through Dallaire,” Spottiswoode says during a lunch break. Dupuis, having prepared for his latest role with instruction from Dallaire, says he's playing the retired general more like a priest at the start of a spiritual odyssey. “He [Dallaire] is not this dark, secret figure you expect of a military leader. He's open and direct. And he's never afraid,” Dupuis says of his onscreen character between takes. Flush with Telefilm Canada financing for a $10-million feature to be released theatrically in 2007, Shake Hands With the Devil co-producer Laszlo Barna bills the homegrown movie as the country's Lawrence of Arabia. “It's Canada's epic story, and it's all modern-day,” Barna insists before returning to oversee a gruelling 30-day, dawn-to-dusk production schedule stretching into mid-August. But while the Canadian film is ambitious, its portrayal of the inhumane 1994 bloodbath is hardly told from the perspective of Rwandans. Instead, like earlier Rwanda genocide projects — Hotel Rwanda, where Nick Nolte played a character loosely based on Dallaire, HBO's Sometimes in April or the BBC's Shooting Dogs — and even the rival Canadian feature Un dimanche à Kigali ( A Sunday in Kigali), which is based on a 2000 novel by Quebec journalist Gil Courtemanche) — the central characters in Shake Hands With the Devil are mostly foreigners caught up in the murderous purge of Tutsis by rival Hutus.

The issue is not so much with plots or storylines, as with the heroes. For many ordinary Rwandans, former rebel leader and current president Paul Kagame succeeded where Dallaire failed. He halted the 1994 Tutsi genocide and completed Rwanda's transition from dictatorship to democracy. So Kagame is the true Rwandan hero in the eyes of some, although human-rights groups estimate his government has killed as many as 300,000 in revenge massacres, as the Rwandan army pursued Hutus into neighbouring Congo. Léonce Ngabo, a Burundian filmmaker who lost a dozen family members during ethnic strife in his native country in 1993, argues Dallaire is regarded by many here as a “good man,” but most associate him with the UN and an international community that abandoned Rwanda in its hour of need. “He [Dallaire] stayed when other white people left. The UN, that's bullshit. You were supposed to save us, and you didn't,” Ngabo says of diplomats in New York who tied Dallaire's hands while he fought his battle against genocide. Ngabo has returned to Kigali to work as a wrangler on Shake Hands With the Devil. Canada's most famous former general is also faulted by some for obeying UN orders to remain on the sidelines and not using his available arms and manpower to leap into the breach. “As a soldier, he [Dallaire] should have gone with his gut. He knew the situation, that the génocidaires were planning to massacre Tutsis and he didn't act,” Ignace Rukata, a one-time Rwandese Patriotic Front soldier and today a Kigali retailer of car parts, said of Dallaire. Peter Meyboom, the supervising producer on Shake Hands With the Devil, recalls an early meeting with a Rwandan government minister who gave official permission, but not his personal blessing, to the Canadian movie. “He told us, ‘We're very glad you're making a film in Rwanda, but you're not telling our story. You'll get it all wrong. But that's of no concern to us. We're just happy you're telling a story,' Meyboom says. But the anger and darkness with which Shake Hands With the Devil ends — the final shot has Dallaire standing alone on a pontoon bridge, staring down in horror at half-nude dead bodies he has discovered floating in the river — contrasts with signs that Rwanda may finally be getting back on its feet economically and socially.

One hopeful sign that the country is on the mend came with the launch this year of gacaca courts, or village tribunals, where jailed Hutus accused of killing and raping Tutsis are put on trial. On a Saturday afternoon a half-mile from the Kigali production office for Shake Hands With the Devil, Jean-Pierre Nyzabira, dressed in a pink prison outfit, stands in respectful attention before nine gacaca judges, with around 120 local Rwandans in the audience behind him. Asked by one judge whether he helped murder 12 members of Thomas Rutabana's family, Nyzabira insists he was at home sleeping when they died. But a frisson of disbelief moves through the otherwise quiet hall when another judge says Nyzabira was seen by a neighbour carrying a shovel to the murder scene. The young Hutu, who was jailed for five years before his trial, denied the accusation, explaining that he did carry a shovel to the crime scene, but only to help bury the Rutabana family, not to kill them. At the end of the afternoon, the gacaca judges break off the trial until the following week as the wheels of justice here grind slowly. Back on set, Dupuis, looking every inch a general, from his blue UN beret to starched uniform, emerges from the cinematic time warp that's taken him to events from Rwanda's 1994 genocide to rest between camera takes. Dupuis nods in appreciation to the huge gallery of Rwandans across the street eyeing his performance. “They're so beautiful, so receiving and respectful. I'm beginning to understand why General Dallaire couldn't leave, why he had to disobey [UN] orders,” he says.

Looking For Robin Williams

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

(Aug. 4, 2006) HOLLYWOOD—The curious Russian cabbie wants to know why I'm heading to the Four Seasons Beverly Hills early on a Sunday morning.  "I'm interviewing Robin Williams," I tell him.  "Who is that?" the cabbie says.  I look at his face in the rear-view mirror. He seems sincere. Incredible.  "You don't know who Robin Williams is? You know, the funny guy from Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Moscow on the Hudson and Mork & Mindy. You've never heard of him? How long have you lived in America?"  "Eighteen years. But I drive cab 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. I don't go to movies or watch TV. How am I supposed to know who this Robin Williams is?"  When I relate this incident to Williams a few minutes later, he howls, "That's wonderful!"  He begins an impression of the cabbie, muttering oaths in mock Russian. He ends the riff in accented English: "Why go see Moscow on the Hudson? Why go see movie about Russians?"  After more than 30 years in show business, where he's established himself as one of the best-loved of American entertainers, he's delighted to think there are still people out there waiting to discover him. People who don't think they already know everything there is to know about him.  And having reached the age of 55, halfway through the time passage his pal Steve Martin ruefully calls "the last viable decade," Williams is also in a mood to reflect about fame and what an artist owes his public.  It's a timely contemplation, and a serious one, despite the playful attire Williams has worn to the interview. A T-shirt bearing a picture of a monkey, its rear end raised high and the slogan: "Human-Animal Hybrid" tops his loud plaid pants. Some things never change.  In his new movie The Night Listener, opening today, Williams plays a New York radio storyteller, Gabriel Noone, who is drawn into a mystery by a devoted fan, whose identity is in doubt. The movie assumes Hitchcockian elements as Noone goes on a journey of both the map and the mind.

Williams has had to wrestle with separating the true from the false and the sincere from the insincere for the past three decades, since he first came to prominence in 1978 playing the space alien Mork on the TV sitcom hit Mork & Mindy.  "People think they know you," he says, grimacing slightly.  "They expect you be literally like you are on TV or in the movies, bouncing off the walls. A woman in an airport once said to me, `Be zany!' The weird thing is now with all these cellphones with cameras, they'll say, `May I take a picture of you?' and you'll say, `Fine.'  "And then they'll say, `C'mon, smile!' And I go, `I am smiling ...' At that point you want to go, `Back off!' Because they want something else. Do something goofy!"  The Night Listener struck a chord with him in several ways. He is fascinated by the power of radio to create images in the mind. The movie is based on a novel by Armistead Maupin, a friend of Williams’ who has lived near him for years in the same San Francisco neighbourhood.  Williams is intimately acquainted with the source of the script: it's based on a true experience that Maupin, best known as the creator of the Tales of the City novels and TV series, went through 14 years ago. The Night Listener script was co-written by Terry Anderson, Maupin's former lover, who also knows Williams.  What really helped Williams to identify with the character of Gabriel Noone, however, was the man's need to confront the dark side of idol worship. Williams has been there.  "It's kind of like the bookend to the obsessive character I played in One Hour Photo, although this time I'm on the receiving end of it. I sometimes get strange requests for money. And because I've played so many different characters and personalities over the years, different people start to see you in different way. You do something like The Fisher King (in which he played a mystical tramp), and you appeal to a few folk."

Williams suddenly drops his voice to a whisper. "They go, "You know!"  "Or you do What Dreams May Come (a fantasy about a bereaved husband in hell) and the same thing happens: `You know!' Basically it goes even back as far as Mork & Mindy. You get letters from people, they'll send these strange things out that start out very rationally and then it just goes into, `There's a time when we shall all gather together by the moon ...' Thank you. Thank you very much."  Williams tries to laugh off these encounters and accept them with good grace. But sometimes they rattle him.  "You'll meet people who come up to meet you and go, `Hi, how are you?' and `Gosh, I really like you.' And if you do not go along exactly with their scenario, they snap: `What! Get out! Too big for me? Mr. Star can't talk to me?'  "A woman came up to me once and said, `You knew me in Oklahoma.' And I went, `I don't know, maybe when I was drinking.' And she goes, `You flew me all around the country for months and I worked for you.' And you go, `Would you excuse me?' And then you walk away. You don't engage them. `Good luck! Keep the delusions up but reduce your dosage!'  "These people can be stone-cold believable. Maybe, like O.J. (Simpson), that woman believed it happened. Although with O.J., he believes it didn't happen."  Williams has noticed that different media have different ways of imbedding characters in the public mind. He believes television is by far the most powerful medium for that, which is why many people still think of him as inquisitive Mork from the planet Ork, 24 years after the final original episode of Mork & Mindy aired.  "Television just goes directly into you. It's not even like movies, where people have to go someplace to see you. You're in their memory banks (with TV). You're just there in the background subliminally or even directly, but it still goes like that. I still have people calling me Mork, no matter what I've done. I've met Nobel Prize physicists say, `You are Mork!' And I say, `Yes, I am, thank you.'"

Yet Williams seems most fascinated by radio, the one medium he hasn't completely conquered — his star deejay turn in Good Morning, Vietnam notwithstanding. He likes the idea of one day having his own satellite radio show, like his close friend, cyclist Lance Armstrong.  "Radio engages the imagination," Williams enthuses.  "It engages the mind in a different way. Because there is that thing that if it works on you, especially if you're reading stories or something like that, it engages you on a whole different level, both positively and negatively. You can be listening to a woman and envision her being one way, and when you meet her, it's, `Whoa, I didn't imagine that she was that frumpy.' And then later on that's scary."  Acting is still a thrill for Williams. The Internet Movie Database lists him in no fewer than six movies due out this year or next, and that doesn't include The Night Listener or his recent family smash RV.  Still to come are the animated musical Happy Feet ("Riverdance meets March of the Penguins"), Night at the Museum ("It's like Jumanji, but I get to play Teddy Roosevelt"), and the movie he's currently filming, License to Wed ("I'm kind of a Protestant minister, who puts couples through a stress test").  He doesn't buy the popular myth that he deliberately alternates between comedic and dramatic roles, or that he always wears a beard when he's playing a serious character — such as the psychologist Sean in Good Will Hunting, which won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1998.  "I just kind of rejoice in the process," Williams says of his busy acting career.  "All the new people you meet, it's pretty amazing. The vampire needs new blood. And there is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful."  And there is still at least one guy in North America, that mystified Hollywood cabbie, who still needs to be won over. Williams’ work isn't finished yet, not by a long shot.

Combative Filmmaker Oliver Stone Finds A Human Touch In World Trade Center

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Murray Whyte, A&E Reporter

(Aug. 5, 2006) Oliver Stone can't sit still. On the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, he's opening curtains, moving chairs. He glances quickly over the expanse of green stretching north from his window, and his mind spins back.  "I stayed in a cheap hotel on Yonge Street, working on my first movie, Seizure, in 1970," he says, smiling a clenched smile.  It was during an active time in Toronto's film history, when wide-open tax shelters brought in rafts of investment and a handful of hits — Porky's, for one, and David Cronenberg's Scanners. "Mine was the loser of the lot," Stone chuckles.  Even when he comes to rest, at a small table draped in a hotel-issue white polyester tablecloth, he doesn't, fidgeting with the coffee cup, the saucer, the water glass placed in front of him by the attentive team of publicists who tend to his every move.  The energy level should come as no surprise. Since at least the mid-'80s, Stone has made a reputation as a fiercely passionate, strong-willed, combative filmmaker unconcerned with ruffling feathers with his politically charged works.  But the source of that energy slowly dawns. Could it be that Stone, a provocateur of the highest order who wilfully, happily made enemies of the American right with conspiracy-laden films like JFK, his anti-Vietnam treatise Born on the Fourth of July, or his merciless portrait of shamed former president Richard Nixon, is nervous?  He could certainly be forgiven. It's mid-July, and Stone is in the midst of a low-key advance promotional tour for World Trade Center, his small-sliver take on the vast miseries that took place over 24 brutal hours just before and one long, full day after the terrorist attacks that felled New York's twin towers on that day in September 2001.

Up to this point, the finished film has been screened only twice, for small audiences in Toronto and New York. Much of the chatter surrounding it — and there has been plenty — is not about the film, but Stone himself: the director's controversial works, like Natural Born Killers, his taste for conspiracy, his reputation for indelicacy.  "And so it was with the greatest regret that we heard Paramount Pictures had chosen Oliver Stone, the conspiracy-addled director with a soft spot for dictators, to direct Hollywood's first major movie about that day of days," went one editorial, in The Washington Times last summer.  Stone's ego hardly needs further battering. He is 17 years removed from his third Oscar, for 1989's Born on the Fourth of July. His last film, 2004's extravagant, bloated, three-hour-long Alexander, was both a critical and commercial disaster.  It was, to say the least, a blow: Stone had been trying to make the film since 1991. It was also his first big-budget film since 1999's similar flop, the football drama Any Given Sunday.  Mindful of not only the delicacy of World Trade Center's subject matter, but the director's lightning-rod reputation, Paramount chose small venues for its preview tour. Stone appeared personally at many to speak, flanked by cast members, and significantly, some of the many New York police officers and firefighters who served as daily on-set consultants.  Various ensembles travelled to Miami, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle and Philadelphia, among other cities.  "We wanted to get this film into the heartland and you can't really achieve that from a hotel suite in New York or Los Angeles," said Nancy Kirkpatrick, Paramount's head of worldwide publicity.

The studio has eschewed buying billboard or poster space in New York and New Jersey out of deference to the attack's still-raw impact there. All promotional materials are screened by a survivors' group, to ensure appropriate sensitivity.  Paramount's parent company, Viacom, has even been quietly building alliances in Washington, assuring politicos that the film is an agenda-free, non-partisan tale of heroism.  So, nervous? Fair enough. World Trade Center is not the first film to be extracted from the horrors of that day. Paul Greengrass's United 93, about the passenger revolt aboard the hijacked plane that forced it to crash in a Pennsylvania field, and not the White House, its intended target, came out earlier this year.  But Stone's film is, by far, the grander in scale. With a production budget of $63 million (all figures U.S.), and a promotional budget of $35 million, it will need to do far better than United 93's $31 million in box office to break even.  The film opens within a breath — one month — of the attack's five-year anniversary, further complicating the emotional impact. Some are simply angry that Stone would look to revisit that awful day at all, let alone in such exacting detail.  "Movies are always trying to shape stories. Perhaps that's where the anger comes from — there's always that `Am I being manipulated?'" Stone says. "But in this, there's the least manipulation possible."  Indeed, Stone made efforts to distance the film from any politicizing effect. (When asked by the Guardian recently asked Stone if Against All Enemies, Crash director Paul Haggis's upcoming adaptation of former White House adviser Richard Clarke's book on the causes of 9/11, was something he would have considered. Stone scoffed in response: "I'd be burned alive.")  Instead, Stone's story is smaller, personal and human-scale. He went to great lengths to involve rescue workers and survivors like his two main characters, New York City Port Authority cops Sgt. John McLoughlin and Officer William J. Jimeno, in every step of the production, to ensure veracity in every detail.

"If we had gone after fictional characters, I would have been all right with it, personally, because I feel a dramatist has a licence," Stone says. "But a lot of people don't any more, because there's too much junk on TV, too many interpretations that are shallow and perhaps propagandized."  There is, too, the question of distance. Five years on, the world has yet to see an exacting recreation of what happened that day. Judging from United 93's lukewarm commercial performance, it may not yet want one.  Stone has been here before. "I opened Born on the Fourth of July the day (President George Bush Sr.) invaded Panama. That didn't help our first weekend," he said. "The Killing Fields — it was made five years after (Pol Pot's massacre of 2 million Cambodians). Casablanca was made in '41. We (Americans) weren't even in the war yet. It was anti-German, it mentioned concentration camps. When is the right time, is all I can say."  Even Platoon, arguably the director's most powerful work, based on his own experiences in Vietnam, didn't wait for a sensitivity buffer period to pass. For 10 years, it simply languished.  "Platoon was too realistic, on paper. It was too much of a `bummer,'" Stone says, hooking his fingers into quotation marks in the air. "That's why it took so long.  "They made Apocalypse Now, they made Coming Home, they made The Deer Hunter. When I made Platoon, I didn't have much hope for it. I thought it was on the tail end of this whole thing. I thought nobody was that interested. But for some reason, it was the realism that caught hold right away, and went around the world."

When it's suggested that perhaps World Trade Center is his film most like Platoon, Stone raises an eyebrow. "That's very true," he says. "It's that same feeling: `Oh, yeah, I feel like I'm seeing what really happened, as opposed to the mythic versions.'"  Indeed, there is no mythologizing in this film. Not even close. There are no political departures, no proselytizing. It is most striking — and, for viewers, most painful — for Stone's devotion to minute factual detail, based on the real accounts of the real people the film depicts.  The attack happens quickly after the film begins (Stone deliberately excludes the planes' impacts). A small cadre of New York City Port Authority cops, among them McLoughlin and Jimeno, descend on the site, and march resolutely into the buildings' lobby, only to have it collapse on top of them moments later in one of the most wrenching scenes in recent memory.  What follows is the movie's guts: The long, torturous day McLoughlin and Jimeno spend underground, waiting for rescue. Jimeno, played by Michael Peña, is pinned by a man-sized hunk of concrete; McLoughlin, played by Nicolas Cage, trapped deeper, is immobilized and buried by rubble, with only his face and one arm free.  There, deep in the wreckage, the men wait, trying not to die. (In the end, they are two of only 20 survivors pulled from the rubble.) Stone balances the claustrophobic darkness of being buried alive with the emotional claustrophobia of the men's families in their homes, watching CNN and waiting, one way or the other, for news.  That balance, Stone says, is the only filmic licence he permitted himself.  "The movie is, in a way, a struggle between light and dark," he says. Lifting viewers up from underground and into the men's homes "allows you out of the darkness throughout the movie," Stone says.  The light above, however, is nonetheless harsh, in the intense glare of anxiety and helplessness. Still, Stone calls World Trade Center "a gentle movie that has some very beautiful images," and now, two weeks after his pass-by in Toronto, a consensus is beginning to form.  Stone has made converts of an unlikely faction: the same arch-conservatives for whom he has long been the embodiment of Hollywood's deep-seated liberalism.  In the National Review, right-wing columnist Clifford May said World Trade Center "may be the most powerful work I have ever seen on the screen. It should be required viewing for every American." Cal Thomas, a columnist of the same stripe, called it "one of the greatest pro-American, pro-family, pro-faith, pro-male, flag-waving God Bless America films you will ever see."  Even the Washington Times, which so completely disavowed Stone in its editorial, has recanted: "A year later, having seen the finished product during a special screening for Washington journalists, it is with the greatest regret that we recall those words. For with World Trade Center, Mr. Stone has made a truly great movie."  The broader consensus, though, is "Oscar." For Cage, possibly, or Peña. But most likely, for Stone himself, who now seems poised to climb back from the depths into which he had fallen, and finally back into the light.

World Trade Center would seem the most unlikely of saviours. But Stone has been through enough darkness — and not only of the Hollywood variety — to understand its capacity for redemption.  "Having lived through things like Vietnam, some personal disasters, some heavy situations, Watergate in my time, the Kennedy assassination, the wars that were unnecessary — I've seen all the evil in the world, let's say. And it accumulates, the older you get," he says.  "I think 9/11 is one of them — it's not the only thing. All that anger — it's the result of the event. It brought a black hole into the heart of humanity — just as Lebanon is today. Every day, we get this bad news piling up in this big black hole of anger — this big, despairing hole.  "That's why it's better to face it. You can have a reaction all your life, but it's better to deal with something, isn't it?"

Bringing Streets to Screens

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 9, 2006) Chris Chin is campaign director for
Streets to Screens, the Toronto Public Space Committee's year-round film series (fall season opens Aug. 31) aimed at boosting the profile of the city's often-neglected public realms and Torontonians' passion for protecting them. See for information.

Q As a genre, films about public space would seem fairly narrow, no?

A You'd be surprised. There is a lot of material out there that does deal with public space — everything from documentaries on city projects or city planning to old tourism films. We have one from the National Film Board, a promotional film from the 1950s about Toronto, the Expanding City ...

Q Back when suburban expansion was seen as a good idea?

A Exactly. It talks about, at that point, the big push for the Spadina subway, and the Spadina Freeway before that.

Q Is it difficult to draw an audience for films that are about public-space issues? It can sound more like broccoli than cheesecake.

A (Laughs) That's part of the reason we're doing it at the Bloor. It's open to that walk-by traffic that's inclined just to check out what's playing there for its own sake. But I think we've struck a chord with the public. And that's always been our goal: to show people that our issues are your issues. It's not so much a case of broccoli versus cheesecake, but that everyone has to have a little something on their plate. These issues do involve the public, and that's one of our main goals: getting them involved and saying `You can make a difference. You can make a point.' Even if you're not out to change the world, you can change your corner.

Location, Location, Location

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Alwynne Gwilt, Entertainment Reporter

(Aug. 9, 2006) That blue house with the teal shutters isn't just another home in Oakville.  With its wide front porch, white rocker and hanging baskets exploding with red impatiens, it also doubles as a house in Iowa.  "You could plop this house in the middle of America and it (would look right)," says Cindy Merrigan.  She and husband Craig own the house, which will be seen in the TV show Runaway on the new CW network this fall.  Cindy, a Scarborough native, lived in Atlanta nine years before bringing her husband and then 4-month-old twin girls, Cameron and Carter, to Ontario. Their house was featured in the Disney series Flash Forward three years before they moved in eight years ago.  "We probably get approached at least once a year" about using their home in a film shoot, Cindy says.  She adds that they got involved in Runaway after a location manager approached Craig in the driveway as he was cleaning out the garage.  Giving up the outside of their home for a shoot was a bit unnerving at first, but Cindy says it's worth it in the end.  "Every time they put up something to make it look worse it was kind of `Oh, okay,'" says Cindy, recalling watching the house being transformed into a weathered wreck for the pilot episode. "But everybody said they leave it in immaculate shape and, sure enough, they put everything back.  "It's just an absolute blast and everyone is so nice; they really want to make you happy."  This feeling is exactly what John Musikka, one of two location managers for the show, wants to engender.

"There's a trust that we work on with our locations," explains the Halton native, who's been doing this for 10 years. "There's nothing more important than the integrity of (it) and we treat a location like it's our own."  An owner will be paid for the use of their property — the rate varies from shoot to shoot — and put up in a comfortable hotel if interior shots are required. People who want their homes to be listed as potential filming sites can check the locations page of the Ontario Media Development Corp. (  For the Merrigans, the experience was so great they signed on for the rest of the show's episodes. Now, juggling meetings and phone calls with producers and location managers has turned into a bit of a part-time job for Cindy.  "When they say, `How's 2 o'clock tomorrow because we've got the director in from L.A. and he's flying out tomorrow?' it's like, I guess it's okay," says Cindy, as she balances 18-month-old Cyle on her knee. "It's usually not an inconvenience (and it's) no more hectic than three kids."  Every other week, a crew of around 70 invades the neighbourhood, meaning the whole street has to be okay with the activities.  Making sure everything is peachy is up to Musikka. His long days, often 10 to 14 hours, include everything from getting permits (for parking trucks or erecting lighting cranes, for instance) to confirming with all involved parties that filming at a certain time on a given day will be okay.  "When you're shooting an American show in Ontario, signage must change; there's no bilingualism in the United States," he says of one of seemingly hundreds of details he must check. Musikka feels weird turning off his cellphone, he says, even on his days off because if anything needs to be changed for that week's shooting schedule he's usually the one to deal with it.

"People out there, not in the film industry, don't understand why these changes take place and we do our best to explain it to them, but they're not always happy," says Musikka, who's worked on films such as Don't Say a Word and Pushing Tin. "And because it's our responsibility to make those things happen, we get the brunt of some unhappy responses sometimes."  The industry is changing though, he says, as the profile of Toronto as a film destination has grown.  "When scouting years ago it would seem odd (to a family) when someone would knock on (their) door. Today, because the exposure is there, people are much more aware of it and they're more likely to believe you're not making this up."  So with 14-hour days and pressure to get everything perfect, why would Musikka stay in the job?  "You get to see some cool things when you're scouting, you get to go into some buildings that people might not be able to and you get to take photographs of some really cool spots," he says.  "There's a good feeling that we all have when we find the perfect location ... and you know that is your creative contribution."  Besides, "we (location managers) wear our hearts on our sleeves. I fall in love with almost every location I shoot on."


Toni Tired Of Bulking Up

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - The Washington Post

(Aug. 4, 2006) Can Toni Collette really be serious — as the actress has been quoted recently — that she's thinking about drastically cutting back on the number of movie jobs she takes on, leaving fans of her wide-ranging and much lauded performances high and dry?  You wouldn't know it from looking at her current schedule. By her own count, the actress will shoot five films this year, including the just-wrapped mystery-thriller The Dead Girl, due out in 2007.  Adding to her sense of ubiquity, she appears in two movies out today: The Night Listener and Little Miss Sunshine.  The answer to the slowdown question is yes and no, says the "exhausted" 33-year-old actress. She and her husband, musician Dave Galafassi, would like to have kids someday, Collette explains, which would necessitate taking at least a little time off.  Though Collette has made a conscious effort to avoid being typecast as the dowdy loser, since her breakout performance in 1994's Muriel's Wedding — a role for which she reportedly gained at least 40 pounds — it seems she hasn't entirely shaken the reputation as an actress willing to immerse herself in a part.  In director Curtis Hanson's 2005 In Her Shoes, Collette again put on weight. "Twenty-seven pounds, my friend,'' she says with a cynical laugh. "Curtis wanted more, but I just did what I could in the time that I had."  She was asked to fatten up for The Night Listener, but declined.  "I just said, `Look, I can't do it again. I've kind of just gotten back to normal again. How about wearing 17 layers of clothing and acting my way through it?'"

Haggis, De Palma to star at TIFF's Talent Lab

Source: Canadian Press

(Aug. 4, 2006) Toronto -- Directors Paul Haggis, Brian De Palma, Mary Harron and Phillip Noyce will be among the guests at this year's
Toronto International Film Festival talent lab, organizers have announced. The artistic development program for emerging Canadian filmmakers provides workshops and networking opportunities during the festival, which runs Sept. 7-16. Twenty-two budding writers, directors and producers from the Toronto area, Vancouver and Montreal have been accepted for the four-day intensive program, now in its third year. Canadian author Michael Ondaatje -- whose novel The English Patient was made into an Oscar-winning film -- will return as a lab governor, along with Australian producer Jan Chapman. CP

Enter The Dragon, On A Polyester Sea

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - New York Times

(Aug. 7, 2006) LOS ANGELES—The casting call for an extra was specific yet succinct. The applicant had to be male. He had to be Asian. He couldn't be a member of the Screen Actors Guild. And one other thing: he had to look like
Bruce Lee.  Finding one man who looks just like that legendary martial arts master would have been a challenge, even in this actor-rich, Asian-rich city.  But the creative minds behind Finishing the Game, the latest film by the director Justin Lin, weren't looking for just one. They wanted 100.  Last month casting directors made calls, posted email messages and talked to friends, and friends of friends. This week the look-alikes who made the cut gathered at the David Henry Hwang Theater in the Little Tokyo district for the first shoot. They'd been asked to wear 1970s-era clothes — the result was a satiny sea of young Asian men in leisure suits and too-tight polyester slacks.  The filmmakers fell short of their goal of 100 Lees, but more than 50 actors and hopefuls showed up. None of them really looked like Bruce Lee.  Which was precisely the point, according to Lin, whose previous credits include Better Luck Tomorrow and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. "This is very much a comedy about denial. It's about putting regular people in ridiculous situations, and seeing how they float."  Finishing the Game is a comedic take on the 1978 film Game of Death, one of the most infamous in the martial arts canon. Soon after Lee's death in 1973, producers wondered what to do with 40 minutes of usable film he shot before Enter the Dragon made him an international star.  The solution: hire body doubles, hide their faces behind sunglasses and fake beards, then fatten the whole thing with clips snatched from previous films, even clips from Lee's own Hong Kong funeral. The finished product, which includes about 12 minutes of Lee's original fight scenes, was grotesque.  Lin's fictionalized low-budget account, shot in documentary style, follows those would-be Lees as they compete for the coveted lead in Game of Death.  


America’s Got Brandy

Excerpt from

(August 4, 2006) *Is it that nothing else is on, or is NBC’s “
America’s Got Talent” really that entertaining?  The show’s weekly dominance in the ratings proves people are turning in by the millions each week, prompting NBC to announce the green light for a second season. But would those same viewers run home to watch such acts as yodelers, grown men placing themselves into giant bubbles, fools laying on nails, ventriloquists, jugglers and Rappin’ Granny if the show aired in the fall opposite some real (and not reality) competition?  “My four-year-old is the biggest fan of the show,” said Brandy, one of the show’s judges, during its session at the Television Critics Association press tour last month. “She loves seeing different things. Because children, they just like new things all the time. So she’s like, at the TV, just smiling and excited all the time.” If anything, “America’s Got Talent” has been credited as one of the few shows in primetime that the whole family can watch together. Executive produced by “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell, it borrows all of “Idol’s” winning elements: a surly British judge who tells it like it is, a warm-hearted African American female judge who takes a more supportive tone when criticizing the talent, and an affable third judge who keeps a smile on his face and plays to the audience.      Nestled in the middle chair between judges Piers Morgan and David Hasselhoff, Brandy says she enjoys getting to “speak her mind” about the spectacles that unfurl before her – that’s if she doesn’t smack the buzzer midway through to end things early. Her strategy in judging talent? “I just try to stay in my own lane, I just try to stick with my opinion,” Brandy says. “I don’t want to be influenced by anyone else. That’s really what I’m working on, just confirming what I say and sticking to it. Because, sometimes you do get influenced by sympathy and you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.”

The show will make one winning act a million dollars richer, but for Brandy – who hasn’t seen this much industry interest in her since “Moesha” went off the air in 2001 – the experience has been priceless.     “I’ve had so many different things come my way,” Brandy told us after “Talent’s” TCA panel. “I’m happy about it because it’s a lot of fashion stuff. I just did a fashion shoot with OK magazine that I was really excited about because I’ve never looked like that before. I was like, ‘Oh my God. I need to do more fashion shoots. This is so much fun.’” While promoting “America’s Got Talent,” which ends its first season on Aug. 16, Brandy was also able to do several talk shows, and thereby, take further advantage of the sudden returning spotlight. The 27-year-old single mom was one of the first to sit in Star Jones Reynolds’ vacated seat on “The View” and had a rather precarious exchange with Barbara Walters that left many African American female viewers uncomfortable. Brandy had barely taken her seat before Walters stuck her fingers in the girl’s curly shoulder-length locks and asked if the hair was hers. “I was like, ‘Let me think of something to come back with, ‘cause she ‘bout to ask me something that I’ll have to have a comeback,’” Brandy said, channelling the hood ever-so-slightly. “And when she asked me what I knew she was going to ask me, I had a comeback and it worked.” After a few “uh…uhs…,” Brandy looked at Barbara on her right, rolled her eyes toward Joy Behar on her left and said, “It ain’t a wig. …Okaaay?” “The audience loved it, the people laughed and I felt good about it,” Brandy said. But the experience may not be enough to encourage the McComb, Mississippi native to take a permanent position on the morning chatfest, should Walters extend the offer.

“Just out of honour for the fact that Barbara Walters is a legend, I would really have to give that some serious thought,” Brandy said of the hypothetical situation. “But, when I think about it to myself, it’s just really a tough commitment to put myself into because of everything I want to do. I can’t tour and be the music artist I want to be if I do ‘The View.’ I definitely can’t do ‘Got Talent’ and all of the other things I want to do.” One thing Brandy’s been dying to do for years is nab a starring role on the Great White Way.     “I have a great idea for a musical that I really, really wanna do,” she tells us. “And before I retire, which is I don’t know when, I wanna do Broadway.”   Brandy says she’s not sure when she’ll get back to doing music, but it still ranks as her first love and she always has it in the back of her mind. “That’s what makes me happy the most,” she explains. “I can’t wait to get back into it. It would just complete everything that’s going on in my life right now.”  

BET News Guides One-Year Look Back On Disaster, Recovery And Aftermath Of Hurricane Katrina

Source:  Universal Music Canada

WASHINGTON (August 7, 2006) Her destructive winds, damaging waves and torrential rains ended long ago. But the tragedy and indelible marks of Hurricane Katrina remain.  As the Gulf Coast region nears the one-year anniversary of the greatest natural disaster in modern U.S. history, BET News today launches a month-long series of daily news briefs and testimonials capturing life in the aftermath for Louisiana and Mississippi as the rebuilding continues.  S.O.S:  SAVING OURSELVES – ONE YEAR LATER is a poignant reprise by BET News that culminates on Tuesday, September 5 with a primetime special that takes a probing look at the region’s future.  BET News has assembled a cadre of celebrities, community leaders, government officials and local citizens to lend voice and perspective to its series.  These individuals either lived in or traveled to the ravaged region.  Some were directly impacted by the storm, while others contributed time and money to assist in the relief effort.  Noteworthy participants in the series include actress Holly Robinson-Peete; rappers David Banner and Ludacris; gospel duo Mary Mary; hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; religious leader Bishop Paul Morton; New Orleans activist Kalamu ya Salaam; Mary Joseph of the New Orleans Children’s Defense Fund; and many others. 

“Those powerful images of death and devastation in New Orleans and the surrounding region will be remembered forever,” said Nina Henderson Moore, BET Executive Vice President of News & Public Affairs.  “The rebuilding effort since then has progressed, yet been controversial at many levels.  This series will do more than just revisit the past.  There are still many unanswered questions about the local impact, especially among African Americans; the government’s failures in the face of disaster; and the vulnerability of the area to future hurricanes.  Ultimately, our series is part of BET’s ongoing effort to keep the public focus on this region and its recovery.”    In addition to the televised series, BET viewers can access extended coverage of the Hurricane Katrina anniversary and recovery at  On-line content includes news, features, chats with experts, opinion polls, blogs, photo galleries and links to community organizations providing assistance to the thousands of victims still needing help.


Vivica Wants Morning Show

Excerpt from

(August 4, 2006) *Now that her Lifetime show “Missing” is gone forever,
Vivica A. Fox has been taking meetings around Los Angeles in an effort to hustle herself a talk show gig. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the actress has been in talks with distributors to pitch a syndicated daytime talk show that would be similar in tone to “The Tyra Banks Show.” In the meantime, the “Kill Bill” star will appear in the upcoming films “Caught on Tape,” opposite Ced the Entertainer; "Citizen Duane," opposite Donal Logue; and "Kickin' It Old School," opposite Jamie Kennedy. 


Excerpt from

(Aug. 3, 2006) *The
Pussycat Dolls will search for a new member of the group through an eight-episode reality show to air on the new CW channel during the 2006-07 season.  Tentatively titled "The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll," the series will feature a crew of hopefuls living together and competing for the chance to become the seventh member of the group, whose debut album, "PCD," has sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide. The CW said that certain elements of the series will be broadcast live. A nationwide search will be launched soon by executive producer Ken Mok (CW's "America's Next Top Model").

Nick Cannon Signs Deal With MTV

Excerpt from

(Aug. 9, 2006) *MTV likes what they see in
Nick Cannon. The 26-year-old producer and host of MTV’s sketch comedy/improv series "Nick Cannon Presents Wild 'N Out" has signed a first-look production deal with the network to develop, produce and appear in projects. "It's kind of cool for MTV to trust me with a discretionary fund to go out and buy projects," Cannon said. "For them to actually see me as someone who can create and put product on the network is really great." Cannon says he already has a music reality series and another sketch comedy project lined up under the new deal. MTV made a similar arrangement with Sean "Diddy" Combs and his Bad Boy Entertainment in March 2005. In addition to the TV deal, Cannon also signed a producing pact with MTV Films through which the Paramount-based label has committed to purchase scripts and pitches with Cannon attached as a producer. "The film component of the deal gives me an opportunity to write and produce films (as possible starring vehicles)," said Cannon, a screenwriter who sold one of his scripts, "Extra Protection," to Universal Pictures for six figures last year with Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment producing. "Now I have a home to get my views out. It gives me a chance to be a part of projects they already have but also bring my own ideas to the table."


Satire, Romance And Some Frustration - Summerworks Theatre Festival

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Aug. 4, 2006) This year's
SummerWorks was barely an hour into its 11-day run and 47-play selection when it proudly displayed its first sold-out sign and waved a waiting list of more than 10 names eager to catch the first performance of young playwright Hannah Moscovitch's The Russian Play (***½).  The fact that it was playing at the small backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille may have had something to do with it, but this funny little play mixes comedy and melodramatics with the nerve and style only the very young (and in this case, female) know how to handle. Tightly directed by the fast-rising Natasha Mytnowych, The Russian Play is built around a series of cultural stereotypes and stock dramatic motifs. We're in Stalinist Russia as a wisecracking narrator recounts the story of Sonya (both played by the compelling Michelle Monteith), a young flower girl who falls in love with a married gravedigger and then -- just as her illegitimate child dies and she faces destitution and other Russian-inflected miseries -- becomes a mistress to a well-connected but married man. Love, death, vodka, a Moscow jail and a wandering violin player are the remaining elements of this ostensibly bleak landscape. It's how Moscovitch and Mytnowych mix it that gives their play its stylistic statement and cultural edge. Without tilting it into one camp or the other, the two sustains a production that's both a satire of folkloric storytelling traditions and a wistfully romantic story of tragic love and even more tragic death. It's that rarest of all theatrical experiments: a clever satire with a beating heart. I see from the press kit that The Russian Play is to be featured in Harbourfront's showcase series Hatch next year. It's hard to see how much more mileage can Moscovitch get out of it. The limitations of a festival setting (with a running time of under 45 minutes) give it all the punch it needs. Extend its perimeters and both the joke and the emotional content may wear a little thin.

Baby Finger (**½), written and performed by Linda Griffiths, will also be featured in another performance series next year: Vision to Voice at Theatre Passe Muraille. This should give the consummate performer plenty of time to revisit her text and figure out how to tell her beguiling story without beating its metaphors to death or explaining its meanings as if her audience is too dumb to get it on their own. She's on to something with this story of a playwright and one "irrevocable" act of anger that leaves her with a nearly severed baby finger. The writing has some unbelievably gorgeous twists and turns that allow Griffiths to share some insights into both the healing process and the healing industry (hospitals, clinics, physiotherapy etc.) in both French and English Canada. "Suffering in French is so much worse," the narrator says as she observes the state of St. Luke's Hospital in Montreal. It's all anchored in the anxieties and insecurities of the artist, and Griffiths orients her performance to that angle with some success. The problem is that the writing comes with its own running commentary as the significance of virtually each scene is spilled out, leaving us no room to connect the dots or draw our own conclusions. Obsessions may be second nature to the artist, but it may help Griffiths to consider her audience and leave them something to obsess (okay, think) about at the end of the play.

Another hospital, this time in Toronto, is the setting for Tom Walmsley's new play Delirium (**). It's a fascinating play that (legitimately and mischievously) asks questions about the possibility of combining carnality with spirituality. The central character is a young philanderer who has recently undergone two life-changing experiences: liver transplant and conversion to Catholicism. As three girlfriends and a sexually charged but pious nurse gather around the man's bed, Walmsley liberally uses obscenities and citations from the Gospels to argue his case. Too bad the young company in charge, with the exception of Ben Mehl in the lead role, is not up to the challenge of staging this heady mix. Emily Gerhard's direction is monotonous and the work of the four women is indistinguishable. As I watched Delirium, I kept fantasizing about seeing it in the hands of a stronger director and a cast of some of Toronto's top-notch actresses. Only then will the rampant and unapologetic sexuality of the piece find its place in the religious maze Walmsley has set up for it.

SummerWorks continues at various venues until Aug. 13. For more information, visit or call 416-410-1048.


Hardison, Jones Join Cast Of Pasadena’s ‘Fences’

Excerpt from

(August 8, 2006) *Kadeem Hardison and Orlando Jones will join Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett in California’s upcoming Pasadena Playhouse run of August Wilson's drama Fences.   The 1950-60's Pittsburgh-set drama follows the struggle of a former Negro League baseball player who now finds himself working as a garbage collector. Wendell Pierce (“The Boys of Winter”) and Victoria Matthews (“Les Miserables”) are also in the production.   "This is the kind of incredible cast that a director dreams of and prays for.  This tremendous group of artists coming together for this production is a great tribute to August Wilson and a genuine sign of the deep admiration and devotion that his writing inspires in actors," said the venue’s artistic director Sheldon Epps, according to Playbill News. "I know that this is a combination of players who will produce genuine theatrical fireworks in this beautiful and moving play." "This is our way of honouring August — and also the brilliant Lloyd Richards, the director who helped create many of his plays," concluded Epps.   Both playwright Wilson and his long-time collaborator Richards died in the last year. The revival is slated to begin previews Aug. 25 and open Sept. 1 for a run scheduled through Oct. 1.   Tickets to Fences at the Pasadena Playhouse (39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena) are available by calling (626) 356-PLAY. For more information, visit


Lips, Tongues And Making Out ... At The Art Museum

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Milroy

(Aug. 7, 2006) The art of
kissing is the subject of two notable works on show at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario this summer, and they bear close scrutiny. Not just for the pleasure of watching two people in flagrante delicto — though the vicarious pleasure is considerable — but because they allow us some time and space to consider the delicious act which they celebrate.  Andy Warhol's 54-minute film Kiss — a compilation of several improvised on-camera kisses — is on view as part of the current Warhol show, a dreamy interlude for foot-weary gallery-goers who may want to wallow a while in its languid embrace. In a gallery upstairs, tucked in behind the crusty Group of Sevens, a performance work of the same name by Berlin-based artist Tino Sehgal is concurrently under way. Warhol's Kiss is one of the artist's most lyrical works. Like Sleep and Haircut, the film documents an activity from daily life with a kind of cinematic detachment — just set up the camera and let it roll — but the result ends up being anything but clinical.  Whether inspired by good drugs or good love (or both), these couples look like castaways on a desert island, alone with their bliss, each kiss seeming to erode the barriers between them.

Like many of Warhol's films, Kiss takes a beloved film genre as its jumping-off point — here, Hollywood romance — with Warhol cutting away everything extraneous and serving up only the juicy bits. As well, in its flickering crudeness and abrupt use of fade-ins and fade-outs, the film evokes the early experimental cinema of Edison and the Lumière brothers, as well as a short Irwin-Rice film from 1896 of the same title, which featured a long kiss by a pair of Broadway actors. If Warhol's Kiss is about kissing, it's also about the history of the film medium. It's also about politics. Kiss features male partners as well as one pairing of a black man and a white woman, which was considered risqué at the time. Warhol's friend and collaborator Bob Colacello also remembers that Warhol was inspired to make the film in response to the censor board's proscription against kisses longer than three seconds in duration. Here, the kisses are three minutes or more, often seeming endless. Endless, too, are their variations, from playful teasing and nuzzling to full-frontal plowing of the jaw-dislocating sort. It's all good — a make-love-not-war finger salute to rigid American Puritanism, as fresh and delightful today as the day it was made. Sehgal's Kiss, which was first performed in 2002, consists of pairs of hired dancers and actors (they work in shifts, one pair at a time, during gallery hours) who enact a carefully choreographed, slow motion sequence of movements, mimicking great kisses from the history of art: Rodin's immortal grapple hold, Munch's vampiric clutch, Klimt's jewel-encrusted swoon, Koons's raunchy ride-'em- cowboy wrangle, Brancusi's precisely equipoised hieratic embrace. Once the choreographed sequence is completed — it takes about 16 minutes — the performers begin again, with the male and female performers reversing the roles. It's the opposite of Warhol's free-flowing love-in.

Apart from the two performers, who periodically stop to draw breath and announce the title and date of the piece, the gallery is empty, and gallery visitors tend to wander in accidentally, receiving no explanation from wall panel or signage. This tends to separate the sheep from the goats; some flee in confusion; others settle in for the show. This open-ended ambiguity is a requirement of Sehgal's; he also forbids photography of his works in progress, forswears the issuing of artist statements, and discourages advertising and the giving of explanations to the press. These performances are to be extolled via word of mouth, if the pun can be forgiven. The first in Toronto to hear about Kiss were the city's community of actors and dancers, who were solicited to audition in early summer. It was women who tended to respond to the call, deciding which gents to invite along for the ride. “I got a phone call from Kay asking me how I would feel about kissing her for 2½ hours a day down at the art gallery,” says the elfin 27-year-old actor Adam Blocka. “I said: ‘Sure! Good times!' ” His partner in art, Kay Grigar, is a curvaceous, pillowy-lipped blonde well equipped for the task at hand (she's a dancer and freelance journalist new to the city), and she is the more business-like of the two, focusing her comments on the uniqueness of the museum environment as a performance space. She will allow, though, that the experience is charged. “Intimacy is intimacy,” she says with a shrug, “but looking in each other's eyes can be more intimate even than the kissing.” Like Grigar and Blocka, the duo of Brenden Jensen and Meredith Woodley are not a couple in real life, but they appear to be rising to the challenge. She's a whippet-thin brunette; he's a tousle-haired, broad-shouldered lad worthy of Caravaggio. “You do get caught up in it,” she confesses, a little breathless at the end of her shift on the day that I visited, adding that her boyfriend, a filmmaker, has struggled watching her in this role. “He said to me: ‘The artist that I aspire to be is totally cool with this, but the caveman in me is feeling really uptight.' ” Watching these two, you can see why; there's a sinuosity to their body language that seems to exceed the strict requirements of the job. “When you are kissing,” she says, “you can't really deny the moment any longer. As soon as your lips touch, you can't fake it. We had a talk at the beginning of the process,” she adds, “and we said to each other, ‘How are we going to handle this? Are we going to go for it?' ” Clearly they concurred in the affirmative. Still, it's a job. “I'm used to this kind of thing from my work as a dancer,” Woodley says, ever the good sport. “There's this lift in classical ballet where the guy basically has his hand shoved up right in your crotch. You don't even think about it after a while.”

Andy Warhol: Supernova continues at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto until Oct. 22. Tino Sehgal's Kiss continues during gallery hours until Aug. 20 (416-979-6660).

Why There's No Beer At The Book Club

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kate Taylor

(Aug. 5, 2006) With eager anticipation, the reader cracks open the spine of a new novel. Relaxing into a deck chair with a tall drink at hand, or perhaps, in cooler weather, sinking into a comfortable couch beside the fire, the reader will visit faraway places, meet new people and experience different lives. The reader will lose ... Care to pick a pronoun? If your guess was that the reader was about to lose herself in the book, your instincts are perfectly accurate: Both publishers and pollsters can tell you that readers of fiction are more likely to be female. “Women read more, they read more novels, they read earlier and they read later. Sixty-five to 70 per cent of the [Canadian] book market is women,” observes Brad Martin, president of Random House of Canada, adding that the American and European markets are probably similar. “How many men do you know who are in a book group?” No surprise, then, that when the federal Department of Canadian Heritage surveyed Canadian reading habits last year, it found a distinct gender gap. Women accounted for 60 per cent of the daily readers and 70 per cent of the heavy readers who had read 50 or more books in the last 12 months. Women also outnumbered men two to one as regular readers of both classic and contemporary novels. The divide is not new: The department's previous survey, in 1991, had found similar results, while academics can trace the characterization of novel reading as a genteel — or frivolous — female pursuit as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the gender gap is both particularly pronounced and much debated these days, partly because publishers have exploited it so successfully with their marketing strategies, and partly because teachers and parents are so concerned that boys lag behind girls in their literacy skills.

Publishers and educators say they don't like to generalize about the tastes of half the population, but they will speculate as to why women prefer fiction, and are ready to debate both the social and the literary implications. You could hear, for example, the giggling and the teeth-gnashing from the two British researchers who recently asked 400 prominent men, many of them involved in culture or the media, which novels had helped them live their lives, and got a crop of unenthusiastic answers including many references to J. D. Salinger's classic coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye, and a few responses asking “Does it have to be a novel?” Albert Camus's The Outsider was the clear winner; only one book by a woman, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, made the list. Last year, when the same researchers asked an equal number of female readers the question as the first part of this lighthearted project organized by the Orange Prize for women's fiction, the women had gushed forth titles written by both genders. They included books by Charlotte and Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Jeannette Winterson, Joseph Conrad, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marcel Proust, Gustav Flaubert and Joseph Heller. A few even mentioned The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. “I was appalled by that recent poll,” laughs Vancouver writer and literary critic George Fetherling. “You could visualize them as they drummed their fingers and pulled their scruffy beards: Do I know a novel? Yeah, I read Catcher in the Rye when I was 12; it must be a great novel.” Fetherling complains that men only read those novels in which they can directly identify with the protagonist, while women will read about people different from themselves. That's the most common explanation of the phenomenon: Reading fiction involves empathizing with the characters, and thus draws on women's traditional emotional strengths. Men, on the other hand, turn to non-fiction to learn about the world around them. “While men read and many men read voraciously, they tend to read non-fiction, history, finance and sports,” observes Doug Pepper, president and publisher of McClelland & Stewart. “I wish it were more evenly split but it does make it easier for us because we can identify our market.”

Indeed, publishers have successfully sold women so many pink-covered “chick-lit” novels about the relationship travails of young working women, they are now tentatively branching out in to “lad lit.” The genre includes stories both about men's lives and relationships, such as Mike Gayle's My Legendary Girlfriend and Mark Barrowcliffe's Infidelity for First-Time Fathers and the bawdy non-fictional essays of Tucker Max, author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.  Max is a bestseller, but most lad lit hasn't made much impression in North America, although Pepper believes there is a growing market for intelligent male fiction by writers such as Nick Hornby or David Sedaris. He wonders, half-jokingly, if men could not be encouraged to form beer-drinking reading groups. Meanwhile, Fetherling reports: “The male-only book club has sprung up. It's viewed the same way the Vancouver papers view the existence of nude yoga: It's a sign of the times, and should we be worried about it?” Women, on the other hand, have turned their ubiquitous white-wine-fuelled discussions of fictional characters into the contemporary equivalent of the Tupperware party. Publishers know the book club ladies remain the core market for novels, and behave accordingly.  At Random House, for example, Martin is watching sales of Ian McEwan's 2005 novel, Saturday, about a day in the life of a prosperous London neurosurgeon. It has sold well in Canada — but not as well as McEwan's previous book, Atonement, a wartime story of a young girl's disastrous meddling in adult affairs.  The cover of the Canadian edition of Atonement featured a sepia-toned image of a girl, while Saturday showed the silhouette of a man — and Martin is now debating reprinting Saturday without the male figure on the cover. “When we package a book, we say, ‘Okay, who is the audience?' and we design a cover for them,” Martin says. That is the kind of story that makes Toronto writer Russell Smith see red. “It's become a self-fulfilling cycle,” he says. “If you are a young man and you pick up the book section, your primary impression of literature in English is going to be the kind of thing your mother's book club reads. . . . Literature has veered away from story to be about psychology; male writers are as responsible for that as women . . . but I do think men are interested in things, why things work, why things happen, and men look for more comedy in fiction. We are bored by the earnestness of contemporary fiction.”

Smith finds Canadian fiction particularly earnest and says the typical Canadian novel is one that appeals to women with a story of family, memory and loss. He's concerned that the success of these “women's novels” is limiting the kind of fiction that gets published here. Martha Kanya-Forstner, editorial director at Doubleday Canada, tends to agree, saying writers such as Carol Shields and Alice Munro, who specialize in stories about domestic life and relationships, have shaped the image of Canadian fiction. “They have chosen as their subject matter things women can easily relate to, and so that becomes the novel in Canada,” she says. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; we are a very conservative business. If you are publishing a grammar book, you ask ‘What's the next Eats, Shoots & Leaves?' ” she says, referring to Lynne Truss's best-selling guide to punctuation. Both Smith and Kanya-Forstner argue that men are drawn to books about ideas, and both think publishers have failed to recognize that in their marketing schemes for fiction. “Guys look for ideas,” says Smith. “Very intelligent men I talk to, none of them read fiction. It's girl stuff: hundreds and hundreds of pages of feelings. To think that no one perceives fiction as being about ideas is depressing.” Both genders should be reading books about feelings, and books filled with factual information, argues American philosopher Martha Nussbaum, a law professor at the University of Chicago.  “It's very important for people to learn to think about the inner life of people, people who are like themselves and different from themselves. Thinking about people different from oneself is fundamental to democracy,” says Nussbaum, whose 1995 book, Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, argued that political leaders should read novels to learn empathy. “The novel is particularly good at getting you to see emotions in context ... and that's a very important political thing.” Nussbaum traces the roots of female novel reading back to the 19th century, where, she argues, women were often excluded from reading history, politics and economics — serious subjects reserved for men. “When women were relegated to the novel, it was not thought to be an intellectual thing. You couldn't get a degree in English literature at Oxford in the 19th century.”

Today, of course, you can get a degree in English lit from Oxford to Ottawa, but more women than men enrol in those programs, part of a gender gap in literacy skills that increasingly alarms educators. Test scores show female students proving more literate than males right from Grade 1 reading class all the way to English 101. “The boys subconsciously reject reading as a female activity,” says Trevor Gambell, associate dean of graduate studies at the University of Saskatchewan and an expert in English education. He suggests that the predominance of female teachers from daycare through grade school, and the preference for fiction as schoolroom reading material, has given boys the impression that reading is for girls. Educators are working hard to turn boys on to books. The Toronto District School Board, for example, invites members of the Argonauts football team into Grade 7 and 8 classes to promote reading — but there are those who think such differences may be innate. Simon Baron-Cohen, a British psychologist who studies autism, argues there are fundamental differences between the male and female brains; the former has developed the capacity for understanding systems whereas the latter specializes in empathy. If he's right, the guys' book club may be destined to remain forever the nude yoga of the literary scene.

Globe writer Kate Taylor is the author of Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen, a novel about family, memory and loss that was read by lots of women



Tiger Roars To 50th Tour Win

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Aug. 7, 2006) The red shirt was familiar and so was the result.  
Tiger Woods won his 50th PGA Tour title yesterday, shooting his fourth-straight six-under 66 for a three-stroke victory over Jim Furyk in the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich.  Woods reached a season-low 24 under and made a career-high 28 birdies in the tournament to hold off Furyk — who closed with a 64 — for his fourth win of the year and a cheque of $864,000 (U.S.).  Woods became the seventh member of the PGA Tour's 50-win club after improving to 21for21 when leading by more than one stroke after three rounds. The 30-year-old Woods beat Jack Nicklaus' record pace to the milestone, which Nicklaus reached in 1973 at the age of 33.  "That's pretty cool to get to 50," Woods said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get to 50."  Woods bogeyed the 12th hole, allowing Furyk to tie him briefly, but took the lead alone for good at 13 when his approach from 105 yards landed close enough for a tap-in birdie. At 15, Woods' birdie gave him a two-shot lead and essentially clinched his second Buick Open victory.  Calgary's Stephen Ames recorded a one under in the fourth round and finished 16 under overall to finish tied for 16th, eight strokes behind Woods. Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., was one over yesterday and 14 under overall to finish tied for 20th.  Ian Leggatt of Cambridge, Ont., shot a four-over 76 in the final round and was even par for the tourney.  Vijay Singh had a chance to become the first player to win three straight Buick Opens — and four overall — when he started the day three shots back. But Singh closed with a 70 to tie for 11th at 17 under.  "I never got any momentum going," he said. "I drove the ball beautifully, but couldn't make anything."

Rogers Cup: Federer, Nadal Take First Bows

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith
(Additional files from Canadian Press)

(Aug. 8, 2006) The last time tennis fans saw
Roger Federer in action, he was hoisting the championship plate after a dominant run through the fortnight at the all-England Lawn and Tennis Club.  Tonight, fans in Toronto will see how he’s handled the idle time since his Wimbledon triumph.  Federer, the most dominant player in the game today, plays his first match at the Rogers Cup against unseeded – and likely over-matched – Paul-Henri Mathieu of France in the marquee matchup of Day 2 of the tournament at the Rexall Centre at York University.  Federer’s main nemesis – at least if the matches are on clay – also opens his week today as No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal faces Nicolas Massu of Chile in the afternoon session.  In early first-round action today, 16th-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany defeated Max Mirnyi 6-3, 6-3, Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic beat Nicolas Mahut of France 6-3, 6-3 and Germany’s Denis Gremelmayr defeated Kristof Vliegen of Belgium 7-6 (2), 6-2. The men are using the tournament as one of the last preparatory events before the season’s final Grand Slam – the U.S. Open. Because of the proximity to the early September event, the Toronto tournament has attracted one of its strongest fields ever, with only Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, both out with injuries, missing from the field.