Langfield Entertainment
88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
(416) 677-5883


Updated:  February 2, 2006

Welcome to February.  Here in Toronto, we certainly can't complain about our mild winter! 
I've got a special CD giveaway this week.  Thanks to Groove United and DMD, I'm offering FIVE Wade O. Brown CDs.  The first five people to tell me the name of the first single from his CD, WIN.  CLICK HERE for a clue and CLICK HERE to respond!
Need a makeover - I mean a full makeover!?  Check out your chance to win one under OPPORTUNITY

Tons of news including Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  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.


KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  Celebrate African Heritage Month with Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre! Two fun-filled weekends of music, film, concerts, workshops, kid’s activities, discussion panels and more await you beginning Thursday, February 2nd!

Highlights include a rare live appearance by UK film and music legend Don Letts, the Canadian Reggae Music Summit, Showcase and After party, and the Donné Roberts CD release party.   Calypso legends Lord Superior, Mighty Sparrow, and Calypso Rose participate in a panel discussion, workshops on Caribbean Indigenous and African contemporary dance, culinary demonstrations with Chef Dwight Boswell and a celebrity

Cook-up with MuchMusic VJ Matte Babel and singer/songwriter Jully Black are also scheduled.  

For more information
the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto), and are free unless otherwise noted.


Kuumba edition

Two jam-packed weekends filled with celebration
for African Heritage Month await you at
Harbourfront Centre!


Join us for Kuumba, a festival of food, film, readings, panel discussions, concerts, kid’s activities and more!

Visit the website at or call 416-973-4000 for more details. See you then!

Kuumba Film
Screenings include Don Letts’ Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet, La-Fabri-K, documenting the hip-hop scene in Cuba, footage of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1977 performance at London’s Rainbow Theatre, Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip Hop Video Dancer, and Calypso at Dirty Jim’s.

Kuumba Speaks
A Caribbean Comedy Night hosted by comedy legend Kenny Robinson and featuring Jean Paul (Comedy Inc.) and Mark Trinidad, a Coalition of African Canadian Organization summit on community self-sufficiency to youth violence and an exclusive artist talk with UK music and film legend Don Letts are all on the schedule. Hear and be heard!

Kuumba Reads
Contributors to Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing, including George Elliott Clarke and Lorna Goodison explore various themes that define and illuminate the meaning of being black. Hosted by Donna Bailey Nurse, Editor. A Different Booklist co-produces the Kuumba Black Book Fair: complete with a reading with internationally best selling mystery author Valerie Wilson Wesley, book signings and a comic creation workshop.

Kuumba Moves
Caribbean Indigenous Dance, African Contemporary Dance, Reggae, Hip Hop and Jazz fusion are all covered in a variety of Dance workshops.

Black History Month at Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras Bistro:  This special New Orlean's style restaurant and entertainment hive has some exciting talent lined up ... and don't forget to try the baby back ribs and jambalaya - I'm telling you, it will change your life! 

What better way to celebrate this month than with good food, good people and great entertainment.  Check out the line-up below in a calendar format.  Chef
Anthony Mair insists on flawless, unobtrusive service and has managed to master this with his staff while earning their respect and still delivering the undeniable level of excellence in his food preparations.  In celebration of Black History Month and Mardi Gras we are putting together a calendar of events featuring some of the city's best and brightest musical talent. 


February 2006
1982 Bloor St West

Just outside the High Park Subway Station



Irie Food Joint – Urban Vanguard Art Showing – February 27, 2006

Regular patrons of Toronto's Irie Food Joint Restaurant might have noticed gregarious owner Carl Cassell has been scarce lately. Little do most know, the business entrepreneur is usually in the studio apartment just upstairs of the restaurant, preoccupied with completing his latest works of art of 2006 - the Urban Vanguard Series II.

The succession of 20 portraits represent for Cassell an emerging creative mass in Canadian arts and entertainment. Some of his featured subjects include filmmaker Clement Virgo, photographer Michael Chambers, opera soprano Measha Brueggergosman, and some emerging artists breaking ground.  It's Cassell's belief these urbanites are in their own work reflecting, exploring, challenging and/or obliterating popular perceptions by way of sheer ingenuity.  "The industry that defines North America right now is entertainment," says Cassell.

Catch Carl's own vanguard innovation when he unveils his medium of creation -- a mode that has become his signature style.

Now, we all know that Carl knows how to throw a party so come out to the Urban Vanguard Series II of 2006 which is slated for showing February 27 at the Irie Food Joint.

Urban Vanguard Series II

Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
9:00 pm




Make Me Over Opportunity!

Do you or does someone you know someone need a make-over?  I mean the works!  A really fabulous make-over that includes cosmetic dentistry (we've spent as much as $50,000) and/or laser eye surgery, non-evasive cosmetic work such as chemical peels, botox and laser hair removal as well as professional hair and make-up.  Did I mention the wardrobe, a $500.00 wardrobe?   


I just started work on a brilliant series for W network and we are seeking women 20-55 with great stories for this uplifting and transformational series.  If you're interested or you'd like to submit a friend or family member for consideration, please send a photo with age, phone number, profession and a brief description of why you need a makeover to me at this email address -

Kim Kuhteubl
Make Me Over TV



We Remember Coretta Scott King

Excerpt from

(Jan. 31, 2006) *Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She was 78.  Last August Scott-King suffered a stroke that left her weakened on her right side, unable to walk, and barely able to speak.  News of her death came from former US Ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young this morning on the NBC show 'Today.' Asked how he found out about her death, Young said, "I understand she was asleep last night and her daughter tried to wake her up." King had been recovering at home since her stroke. She was last seen in public when she made a surprise appearance at a fundraiser on what would have been her husband's 77th birthday earlier this month. She smiled from her wheelchair as she was greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause from a crowd of 15-hundred at the Salute to Greatness Dinner at the King Center.  Coretta Scott King played a major back-up role in the civil rights movement until the death of her husband, Martin Luther King, who was assassinated on a Memphis motel balcony on April 4, 1968, while supporting a sanitation workers strike in that city. Coretta Scott was born April 27, 1927, on a farm in Heiberger, Ala. Though the family owned the land, it was often a hardscrabble life. The young Coretta, her sister, Edythe, and brother, Obie, all had to pick cotton during the Depression to help the family make ends meet.  An intelligent and hardworking student, Scott King played trumpet and piano, and graduated from Lincoln High at the top of her class in 1945. She followed her older sister to Antioch College in Ohio, where Edythe had been the first full-time black student to live on campus.  At Antioch, Scott King majored in music and education. When she graduated, she decided she wanted to pursue music instead of teaching. She received a scholarship to study violin and voice at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she met her future husband, Martin Luther King Jr., who was studying theology at Boston University.   

Spotlight: Fresh I.E.


In 2006, Fresh I.E. has made history again, earning a nomination in the category of Best Rock Gospel Album for Truth Is Fallin' In Tha Streetz. In 2003, he became the first Canadian rapper to earn a GRAMMY nod (also in the category of Best Rock Gospel Album for his album, Red Letterz). Fresh I.E. is also Winnipeg, Manitoba's only artist to receive a Second GRAMMY Nomination for two consecutive albums. Congrats, Fresh I.E.!!! Way to represent for Canada! The 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards take place in Los Angeles on February 8 (airing on CBS at 8 pm).

Following is a re-printed excerpt from a profile UMAC wrote on Fresh I.E. in Urban Music Minue Vol 1.19 (March 31, 2005), when he was preparing to perform during on UMAC's urban music showcase during JUNO weekend in his hometown:

Winnipeg Winnipeg's Fresh I.E. has come a long way since life on the streets. As the first Canadian rapper to ever be nominated for a GRAMMY, this gospel sensation has knocked down doors for Canadian hip hop like no other artist before him. I.E., who's name stands for "Fresh In Eternity", grew up in Vancouver where he crossed paths with Swollen Members and Rascalz.

Prior to his 2003 Grammy nod for Best Rock Gospel recording, I.E. had never played a show at a local nightclub. In fact, his multi-award nominated album, Red Letterz, was distributed in the United States by Red Sea Records and only available as an import at Christian bookstores. However, this obscurity was short-lived. Fresh I.E. has since been on stage without pause and continues to rack up his nominations, including: an Outstanding Christian Recording Nomination at the 2004 Western Canadian Music Awards and Best Rap/Hip-Hop/Dance Album of the Year (2004 VIBE Awards), where he was also nominated in two other categories.

For more information on this groundbreaking artist, check out

WOW Gospel 2006

Source:  Sony/BMG Music Canada

Gospel’s greatest annual tradition takes place every January, and this coming year promises to be no exception. WOW Gospel 2006, the paradigmatic collection of the ultimate in gospel audio and video from the past year, returns again to start off your 2006 right!

This ultimate compilation of gospel hits has everything you have come to expect from years past, spanning genres and generations to bring to you the best of 2005. Perennial chart toppers Donnie McClurkin (“I Call You Faithful”), Hezekiah Walker (“Lift Him Up”), and Fred Hammond (“I Will Find A Way”) are all featured with stand out singles from their latest releases. Breakout stars including phenom Micah Stampley (“War Cry”) and American Idol’s George Huff (“A Brighter Day”) preview the next generation in gospel up and comers with their respective tracks. Not to be outdone by the gentlemen, young ingénues Joann Rosario (“I Hear You Say”) and Kierra Sheard (“Let Go (Remix)”) represent with their powerful voices, proving why they are often cited as the next generation of gospel leading ladies.   
As a special bonus, this collection also features a special track from Paul Robbins, the winner of the Oprah Winfrey’s “Wildest Dream” contest!

As always, a companion DVD brings to life many of the tracks from the audio release, with concept videos and live performance footage to enhance your WOW Gospel experience. Prepare to be delighted, prepare to be moved, prepare to be entertained. Prepare to be WOWed!

Audio Track List will include (may be subject to change) (2CD’s):

1. Donnie McClurkin “I Call You Faithful”
2. Fred Hammond “I Will Find a Way”
3. Kurt Carr “God Great God”
4. Donald Lawrence “I Speak Life”
5. Joann Rosario “I Hear You Say”
6. Deitrick Haddon “God Didn’t Give Up”
7. Tonex “Since Jesus Came”
8. J Moss “We Must Praise”
9. Dorinda Clark-Cole “Great Is the Lord”
10. Marvin Sapp “Do You Know Him?”
11. Ben Tankard feat. Shirley Murdock “Jesus Is Love”
12. Hezekiah Walker “Lift Him Up”
13. Mighty Clouds “House Of The Lord”
14. Kierra Sheard “Let Go (The Godson Concept)”
15. Karen Clark-Sheard “Authority”
16. George Huff “A Brighter Day”
17. Ted & Shari “Celebrate”
18. Nicole C. Mullen “Message 4 Ya”
19. Myron Butler “Set Me Free”
20. Darwin Hobbs “Glorify Him”
21. Smokie Norful “God Is Able”
22. LaShun Pace “For My Good”
23. New Birth “God Is”
24. Antonio Neal “The Only One”
25. Paul Robbins “I’ll Pray” (Oprah “Wildest Dream” winner)—WOW exclusive!

DVD Track List will include (may be subject to change):

1. Donnie McClurkin feat. Kirk Franklin “Ooh Child”
2. Deitrick Haddon “God Didn’t Give Up”
3. Tonéx & The Peculiar People “Work On Me”
4. Karen Clark-Sheard “We Acknowledge You”
5. Smokie Norful “God Is Able”
6. Kirk Franklin “Looking For You”
7. Darlene McCoy “Fallen In Love”
8. LaShun Pace “For My Good”
9. Fred Hammond “You Are My Life”
10. Donnie McClurkin and Joann Rosario “Saciame Senor…”
11. Marvin Sapp “You Are God Alone”
And more…!

We Turned Our Back On Haiti

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Antonia Zerbisias

(Jan. 31, 2006) The truth is ugly, is it not?  But I make no apologies for bringing it to you alongside whatever celebrity news we have on the other pages.  In fact, the only thing I regret is not doing so sooner.  Canadians, and the Canadian media in general and in particular, including those who have no trouble bashing the Bushies for their intervention in Iraq, have had this collective see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hands-over-eyes and ears la! la! la! I can't hear you attitude towards our role in the hellhole that is Haiti.  We have much to answer for, starting with that economic strangulation — more politely called the "embargo" — we supported along with the U.S. and France, which was all part of the "resignation" of the democratically elected (with a whopping 91.8 per cent mandate) President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.  

Said U.S. President George W. Bush (whose father George H.W. Bush was in the White House when Aristide was deposed in 1991, after winning with 67 per cent of the vote): "President Aristide resigned. He has left his country. The constitution of Haiti is working. There is an interim president, as per the constitution, in place.  "I have ordered the deployment of Marines, as the leading element of an interim international force, to help bring order and stability to Haiti. I have done so in working with the international community. This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history.  "I would urge the people of Haiti to reject violence, to give this break from the past a chance to work. And the United States is prepared to help."  Since then, countless Haitians, men, women and children, whose lives grow more miserable by the minute, have been shot, hacked, imprisoned and subjected to state terror.  There appears to be blood all over Canada's hands: first because it was on board for the removal of Aristide and second because it is supporting, both politically and financially, an illegitimate government that appears dead set on violently crushing any opposition.

It also has a contingent of some 125 police officers who train the Haitian National Police accused of massacring civilians.  And yet, the fate of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, perfectly situated between Fidel Castro's Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, sweatshop armpit to Canadian T-shirt manufacturers, the mine pit to Canadian copper companies, is scarcely discussed or covered by Canadian media. (I should note that the Star has been running extensive reports by freelancer Reed Lindsay.)  To my knowledge, but for a Sue Montgomery column in the Montreal Gazette and an op-ed in the Star by Yves Engler, whose slim volume co-written with Anthony Fenton, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority, is a primer on our shameful presence there, our role was never raised as an issue during the election campaign.  (That said, foreign policy barely registered at all during the campaign, except when critics accused the Liberals of "anti-Americanism.")  Some Haiti-watchers believe that's because no politicians wanted to upset the Haitian diaspora, much of it educated elite, now resident in Montreal.  Last month, the shooting death of retired Mountie Mark Bourque, in Haiti to help with the repeatedly postponed elections, received a lot of ink, but there was scarcely any discussion of the context.  Next Tuesday, Haiti is yet again scheduled to go to the polls — although the most recent reports are that there will be none in Cité Soleil, the unspeakable slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince where an estimated quarter million, and I use this word guardedly, live.  Of course giving them the vote could result in a government that would soon have to "resign" anyway.  Which is not unlike what is going on with Palestinians. You will have democracy but only if the United States approves it.

It can't be easy to cover this. Haiti is a dangerous place, a Baghdad with beaches. But to ignore it from the cushy safety of editorial boards is inexcusable.  If you're interested in learning more about what is happening in Haiti, check out Amy Goodman's very fine reportage at or, better yet, on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7, go see Nicolas Rossier's even-handed, decide-for-yourself documentary, Aristide and the Endless Revolution. It's playing at the Earth Sciences Building at the University of Toronto. Tickets are $5 and are available at the Toronto Women's Bookstore or by emailing

Flight 93

I watched the movie, Flight 93 on Monday night.  It's a meticulous re-enactment of events surrounding United 93, the last of the four hijacked aircraft on 9/11, in the belief that by examining this single event something much larger can be found - the shape of our world today.  It was moving account that prompted me to write this little piece about it. 

The terrible dilemma those passengers faced is the same we have been struggling with ever since. Do we sit passively and hope this all turns out okay? Or do we fight back and strike at them before they strike at us? And what will be the consequences if we do?  Check out the website at and if you should feel so inclined, there is a Memorial Fund set up for donations at
www.honorflight93.orgThe movie was made with the full support of the families of those on board


Cast Your Vote In The 4th Annual FLOW 93.5 Soul Search - Top 5 R&B Finalists

FLOW 93.5 has announced that the Top 5 R&B Finalists for its 4th annual Soul Search competition are:

Chris Jackson
Krystle Blue
Hans Munoz

To check out audio clips and to cast your vote for your favourite finalist, visit The FLOW 93.5 Soul Search R&B winner will be announced live in The Morning Rush on Monday, February 6, and the Top 10 Hip Hop Finalists face off starting Monday, February 13!  The Grand Prize for the FLOW 93.5 Soul Search R&B Winner and Hip Hop Winner includes the following amazing items:

- $2,500 cash
- Song production by Rashad 'Ringo' Smith and Saukrates
- A professional photo shoot by
- 2,500 units of CD manufacturing
- The opportunity to represent Toronto at the national Urban Star Quest showcase that takes place during Canadian Music Week (March 4, 2006).  For more info, visit  

Lark Turns Into Music Career For Rick Moranis

By Angela Pacienza, Canadian Press

(Jan. 31, 2006) Over the years we've come to know him through memorable TV and film characters like Bob McKenzie, the beer -guzzling hoser, and Wayne Szalinski, the nutty scientist who shrunk his kids.  After nearly a decade-long self-imposed hiatus from major screenwork, funnyman Rick Moranis has unintentionally launched a side career as a singer. Since its release last fall, his offbeat country album has taken off, earning major label support and a Grammy nomination to boot.  And no one is more surprised than Moranis himself. After all, The Agoraphobic Cowboy began as a lark.  "I sort of pulled out of everything a few years ago. I needed and wanted to spend more time at home and then I discovered that I just didn't miss any of it and didn't go back to it," said the Toronto-born SCTV alumnus who's been raising his kids in New York since his wife died of cancer in the early 1990s. He's been doing the odd voice work, most recently Disney's Brother Bear.  "I started writing . . . a couple of years ago out of the blue just started writing these songs.  Inspired by his two teenaged children who'd been listening to alt-country and bluegrass, the 13 tracks include ones called "Wheaties Box", "Oh So Bucco" and "It's the Champagne Talkin'".  There's also a parody of Hank Snow's "I've Been Everywhere" which Moranis called "I Ain't Goin' Nowhere".  "As much as it is somewhat of a departure it's not completely a departure because I've always done a lot of music," said Moranis, who started out as a radio DJ in Toronto before moving onto standup comedy.  "I don't know if I'm capable of writing anything straight. I just can't take myself that seriously."  Moranis said country music seemed a natural genre for his humour.  "Country music is a place where from time to time you hear some really funny stuff," he said pointing to artists like Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers, Roger Miller and Ray Stevens.

Moranis, 52, made the album available for sale via his website ( using Artistshare, Web-based technology that allows artists to sell self-produced music.  The initial release sold a few thousand copies with barely any effort on Moranis's part.  "It just made sense to see if we could take it a little bit further," said Moranis. "I was running into people on the street in New York who were saying `Hey I heard about that thing. I gotta go pick it up.' "  As of Feb. 7, The Agoraphobic Cowboy will be widely available in stores courtesy of deal Moranis struck with Warner Canada.  "I don't know what's going to happen now," said Moranis, who's been in over 30 films including Ghostbusters, Little Shop Of Horrors and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.  For starters he'll watch the Grammys on Feb. 8 — he's doubtful he'll make it to Los Angeles for the show — to see how he fares in the best comedy album category.  He's up against some equally stellar comedians including Chris Rock, Larry the Cable Guy and Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane.  He says he's not expecting much. The last time he was up for a Grammy — for a 1980s comedy album based on the beer-drinking McKenzie brothers — he lost to Richard Pryor.  He may cut a music video for "I Ain't Going Nowhere", where Moranis sings "I ain't goin' nowhere, man/Never gonna go nowhere/I'm cuttin' my own hair, man."  "I could probably shoot the whole thing without leaving the house," he jokes.

Turning serious he adds: "We're just sort of talking right now. This is a one-man, low budget enterprise."  A real challenge, says Moranis, has been learning to play himself after years of playing other people.  "What feels the strangest is that I'm playing with a band and not as a character. I'm not in a sketch. That's definitely a departure."  And as he gets more comfortable in his own singing skin, would he consider making the music biz his career?  "I somehow doubt it. I don't know if I'm cut out for being in a touring band," he said.  But he concedes he's enjoying himself.  "I'd like to continue doing this. I've written some more material."  So maybe he'll be persuaded to embark on a small club tour of Canada after all? Says Moranis: "That would be fun."

Curtains Comes Down

Source:  Hustle Recording

A rapper’s name defines his outlook. For the underground sensation Curtains, his handle reflects his realness. “When people acting, they’re on stage,” the 19-year-old explains. “But when the curtains come down, the show is over and it’s back to reality.”   Growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Curtains was always someone to pay attention to. His no-nonsense attitude transferred into his vivid raps, which he started writing before he was 10 years old. While watching music videos with his brother, young Curtains’ life was changed forever. When he heard the song “Rampage,” by hip-hop icons EPMD and LL Cool J, he was blown away. “To this day, that’s the coolest song I ever heard in my life,” he recalls. That was the first time I sat there and listened to a rap  song. It just drew my attention. From then on it was over. All I wanted to do was rap.”  Curtains wrote his own version of “Rampage,” inserting his own variations here and there. The practice extended to any other song that moved him. Soon thereafter, he started writing his own raps.  Rapping for friends in and around his neighborhood, Curtains, born Daryl Jackson, started earning a rep for his stunning lyrics and heavyweight voice. By age 14, he was rapping on 42nd Street, wowing audiences and earning fans from those purportedly connected in the music industry. But many of those contacts failed to deliver. Two years later, he connected with Upscale Management and Lems Entertainment, who made good on their promise to put him in the studio and start recording.

Curtains then landed a spot in The Source’s Unsigned Hype column in the June 2002 issue and soon signed a deal with Radar Records (formerly ARTISTdirect), which will release Curtains’ debut album, It’s Like That. With sharp lyrics and production from such hip-hop heavyweights as Dame Grease, Trackmasters, Denaun Porter (of D-12), and Clark Kent, Curtains promises to be one of the hottest rappers to emerge in years.  “I’m bringing truth, youthfulness, a lot of energy and emotions back to where people really focused on what they said, not just for the entertainment but to really say something,’ he says. “A lot of people have strayed away from that.”  Throughout Curtains’ debut album, the highly anticipated It’s Like That, hip-hop fans get ample doses of reality from virtually every angle. With a smooth, confident and muscular flow, the wise-beyond-his-years Brooklyn rapper provides stunning insight to life on the streets, demonstrates his ability to inject social commentary into his heavy-hitting punchlines and gives an intimate look into his own sometimes volatile life.  “It’s the title of one of my songs and it stands for a lot,” Curtains says of his album title. “Sometimes when you have no explanation to something, you can’t explain something, you’re like, ‘Well, it’s just like that.’ That’s like my music. It’s just like that. It’s bold, upfront and in-your-face”.

Over a thumping, piano accented beat, Curtains showcases his stunning lyricism on the title track. “I ain’t gonna change/cause I got a lil change/I never change/ I’m the same like racecar backwards,” he raps with controlled fury. The line pays homage to his days battling on corners throughout his beloved borough and illustrates his ability to include stinging lyrics into song format.  “I used to be the heavy battle rapper back in the day, so I always got them sick punchlines in me,” he says. “The more I got into making music and songs the more I learned it’s not just about what you say or how slick your punchline is. Can people understand or relate to what you’re saying? I slip a message in there with a punchline so that people who are not really into the message can feel me just because I said a punchline. But if they sit down and really think about what I said, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, wow.’”  Hip-Hop heads will certainly be thrilled when the furious beat for “Buckwiling” blasts through the speakers. Using the song title and beat similar to the famous street favorite from Terminator X, the Dame Grease (DMX, Nas) produced cut will send shockwaves throughout the rap world. Curtains laments the impact on drugs in the community with this chilling line: “They wonder why our kids are gone/ when they cook crack on the plate that we eat dinner on.”  Curtains then turns the spotlight on himself on the dreary, moving “testimony.” He reaps about the struggle of his life, from financial hardships to not knowing friend from foe to his mission to break through as a rapper. “I was in a bad mood and all this stuff kept coming back to my mind like, ‘You’ve got to do this kind of record, you’ve got to do that.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God.’

That’s where the first verse came from, where I started talking about what kind of music I should make. As I got more into it, the second verse came out. I was thinking about my mother, my father, my ex-girl. The stuff kept coming back. At the end I was thinking about my little nephew and suicide. It was what kept coming to me right then and there. I didn’t go in the studio like, ‘Yo I’m going to make me a record like this today.’ Everything just came out so naturally. That’s why I think the song is so beautiful.” Indeed, it is Curtains’ range that makes his music so compelling. Elsewhere, he showcases his braggadocio skills on “Problems” and gives an in-depth look into the day-to-day lives of people in Anyghetto, USA on “Tales From The Hood.”  With so much to discuss in his music, Curtains has little time to share the mic with guest artists. “I didn’t want to come in the game and people get, ‘Well, he only got hot because such and such is on his album,’” he says. “A lot of people get put in that category. They could have been really hot, but because they had that certain person on their album, their album blew up and people recognized them. I don’t want to be put in that category. I want people to recognize my album because of me.”

For more info., see

We Remember Gene Mcfadden: Member Of Mcfadden & Whitehead Dies Of Cancer

Excerpt from

(Jan. 27, 2006) *Gene McFadden of the famous Philadelphia songwriting and performing duo McFadden & Whitehead has died after a battle with liver and lung cancer.  He was diagnosed in October of 2004, according to his daughter Cassandra.  McFadden, 56, died at his home in Philadelphia's Mount Airy section around 3:45am Friday morning. McFadden & Whitehead were best known for their classic smash "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" which was released in 1979.  The anthem rose to No. 1 on the R&B chart and No. 13 on the pop charts McFadden's partner, John Whitehead was fatally shot in May 2004 while he was working on a vehicle in the city's West Oak Lane section. McFadden & Whitehead wrote and produced their hits for Philadelphia International Records, headed by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff who shared their thoughts in a statement. “Our sympathy and prayers go out to the family of Gene McFadden who joined forces with John Whitehead, teamed up with Philadelphia International Records and took the music industry by storm with “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now.”  That classic record has been repeatedly adopted as a theme song for numerous events, campaigns, initiatives and drives around the world since its release.  May it continue to inspire, encourage and uplift as McFadden and Whitehead intended it to.   As the premier songwriters and producers within the Gamble-Huff music organization, McFadden and Whitehead were instrumental in creating The Sound of Philadelphia.  They initially approached us as recording artists but as we did with most of our artists, we encouraged them to also become writers and producers.  The result proved to be rewarding and profitable as the pair amassed tremendous success writing numerous songs for the label, including “Wake up Everybody” for Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes and “Backstabbers” for The O’Jays. Their talent was indispensable and their music capabilities were uniquely flexible.  Not only could they write sensational singles but they could write amazing album songs, too.  As artists and producers we admired them in the studio.  As songwriters, we appreciated them for sharing our commitment to creating lyrics of motivation and strength for people around the globe to enjoy.” McFadden is survived by his wife, Barbara, 57, two sons and two daughters. According to an Associated Press report, funeral services are scheduled for next Thursday at Triumph Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.

The Recording Academy® And Sony BMG Release CD

Source: Lourdes Lopez, The Recording Academy ,
Angela Salomon, SONY BMG Strategic Marketing Group ,

(Jan. 31, 2006) Santa Monica, Calif. — The Recording Academy® has teamed up with Sony BMG's Strategic Marketing Group to release the
2006 GRAMMY® Nominees CD, which celebrates many of the year's GRAMMY-nominated artists and songs. This year's compilation — in stores nationwide now  — includes some of the year's best music and features nominated songs and artists from several major categories. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the CD will benefit the MusiCares® Foundation and the GRAMMY Foundation®.  The disc contains many of the most widely recognized GRAMMY categories. The 21 tracks from the 2006 GRAMMY Nominees CD represent nominees from the Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Music Album categories. The CD is made possible by a special arrangement with all of the major music distribution companies and rotates distributors from year to year.  "The eclectic mix of excellent music contained on this compilation provides a great sample of the work created by this year's extremely talented nominees," said Recording Academy President Neil Portnow. "We anticipate continued success on the charts in order to further the important work of MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation. We thank Sony BMG for their support and look forward to another successful GRAMMY album." "We are proud to continue our successful relationship with The Recording Academy and are so honoured that we can once again be associated with one of the music industry's biggest events," said Sony BMG's Strategic Marketing Group Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Dimuro. The 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held on Feb. 8, 2006 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). The show also will be supported on radio via Westwood One worldwide, and covered online at  

About The Recording Academy
     Established in 1957, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., also known as The Recording Academy, is an organization of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals dedicated to improving the quality of life and cultural condition for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs — including the creation of the national public education campaign What's The Download® ( For more information about The Academy, please visit

Mariah Carey: 'The Queen Of Pop'

Excerpt from - By Christopher Hamilton

(Jan. 30, 2006) 2005 was the year of Mariah Carey. On December 31, 2004, if anyone had written the previous statement, they would have been ridiculed. Mariah had been placed in the "career over" section of the music industry alongside the likes of Whitney, Bobby and Lauryn Hill. How she got there and how she overcame that stigma is the real story. The music world is one of young, hot and upcoming artists. It's hard to get on top and it's even harder to stay there. Every year there is a new artist that rises out of the woodwork. Back in 1990, that artist was Mariah Carey. Through her work as a background vocalist, Mariah's music came in contact with Sony head Tommy Motolla (remember him?), who promptly signed her to Columbia Records. Her very first single, "Vision of Love," shot to the top of the charts and multiple number one songs would follow. Mariah owned the 1990s.During this time, Motolla married his protégé. Is it even ethical for a record head to have a romantic relationship with one of his artists? (Berry Gordy and Diana Ross' relationship ultimately broke up the biggest female group ever, The Supremes). The eventual end of Mariah's marriage to Motolla (which was displayed in her "We Belong Together video) was the beginning of a strange and peculiar downward spiral for Mariah. Once Mariah left Motolla and Sony for Virgin Records for a record $80 million contract, the attack was on. It's been reported that Motolla took songs intended for Carey's first release on Virgin and gave them to Jennifer "I'm Real" Lopez. Whether it's true or not is the subject of much debate; however, record companies have been known to do whatever it takes to artists they know are leaving their label.

Leading up to the release of her first movie, Mariah began to act erratically. Combined business and personal matters began to take their toll and Mariah took a "break" in the middle of the massive promotion for the debut of her movie and new Virgin CD. With no Mariah to promote them, both projects failed and the doubters began to write Mariah as a lost cause. Virgin even got in on the act, quickly buying her contract out by giving Mariah $28 million just to leave their label. Although she made out in the deal, it's considered a public relations disaster to be paid to leave your record company to "cut their losses." Critics had a field day with the downfall of Mariah Carey. Was it because she could no longer sing or that she was close to breaking records of the highly acclaimed Elvis and the Beatles? Now a free agent, Mariah was signed to Def Jam by new head LA Reid (the mastermind behind the chart success of Usher and OutKast). Even though her first release on Def Jam, "Charmbracelet" eventually went platinum, it was widely considered that Mariah's days as a top selling artist were long gone. To prepare for her second release on Def Jam, Mariah took her time and went to the islands to regroup. After clearing her head of all the pressures of life, she hooked up with her old producer/friend Jermaine Dupri and created "The Emancipation of Mimi." (Mimi is the name Mariah is called by her close friends).A ultra smash, "Mimi" walked down 50 Cent's "The Massacre" to become the number one selling cd of 2005 by selling over 5 million copies and counting. (At press time, "Mimi" is still firmly lodged in the top ten.) Even more impressively, she scored 2 more number one songs from the CD, giving her a total of 17. Now she is tied with Elvis Presley for the most number one songs of all time behind only the Beatles with 20. Does anyone think Virgin jumped the gun? In other words, Mariah Carey is walking ground no other woman has ever achieved. She's had more number ones than Whitney, Janet Jackson and Madonna. She has earned the official title of "The Queen of Pop." More importantly, she's approaching the holy grail of the Beatles. Does anyone doubt she won't get there? Christopher Hamilton is a freelance entertainment reporter. He can be reached for questions or comments at 

World Celebrates Mozart's 250th Birthday

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jan. 26, 2006) SALZBURG, Austria (AP-CP) — Some bad news for those who think this year of mostly Mozart is too much Mozart: On Friday, you can run, but you can't hide.  Certainly not in Salzburg, the cobble-stoned and turreted city of his birth as it pulls out all stops to celebrate its favourite son's 250th birthday Friday. Or in Vienna, where dozens of events musical and other are planned.  But it isn't only Austria that is seized with Mozart madness.  Symphony orchestras and opera houses worldwide are going through final rehearsals while radio program directors line up their Mozart CDs. Piano students are polishing pieces for Mozart marathons and puppeteers are preparing for jubilee performances as hundreds of cities across five continents prepare to pay their respects to the musical genius.  For many, Mozart central on Friday will be Salzburg, the city of his birth and first musical successes. Among them will be European leaders and foreign ministers gathering for The Sound of Europe — a debate about the future of the European Union — under Austria's EU presidency.  Always a trove for Mozart souvenirs, Salzburg has outdone itself this year. Store shelves are stocked with Mozart beer and wine, Mozart baby bottles, Mozart milkshakes, Mozart knickers and Mozart jigsaw puzzles — along with the usual T-shirts, calendars, coffee mugs and marzipan-and-nougat filled Mozart Balls.  But on Friday, the music's the thing. Among the most interesting Salzburg offerings: Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic play Mozart's Piano Concert No. 18, before Riccardo Muti takes to the podium and leads the orchestra — and renowned signers — through their paces in a collage of his works.  Vienna, which claims Mozart in his later years, is staging a new production of his Idomeneo in one of the city's three opera houses and reviving The Magic Flute (Die Zauberfloete) in another.  Both are offering either musical or culinary tours built around Mozart's works, his favourite restaurants, his friends and enemies, and his approach to art and love.

But Mozart will rule elsewhere as well.  He'll be the focus of a 12-hour Swedish documentary, his works will be performed by orchestras or opera houses in Moscow, Washington, Prague, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Caracas, Quito, Havana, Mexico City, Taipei, Budapest and scores of other cities worldwide.  In Toronto, on Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was to perform Mozart's first and last symphonies, while TSO principals were to play his rustic Bassoon Concerto and the Adagio for English Horn at Roy Thomson Hall.  At the centre on Thursday night and Friday night, the TSO along with musical and theatrical friends, including TSO music director Peter Oundjian, actor Colm Feore and several soloists were to take a literary and musical journey through Mozart's life, as portrayed in his letters and the vocal music they inspired.  Even Nashville, more famous for Martina McBride than Mozart, will tip its hat to Amadeus, with the city's symphony orchestra performing the maestro's Piano Concerto No. 21.  And there are hundreds of other offerings.  Many classical radio outlets in the United States and elsewhere are reprogramming for the day to play only Mozart. Hundreds of marionettes will take to the stage in excerpts of his operas in the German city of Augsburg, where his father was born.  Vienna has set up 50 bright red Calling Mozart booths to allow visitors to listen to his works and information about his life and times. It will formally reopen the restored house where he wrote the Marriage of Figaro.  Salzburg visitors are advised to watch the calories — bakers there put the icing Thursday on a gargantuan birthday cake — two metres high and weighing in at 140 kilograms.  Too much hoopla? Consider this. Mozart wrote his first symphonies before turning 10 and his first well-known opera at age 12. He was instrumental in changing opera into the form we know and enjoy today.  He was prolific like few others, creating nearly two dozen operas and other stage works and hundreds of solo and orchestral pieces before his death at 35. Other greats like Beethoven and Wagner publicly recognized their debt to their wigged predecessor.  There is some comfort, however, for those who feel Mozart mania is getting out of control — he had his detractors.

Some history books depict his tenure in Salzburg ending ingloriously in 1781 with a kick in the bottom from a servant of Mozart's patron, the city's imperious archbishop, after Mozart refused to follow orders on how to compose.  But for Mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirschschlager, Mozart is "a gift from God" and "the light I orient my life around." Others describe him in more down-to-earth terms (and his letters certainly reveal an exuberant personality and scatological sense of humour) as they explain why he can reach out even to those normally immune to classical music  "Mozart as a person was prone to please people, and it's certainly an aspect of his music," says classic expert Joseph Horowitz who served as a consultant for the New Jersey Symphony for its Mozart jubilee preparations.  "It's something you can't apply to other composers such as Beethoven or Wagner."

Not In Nettwerk's Name

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

(Jan. 29, 2006) Vancouver-based record label and management company Nettwerk Music Group has ruffled industry feathers on both sides of the border by standing behind one of the thousands of downloaders facing lawsuits from the Recording Industry Association of America.  CEO Terry McBride made the surprise announcement on Friday that Nettwerk — which counts among its high-profile clients Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, Sum 41 and the Barenaked Ladies — would cover the legal costs in defending Arlington, Tex., father David Greubel against a suit filed by the RIAA last August.  The RIAA claims Greubel had 600 suspected music files on the family computer and seeks $9,000 (U.S.) in compensation for the alleged pirating of nine specific songs, including Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi." It has dangled a settlement of $4,500 as an alternative if Greubel pays within a certain time period.  McBride made it clear Friday that he was making a pointed statement against the RIAA's policy of suing "problem" downloaders, which has already targeted some 16,000 computer users. Studies have suggested the lawsuits are cutting into illegal downloads, but the industry is divided over the PR fallout from serving legal papers to grandmothers and teenagers.  "Suing music fans is not the solution, it's the problem," McBride said in a press release. He was flying home from England on Friday and unavailable for further comment.  McBride and Nettwerk stepped in after Greubel's 15-year-old daughter, Elisa, emailed one of the company's management clients, MC Lars, to thank him for the tune "Download This Song" and to say "my family is one of many seemingly randomly chosen families to be sued by the RIAA."  "You can't fight them, trying could possibly cost us millions," she wrote. "The line `They sue little kids downloading hit songs' basically sums a lot of the whole thing up. I'm not saying it is right to download, but the whole lawsuit business is a tad bit outrageous."  

Greubel's lawyer, Charles Lee Mudd Jr., said Nettwerk's involvement brought "a unique perspective" to the case because someone on the industry side was taking a stand against the RIAA, which purports to speak for the legal and business interests of musicians and labels.  Mudd, a Chicago attorney who has taken on several similar cases since the RIAA began its volley of lawsuits in 2003, said these cases usually wind up settling before they come to court — not just because of the legal fees but because the RIAA's "the more you fight, the more you pay" perspective makes "the spectre of an escalating judgment" quite daunting.  One Illinois woman was recently faced with a $22,000 judgment after choosing not to settle for the standard amount of $3,000 or $4,000.

"We were going down the same road where we were in a position where it would be in our interest to settle rather than face financial devastation in the family," said Greubel. He added his family owes McBride and Nettwerk "a huge debt of gratitude" for giving them the means to fight back in court next month.  "It's huge that he's stepping away from the crowd. The RIAA certainly likes to foster the impression to the public that they speak for the music industry, and I think what Mr. McBride is saying is: `No, you don't. You might speak for a small segment of it but you don't speak for the industry as a whole.'"  The RIAA itself issued a terse statement taking the same hard line it has all along: "Stealing another person's property is theft, it's against the law and breaking the law must carry consequences or no one will think twice. Theft undermines the ability of the music companies to invest in the new bands of tomorrow and deprives labels, songwriters and musicians of their hard-earned royalties."

Inventor Of Video Art Dies

Excerpt from
The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2006) MIAMI — Nam June Paik, the avant-garde composer who was credited with being the inventor of video art, has died. He was 74. The Korean-born Paik died Sunday night of natural causes at his Miami apartment, according to his website. Song Tae-ho, head of a South Korean cultural foundation working on a project to build a museum for the artist, said he learned of Paik's death from Paik's nephew, Ken Paik Hakuta, in New York. Paik played a pivotal role in using video as a form of artistic expression. A member of the Fluxus art movement, Paik combined the use of music, video images and sculptures. Paik's work has gained international praise from the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, among others, and much of his work is on display at the Nam June Paik Museum in Kyonggi, South Korea. "No artist has had a greater influence in imagining and realizing the artistic potential of video and television than Korean-born Nam June Paik," the Guggenheim Museum website says. ``Through a vast array of installations, videotapes, global television productions, films, and performances, Paik has reshaped our perceptions of the temporal image in contemporary art." He completed degrees in music and aesthetics in Japan before pursuing graduate work in philosophy. Some of his experiments were in radio and television, and he is thought to have coined the terms ``information superhighway" and "the future is now." Paik made his artistic debut in Wiesbaden, West Germany, in 1963 with a solo art exhibition titled Exposition of Music-Electronic Television. He scattered 12 television sets throughout the exhibit space and used them to create unexpected effects in the images being received. Later exhibits included the use of magnets to manipulate or alter the image on TV sets and create patterns of light.

He moved to New York City in 1964 and starting working with classical cellist Charlotte Moorman to combine video and performance. In a performance titled TV Bra for Living Sculpture, Moorman used stacked television sets that formed the shape of a cello. When she drew the bow across the television sets, there were images of her playing, video collages of other cellists and live images of the performance. One of his pieces, TV Buddha, is a statue of a sitting Buddha facing its own image on a closed-circuit television screen. Another, Positive Egg, has a video camera aimed at a white egg on a black cloth. In a series of larger and larger monitors, the image is magnified until the actual egg becomes an abstract shape on the screen. Paik also incorporated television sets into a series of robots. The early robots were constructed largely of bits and pieces of wire and metal; later ones were built from vintage radio and television sets. In 1988, Paik erected a media tower, called The more the better, from 1,003 monitors for the Olympic Games at Seoul. Paik was left partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1996. Funeral services will be held this week in New York City, Hakuta told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

'A Race To Redemption'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Elissa Poole

(Jan. 28, 2006) Calgary Opera has carefully prepared the ground for tonight's Canadian premiere of Dead Man Walking, an opera by composer Jake Heggie and playwright Terrence McNally based on the memoirs of Sister Helen Prejean, a nun and death-penalty activist who turned her experiences with prisoners on death row into a best selling book (subsequently made into a movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn). Last week nearly 200 people attended a public symposium in Calgary on "biotechnology and control of criminal behaviour." This week a forum on religion and another on the making of the opera, hosted by Prejean, were sold out. That's what relevance in opera means. Topical operas are not new: Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, inspired by Beaumarchais's scathing comedy on the aristocracy's morals, was once topical. Verdi's operas started the odd political riot; and John Adams nearly wrote himself out of a job with The Death of Klinghoffer when his portrayal of the Palestinian terrorists who killed a Jewish passenger on the cruise ship Achille Lauro struck some audiences as too sympathetic. Dead Man Walking, commissioned by the San Francisco Opera and premiered in 2000, is more topical than most, tied to grim statistics (that Texas, responsible for 39 per cent of the U.S. executions, has put 355 prisoners to death since 1976); to controversial executions (Tookie Williams, for example, or Karla Faye Tucker); and the haunt of wrongful convictions (Prejean's latest book, The Death of Innocents, documents two such cases). Yet the opera is not, ultimately, a polemic against capital punishment. Its real subject is redemption, which makes it more of a religious opera than a political one, its closest cousin being Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites. The crux of the story is the relationship of Sister Helen (sung in Calgary by mezzo-soprano Kimberley Barber) to Joseph de Rocher (baritone Daniel Okulitch), a condemned prisoner who has brutally raped and murdered a teenage girl -- there is no question of his innocence -- and has neither confessed nor shown remorse. The drama lies not in whether de Rocher will be executed, but what the state of his soul will be when that happens. It is, as director Kelly Robinson describes the opera, "a race to redemption," but it's a race de Rocher cannot win without Sister Helen's help. Her spiritual challenge thus parallels de Rocher's, for Sister Helen can only help him if she can forgive him first.

Barber, preparing for the role, realized she had "underestimated the enormity of what it is to confront such a challenge to one's faith in a truthful way." We need only imagine facing, and forgiving, Paul Bernardo. Okulitch, for his part, wrote to the real Sister Helen for insight into de Rocher's character (who is a composite of several individuals). "She told me that all of us try to shield ourselves from our worst act," Okulitch said. "That's why her journey with the inmates is about finding the part of them that's been hidden." It's also why Okulitch does not give way to the temptation to show de Rocher as either beast or victim. "The audience," he said, "has to decide for itself." Neither Barber or Okulitch could think of another modern opera as emotionally intense as Dead Man Walking. The musicologist Richard Taruskin would locate it as part of a trend in "sacred entertainments," a category he took to task a few years ago in a provocative article for the Cambridge Opera Journal. There he virtually damned nearly every recent, commercially successful attempt to merge the topical with the spiritual, from John Adams's El Nino to John Corigliano's First Symphony (each movement dedicated to a victim of AIDS). Their stylistic eclecticism, he suggests, panders to a shallow, feel-good spirituality. But, pace Taruskin, Dead Man Walking is extremely potent theatre, as long as we are willing to take opera off its pedestal. Heggie's music is not innovative, as critics raced to point out after the San Francisco premiere. And it is eclectic, steeped in a Brittenesque neo-romanticism and sliding in and out of American popular music, from southern blues, zydeco and gospel to Broadway.  But the Americana roots the characters, and it's a musical lingua franca for Sister Helen and de Rocher, who even sing an Elvis song in unison at a crucial point. One could also argue that Heggie's accessibility creates a sense of community that in this opera plays an integral role. Heggie's phenomenal, some might say anachronistic, lyrical gift is another defining characteristic of his style. He offers up plangent melodies to singers the way a dramaturge offers good lines, and that alone raises the emotional bar significantly.  "Kelly flat out refuses to be carried away by the music," said Barber: "He cautioned us to act against the music, to not spill over into melodrama."

Dead Man Walking also has Terrence McNally's outstanding libretto going for it. Time and again McNally (who wrote the book for the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman and award-winning plays Master Class and Love! Valor! Compassion!) chooses the detail that moves us from the general to the particular. One thinks: "He'll never get away with this; it will be kitschy or trite." But he does, with timing that's immaculate. At the very moment we realize McNally is attempting the impossible (turning such material into an opera in the first place!), the character of Sister Helen attempts it too (by trying to connect emotionally with de Rocher). And McNally has created one of opera's more poignant characters in de Rocher's mother, a pathetically inarticulate woman of painful shortcomings, but a character audiences immediately identify with in a way they may not with the more extreme Sister Helen and de Rocher. "There's not one person who can't relate to Mrs. De Rocher," said mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, who sang the role in Detroit and Pittsburgh and reprises it in Calgary. Forst admits she's always "a puddle on the floor" by the end of the opera. The role is not much more than a cameo, but when Frederica von Stade sang it in San Francisco, she stole the show. Don't be surprised if Forst, a singer of formidable stage presence (she has made me cry at more than one opera), steals it too. Dead Man Walking, directed by Kelly Robinson, will be performed at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary tonight and Feb. 1 and 3.

Ray J Coming Into His Own

Excerpt from

(Jan. 30, 2006) *His latest single "One Wish" sits at No. 2 on the R&B chart this week, he’s got a regular spot on UPN’s "One on One," a gig on MTV and his second album "Raydiation" has more than respectable sales – all of which has contributed to moving Ray J outside of the long shadow cast by his older sister Brandy.   In a recent interview with the Associated Press, the artist spoke about his emergence into the spotlight, about being taken seriously, cleansing demons and his time spent with video vixen Karrine Steffans.

AP: Do you feel misunderstood?

Ray J: I feel like people just don't know what's up. It just takes emotion and time and being consistent with your music and your fans and just staying out on the scene. That's when people start to understand and start to get into your story. 

AP: Your voice has been compared to Ralph Tresvant's from New Edition.

Ray J: That's cool. I heard that one time, that's a good look. I was a New Edition fan.

AP: Why name the album 'Raydiation'?

Ray J: It's a cleansing. I needed to be cleaned. I needed to clean myself from all my demons. All my bad vibes and just build back on being confident again. There was a time when I just stopped being confidant and started thinking about other things.

AP: Brandy is coming out with an album on your label, Knockout Entertainment?

Ray J: I'm structuring the deal with her, because she co-executive produced my album and she invested time and money too. So I'll invest money into her album, I'll get my cut and be a part of it.

AP: You know who speaks very highly of you? Karrine Stephans (the tell-all groupie author).

Ray J: Karrine Stephans?

AP: Superhead?

Ray J: Oh, oh, oh, yeah. She's cool.

AP: Was there any love there?

Ray J: Love like 'in love?' No, we had fun together. I was at my peak of being wild and she helped me be wild. We had a great wild life together, it was fun, exciting, exotic, it was very, very, very intense as far as just being wild. I was 18, 19, at my peak of exploration and finding out things about women, life and fun. And she helped me.

Who Needs A Record Deal? Gamers Launch Careers

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Laurence Frost, Associated Press

(Jan. 28, 2006) CANNES, FRANCE -- Music scout Tim Riley hopes to discover the next Fat Joe, a Latino hip-hop star, but has no intention of giving him a record deal. If Riley finds the right sound he'll sign the act straight away -- for the third video game in the hit True Crime series. "If everything lines up it's an amazing opportunity for an artist," he said. Riley has already helped launch several new groups in his job as worldwide music executive for U.S.-based game maker Activision Inc. As consoles become ever more sophisticated, game budgets swell and record companies cut back their artist and repertoire departments, video gaming increasingly offers big breaks for musicians and, potentially, new revenue for labels. Chicago band Fall Out Boy sold 70,000 copies of their new album in one week after the music was featured on Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, a skateboarding game, Riley said. "They weren't on the radio," he said. "The only thing you can attribute the sales to is the game." Activision has doubled its music spending in the last five years, he added. When Electronic Arts Inc. bought Selasee's single Run for its FIFA 2006 soccer game, the Ghanian reggae singer had yet to sell a song. Sales of his first album have taken off since the game's October launch; iTunes and Napster now stock it. Now based in the United States, Selasee regularly plays large venues. "We're getting album orders from Australia, Turkey, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Germany, and of course the U.S. and Canada," said Louis Rodrigue, the singer's PR manager. "His career is rocketing because of the FIFA game." Video games may account for only a tiny share of the music industry's $21-billion (U.S.) global revenue, but record companies are watching closely. "It's a very small but very interesting growth area," said Adrian Strain, spokesman for IFPI, the industry's global trade body. The impact of games on music sales will increase sharply if -- some say when -- consoles let players buy tracks or albums directly on-line. "We'll have massive uptake when we have one-click purchasing from games and from TV shows," said John Booth, business development associate at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. "And that's coming." Microsoft Corp.'s latest console, the Xbox 360, is not currently configured to allow music to be bought on-line or transferred to another device. But sales through the company's own MSN site have taught the U.S. software giant to respect game music's potential.

"We're selling lots of Xbox music on the downloads site," said Jon Kertzer, business development manager for MSN Music. "There's lots of interest." Video games increasingly carry tracks by well-known artists alongside songs by promising unknowns. Rapper Snoop Dogg and Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong have been featured in earlier True Crime and Tony Hawk versions -- both on the soundtracks and as characters within the action. Other games need their own music, and their makers are devoting more attention and resources than ever to its composition and production. Film composers like Harry Gregson-Williams, who wrote the music for Shrek, and Canadian Howard Shore of Lord of the Rings fame have been enlisted to write elaborate scores -- often with full orchestras and choirs at their disposal. "The days of the so-called bedroom musician, the game producer with a mate down the pub who has a synth and a knocked-off copy of Cubase [software], are largely gone," said John Broomhall, a British game audio producer with more than 50 titles to his credit. In Japan, the soundtracks are routinely sold as audio CDs and downloads, independently of the games themselves. But games scores have struggled harder to be taken seriously in Europe and the United States -- where a series of orchestral concerts organized by game composer Tommy Tallarico ended early last year, following poor ticket sales. "There's still a bit of a stigma overhang from the bad old days," said Alastair Nicholson, a music consultant who worked on The Getaway: Black Monday, released last year. "In time, there's no reason why a video game soundtrack shouldn't stand next to a film soundtrack in terms of artistic integrity."

Zanzibar Reclaims Its Rich Musical Tradition

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Karen Palmer, Special To The Star

(Jan. 28, 2006) Stone Town, ZANZIBAR—To see Zainabu Athmani on this island's narrow, winding streets is to see a diminutive woman wrapped head to toe in a brilliant orange buibui.  To see the 27-year-old behind the closed doors of the Dhow Countries Music Academy is to see that those scarves hid a shoulder-baring tank top, huge hoop earrings, bleached jeans and black platform boots. To see her wail away on a three-piece drum kit is to know there is nothing diminutive about her.  And to hear her talk about a musical future teaching children to play the traditional instruments she has come to love is to know that Zanzibar's unique musical style — on the brink of extinction as little as three years ago — is undergoing a renaissance at the hands of the island's women and unemployed youth.  "We need to give our culture, our traditional culture, from our school," she said in halting English. "I (would) like to teach little children drums. I'm going to be a strong woman."  "Some of them are playing instruments that have never been played by a woman before," said school administrator Kheri A. Yussuf, adding that about a third of the school's 100 students are female, mostly in their late 20s like Athmani.  "The idea of musical education in Zanzibar is very new. Some parents are not sure it's very useful to their kids," Yussuf said.  Zanzibar, a conservative Muslim island with medieval architecture and white sandy beaches, is a 90-minute ferry ride from the eastern coast of Tanzania. Its musical heritage was shaped by the cultures that visited its shores back in the days when it boasted legendary markets for both spices and slaves.  The roots of the area's traditional taarab music can be traced to the late 1800s, when Zanzibar's ruling sultan imported an Egyptian taarab group, then sent a local musician to Egypt to learn the musical style. When the musician returned, he established a club to teach and share the music.  But the island was also influenced by the musical styles of the visiting traders and explorers from India, Europe and the Middle East, resulting in a taarab with a slight Hindi flavour and a huge African percussion section.  Done well, Zanzibari taarab features huge orchestras offering a harmonious mix of violins, fretless lutes known as ouds, the accordion, a recorder, dozens of drums, a zither and, over it all, a voice singing an epic love story.  Taarab done not so well, however, comes across as depressingly screechy and shrill, with a voice that assaults the ear with its warbling and wavering.  In either case, it rarely appeals to teenagers more comfortable with rap and hip hop.

"It's the kind of music where you sit and listen and ... how can I say this? You sit and listen and you respect it," said Kwame Mchauru of Busara Productions, a non-governmental organization devoted to preserving the island's music.  "You can see in (the players') faces some of the sadness and that reflects on the audience. They start to think, `Maybe we should go to the disco.'  "They want fun and excitement. It's hard for them to inspire other young people."  Mchauru pinpoints the beginning of taarab's demise in Zanzibar to the advent of breakdancing. When tapes and videos of the Western craze began appearing on the island, Zanzibari kids lapped it up.  "They were excited they could actually take part," Mchauru said. "People wanted something more exciting, they wanted to try new flavours."  Plus, the Western videos showed fancy homes, expensive cars and flashy clothes — things any teenager might covet. "They wanted to be that, they wanted to have that," Mchauru said.  So taarab music, once the preferred entertainment of sultans, faded quietly. The number of taarab orchestras dwindled and at one point the island had only one trained oud player left.  Since taarab was a largely oral tradition, passed on from player to player and rarely transcribed to sheet music, it was in serious danger of dying out.  "Mostly people abandoned their music purely because of economic reasons, because they couldn't make money making this kind of music."  While West Africans were busy cementing a solid musical reputation with the genres of mbalanx and highlife, East Africans were struggling to support a signature musical style and seemed content to import pop tunes from the West or copy the brash dance music of their central African neighbours.  For a time, it seemed the only people willing to sit through a taarab performance were tourists eager to soak up a slice of Zanzibar's unique culture.  "They demand it and they pay well for it," said Yusuf Mahmoud, executive director of Busara Productions. "It's like every place wants us to perform."  Tourist interest became so strong that traditional musicians found themselves once again in demand. In fact, over this past holiday season, there were too few musicians to go around, Yussuf said.

Foreigners also seem to be leading the campaign to save Zanzibar's unique style of taarab. A German woman registered the NGO that funds the Dhow Countries Music Academy. The Ford Foundation, UNESCO, the American embassy, a Belgium-based funder and the Norwegian government provide money for the instruments, education for the teachers and equipment needed to transcribe the taarab melodies.  Even Mahmoud is originally from the U.K., although he now makes his home on the island and is a regular headliner at beach parties.  His NGO organizes an annual Swahili music festival that showcases talent from across East Africa. This year's event begins Feb. 13 with bands from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Swaziland and Kenya, as well as three taarab bands, including a group featuring 93-year-old Bi Kidude, a Zanzibari institution.  Taarab's champions figure if they can get Zanzibar's children to listen to and pick up an instrument associated with taarab, they'll soon find themselves playing — and enjoying — the complex music.  It happened to Mchauru, who grew up in southern Tanzania listening to mostly to traditional drumming, but began violin lessons at the music academy when he came to Zanzibar to supervise a hotel kitchen a few years ago.  "It changed my feelings because I enjoyed it," Mchauru said. "It's the music that taught me to explore other musical styles. Every music has its beauty somewhere."  "Our music is recognized the world over and we need to keep it alive," Yussuf adds.

Randy Weston: In Synch with the Rhythms of Africa

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(Jan. 31, 2006) Randy Weston sat tall on his stool adroitly stroking the ebony and ivory keys at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.  The rich and original sounds that emanated from his piano conjured up visions of the Kalahari.  My imagination visualized desert caravans, women with baskets on their heads swaying to a cadence so in synch with the rhythmic heartbeat of the region that even the animals swayed to its exotic tempo.  Each in concert and part of the menagerie of shadowy African figures silhouetted against the panoramic splendour of African skies and sandy arid dunes.  Randy Weston’s African Rhythm Quintet consisted of Benny Powell on trombone; TK Blue on alto saxophone & flute; Alex Blake, bass; Neil Clarke, drums & percussion and Weston on piano.  Blake was phenomenal on bass.  He actually seemed to coax his bass into spewing out extraordinary tempos and deep rhythmic tones.  So much so, it was as if the bass became a living, breathing instrument.

“I call my music African Rhythms.  It is the basic traditional rhythms of Africa which is already within the Black music of America, the Caribbean, and Brazil.  I just try to project the beauty of our people through music.  My compositions can be inspired by something that happens in New Orleans, Brazil, or the Fiji Islands. I try to show that all these rhythms come from Mother Africa.  Africa is the most highly developed continent when it comes to rhythm, sound, and spirit” explained Weston.  “It’s the beginning of humanity and the original civilization.  Africa is put down in many ways so a lot of people on the planet don’t get the opportunity to hear about the beauty of the African continent.  There is no better example of its beauty than its music,” continued the prolific artist and composer.
     Born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 6, 1926, the 79 year old musician’s parents were transplants from Virginia and the West Indies.  His mother, Vivian Moore, was from Virginia and father, Frank Edward Weston from Panama by way of Jamaica.  Randy grew up in the economically poor community but culturally rich neighbourhood of Bedford Stuyvesant.  “My neighbourhood had the elements of culture.  There was music, art, sports, comedy, and dancing,” recalled Randy.  “My father made sure I took piano lessons and my sister took dancing and singing. He also gave us Africa through books.  He let us know that we were descendants of Africa living in America.”  Weston, who began playing music at 14 years old, presently stands 6’7,” in height, reflective of the African Baobab tree that towers over the African landscape.  “I was 6 ft when I was 12.  I was so tall I thought I was going to be in the circus,” chuckled the musical genius.  “My parents had tremendous pride in Africa and they gave me our true history so I have always dedicated myself to doing something to unify our people.  The creator has given me the power of music.  I lived in Morocco for 7 years.  My bassist for example, has a Cuban/Panama influence.  I have taken him to Africa where he has heard the black people of Morocco and has played with them so he also was inspired by their music.”
When one listens to Weston’s music, one develops a picture in their mind of exotic regions and their splendid sounds.  Weston is a master at portraying his music pictorially.  “Our ancestors used to paint pictures through their music.  Duke Ellington was a Master musical painter.  Billie Holliday was a master painter vocally.  She was an evolutionary and poet” explained the recording artist.  When Weston played Caravan that night at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, it was impossible not to enjoy the song because he made you see and feel the story as he played it.  “When Duke composed and performed his music, he knew that whatever song he played had to tell a story about that song” explained Weston.  “Louie Armstrong was great because every time he picked up his horn he told a story.  He wasn’t just playing notes.  I have been lucky to have spent time with Monk and Dizzy.  I was lucky to hear Eubie Blake.  I was able to go to their homes as well as listen to them in the clubs.  Black music is original so the whole idea is to go back and claim what is ours” continued Randy.  “We are a great people and I love my people because my people are a fantastic people.”  Randy Weston’s first recorded back in the 1950s on the Riverside Records label.  He played with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham and wrote tunes like “Saucer Eyes, “Little Niles, “Hi-Fly and “Pam’s Waltz.”  He then went on to record “The Splendid Master Gnawa” with Moroccan musicians in 1992. On that album, each master sang his own song.   In 1993, Randy collaborated with Melba Liston on the record Volcano Blues.  Weston released “Saga” in 1996. “Earth Birth” was released in 1997, which featured Weston and the Montreal String Orchestra.  “Khepera” was released in 1998 and combined the music of Africa and China. He released the well received “Spirit!  The Power of Music,” in 1999, which depicted the story of the roots of the blues via the Spirits of our Ancestors.  Spirit was a piece which highlighted the religions of Christianity, Islam and Yoruba.  His latest CD is “Ancient Future,” a 2 disc solo piano recording combining 16 solo piano recordings.
“We try to bring us back with the music and remind everyone of the power of Africa.  When I say bring us back, I am also including Europeans.  Europeans come from Africa as well because they come from us.  My Quintet is not just playing jazz music.  We are playing the music of our ancestors.  All civilizations rise and fall.  Africans were really the first Europeans anyhow because we are the original people,” commented the musical historian.   Interested parties can learn more about Randy Weston and his music at  

Rock Act Holds Firm To Faith On New Album

Excerpt from  - Deborah Evans Price

(Jan. 27, 2006) P.O.D. believes you can go home again.   After tussling with Christian retailers over the cover of its last studio album, 2003's  "Payable on Death," the hard rock band will once again try to appeal to their mainstream and Christian audiences with its fourth full-length Atlantic effort.   For "Testify," released Jan. 24, P.O.D. teamed with superstar producer Glen Ballard.  According to P.O.D.'s drummer Wuv, the band wanted to work with Ballard on its previous album, but their schedules never aligned. This time, P.O.D. began recording with someone else, but after six months decided to approach Ballard again.  "We gave him a call again to see if he had time to listen to some songs we were recording," Wuv recalls. "Once he heard, he said he was in."   The songs for "Testify" were close to completion, and Wuv says the band was anxious to get Ballard's take on the material. "It was a big deal to hear someone like Glen's opinion coming from all the different backgrounds that he's worked with, from Michael Jackson to No Doubt to Aerosmith."  Wuv credits Ballard with helping the band craft a more "mature" effort. "We've always done reggae music and had the hip-hop elements. We've always kept it kind of heavy rock, but I think something that's going to be obvious just from the band standpoint is that the music sounds more mature for us," Wuv says. He is joined in the band by his cousin Sonny on lead vocals, Traa on bass and Truby on guitars.

Guests on "Testify" include Hasidic artist Matisyahu, who joins the band on "Roots in Stereo" and "Strength of My Life." Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. and Sick Jacken from Los Angeles duo the Psycho Realm contribute to "On the Grind."  Musically, as Wuv notes, the band continues to incorporate reggae, rap and hip-hop into its hard rock sound. Lyrically, it also sticks to writing positive, faith-based lyrics.   "Obviously people know P.O.D. for the spiritual elements that we bring lyrically and the positive feelings we give," Wuv says. "We always keep that in our music. We are always trying to dig deep and find something worth talking about instead of throwing any lyric on the table. That's always kind of a challenge for us -— [to] find out what we want to say without repeating ourselves over and over again."  Even though the band's music has always been positive with a Christian worldview, P.O.D. has sometimes been at odds with Christian retailers, primarily over the issue of album art. The band's breakthrough album, 1999's "The Fundamental Elements of Southtown," featured two CD covers, one for mainstream and a tamer one for Christian retail.  And with "Payable on Death," some retailers objected to the scantily clad female on the cover. However, Atlantic opted not to do two covers again, and some Christian retailers did not carry the record.   "We've learned in the past to not take those things seriously, and if that's what they want to do, that's what they want to do and they have their reasons," Wuv says of Christian retail's refusal to stock the last album.   Wuv says the band has never shied away from relaying its faith. "We aren't afraid to tell anybody we are human and that we are sinners," he says. "Your faith is something that nobody can take away from you. By no means are we perfect or anything like that, but at the same time, we know what we do is inspiration."  P.O.D. will be highly visible on MTV. The band will also appear on "The Late Show With Jay Leno" Jan. 30 with Ballard to perform "Goodbye for Now," and a "Last Call With Carson Daly" appearances is expected. In a rather unusual promotional effort, P.O.D. will also perform at Wrestlemania events in Miami and Chicago.   "There's a famous wrestler named Raymond Mysterio," Wuv says. "He actually graduated with me and Sonny at our high school. We are playing music for him when he comes out, so that will be fun and kind of cool. You know how those wrestling fans are, they come out in droves."

The O’Jays Celebrate Valentines Day At The Apollo

Excerpt from

(Feb. 1, 2006) (New York NY) - The Apollo Legends Series sponsored by JPMorgan Chase invites you to get on the “Love Train” this Valentine’s Day with a special concert starring the O’Jays at the world famous Apollo Theater.  The O’ Jays concert will also be the first show after the completion of the theatre’s seat restoration giving concertgoers the first opportunity to enjoy the restored 1940’s style seats. The masters of soul will perform for one night of soul and romance on Tuesday, February 14th, 8pm.  Tickets are $70*, 55*and $45* (*plus $2 facility fee) and are available through the Apollo Theater Box Office, 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, 212/531-5305 and Ticketmaster, (212) 307-7171, Tickets are on sale now. The first 300 people to purchase $70 tickets will receive one complimentary glass of champagne per ticket.  A complimentary non-alcoholic beverage option is also available. With their string of R&B classics, The O’Jays defined American soul music in the 70’s and placed the “Philly Soul” sound on the musical map . Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, the O’Jays have released some of the greatest music in recorded history. The legendary group is well known for promoting messages of love through their music, whether the funkiest of cuts or the sweetest of ballads. Led by the passionate, powerful baritone of Eddie Levert and the smooth honeyed tones of Walter Williams, no one can set the mood quite like the O’Jays. For their Valentine’s Day concert at the Apollo Theater, joined onstage by the newest member of the group Eric Nolan Grant, the O’Jays will give their fans some “true soulmance” - O’Jays style.  The O'Jays’ journey began in 1958 when five high school friends started a singing group by the name of the Triumphs. Originally consisting of Walter Williams, Bill Isles, Bobby Massey, William Powell and Eddie Levert, the fledgling band went through several transitions on the road to stardom. By the late 1960's, the group had changed their name to "The O'Jays" in honour of their manager DJ Eddie O'Jay and whittled down to their final three member format with Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, and William Powell. Though they began charting singles as early as 1963 with ”Lonely Drifter” and their first Top Ten R&B hit "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)", it was when they joined forces with super writers/producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in the early 70’s that the O’Jays achieved national recognition. From the phenomenal success of their debut with Philadelphia International Records, Backstabbers, in 1972, the O’Jays became an unstoppable force. The title track, Backstabbers and their first number #1 pop hit “Love Train” marked the beginning of an incredible run, with the O’Jays going on to place more than fifty singles on the R&B charts including the classic For the Love of Money and Used To Be My Girl. Even after switching labels, producers and members, the O’Jays continued to produce countless hits. They scored their ninth R&B chart-topper, “Have You Had Your Love Today,” in 1989. Emotionally Yours (1991) yielded three R&B smashes, including their choir-filled arrangement of the Bob Dylan-penned title track.

Now in their 43rd year of making music together, the celebrated trio have amassed a body of work that includes 24 Top Ten smashes and 59 total charted songs. The O’Jays have been recognized for their achievements, receiving several awards over the years and their February 2005 induction into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. With their place in music history firmly locked, the O’Jays continue to record and perform pleasing generations of fans the world over.  Since 1934, when the Apollo Theater first introduced its world-famous "Amateur Night," launching the careers of legendary artists like Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill, the Apollo has been the nation's premier arena for emerging and established black and Latino performers.  Based in the heart of Harlem, the national historic landmark hosts major pop, R & B concerts and special events and continues its tradition of discovering future stars in the syndicated television show, "Showtime at the Apollo," which is taped at the world famous venue and airs weekly in over 150 markets nationwide, and the historic and popular weekly stage show, "Apollo Amateur Night." One of New York City's top tourist attractions, the Apollo Theater draws 1.3 million visitors annually.  The world famous Apollo Theater, “where stars are born and legends are made” ™ is located in the heart of Harlem at 253 West 125 Street, between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd (7th Ave.) and Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th Ave.).


CRTC To Hold Review Of Commercial Radio Policy In May 2006


The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently announced that it will hold a public hearing to undertake a comprehensive review of its Commercial Radio Policy. The review of radio hearings will take place in Gatineau, Quebec starting May 15, 2006. Key issues that will affect Canadian artists include policies with respect to Canadian Content regulations and Canadian Talent Development funding investments.  For more info, check out the CRTC site.

CBC To Air Documentary Featuring k-os And The CBC Radio Orchestra


Burning to Shine: K-OS and the CBC Radio Orchestra is a musical documentary telling the story of two vastly different musical traditions trying to find common ground. It airs this Thursday, February 2 at 9 pm on Opening Night (CBC-TV) and on Tuesday, February 7 at 11:25 pm on Zed Real (CBC-TV). For more info, visit the CBC web site.

Brandy Jumps Into The Video Game Arena

Excerpt from

(Jan. 26, 2006) *Having conquered music and television,
Brandy is poised to invade the video game world via a sci-fi/action project for the company Matty/Markus Games, founded by director Matty Rich ("Straight Out of Brooklyn") and video game veteran Frederic Markus ("Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure"). Brandy will provide her voice and likeness for the as-yet-untitled project, and Rich is hoping to incorporate her personality, emotions and music into the game as well.   "We want the talent involved in our games to be part of the game's development," Rich tells the Hollywood Reporter. "Brandy will play a strong female character who is put into a situation that she must react to -- one which has the fate of the world hinging on it. She'll play a very dynamic character. The success of games like 'Tomb Raider' has shown that there's a need for strong female characters."   The singer, who has sold more than 14 million albums worldwide, will also develop an original soundtrack for the game. Plans are for the CD to be released right before the video game ships.

It’s Dre Day For Floetry’s Ambrosius

Excerpt from

(Jan. 30, 2006) *Singer
Marsha Ambrosius says she wasn’t about to pass up the rare opportunity to sign a solo deal with one of hip hop’s most groundbreaking producers when it practically dropped in her lap. The moment came one night toward the end of last year when the singer/songwriter was performing at the Roxy in Los Angeles with Natalie Stewart, the other half of her acclaimed singing duo, Floetry. In the audience that night was Dr. Dre, the musical mastermind that pioneered hip hop’s G-Funk era of the 90s. Ambrosius met up with Dre later that week, and next thing she knew, she was recording the hook for one of his beats. She tells Billboard that 50 Cent walked into the room and was "nodding his head, saying the track is on fire and maybe he'd get on it." The experience led Dre to offer Ambrosius a solo deal on his label, Aftermath.  "I'm still kind of in a daze about it. It's all very much a dream," she says. "I've always wanted to do a solo album. However, I didn't expect this to come when it did. But I'm ready for it." Meanwhile, Floetry is preparing to shoot a new video for "Lay Down," the next single from their 2005 album, "Flo'Ology."

Cannon to Motown

Excerpt from

(Jan. 30, 2006) *
Nick Cannon has left Jive Records and signed with Motown, where he will operate his own imprint, Can I Ball.  The first project under the deal will be his sophomore album, "Stages," due this spring. The set features production from Kanye West and guest appearances from Talib Kweli, Anthony Hamilton and 112. "Stages" also features contributions from his first Can I Ball artist, Izzy. Cannon wrote and produced all of the songs on the new album. The first single is titled "Dimepiece."

New CD From Soul-Jazz Flutist Althea Rene Drops Feb. 21

Source: Rick Scott  / Great Scott Prods. /

(Jan. 30, 2006) The soulful third chapter from flutist
Althea Rene, the In The Moment album, is scheduled to be released on February 21st by Chocolate Caramel Music/SoulVibe Entertainment, which is distributed nationally by Koch Entertainment.  Although the title cut is presently being added to playlists at smooth jazz radio, this is an urban instrumental collection, an aural seduction comprised of sensual R&B grooves and danceable funk with laid back contemporary jazz nuances.  Rene produced or co-produced seven of the album’s tracks and had a hand in writing five new songs.  Beyond playing a variety of flutes on the disc, she also contributed vocals, keyboards, percussion, bass and drum programming.    Rene makes the flute funky and sexy.  Her instrument sings mellifluously with passion.  She’s backed by a tight rhythm section that keeps the beats driving and the grooves deep, gifted horn players who bring energy and warmth, guitarists who subtly dispense scorching riffs, classy keyboardists, and dreamy vocalists.  Musically Rene’s upbeat jams, mid-tempo grooves, and "Quiet Storm" ballads explore elements of R&B, pop, jazz and reggae.  In addition to the first single, standout selections include the affirmative "I Can"; the rhythmically spicy "Campari Juice"; Rene’s breathy vocal number, "More Than You Know"; "Number One," the anthem-like Patrice Rushen composition; a cover of Beyonce’s hit, "Me, Myself and I"; and the cuddle up close album closer, "When You’re Around."  The Detroit native is a physical presence with her sculpted body and long braided hair.  She’s focused, exudes confidence and is very present.  In fact, that’s what In The Moment is all about to her." The present moment is perfect if we put all of our attention and energy on it and not on the past or the future," explained Rene.  "Both in my life and musically, it feels like everything is coming together to lead me toward my goals.  This is my third album and I’ve never been able to express myself musically better than now.  I’m aiming to make the most out of this musical moment and hope that people enjoy it with me." Next month, Rene has a handful of live performances on her schedule, including a high-profile gig at Detroit’s Ford Field prior to the Super Bowl on February 5th.  Other appearances with her band include Galveston, TX on February 16th (Historic Balinese Room) and Chicago, IL on February 21st (Oakton Community College).  Additional concert dates to support the album release will be announced.

VJ Search Series Kicks Off Tonight

By Sandy Caetano, Metro Toronto

(Jan. 30, 2006) Edgy outfits, great cheekbones and the ability to stay cool while chatting up celebrities aren’t all it takes to be a
MuchMusic VJ.  Traci Melchor, a Much- MoreMusic host, says you need a firm grasp of music and an original personality to score one of the coveted on-air posts. Melchor is one of the four judges who’ll be rating candidates as part of MuchMusic VJ Search: The Series, which debuts tonight on Citytv at 8 p.m. The remaining judges are longtime MuchMusic VJ Steve Anthony, Canadian rocker Robin Black and rapper and producer Kardinal Offishall. "We’re looking for someone who can be a fan of everybody from Hilary Duff to 50 Cent, a pop culture junkie," says Melchor. "We aren’t looking for carbon copies of people that have been VJs in the past or even in the present." Hosted by Dina Pugliese of Star! Daily, the show will feature 20 semi-finalists who were selected from the thousands of entries submitted from across the country. Those 20 contestants will be whittled down to 10 finalists, who will be flown to Toronto to live in a luxurious downtown penthouse, where they will stay for the duration of the competition. During the nine weekly hour-long episodes that include a two-part live finale, the contestants will endure gruelling tasks and challenges to prove they’ve got the skills, style and character to win a place at the music channel. "It’s so clichéd, but expect the unexpected. You’re going to have 10 finalists go head to- head for their dream job, so it’s very much a tough competition. It’s not all fun and games," says Pugliese. "All I can tell you is that there (are) going to be a lot of twists and turns and just when you think you’ve figured stuff out, it’s going to change." Devon Soltendieck, who got his start at MuchMusic after beating out 2,500 competitors in the MuchMusic VJ Search in January 2004, says being a VJ entails more than just having fun on live television. "It’s about knowing your music, knowing how to pick yourself up when you’ve made a mistake and keeping viewers coming back," says Soltendieck. "We do research and write our own stuff, so it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth all the hurdles you had to jump to get here."

New Orleans' Jazz Fest Won't Be Deterred By Katrina

Source:  Associated Press

(Jan. 31, 2006) New Orleans — Katrina couldn't stop the music. The
2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will go on as usual in post-Katrina New Orleans this spring, buoyed by a deal with a first-ever presenting sponsor, the Shell oil company, producer Quint Davis said Tuesday. New Orleans native Fats Domino, whose home in the Lower Ninth Ward was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, will be among the featured acts. Davis said the festival will take place at its usual location — the historic Fair Grounds horse racing track — on the last weekend of April and the first weekend in May, its traditional dates. "In light of the great financial challenges of presenting the 2006 festival on the grand scale everyone is accustomed to, we simply could not have produced Jazz Fest without unprecedented corporate support from Shell...," Davis said in a statement. Ten other corporate sponsors also are supporting the event. Along with Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest is one of New Orleans' major tourist attractions. Average annual attendance, including locals and tourists, is roughly 500,000. The festival features a variety of musical acts playing simultaneously on numerous stages on the Fair Grounds infield, along with food booths featuring Louisiana cuisine and numerous arts and crafts venues. Among the challenges facing this year's organizers: attracting big-name acts, as well as rounding up local musicians who have scattered around the nation after their homes, and their local performance venues, were damaged by Katrina.

A Bryan Adams Moment For Karachi Teen

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Sonya Fatah

(Jan. 31, 2006) Karachi --
Bryan Adams didn't know he had a following in Pakistan until his debut performance at Karachi's Arabian Sea Country Club pulled in more than 10,000 fans. Most had travelled 40 kilometres from Karachi to witness, on Sunday, Pakistan's first international celebrity music concert in recent history.  The benefit concert was a fundraiser for schools in Pakistan's earthquake-affected regions. But to most Pakistanis, it symbolized an openness for which the country's more secular elite has hungered.  Halfway through, Adams called out for someone in the audience to join him in singing the hit single, When You're Gone. From the hundreds of excited fans who threw up their hands, for a chance to share the mike with the singer, whose popularity penetrates the middle and upper middle class segments of Pakistani youth. Adams chose Atika, a bubbly high-school teenager, and when the song was done, he hugged her tight and lifted her. In any other venue, the scene would have been ordinary. But in Pakistan, a country that has been in the news primarily for its connection to growing Islamist extremism, the moment seemed extraordinary. Part of the magic on Sunday night was Adams's music selection. Adams sang only two songs from his latest album; otherwise, he sang the songs his audience knew best -- hits such as Summer of '69, Run to You and (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. Lit-up mobile phones and burning lighters swayed to the tune as excited concertgoers sang along. "Music has brought us together," said Adams to a roaring crowd at the show's end.

EMI Canada Drafts Auf Der Maur For A&R

Excerpt from -
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Jan. 31, 2006)
While she completes recording for her sophomore album, expected by year's end via Capitol, Melissa Auf Der Maur will also be scouting up-and-coming bands as part of a new job in the A&R department of EMI Canada.  The assignment is a by-product of Auf Der Maur moving back to Montreal in recent months, after spending much of the past decade encamped in Los Angeles and New York, as well as touring the globe with Hole and Smashing Pumpkins.  "Although I am signed to EMI, I'm signed through Capitol in the United States," Auf Der Maur tells "So, I have practically no relationship with my label here in Canada. But they heard I'd moved back, came down to one of my [showcase] events [at the Pop Montreal festival] and approached me. They want to bring some more creative thinking to their business. When you think about it, artists should be running the business!"  Auf Der Maur will scout bands in Canada and in the midst of her travels, and is also evaluating music sent to her by colleagues at the label. "The major labels in Canada are almost more like independents in the States," she notes. "It's pretty different. This department here is two people! They don't have as many resources." "If I can bring any quality music into the system, I feel really, really happy to be able to do that," she continues. "Offering advice to young musicians trying to figure out the pros and cons is what I've been doing since as long as I can remember. All my friends are musicians. I want to do right by music."


Monday, January 30, 2006

Baby Wicked, Girls, It Ain't Easy, East Side
Frankie J, Un Nuevo Dia, Sony
Knightowl, Blue Rag Soldiers, East Side Records
Planet Asia, The Sickness, Pt. 1, Copter Records
Sam & Dave, Hold On, I'm Comin' [Atlantic], Collectables
The Trammps, Disco Inferno [Collectables], Collectables


Dude In A Dress Rules Box Office

Excerpt from
The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2006) LOS ANGELES—Moviegoers embraced a supersize  momma in a wig and a governess who tames an unruly brood as family friendly films dominated the weekend box office. Big Momma's House 2, with $28 million (all figures U.S.) in estimated ticket sales, turned in the second-best January opening ever, trailing only the $35.9 million scored by the 1997 release of a special edition of Star Wars, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office results. As in the original Big Momma's House, Martin Lawrence layers on the bulges and dons billowy, floral-print dresses, along with a wig. It was followed by another new release, Nanny McPhee, starring Emma Thompson, with $14.1 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates. Underworld: Evolution tumbled to the third spot, with $11.1 million in sales, a 59 per cent decline from its strong first week. The fourth spot was claimed by the new release Annapolis, one of three Disney films in the top 10. The story of a quick-fisted undergraduate, shot on location at the U.S. Naval Academy, pulled in $7.7 million. Hoodwinked, an animated update of the Little Red Riding Hood story, fell to the fifth spot with $7.4 million in sales. Oscar contenders proved resilient, turning in modest drops in attendance weeks after their release. Brokeback Mountain, in its eighth week in theatres, ranked sixth with $6.3 million in sales. Rounding out the top 10 were Glory Road, Last Holiday, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Matador.  

Crash Wins An Upset Victory

Source: Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2006) LOS ANGELES—Crash, the movie about simmering racial tension in L.A. directed by Canadian Paul Haggis, scored an upset victory last night, beating out Brokeback Mountain for the top cast honours at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Brokeback, director Ang Lee's gay cowboy romance, went into the contest as the odds-on favourite, having swept other major awards in the run-up to the March 5 Academy Awards. It's been considered the best-picture front-runner at the Oscars, whose nominations come out Tuesday, but its loss to Crash could prove a speed-bump on the path toward becoming the first explicitly gay-themed movie to win a best picture Oscar. Brokeback led the Jan. 16 Golden Globes with four wins, among them best dramatic film and director for Ang Lee, who took the same prize Saturday from the Directors Guild of America. But the film was shut out by the Screen Actors Guild, despite the leading four nominations it had going into the awards. Brokeback's Heath Ledger lost in the best male actor category to Philip Seymour Hoffman, considered an Oscar front-runner for his role in Capote. Michelle Williams ceded supporting female actor honours to Rachel Weisz for her role as a rabble-rousing humanitarian-aid worker in the murder thriller The Constant Gardener. And Brokeback's Jake Gyllenhaal lost out in the supporting actor category to Paul Giamatti for his role as the manager of Depression-era fighter Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man. Crash follows the lives of a far-flung cast of characters over a chaotic 36-hour period in Los Angeles. "This celebrates the definition of what an ensemble is all about. There's 74 of us," Crash co-star Terrence Howard said of the film's huge cast. If Crash is nominated for a best picture Academy Award, it would be the second trip in a row to the Oscars for Haggis, of London, Ont. He was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar last year for Million Dollar Baby, the story he adapted for the Clint Eastwood picture that went on to win Best Picture. In another upset last night, Felicity Huffman, the best-actress Oscar front-runner for her gender-bending role in Transamerica, lost the SAG award for best female actor to Reese Witherspoon for her role as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. But Huffman didn't leave empty-handed, picking up the guild prize for best female actor in a TV comedy for Desperate Housewives, which also won for best comedy ensemble.

The best female actor honour for a TV drama series went to Canadian Sandra Oh for the medical drama Grey's Anatomy. Oh said she was gratified at how the casting of the show reflected real-world diversity. "To all my fellow Asian-American actors out there, I share this with you, and be encouraged and keep shining," she said. Another Canuck, Kiefer Sutherland, won as best male actor in a TV drama for the action series 24, while the airplane-disaster show Lost won for TV dramatic ensemble. Lee's Directors Guild win affirms his position as favourite for best director at the Academy Awards on March 5. He has captured more than 10 honours for his work on the film, which follows a 20-year forbidden love affair between two Wyoming ranch hands. The Directors Guild award is one of Hollywood's best barometers for the Academy Awards. Only six times in the 57-year history of the guild honours has the winner failed to go on to win the directing Oscar. Lee was one of them. He won the guild prize in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but Stephen Soderbergh took home the best director Oscar for Traffic. The SAG awards are one of the last major film honours before the Oscars and have a solid record of forecasting Oscar winners. All four guild acting recipients for 2004 — Jamie Foxx for Ray, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby and Cate Blanchett for The Aviator — went on to win Oscars. The 12th annual SAG awards also honoured former child star Shirley Temple Black for life achievement.

Canadian Film Honoured

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Jan. 29, 2006) PARK CITY, Utah—Canadian film Eve and the Fire Horse received a special jury prize last night at the close of the Sundance Film Festival.  The heartwarming story of two young sisters attempting to reverse a Chinese curse they believe is responsible for their family misfortune was written and directed by Vancouver's Julia Kwan.  The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, but had its most enthusiastic reception here at Sundance 2006.  For the first time in the festival's 22-year history, both the Grand Jury Prizes and Audience Awards for Documentary and Dramatic Competitions were presented to the same two films.  "This year we've seen a number of films that deal sensitively with the timely and complex issues of cultural assimilation and community," said Geoffrey Gilmore, festival director. "Clearly, these compelling stories along with the quality of filmmaking have resonated with audiences and jury members alike"  The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was given to God Grew Tired of Us, directed by Christopher Quinn. In the late 1980s, 27,000 Sudanese lost boys marched barefoot over thousands of miles of barren desert, seeking safe haven from the brutal civil war in their homeland. The film chronicles the experiences of three of these boys who seek refuge in the United States as they work to adjust to a strange new world.

The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Quinceañera, written and directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. Disaffected Latino teenagers come of age in a gentrifying community in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was given to In the Pit (Mexico), written and directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo. The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to 13 Tzameti (France), written and directed by Géla Babluani. The Audience Award: Documentary was presented to God Grew Tired of Us, directed by Christopher Quinn.  The Audience Award: Dramatic winner is Quinceañera, The Audience Awards are sponsored by Volkswagen of America, and are given to a documentary and a dramatic film screening in competition, as voted by Film Festival audiences.  The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented to De Nadie (Mexico), directed by Tin Dirdamal. The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to No. 2 (New Zealand), written and directed by Toa Fraser.  The Dramatic Jury also awarded Special Jury Prizes for Independent Vision to In Between Days directed by So Yong Kim and written by So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray. The movie was filmed in Toronto.

Sutherland, Oh Honoured by Screen Actors Guild

Excerpt from
The Globe and Mail - By David Germain, Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2006) LOS ANGELES -- Canadians Sandra Oh and Kiefer Sutherland took home honours for their television roles at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last night. Ms. Oh, who was born in Nepean, Ont. received a best-actress award for her work in the medical television drama Grey's Anatomy. Mr. Sutherland was named best actor in a TV drama for the action series 24. Ms. Oh said she was gratified at how the casting of Grey's Anatomy reflected real-world diversity. "This is unbelievable. I thank every single actor out there. I'm so grateful for having a job." The airplane-disaster show Lost won for TV dramatic ensemble. In addition to awarding television performers, the Screen Actor's Guild also honours movie actors and its awards have a solid record of forecasting Oscar winners. All four guild acting recipients for 2004 -- Jamie Foxx for Ray, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby and Cate Blanchett for The Aviator -- went on to win Oscars. This year's Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow. Last night, Oscar prospects for Reese Witherspoon and Philip Seymour Hoffman intensified with their wins as best actor and actress. Ms. Witherspoon won for her role as singer June Carter in Walk the Line and Mr. Seymour Hoffman for portraying author Truman Capote in Capote. Ensemble drama Crash pulled off an upset win over Brokeback Mountain for the overall cast award.

Rachel Weisz and Paul Giamatti were boosted with their guild awards for best supporting actress and actor. Ms. Weisz was honoured for playing a rabble-rousing humanitarian-aid worker in the murder thriller The Constant Gardener, and Mr. Giamatti won for his role as the manager of Depression-era fighter Jim Braddock in the boxing drama Cinderella Man. "I can't imagine a greater honour than being acknowledged by my peers," Mr. Giamatti said. "Being an actor is a hell of a thing. It's a hell of a thing. It's up and down. It's great, but I found the best thing about it is hanging around the craft-service table with other actors and crew people, eating doughnuts." "It's so special to be honoured by fellow actors, so thanks very much to the tribe," said Ms. Weisz, who also won the Golden Globe supporting-actress prize. Among those Ms. Weisz beat out was Michelle Williams of the cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain. Felicity Huffman, the front-runner for a best-actress Oscar for her gender-bending role in Transamerica, won the guild prize for best actress in a TV comedy for Desperate Housewives, which also won for best comedy ensemble. Ms. Huffman was up for best film actress for Transamerica later in the evening. The 12th annual SAG awards also were honouring former child star Shirley Temple Black for life achievement.

Brokeback Leads The Herd

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Germain, Associated Press

(Jan. 31, 2006) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - The cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain led the Academy Awards field Tuesday with eight nominations, among them best picture and honours for actor Heath Ledger and director Ang Lee.  Also nominated for best picture were the Truman Capote story Capote; the ensemble drama Crash; the Edward R. Murrow chronicle Good Night, and Good Luck; the assassination thriller Munich.  It was breakout year for Haggis, who received a nod for best director and earned an original screenplay nomination with Crash co-writer Bobby Moresco.  The Johnny Cash biography, Walk the Line, considered a likely best picture nominee, was shut out, though Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon earned acting nominations for the film.  Three films were tied with six nominations each — Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck and Memoirs of a Geisha, though Geisha was shut out in the top categories.  Munich, which had fallen off many awards analysts’ best-picture picks after a lukewarm reception, scored well with five nominations, including director for Steven Spielberg.  King Kong, helmed by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, earned only technical nominations, losing out in the major categories.  George Clooney picked up three nominations: as supporting actor for his role as a steadfast CIA undercover agent in Syriana and best director and co-writer for Good Night.  It was the first time ever that a contender was honoured with acting and directing nominations for two different movies.  Along with best-actor contender Ledger, and directing nominee Lee, Brokeback Mountain scored nominations for Michelle Williams as supporting actress, Jake Gyllenhaal as supporting actor and Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana for their screenplay adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story.  Director Lee said he was gratified at the reception both homosexual and heterosexual audiences have given Brokeback Mountain, which has proven a steady box-office draw across the country.

“I didn’t know there were so many gay people out there. Everywhere, they turn up,” Lee said.  “More importantly, I think I’m amazed how people everywhere have had the sensitivity to want to get into the complexity of the issue, the probability of love, the illusion of love, all those things. It’s not simple things you can categorize as right or wrong.”  The acting categories were a mix of familiar Oscar faces such as past winners Judi Dench and Charlize Theron, veterans like Clooney, Witherspoon, Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn and Felicity Huffman gaining their first academy attention, and young performers such as Williams and Amy Adams.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, the best-actor favourite for his remarkable impersonation of author Truman Capote in Capote, joined Ledger in the best-actor category. Hoffman has triumphed at earlier film honours, including the Golden Globes.  Along with Hoffman, Ledger and Phoenix, the other nominees were Terrence Howard as a small-time hood turned rap singer in Hustle & Flow and Strathairn as newsman Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck.  The best-actress race presumably will shape up as a two-woman contest between Huffman in a gender-bending role as a man about to undergo sex-change surgery in Transamerica and Witherspoon as singer June Carter, Cash’s musical companion and future wife, in Walk the Line.  Huffman won the Golden Globe for best dramatic actress, while Witherspoon earned the Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy. Witherspoon beat Huffman on Sunday for the best-actress prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  Also nominated for the best-actress Oscar were Dench as a society dame who starts a nude stage revue in 1930s London in Mrs. Henderson Presents; Keira Knightley as the romantic heroine of the Jane Austen adaptation Pride & Prejudice; Charlize Theron as a mine worker who leads a sexual-harassment lawsuit against male co-workers in North Country.  “I am so thrilled to be nominated for something I loved working on every single day,” Dench said.

Brokeback Mountain led a wave of lower-budgeted independent films that scored big in the nominations, instead of the studio fare that normally dominates the Oscars. Other than Munich, most bigger budget movies that had been on the best-picture radar, such as Walk the Line, Memoirs of a Geisha and Cinderella Man, were overlooked in the top Oscar category.  The year’s biggest hit, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, earned only one nomination (for makeup) — but was shut out otherwise — including the visual-effects category, a blow to George Lucas and his Industrial Light & Magic outfit that has pioneered special effects. The visual effects nominees were The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, King Kong, and Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.  With key prizes at earlier Hollywood honours under its belt, Brokeback Mountain heads into the March 5 awards as the best-picture front-runner, potentially the first film with explicit homosexual themes to claim the grand prize at the Oscars.  The film stars Ledger and Gyllenhaal as Western roughnecks who share a summer of love while tending sheep together in the 1960s, then carry on a lifelong romance they conceal from their families. Williams co-stars as Ledger’s wife, who overlooks her husband’s affair to try to hold her family together.  Weisz, playing a humanitarian-aid worker in The Constant Gardener, won the supporting-actress prize at the Golden Globes and SAG awards, giving her the inside track for the same honour at the Oscars.  Along with Weisz and Williams, supporting-actress nominations went to newcomer Adams as a big-hearted Southern waif in Junebug; Catherine Keener as To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee in Capote; and Frances McDormand as a miner coping with debilitating disease in North Country.  Besides Gyllenhaal and Clooney as a bullheaded CIA agent in Syriana, nominees for supporting actor were Matt Dillon as a racist cop in Crash; Paul Giamatti as boxer Braddock’s manager in Cinderella Man; and William Hurt as a ruthless mobster in A History of Violence.  Hurt was a bit of surprise since he only appears for a few minutes at the end of the film in scene-stealing role.  Lee, who won the Directors Guild of America honour Saturday for Brokeback Mountain, is the clear favourite to win the best-director Oscar.

He’ll compete against Spielberg, Clooney and Haggis, as well as Bennett Miller, who was nominated for Capote.  It was the first time since 1981 that the same five movies were nominated for directing and best picture.  And for the first time since the animated feature film category was added in 2001 that no nominees were made using computer-generated imagery. The nominees: the hand-drawn Howl’s Moving Castle, and the stop-motion films Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.  Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park said he was thrilled by the nomination.  “It’s fantastic,” Park said, toasting the nomination with champagne at Heathrow Airport as he waited for a flight to Los Angeles. “You never know with these things. It’s so unpredictable.  “You make the film for its own sake really. You don’t make the film for this reason. It’s just a great bonus.”  Oscar nominees in most categories are chosen by specific branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as directors, actors and writers. The full academy membership of about 5,800 is eligible to vote in all categories for the Oscars themselves.  ABC will broadcast the Oscars live from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, with Jon Stewart as host.  Filmmaker Robert Altman, who has been nominated five times for best director but has never won, will receive an honorary Oscar for a career that includes such films as M-A-S-H, Nashville, The Player and Gosford Park.

Why Disney Wooed A Crazy Canuck

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

(Jan. 28, 2006) When Walt Disney Co.'s lucrative distribution deal with 'toon darling Pixar ended in late 2002, the Mouse House went looking for talented, edgy animators with whom it could partner up. It ended up on the doorstep of San Francisco-based Complete Pandemonium, a tiny firm whose eccentric creative brain is Toronto-born Steve (Spaz) Williams, a special-effects whiz who lives in the United States but remains a fervent — some would say fanatical — Toronto Maple Leafs / Don Cherry-loving Canadian. Disney was specifically wooing Williams, a graduate of Oakville, Ont.'s Sheridan College, to direct The Wild, an $80-million (U.S.) animated feature film about a madcap troupe of animals who run away from the zoo. At first, Williams waffled, unsure about working for a monolith of Walt's proportions. But finally he accepted — on one whopping condition. Williams wanted to team up with a Toronto-based special effects / animation house named CORE, co-founded 12 years ago by Star Trek's William Shatner. The 44-year-old director also insisted that all the work be done by Canadian animators on their own turf: right in Hogtown. Wanting him bad, Disney caved. And Williams, a rough-around-the-edges guy who always speaks his peace, started hiring. Before The Wild went into production, CORE employed 120 employees. Within the space of a few months, the company had expanded to 450 people, and moved to a much bigger shop — from 25,000 square feet to three times that much in a converted warehouse on Toronto's high-creativity King Street West. Now in postproduction and due to be released in theatres Good Friday, April 14, The Wild ranks as the largest animation production ever done in Canada. And Williams — whose second hero after Cherry is Stompin' Tom Connors — is damn proud of that. “It really was a long time coming,” says Williams, whose standard garb is a ratty T-shirt (or Leafs jersey), combat boots and camouflage fatigues. “It's an all-Canadian talent doing it in Toronto instead of in some U.S. studio. We killed ourselves, we truly did. It was tough, because production — on that size budget — was difficult. Making a film of this quality for under $80-million is a triumph, seeing as the majority of them, like Chicken Little, cost $150-million.

Academy Award Nominations — Full list

Source:  Associated Press

(Jan 31, 2006) List of the 78th annual
Oscar nominations announced Tuesday in Beverly Hills, Calif., by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

1. Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich.

2. Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote; Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow; Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain; Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line; David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.

3. Actress: Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents; Felicity Huffman, Transamerica; Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice; Charlize Theron, North Country; Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line.

4. Supporting Actor: George Clooney, Syriana; Matt Dillon, Crash; Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man; Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain; William Hurt, A History of Violence.

5. Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Junebug; Catherine Keener, Capote; Frances McDormand, North Country; Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener; Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain.

6. Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain; Bennett Miller, Capote; Paul Haggis, Crash; George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck; Steven Spielberg, Munich.

7. Foreign Film: Don't Tell, Italy; Joyeux Noel, France; Paradise Now, Palestine; Sophie Scholl - The Final Days, Germany; Tsotsi, South Africa.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain; Dan Futterman, Capote; Jeffrey Caine, The Constant Gardener; Josh Olson, A History of Violence; Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Munich.

9. Original Screenplay: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, Crash; George Clooney & Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck; Woody Allen, Match Point; Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale; Stephen Gaghan, Syriana.

10. Animated Feature Film: Howl's Moving Castle; Tim Burton's Corpse Bride; Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

11. Art Direction: Good Night, and Good Luck, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, Pride & Prejudice.

12. Cinematography: Batman Begins, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night, and Good Luck, Memoirs of a Geisha, The New World.

13. Sound Mixing: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, Walk the Line, War of the Worlds.

14. Sound Editing: King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, War of the Worlds.

15. Original Score: Brokeback Mountain, Gustavo Santaolalla; The Constant Gardener, Alberto Iglesias; Memoirs of a Geisha, John Williams; Munich, John Williams; Pride & Prejudice, Dario Marianelli.

16. Original Song: In the Deep from Crash, Kathleen Bird York and Michael Becker; It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp from Hustle & Flow, Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard; Travelin' Thru from Transamerica, Dolly Parton.

17. Costume: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Memoirs of a Geisha, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Pride & Prejudice, Walk the Line.

18. Documentary Feature: Darwin's Nightmare, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, March of the Penguins, Murderball, Street Fight.

19. Documentary (short subject): The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club, God Sleeps in Rwanda, The Mushroom Club, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin.

20. Film Editing: Cinderella Man, The Constant Gardener, Crash, Munich, Walk the Line.

21. Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Cinderella Man, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

22. Animated Short Film: Badgered, The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, 9, One Man Band.

23. Live Action Short Film: Ausreisser (The Runaway), Cashback, The Last Farm, Our Time Is Up, Six Shooter.

24. Visual Effects: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, King Kong, War of the Worlds.


Academy Award winners previously announced this year:

Honorary Award (Oscar statuette): Robert Altman.

The Gordon E. Sawyer award (Oscar statuette): Gary Demos.

Canuck Director Haggis Gets Oscar Nods For Crash

By John McKay, Canadian Press

(Jan. 31, 2006) It's turning out to be a pretty good week for Canadian director
Paul Haggis.  On Sunday, his edgy race-relations film Crash was a surprise winner at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  Then on Tuesday, the London, Ont., native woke to news that he'd received Academy Award nominations for best director and best original screenplay.  Crash is also up for best picture.  "It's been a little crazy," Haggis said of the Oscar hoopla during an interview with CBC Newsworld.  Asked how such huge Hollywood success has affected him, the director joked: "It's completely changed me, I'm now huge."  Haggis, based in Santa Monica, Calif., cut his teeth as a TV writer, winning awards for his work on series like Thirtysomething and the Canuck classic Due South.  He eventually made the jump to movies, earning an Oscar nomination last year for his adapted screenplay of the best-picture-winning Million Dollar Baby. Haggis initially wanted to direct the boxing drama but backed off when Clint Eastwood showed interest.  Then came Crash, the much-discussed film that follows the intersecting lives of a group of L.A. citizens over a 36-hour period.  "I was trying to talk about where we are right now as a society, and talk about the fear we all live in, and certainly since 9-11, how it's affected us and the world," Haggis said of the film on Newsworld.  Crash also earned Oscar nominations for film editing, original song and a supporting actor nod for Matt Dillon.  Haggis shares his screenplay nomination with Crash co-writer Bobby Moresco.  The Oscar recognition, he said, opens new doors.  "The nice thing about these nominations . . is they give you the credibility to do projects that are riskier," said Haggis, adding that he's currently working on a script about Iraq.

Other Canadian Oscar connections this year include:

Murderball, a best documentary nominee about the surprisingly vicious world of disabled rugby players. It features several Canadians, including Dave Willsie, co-captain of the Canadian wheelchair team.

Capote, with five nominations including best picture, was majority-financed by Vancouver's Infinity Features.

— Toronto's David Cronenberg was shut out in the best director category but his film A History of Violence was nominated for best adapted screenplay (Josh Olson) and best supporting actor (William Hurt).

— There are also two best-picture nominees that were shot in Canada. Capote was filmed in Winnipeg in the winter of 2004. And Brokeback Mountain was filmed in Alberta, even though the film is set in Wyoming.

Haggis Doubts Oscar Chances

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Feb. 1, 2006) Crash filmmaker
Paul Haggis stands to become the most successful Canadian at the Oscars since James Cameron with Titanic, but he thinks he doesn't have a chance against the Brokeback Mountain juggernaut.  "You won't be seeing me on the stage, but you'll see me in the audience with a good smile," the London, Ont.-born writer/director told the Star from Los Angeles yesterday, after his ensemble road drama scored six Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.  (Titanic took 11 Oscars in 1998, tying with Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for most Academy Awards.)  Crash is just behind Ang Lee's cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain, which leads with eight nods, and tied with George Clooney's journalism inquiry Good Night, and Good Luck. Rounding out the Best Picture pack are Bennett Miller's character study Capote and Steven Spielberg's payback drama Munich, each with five nominations.  "I'm shocked and delighted, but honest to God, I didn't think we'd get them," the 52-year-old Haggis said from the West Hollywood hotel room where he's holed up penning his next movie, an Iraq war reckoning tentatively titled Death and Dishonor.  "Brokeback is going to go all the way, I think. And how could you feel badly about that, being in the company of all these wonderful films this year? They're all passion pieces and all from filmmakers who took real risks. I would have been proud to have been associated with any of those films. If any of them win, I'll be thrilled." He was equally generous last year when his Oscar-nominated adapted screenplay of Million Dollar Baby, the 2004 Best Picture winner, lost to Sideways on awards night.  Had Haggis listened to his doctors while making Crash two years ago, he might not be where he is today. Haggis suffered a heart attack during the filming, and his medics wanted him to hand over the reins to another director to finish the job.  "Never listen to doctors!" Haggis said, only partly in jest.  "I had to finish the movie, no matter what. There was never any option for me. The doctors were worried and they had a nurse on the set taking my blood pressure every 15 minutes. But I milked it for everything I could get. The actors and the crew were all walking on their tiptoes."

The Academy Awards will be handed out March 5 in a worldwide broadcast from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. This is the year of the topsy-turvy Oscars, where small is big and the unexpected suddenly becomes the obvious. Many of the big-ticket and big-studio films touted as Oscar candidates before Christmas — including King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha and Walk the Line — came up short of the nominating votes needed to secure a Best Picture berth.  Just a few short weeks ago, Spielberg's Munich was touted as the film to beat for Best Picture honours on down. Prior to its Christmas release, it ranked No. 1 on most pundits' Oscar prediction lists before virtually anyone had seen a single frame of the top-secret project, due to Spielberg's outsized influence in Hollywood. But that was before the slow-burning Brokeback Mountain caught fire, and Crash turned from roadkill into road warrior.  Of the five main contenders, Spielberg's movie is now the least likely to take the top prize, since it doesn't have a single acting nomination to accompany it — and that lonely situation has triumphed just three times in the past 48 years.  Munich has also been hobbled by debate about Spielberg's pacifist intentions in probing the aftermath of the 1972 Palestinian massacre of Israel's Olympic athletes.  Lee's saddle soaper Brokeback Mountain was simply a worthy little love story two months ago, but after rising steadily through guild and Golden Globe awards, it's now Oscar's main squeeze and a social phenomenon to boot.  It dominates the field with its eight nominations: best picture, director, actor (Heath Ledger), supporting actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), supporting actress (Michelle Williams), adapted screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana), cinematography (Rodrigo Prieto) and original score (Gustavo Santaolalla). If it wins Best Picture, it will be the first explicitly gay romance to do so in Oscar history.  Following close behind with six nominations is the ensemble L.A. street story Crash, which Haggis wrote, directed and produced — he could end up on the Oscar stage three times on March 5, no matter what he says. The six nominations for Crash are for best picture, director, supporting actor (Matt Dillon), original screenplay (Haggis with co-writer Robert Moresco), original song ("In the Deep") and editing (Hughes Winborne).  Crash came from much further behind than Brokeback Mountain. Released last May, outside of the usual fall release pattern for Academy worthies, it had been all but written off for Oscar consideration, overlooked by many critics and industry guilds in year-end kudos. It failed to land a Golden Globe nomination in the best motion picture (drama) category, normally a prerequisite for an Oscar run. But the tide began turning earlier this month when the Broadcast Film Critics Association gave two of its Critics' Choice awards to the film, for screenwriting and for ensemble acting.  Most pundits had predicted fellow Canadian David Cronenberg would be winning Academy favour for A History of Violence, his karmic reckoning that fared well in year-end honours. But Cronenberg's Oscar chances are limited to just two nominations: Best Supporting Actor for William Hurt and Best Adapted Screenplay for Josh Olson. The Toronto director wasn't taking journalists' questions yesterday.  Tied with Crash for six Oscar nods is George Clooney's journalism ode Good Night, and Good Luck, the first black-and-white movie since Schindler's List to be considered for Best Picture.  The well-loved Clooney is one of the five nominees for Best Director for the film, his second as helmer, and he shares an adapted screenplay nom with co-writer Grant Heslov. (Clooney is also in the running for best supporting actor, as part of the ensemble cast of the oil exposé Syriana).  But first-time Oscar nominee David Strathairn gets the best actor nod for Good Night, and Good Luck, in the central role of crusading 1950s broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.  Bennett Miller is another writer/director winning Oscar attention, for his feature debut Capote, the story behind author Truman Capote's writing of the iconic crime saga In Cold Blood. The film has five nominations, for best picture, director, actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman, the front-runner for the prize), supporting actress (Catherine Keener), and adapted screenplay (Miller again).  Spielberg's Munich rounds out the five Best Picture nominees, also with five nods: director, editing (Michael Kahn), original score (John Williams) and adapted screenplay (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth).

The four acting categories canvass a wider range of movies, indicating the desire of Academy nominators to include as many good performances as possible.  Joining Ledger, Strathairn and Hoffman in the Best Actor tussle are Joaquin Phoenix, who masterfully recalls Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and Terrence Howard, the hip-hop star of Hustle&Flow, last year's Sundance sensation. Howard might benefit from the fact that he's also part of Crash, and shared in the recent ensemble acting award given to the movie by members of the Screen Actors Guild, the largest voting bloc in the Academy. But Hoffman looks invincible in this category, having already aced most of the bellwether awards.  Reese Witherspoon seems to have a lock on the Best Actress prize, for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. She has also dominated earlier prize derbies. But she has impressive competition in Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Charlize Theron (North Country), Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice) and Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents).  The Best Supporting Actor category has a surprise nomination in William Hurt, who appears only briefly — albeit memorably — at the end of A History of Violence. He faces stiff opposition from Paul Giamatti's Cinderella Man nod, which many view as recompense for his Sideways snub last year, and from Clooney's Syriana bid, which Clooney may well cash in on if voters do the expected and choose Ang Lee for Best Director. Also in the hunt, and with solid prospects, are Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) and Matt Dillon (Crash).  Best Supporting Actress has a surprise only for people who didn't follow the Critics' Choice Awards on Jan. 9, where Amy Adams's Junebug performance tied with Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain for the supporting actress trophy. The two will face off again for the Oscar, along with Catherine Keener (Capote), Frances McDormand (North Country) and Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener).


Sarah Polley Film Wins Spain's Oscar

Excerpt from
The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2006) MADRID — The Secret Life of Words, a psychological drama about love under extreme circumstances, won four trophies at the Goya film awards, Spain's version of the Oscars. The English-language film starring Tim Robbins, Sarah Polley and Julie Christie won the trophies for best film, best original screenplay, best director and best production at a gala ceremony that began Sunday late night, lasted more than four hours and was widely described in newspapers as agonizingly slow. The movie, directed by Isabel Coixet, tells the story of love that blossoms between a man severely burned in an offshore oil rig accident and a nurse sent to treat him. The woman carries with her painful memories of having been tortured during the war in Bosnia. "This story never would have been possible without the women of Sarajevo who lent me their words, their silences, their secrets," Coixet said. The award for best actor went to Oscar Jaenada for his portrayal of the late flamenco singer Camaron de la Isla in a film called Camaron. Best actress honours went to Candela Pena for her portrayal of a young prostitute and the friendship she develops with another escort in the film Princesas. The ceremony marked the 20th anniversary of the Goya awards and featured clips from top Spanish films over the past two decades. Woody Allen's Match Point won an award for best foreign film shot in Europe.

Terrence Howard Nominated For Oscar

Excerpt from

(Jan. 31, 2006) *What a fitting way to cap a breakout 2005. The award season leading up to the Oscars in March has been very kind to
Terrence Howard. This morning, it got a whole lot better, as the 36-year-old's work in last year's “Hustle & Flow” received an Academy Award nomination for best actor. Howard appears in the category with “Brokeback Mountain’s” Heath Ledger, “Walk the Line’s” Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman of “Capote” and David Strathairn of “Good Night, and Good Luck.”  While Howard did not receive a nomination for his supporting role in “Crash,” the film earned five, including best picture, best screenplay (Paul Haggis), best director (Haggis) and a supporting nod for Matt Dillon.    Meanwhile, the South African film “Tsotsi,” about the violent life of a young gangster in Johannesburg, was nominated for best foreign film.   The 78th Annual Academy Awards will be handed out on March 5.

Samuel L. Jackson A Permanent Fixture In Hollywood

Excerpt from

(Feb. 1, 2006) *
Samuel Leroy Jackson became a part of Hollywood history Monday in a ceremony marking his long film career, which includes roles in more than 100 films. The 57-year-old Washington D.C. native placed his hands and feet into wet cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where the imprints will sit forever alongside those left by such legends as Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland. "It's an awesome sort of experience, the kind of thing you don't really think about as a young actor," Jackson said at the ceremony. "You sort of stop to pause and say to yourself, 'Wow, you're in a very elite club.'" Jackson, whose first movie was "Together for Days" in 1972, has gone on to film memorable turns in “Pulp Fiction”; the Spike Lee films "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever"; and as the Jedi master Mace Windu in episodes I, II and III of “Star Wars.”        His next film, “Freedomland,” opens Feb. 17.


Groovy, Uninhibited Canadian Rock

Excerpt from
The Globe and Mail - By Guy Dixon

(Jan. 30, 2006) It's the height of the 1960s. Tucked inside The New Penelope, a basement coffeehouse in Montreal, The Guess Who are watching a small-town Ontario singer perform a 60-minute set of his own songs. There are only 50 people in the audience, but Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman are envious and keep nudging each other, saying, "some day that'll be us." Bear in mind, The Guess Who at this point is already a promising singles band, on the cusp of rising as high as most Canadian groups in the sixties could dream. But the figure performing has already hit something higher artistically. The singer is Gordon Lightfoot. The two-hour special Shakin' All Over: Canadian Pop Music in the 1960s is filled with such pivotal moments and musical connections weaving together early Canadian rock and folk, from Buffy Sainte- Marie to Steppenwolf. Writer Nicholas Jennings and director Gary McGroarty have fulfilled every pop historian's dream by digging out forgotten footage and creating a beautifully concise, music-laden special airing tonight on CBC Television. It's the sixties Canadian rock scene at its groovy, uninhibited peak. So much came out of what many must have considered back then to be utterly innocuous stuff, such as CBC's teen pop show Let's Go. The house band, when the show was taped in Vancouver, was The Classics, a fairly traditional R&B group. That band then blossomed into The Collectors, helping to establish Vancouver's 4th Avenue psychedelic scene and clubs such as The Afterthought and Retinal Circus. L.A. beckoned, and The Collectors became a success there too with a big billboard on Sunset Strip. By the end of the decade, the group reinvented itself yet again as Chilliwack, a staple of Vancouver rock in the 1970s.

But more than just rock genealogy or a nostalgic walk through Dad's LPs, the music represents not only the birth of the Canadian rock industry, but what it was to be young and alive in the 1960s -- if not today. "[We] really didn't want to make this an oldies show," Jennings says. "We wanted to make it clear that these songs have a life. There's a legacy there which resonates with people no matter what age." The little history of CBC's Let's Go had other historic offshoots: The house band for shows taped in Winnipeg was none other than The Guess Who. By the second season, the CBC producer of the show agreed to hear some of the band's own songs and, if he liked them, to let them play them on air. One was These Eyes, which went on to solidify The Guess Who's career and open the door a little wider for countless other Canadian bands. Take The Staccatos. The Guess Who were asked by Coca-Cola to write and record half an album (sold for 10 bottle caps and $1, Bachman said), as part of a rock-oriented promotion. The Staccatos wrote the other half. That group later became the Five Man Electrical Band and penned the major 1971 hit Signs, an immediately recognizable song programmed into everyone's DNA, whether you recognize the title or not. But none of this cross-nurturing compares to the exchange of ideas and band members in Toronto's Yorkville and Yonge Street scenes. The message in Opportunity, the headstrong hit by Mandala with the late guitar great Domenic Troiano, seems so prophetic now. From Yonge Street and what was then called the Toronto Sound -- a mix of rock and soul (and small traces of reggae given the Jamaican influence in Toronto) -- came such powerhouse acts as Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, which (minus Hawkins) became The Band, David Clayton Thomas, who went on to join Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Toronto's hugely popular, scream-inducing band Jon and Lee and The Checkmates, just to name a few. From the coffeehouses of Yorkville came bands such as Neil Young's early group The Squires, The Sparrow, which would turn into Steppenwolf, and the high-voltage psychedelic group The Paupers opening for Jefferson Airplane and utterly stealing its spotlight. There was also the harmonic, Summer of Love-imbibed Kensington Market, managed by Bob Dylan's Albert Grossman. A clip of the band features the two legendary Toronto singers Keith McKie and Luke Gibson, performing the incredible Side I Am, a song that should top any best-of-the-sixties song list, if only it had been lucky enough to get more exposure.

But as some note in the documentary, it's the regional garage bands that had a sound which seems so utterly contemporary today. These were the groups that never got beyond the high-school dance circuit and small clubs despite their hard-edged sound, channelling the same blues as The Rolling Stones. Groups like: Vancouver's The Seeds of Time, Toronto's The Ugly Ducklings (said to have been Mick Jagger's favourite Canadian band), Halifax's kilt-wearing The Great Scots and especially Montreal's The Haunted. With their single 1-2-5 playing as the soundtrack, the CBC filmed The Haunted in the mid-sixties for a "youth culture" documentary called The Restless Years. For sheer sixties iconography -- the horn-rimmed glasses and overgrown haircuts, the Beatle boots, the tamed R&B raunch -- the ultra-rare clip remains Canada at its coolest. "It was really important to go beyond the usual Canadian icons," Jennings says, "and to put them in the context of all the other music that was coming out of Canada in the sixties. My urgency was to find that music and save it before it's lost to the mists of time." Also appealing for its folk-rock air, op-art backdrops and Sassoon hairstyles is footage of Toronto's The Stormy Clovers performing Leonard Cohen's Suzanne. Both acts shared the same manager, Mary Martin (also credited with hooking The Band up with the newly electrified Bob Dylan). Even though some artists were recording his material, such as Judy Collins, The Stormy Clovers undoubtedly gave Cohen that extra push into what became his near mythical, late-blooming musical career. Jennings says he's currently in talks with labels to reissue the songs featured in the documentary, which would be a godsend. There are also plans to make two other films, one running from the 1970s to the rise of music videos in the mid-1980s and another from the mid-1980s until the current explosion of Canadian indie bands. In the meantime, if there was ever a CBC special to tape, Shakin' All Over is it. The footage is as valuable as the dimming memories of the long-disappeared Yorkville and 4th Avenue scenes, while the music only gets better and better over time. Shakin' All Over airs at 8 tonight on CBC-TV.

CBC And Global Rebrand In A Bid To Catch CTV

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Antonia Zerbisias

(Jan. 29, 2006) Not long ago, there were many channels and yet nothing on.  Now the problem is how to watch all the stuff you've recorded on your PVR, ordered on VOD, bought on DVD or downloaded on MP3.  Even without the fancy new hardware, the typical digital household with 300 channels still faces an estimated — wait for it — three million programming decisions a year.  No wonder TV viewing is going up, not down. That's why broadcasters — especially conventional broadcasters — are trying to make themselves heard above the din.  In Canada, CTV has done an excellent job of positioning itself as the purveyor of popular programming, including most of the top-rated home-grown shows. From Canada AM to Corner Gas to CSI, the network has a distinct face — the round red C, the blue square T, and green triangle V — that appears during, before, after and on programs, often with stars of the shows. It even has its little flutey theme music, which every Canadian recognizes.  True, programming has catapulted CTV into the ratings stratosphere. But its branding promises couch potatoes that the network is a reliable source of great viewing.

Which could be why both CBC and Global are rebranding.  Most viewers have already seen the in-house designed swirly maps and whirly words and heard the five-note "mnemonic" that go with all CBC news programming. Even radio newscasts and have been overhauled with a unified look that was unveiled during the second English-language leaders' debate in the election campaign, when millions would be checking in.  The changes were accompanied by a relaunch of the supper-hour newscasts, locally at 6 p.m. and nationally at 6:30. Other tweaks included abbreviated, primetime newscasts at the top of the hour on Newsworld. Three-minute weather hits at the bottom of the hour, including on The National. A move to more populist, less political process reportage. And CBC isn't stopping at news: The entertainment is yet to come. In the works: a "sports centre."

All of this was the product of the network's News Study, a massive pan-network effort that, CBCers hope, will lead to the renewal of the news.  "What we wanted to say, the things that you've come to like and trust about CBC News go beyond just what you see on television," explains John Bozzo, executive director of communications for CBC English services. "It extends to radio. It extends to online.  "So if we perform well on news, it actually has a halo effect on the rest of the network," says Bozzo. "Getting news right is absolutely critical."  At Global, which has been getting clobbered by CTV, the rebranding will make its debut on Super Bowl Sunday next weekend. Its graphics are red and white, angular and fast-moving.  The changes will affect Global's newscasts, which are also getting a makeover. A week from tomorrow, Global National with Kevin Newman bumps up an hour to 5:30 p.m., to be followed by the local newscast at 6.  "The reason for rebranding is to make sure that Global is clearly positioned in the minds of viewers," says Walter Levitt, CanWest's senior vice-president of marketing for television and radio.  "This company has made a huge commitment to rebuilding Global,'' continues Levitt. "We're making a big investment in news, we're making a big investment in the branding, we're making a big investment in advertising."  And Global is going to need it. The network has undergone considerable upheaval in recent years, thanks to changes at the parent company, CanWest Global. Bad programming decisions and bad management moves knocked the network out of top spot, a position CanWest CEO Leonard Asper wants back.  But will whooshing graphics do the trick?  "Everybody realizes that a new logo is not going to make people watch a channel more," says Levitt. "Rebranding is not about a new logo. It's about a new promise to viewers ... Everything that we do is going have a completely new look, feel and promise on Feb. 5."

Oprah, Bishop Jakes, Chris Tucker Trace Roots On PBS

Excerpt from

(Jan. 31, 2006) *If ever there was a time to tape “American Idol” and watch something else, this Wednesday is it.   On second thought, maybe it’s best that the PBS two-part series “African American Lives” (airing 9 to 11 p.m. Feb. 1 and 8) is stored on your TiVo as a permanent reference guide, as host Dr. Henry Louis Gates meticulously explains the process of tracing one’s family heritage back to its roots in Africa using as examples eight prominent black Americans, including Oprah Winfrey and Bishop T.D. Jakes. “There’s been a great dispute in Africa over which tribe I belong to,” Jakes told a group of journalists at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour held in Pasadena, CA earlier this month. “So this dispels any myths.  And it is impacting on a very deep way to fill in those blanks.” Jakes – who has done extensive philanthropic work in Africa and confirmed through Gates that his people come from the Ebo tribe – joins Winfrey and fellow subjects Whoopi Goldberg, former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, composer Quincy Jones, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, author Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot and Chris Tucker as the lucky few assisted by Gates in tracing their roots.  “We know that there were only 500,000 Africans from the United States,” Gates told the critics. “We know where they came from and we know the ports that they came from and we know that 50 percent – if you do a DNA test for the black people in this room, half of you are from an ethnic group between Senegal and Sierra Leone. That’s called the Windward Coast. Sixteen percent are from the Biafra, the name of the independent republic of Eboland, and 26 percent are from Angola. Two percent are from Mozambique. It’s very fascinating.”  

You won’t find a more moving moment on television next month than Oprah Winfrey collapsing in tears after being handed a deed between a white Mississippi landowner named Watson, and one of her ancestors, a freed slave named Constantine Winfrey. Gates somehow got hold of the deed, signed by Oprah's second- or third-great-grandfather, in which he is granted so many acres of land in exchange for picking what amounted to 5,000 pounds of cotton in a given period of time. “If I got anonymous people, you all would’ve watched. My students would have watched, but the core group that would watch Quincy Jones or watch T.D. Jakes or watch Oprah only, they wouldn’t watch,” Gates told the critics, explaining his reasons for selecting only well-known blacks for the series. “So I wanted a scientist, Dr. Jameson.  Ben Carson was my classmate at Yale. He’s the chief of pediatric neurosurgery down at John’s Hopkins. He was the first surgeon successfully to separate Siamese twins joined at the brain.” Gates said the celebrities were used to seduce young black kids into the pursuit of their own genealogies.  “It’s one thing to hear a lecture about the double helix and Watson and Crick. It’s another thing learning that if you swab yourself 20 times on each cheek, in three weeks, somebody will send you back a card saying, ‘Your ancestor came from Nigeria, and more specifically from the Ebo people,’” says Gates of a new program offering buyers of a DNA kit a chance to mail in their swabs and pinpoint their origin. “Who wants dusty ol’ research in dusty ol’ archives? If you could produce your lineage back to slavery, back to the American Revolution, wouldn’t that be more compelling? I think that that’s what we’ve been able to achieve.”     Chris Tucker, whose roots were traced back to a tribe of Africans in Angola, was the only one of Gates’ eight to actually travel to the birthplace of his ancestors.

“I thought what a hoot to take Chris to Angola, and I’d never been to Angola,” Gates said.   On the African American side, Tucker’s great-grandfather owned a lot of property in Georgia and a community called Flat Rock. Noting that the blacks in Flat Rock mysteriously stayed put during the great migration north, Gates discovered through property records that Tucker’s great-grandfather was selling off acreage in Flat Rock at 80 and 100 acres a pop to area blacks.  “When people would come to him and say, ‘We’re moving to Chicago,’ he would say, ‘I will sell you five acres for $20. I will give you reason not to go,’ and he kept his entire community together by dividing up his estate. That’s amazing.”       Gates said he found more about Oprah’s ancestors in slavery than any of the other seven subjects, and less about her African ancestry because her genetic signature is very common in West Africa, “so we couldn’t pinpoint the tribe or ethnic group,” adds Gates. He does know enough about Oprah’s African lineage to declare that the talk show host, despite her previous announcement on one of her shows, is not Zulu.   “None of us are Zulu,” Gates affirmed. “There are no African Americans who come from the Zulu people.”  He says Winfrey’s family was traced back five generations in the South by finding the wills of the white people who owned her family, as well as property tax information and estate division records.  “We found Adam,” Winfrey’s fourth great-grandfather who was ten years old in 1852.  Her second or third great grandfather, Constantine Winfrey, was a former slave listed in the 1870 census as “illiterate,” but in 1880, he is classified as “literate.”  “So he mastered literacy,” notes Gates. “In 1876, Constantine Winfrey goes to this man (Watson) and says, ‘If I pick 80 bales of cotton in a certain period of time for you, you will give me 80 acres of land,’ and the man does. We give Oprah the deed that Constantine Winfrey gets in 1881 from this man, presenting him with 80 acres of land. I mean it’s astonishing.”       Gates also handed Whoopi Goldberg a petition filed by her family in Florida under the Southern Homestead Act, which got them 104 acres of land in Florida.   “Never again will ‘40 acres and a mule,’ the Southern Homestead Act, the complexity of black people in Alabama and Mississippi – never again will I approach those subjects and not think of these individual cases,” says Gates. “You could read black history books from here to Timbuktu and you won’t find a story like that.”

CRTC Issues Drama Policy

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

(Feb. 1, 2006) The federal broadcast regulator has ordered Canada's three major English-language private television networks to increase the money they spend on homemade drama and to try to raise viewership of these dramas. In a seven-page notice, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) says it wants CTV, Global and CHUM to increase their annual expenditures on Canadian drama to 6 per cent of total annual gross revenues from the current industry average of 3.3 per cent. That threshold would be achieved in increments over five years. Similarly, the CRTC is now requiring the networks, through marketing and scheduling, to boost the viewing of English-language drama programming so that by 2008-2009, Canadian productions will enjoy at least 16.5 per cent of the networks' total drama viewership. In 2003-2004, the industry average was 9.2 per cent, with CTV reporting that 10.5 per cent of its total drama viewership was of Canadian shows, CHUM 9.1 per cent and Global 8.4. The CRTC first floated its proposed targets for viewing and expenditures last August, then sought comments from industry players before making its decision to order increased commitments from the networks. In its notice, the commission acknowledges that it "will be a challenge for" CTV, Global and CHUM to reach these targets, which, if achieved, will represent an 80-per-cent increase in both investment and audience from current levels. But the CRTC believes they're "achievable" if the major networks "take advantage" of an incentive program the CRTC announced in November, 2004. That program permits broadcasters to air additional advertising on popular U.S.-made prime-time programs.

According to the CRTC, the networks would be able to show between 30 seconds and eight minutes more advertising for each hour of original Canadian drama they telecast in prime time. Bonus seconds and minutes are awarded, too, if ratings increase for these Canadian shows or if a network hikes its Canadian drama spending. Private broadcasters have been lashed in recent years by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, among others, who claim the networks have shirked their commitment to homemade drama since 1999, when the CRTC expanded the definition of "priority programming" to include reality TV, documentaries and entertainment magazines. Yesterday, ACTRA's director of public policy and communications Ken Thompson repeated his organization's opinion that "an incentive program on its own is not enough. It has to be part of a more comprehensive regulatory program," including requirements that networks show Canadian drama in prime time. Thompson urged the CRTC to use licence-renewal hearings for CBC, CTV and Global to review its TV policy.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters had no comment yesterday, but has previously told the CRTC that "a 40-per-cent increase in viewing would be a more reasonable and attainable industry objective," instead of the 80 per cent mandated. Friday's CRTC release also said Canada's specialty channels have to reach a 7.5-per-cent increase in their viewing targets for Canadian drama, using a 1.5-per-cent increase per year over the next five years. The commission noted that, given the wide disparities between English-language specialty services -- in 2003-2004, Canadian drama on these was as low as 1 per cent and as high as 44 per cent -- "a single industry objective for all services would be impracticable."


Toronto Director Busy Keeping It 'Real'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

(Jan. 29, 2006) Ostensibly, Andrew Moodie is spending his rehearsal lunch break with a Toronto Star reporter to discuss writing and directing The Real McCoy, which opens Thursday at Factory Theatre.  But when the conversation turns to Toronto the Good, Moodie's script-in-progress about racial profiling, he's the one probing — for reaction to Toronto's rash of shootings.  "What are you feeling?" he asks, head cocked to one side. "What do you think the causes are?" he presses, between bites of pasta.  Fork aloft, he declares, "You're one of the people I should talk to, because you work in journalism and you're a black woman."  Reality has always informed Moodie's work. His Chalmers Award-winning first play, Riot, was about the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots; and Oui dealt with the 1995 Quebec referendum. The Real McCoy arose from the writer's conversation with a stranger at a party.  "He said `You know the origin of (the saying) "the real McCoy" don't you?' And I said `The Hatfields and the McCoys?' And he said `No, no, no.'"  Moodie was moved by the unfolding tale about African Canadian engineer Elijah McCoy, who in the 1800s invented a lubricating cup (that automatically oiled working machinery), making trains run more efficiently. But he was denied recognition because of racism.  "It was a revolutionary thing that he created with such a high degree of expertise and quality that when people would ask for a lubricating cup, they would always demand the McCoy lubricating cup, henceforth the expression `the real'" — and here the playwright extends his hand with flourish, beckoning the reporter to fill it in.  "There's something about the story that speaks to how everybody has something that's unique about them; and often that special gift is not recognized or appreciated." The Dora Award-winning actor clears his throat noisily when asked about his special gift. "Umm ... I don't know. You should maybe ask my wife on a good day," says the father of two girls.

A few years ago, Moodie told the Star: "I only write when I am not acting, so if you see another play from me, it means my acting career is not going too well." Now here he is with several scripts on the go and directing, to boot. When reminded, Moodie mimics using a defibrillator — "Clear! Somebody call .... It means my acting career is dead."  As Factory's playwright-in-residence this season, Moodie uses the theatre's resources to develop other projects. At the Feb. 23 performance of The Real McCoy, audience members will be asked their opinions about the city's crime wave in aid of Toronto the Good.  "Like a lot of Torontonians, I'm really shocked and confused by a lot of the gun violence in Toronto and I wanted to write something that spoke to what we're all feeling right now.  "You, like me, like a lot of middle-class, educated African Canadians, or whatever, of many different origins, I think part of our frustration is that feeling of a certain amount of helplessness.  "We grew up in Bill Davis's Ontario, which was a different place ... I think that certain youth, of all colours actually, are the victims of a system and that system has failed them in a way that it hasn't failed Ontarians before.  "That's what I want to say to that kid who's thinking `I gotta go get and gun, and go out and whatever': `Dude, it's not you. Do you realize it's a whole system and you have to break out of that?'  "Granted, I have a father whom I love — though we fought a lot and we didn't get along for awhile — and a lot of kids don't have that, but still, the resources are here.  "It's all about one's attitude and outlook towards the world. And that's one of the things that inspired me about Elijah McCoy. He had a sharp intellect and he had self worth. His attitude when faced with adversity was, `I'm worth more than this.' If he saw a young black person walking down the street, he would say, `How you doing son? Do you have an education? You thinking about getting an education? If not, come work for me."  Moodie is working on two other scripts: one about acting, the other about Harlem Renaissance writer Wallace Thurman.  "It's all about love," he explains. "Nothing to do with race. Nothing.  "The reason I picked Wallace Thurman and his life is that as a writer he, too, got sick and tired of race dialogue. I have to balance it out, or else I just want to slit my wrists."  The Real McCoy runs Feb. 2-26 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. Tickets $20-$35 at theatre box office, 416-504-9971, or

Leading the Fellowship

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Jan. 29, 2006) Webster's Dictionary defines "wizard" both as "One who practices magic or sorcery" and "Someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field."  They could have just said, "See Brent Carver."  When the 54-year-old Tony Award-winning actor was cast as Gandalf in the production of The Lord of the Rings, which starts previews at the Princess of Wales Theatre this Thursday, it came as no great surprise to anyone familiar with Carver's theatre work.  They've been used to his wizardry for years.  From Kiss of the Spider Woman to Hamlet, from Fiddler on the Roof to The Wild Duck, he's a performer who always manages to bring something otherworldly to a role. When Carver pauses on stage, you often get the feeling he's waiting for divine inspiration, not just his next cue.  Who better, then, to play the man who is — for all intents and purposes — the spiritual leader of Middle Earth?  That title stops Carver short on a recent luncheon break from rehearsals and he pauses mid-air with a forkful of omelette.  "I think that's a fantastic phrase, `spiritual leader,' but it's a frightening one as well. When they first talked to me about playing Gandalf, I realized it was an incredible opportunity, but I also thought what a frightening responsibility it was as well."  Director Matthew Warchus emphatically thought Carver was up to it, not only hailing "his dazzling versatility and prowess," but asserting that "he is aptly suited to be the inspiring leader and father figure to this dynamic young company."  Statements like that embarrass the painfully shy Carver and he shakes his head to throw off the compliments like a dog shedding water after an unwanted bath.  "No, it's the people in charge of the show who deserve all the praise. None of the choices Matthew and his team have made are obvious ones. They all display care and thought and originality. And they're generous, too. There is a well of imagination inside all of us that is being tapped in rehearsal."

When asked to give an example of what he means, Carver takes a sip of coffee to collect his thoughts before responding.  "There was a very interesting exercise. We all sat around one day in a circle and were asked what our version of faith was. Fifty-five people. Some were spiritualists, or agnostics or Christians or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists. I think there were nine different groups.  "Then every group was asked to explore how they would move to express their own particular faith. Explore it and then present it to the whole company."  Carver's voice thrills with the discovery. "What was extraordinary about it was that within every group, there were movements and gestures that were the same. There were major differences but it was the similarities we remembered.  "Think about it. People were asked to look inside themselves, discover something profound and then share it with others. That's what this whole rehearsal process has been like."  Faith is a word with particular resonance for Carver, who describes himself as "spiritual, but not necessarily religious," and this kind of exercise fits exactly with his world view.  "No one has a patent on faith. No one has a patent on God. We can all write our own way. But to do that, you have to be open, you have to listen and believe that the answers will be there."  That belief has stayed with Carver through a life that has had its share of personal tragedies to match his professional triumphs.  Born in Cranbrook, B.C. on Nov. 17, 1951, his childhood was haunted by his family's memory of his brother Danny, who drowned at the age of two, just before Carver was born.  And in 1990, his greatest friend, actor Susan Wright, died tragically during a fire in Carver's Stratford house while he was working out of town.  He's talking now about Gandalf's path in The Lord of the Rings, but it could just as easily be his own road he's describing.  "In everyone's journey in this life, we know that if we're going to move forward, we have to go through something terrible. To be born again with new energy and ideas, you have to die, in a way, to your old life.  "What is the process that takes you through the mountains, through the mines? I don't know what will happen when I let go of power, but I have to trust that I will be caught and that I will not fall."

He speaks from experience. A few months after Wright's death, at the depth of his grief, he was cast as Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman. It played Toronto and London before bringing him to Broadway in 1993.  "This first-rate actor guided his audiences through the labyrinth of one man's very conflicted interior," raved the New York Times. He won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, but only three months later, at the height of his fame, he suddenly left the show and quietly resumed working in Canadian theatre. He has returned to New York several times; still, that initial departure has always remained a mystery.  It starts to make sense when Carver discusses the nature of the golden band that lies at the centre of the Tolkien masterpiece.  "Everyone in the story has to be careful about wanting the ring too much. It becomes your weakest point, because it is your greatest desire. Sometimes the strongest choice is to walk away, but we must remember that everyone who finds the ring is meant to find it."  When Carver describes how he sees Gandalf it's revealing how much of his own personality he imbues into the character — and vice versa.  "Gandalf is aware of his own limitations ... He cannot use his power to change things. It must be hidden; it must be shared. It's not demonstrated or show-offy.  "At one point, he says, `I can see no farther than you. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.' He is sent to see suffering, wake someone up to it and enable them to end it, but he is not the fixer."  Since Carver is a performer who has made an equal mark in both musicals and non-musicals, he's well suited to lead The Lord of the Rings. Although filled with music and song, its creators don't want it to be perceived as "a musical," with the connotations of triviality that word can have.  But Carver relates strongly to the music composed by A.R. Rahman and Värttinä, describing it "like a calling from somewhere else. I find it familiar, not like I've heard the tune before, but like I've known it somewhere in this life or another one.  "I think we were sung into existence. Because when you least expect it, a melodic phrase comes through that cuts right into the heart of our being. Nothing has the primal power of music and that's something the creators of the show understand."

At this point in rehearsals, Carver is immersed in the show's technical details, which should seem enormous.  "But so far I find it remarkably intimate," he confides. "I also find it breathtakingly beautiful. Not in the shallow, pretty, picture-postcard way, but something much deeper. The beauty of nature. It's always back to nature with Tolkien, isn't it? "  Reminded that a giant tree trunk is the image behind the central playing area on stage, he lights up and raises his voice beyond its usual whisper.  "The symbol of the tree is perfect! The roots go down deep into the earth." He stretches his arms towards the ceiling. "And then they reach up ... to Father, or God ... or whatever you choose to call it."  He lowers his hands in wonder. "Every show I do feels totally new to me. When you least expect it, you can accept it."  And he seems ready for the people who will begin filling the Princess of Wales on Thursday night. "What we need now is what an audience will bring into the theatre. Their hopes and their fears.  "They'll give us the rest of the information we need to continue our journey."

With A Production Of Our Town, Soulpepper Launches Its New Distillery Home

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Jan. 28, 2006) On Thursday night, Albert Schultz will be the first actor to step forward on the stage of the Baillie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.  He'll touch the brick wall of the Gooderham & Worts Distillery tank house that's been there since 1832 and walk toward the audience, preparing to speak the opening lines for the
Soulpepper Theatre production of Our Town.  Most people would say it's a moment Schultz and his company have been aiming at since their initial performance in 1998, but it actually began long before that.  "The dream was always there," admits Schultz, sitting in his book-lined office and looking out at the $14-million facility that once only existed in his imagination.  Started in 1997 by 12 actors with a passion for theatre and spurred along by one of them (Schultz) with a particular gift for forward motion, Soulpepper has made a bigger impact on this city in less time than any other arts organization in recent memory.  In its brief history, it has created 35 productions, which — at their best — stand at a world-class level of achievement.  While our major classical festivals like Stratford and Shaw suffer from a disconcerting tendency to rely on Broadway musicals to balance their budgets, Soulpepper has adhered to its vision and presented nothing but plays of the highest calibre.  And even though not every production has been of equal merit, they've set a benchmark of artistry they usually reach. The other major Toronto companies (CanStage, Tarragon, Factory, etc.) are all wildly erratic by comparison.  This intellectual rigour has paid off. Phillip Silver, Dean of Fine Arts at York University, commends Soulpepper for "having established a clear mission in respect to the classics and delivering those works with a standard of consistently high quality."  Derrick Chua, president of the Board of the Toronto Fringe Festival, also draws attention to the stability of their work.  "I have high praise for those who strive and succeed in presenting dynamic and exciting theatre," Chua says. "For a company to do this so consistently well over a period of years is an incredible achievement."

Although the 42-year-old Schultz confesses to having wanted to be an artistic director "ever since I was 23 years old," the actual growth of the company took just a decade.  It began in 1988, when Stratford's then-artistic director John Neville dissolved the festival's Young Company, leaving a group of talented young classical performers — including Schultz —without a place to ply their craft.  "There was an almost-Soulpepper that happened in 1989," recalls Schultz with a grin. "We got together and nearly did it in Cornwall. They had one of the beautiful atmospheric theatres they were going to tear down and so some of us who had been at Stratford went down and met with them.  "We planned a season and we were going to open with Our Town. You see? I told you this was brewing for a long time. We got a lot of press on it, but then the city politicians did some sleight of hand and the thing turned into a parking lot."  Schultz put theatre on the back burner for the next five years as he moved into the cast of two popular TV series, Street Legal and Side Effects.  But another group of actors had a galvanizing experience in 1991, when they worked on Chekhov's The Three Sisters for Masterclass Theatre under Hungarian director Laszlo Marton. Schultz's wife, Susan Coyne, was in that production as well and couldn't stop telling her husband about it.  "There were Joe Ziegler and I," rants Schultz, "in the bowels of the CBC building. Two classically trained actors turned out of the Stratford fold, working on TV series. We'd sit around on our breaks saying things like, `We have to do Uncle Vanya!'"  Finally in 1997, 12 refugees from the Stratford Festival and the Masterclass Theatre came together with a common goal: to do classical theatre in Toronto. But they needed leadership.  "For a few months," remembers Schultz, "we had an artistic directorate made up of Nancy (Palk), Diego (Matamoros), Diana LeBlanc and me. We had one meeting and I said, `I don't think this is going to work. We need one person and I think it's got to be me.' Fortunately they agreed."  It was now the fall of 1997 and Schultz moved quickly. First he went to Don Shipley, then head of theatre at Harbourfront and told him their plans. He promised them a home if their mentor Robin Phillips came on to direct their opening shows.  Schultz brought Phillips on side and soon actors Brent Carver and Peter Donat agreed to be guest artists. David Mirvish also consented to mount a Soulpepper production of Our Town as part of the Royal Alex subscription season in the spring of 1999.

The company boldly opened on two successive July nights in 1998 with German playwright Schiller's seldom-performed tragedy Don Carlos and Molière's comedy The Misanthrope.  The critical response was overwhelming, with the Star's Vit Wagner calling the Schiller "nothing short of a revelation." Audiences packed the DuMaurier Theatre at Harbourfront and the company was launched in fine style.  The second year was an even greater success, with five productions that earned raves and filled the theatres. Beckett, Chekhov, Molnar, Wilder and Williams proved that Soulpepper could make serious theatre and great box office as well.  Then came the summer of their discontent.  "We avoided the sophomore slump," quips Schultz, "but we made up for it in our junior year."  The 2000 season was a rough time for Soulpepper. They began with an adaptation of The Mill on the Floss, with Phillips returning in what everyone hoped would be triumph.  It didn't work out that way. Rehearsals were tense and on opening night Phillips informed the audience they were going to see "a glorified dress rehearsal" and crouched beside the stage hissing directions to the cast.  Schultz shakes his head at the memory. "I sat there and knew this will be a moment people would never forget."  The reviews were brutal and the attendance sparse. Phillips hasn't worked with Soulpepper since. "Would I ask him back?" ponders Schultz. "You never know. Life is long."  But fate wasn't through with the organization yet that summer. A production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Matamoros was cancelled days before it was due to open.  The official reason was a serious knee injury that had sidelined the Romeo, Anthony McLean. At the time, Schultz told the Star's Robert Crew, "I have every intention of doing the show next year," but he never did. And now, Schultz concedes that in addition to McLean's genuine injury, "the production wasn't ready to open."

For the first time, the golden company was in trouble.  "You have to understand," explains Schultz. "We made all the decisions. We took all the financial risks. Company members mortgaged their houses to get things on the stage. It was our asses on the line."  Up until that point, there had been no board of directors. "We grew up around so many stories of boards doing terrible things to artists."  But the time had come for help and it fell right into Schultz's lap.  "Roger Garland called me out of the blue and asked if there was anything he could do."  Garland was then vice-chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and a well-known arts supporter.  "We had lunch," Schultz relates, "and I let him know our situation. I asked him to be chair of our board. Together we handpicked the rest of our members. Roger told all of them, `The reason you're here is to help this company financially.' They've never once meddled."  Schultz breathes with relief. "The summer of 2000 was a big dip for us, but it immediately turned into an ascendancy."  He was right. The last five seasons have shown Soulpepper to be at the top of its form most of the time, getting rave reviews from the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times as well as the Toronto media.  The company was in excellent shape; all it needed was a home of its own.  Schultz had his eye on the Distillery District long before the plans for its development were announced.  "I was shooting a made-for-TV movie called Breakfast with Dick and Dorothy down there in 1999, I think, and I scoped out the two tank houses we eventually used."  Then in December 2001, when Garland and Schultz heard the people from Cityscape Development on CBC Radio discussing their plans for the district, they sprang into action.  A long-discussed proposal to work on a cooperative learning facility with the George Brown Theatre School added fuel to the fire, and before too long, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts was born.  Unlike many other new arts facilities, it's coming into the world on time, on budget and without substantial trauma. Schultz credits it to one man.

"Roger Garland. He had the gravitas, the moral authority, the leadership, calm and expertise to get us here today. We couldn't have done it without him."  But with so much history behind him, what will be going through Schultz's head as he walks out on stage Thursday night?  "It'll be a huge honour to be the first actor to walk forward on that stage. I'm going to feel immense pride in all of the people who are there. And I'll be thinking, `This is just the first of many, many stories we will tell you in this space.'"

Backstage Genius Must Appear On Stage

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kate Taylor

(Jan. 28, 2006) And so,
Soulpepper nears the summit: The Toronto classical theatre company began preview performances of two plays in repertoire this week, launching both its first-ever winter season and its permanent residence in the city's Distillery Historic District at the sparkling new Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Next week, the company founded on a shoestring by a group of frustrated mid-career actors in 1998 will be popping the champagne corks to celebrate its opening nights -- and awaiting the reviews. No doubt they will be friendly: In a mere eight years, Soulpepper has emerged as the most routinely praised and now most beautifully housed troupe in the city. In the hardscrabble world of Canadian theatre, Soulpepper has climbed this mountain in record time. No wonder some thespian types, tired of watching from below, are predicting the company's reach has finally exceeded its grasp and half-hoping that it might take a tumble. Such a fall, however, is unlikely: As always, Soulpepper's risks are carefully calculated ones. Soulpepper has succeeded so rapidly partly because it has filled a niche on the English-Canadian theatre scene -- well, a whole shelf actually -- that was puzzlingly vacant. Before Soulpepper, the only consistent staging of the classics was done at the two Ontario summer festivals, Shaw and Stratford. Because the development of an indigenous theatre scene in Toronto in the 1970s was a nationalist project, the founding fathers -- Tarragon, Passe Muraille and Factory -- all concentrated almost exclusively on new Canadian plays. Meanwhile, CanStage has served as Toronto's regional theatre, focusing on recent American and British hits just like its sisters across the country. Banking that downtown types might actually like some serious, indoor theatre in the summer, Soulpepper launched two plays in rep at Harbourfront Centre in 1998, soon building into what had become, by 2005, a five-play, three-month season. There is a similar logic to its move to a nine-show, year-round schedule. A national theatre scene so dominated by Shakespeare-in-the-park in the summer, and Canadian and international contemporary work the rest of the year, will now pay serious attention to the classics in the time and place where it might seem to actually make the most psychological sense: in the city in the wintertime.

The company begins carefully with a revival of its own production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town and a new production of Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector. The first Soulpepper staged to good reviews in 1999, giving an old American favourite a very belated professional Toronto premiere; the second was last performed in the city in 1985, so the program upholds the Soulpepper tradition of reintroducing Toronto to solid classics it hasn't seen in decades. The critics will be happily anticipating next week. They generally liked Our Town back in Soulpepper's second season and the Gogol satire stars one of the company's most reliable tragi-comedians, Diego Matamoros. The media, unlike the theatre fraternity, have no reason to be resentful: Things were definitely less interesting before Soulpepper came along. Soulpepper has succeeded with audiences and critics because it has filled in gaps. It has also, in an era when public grants have been scarce, succeeded spectacularly well with private-sector donors and corporate sponsors. Again, this achievement is something of a no-brainer. Albert Schultz, the company's relentlessly charming artistic director, has said as much over the years, noting that his great success in fundraising was simple: He matched blue-chip companies with blue-chip plays. That corporate charisma is also the source of the bitter envy you can sometimes sense out in the smaller theatre community, which often lacks the well-heeled contacts that could turn a $700,000 budget into a $6-million one in the space of seven seasons, and then raise the capital to build a brand-new, state-of-the-art theatre, too. The three key mid-sized companies devoted to Canadian plays do already own their own homes, but all are housed in roughly adapted heritage buildings in bad need of updating. Only the Tarragon, the richest of the three, has been able to afford an overhaul in recent years. With their cramped lobbies, minuscule washrooms, creaking radiators, dubious roofs and slummy green rooms, these are the makeshift sites that have nurtured English-Canadian drama. And, of course, that is another gripe against Soulpepper's great success: The critics and donors have lavished attention on a company that is performing old theatre, not new. But in that regard, Soulpepper is filling yet another gap. Theatre artists need to work on the classics to build their skills and, in Canada, if you can't or don't want to join Stratford or Shaw, the opportunities are few and far between. Where else would Schultz get the opportunity to play Hamlet, as he did last summer, or William Webster get the chance to try Lear, as he will next fall? Meanwhile, the company, which has always run significant artistic training and youth-outreach programs on the side, is banking on its new academy, a developmental program for young artists who will produce a collective creation annually, to add a bit of contemporary playmaking to the mix.

Is that enough? Tarragon, Factory or Passe Muraille were institutions founded to build a national theatre; as an actors' company Soulpepper is one dedicated to the easier task of building actors. The emphasis on developing both young audiences and young performers has given Soulpepper a heart and a mandate -- using the plays of yesterday to nurture the artists of today and the audiences of tomorrow -- but not a specific directorial vision. Schultz's forte has always been leading the company in the community rather than directing it on stage. If the calibre of its members guarantees strong performances, the success of the actual productions depends largely on which director has been hired and what idea he has brought to the play. (Soulpepper has worked with both some noted foreigners especially Laszlo Marton of Hungary and leading Canadians including Robin Phillips and Daniel Brooks.) But despite the presence of these formidable directors, the point of a Soulpepper show often seems to lie largely in the casting: Albert Schultz will essay Hamlet; William Hutt in Waiting for Godot, of course. Perhaps because of this actor-centred approach, Soulpepper has had clearer success with the more manageable 20th-century classics by Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett and late 19th-century plays such as those of Anton Chekhov than it has had with earlier and larger plays, particularly Shakespeare's. The coming challenge will lie not merely in managing the expenses and cares of owning a new home nor in luring audiences well east of downtown; in that regard, the company has always been well run and its plays successfully marketed. The real job for Schultz and Soulpepper's artists will be to make it clear on stage why the company is producing what it is.

Wendy Wasserstein, 55: Feminist Playwright

Source: Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2006) NEW YORK — Playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who celebrated women confronting feminism, careers, love and motherhood in such works as The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig, died Monday. She was 55. Wasserstein, who had been battling cancer in recent months, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Lincoln Center Theater spokesman Philip Rinaldi said. Andre Bishop, head of Lincoln Center Theater and a close friend of Wasserstein, said the cause of death was lymphoma. Her writing was known for its sharp, often wry observations about what women had to do to succeed in a world dominated by men. In The Heidi Chronicles, which won the best-play Tony as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1989, its insecure heroine (played by Joan Allen) takes a 20-year journey beginning in the late 1960s and changes her attitudes about herself, men and other women. The Sisters Rosensweig, which moved from Lincoln Center to Broadway in 1993, concerned three siblings who find strength in themselves and in each other. Her most recent work, Third, which ended a New York run Dec. 18, 2005, dealt with a female college professor, played by Dianne Wiest, whose liberal, feminist convictions are put to the test by a student she sees as the epitome of the white male establishment. In public, Wasserstein was genial, often quite funny, presenting herself as a rumpled observer of the baby-boom generation. Many of her plays were initially seen at off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons and later at Lincoln Center Theater, both under the direction of longtime mentor and friend, Andre Bishop. Wasserstein was first noticed with Uncommon Women and Others, written as a Yale School of Drama graduate thesis. The one-act play was expanded and done off-Broadway in 1977 with Glenn Close, Jill Eikenberry and Swoosie Kurtz in the cast. A year later, this satire about the anxieties of female college graduates was filmed for public television with Meryl Streep replacing Close. The playwright continued her off-Broadway success with Isn't It Romantic? — about a free spirit who rejects her fiancé and tries to find a life as a single woman.

In 1997, Broadway saw An American Daughter, Wasserstein's story of the political downfall of a perfect career woman, played by Kate Nelligan. It was followed in 2000 by Old Money, her look at money, manners and morals at the beginning and end of the 20th century, done at Lincoln Center's small Mitzi Newhouse Theater. While primarily a playwright, Wasserstein also wrote for TV and the movies, most notably the screenplay for the 1998 film version of Stephen McCauley's novel, The Object of My Affection, about a gay man and a pregnant woman who meet and move in together. Wasserstein was the author of the bestselling children's book, Pamela's First Musical (1996). She also wrote two collections of personal essays, Bachelor Girls, published in 1990, and Shiksa Goddess: Or, How I Spent My Forties (2001). At age 48, Wasserstein had a daughter, Lucy Jane, born in 1999, three month prematurely. Despite persistent speculation, she always declined to reveal the identity of the girl's father. "The thing about having a baby (at an) older (age) is that she doesn't have to live her life for me," Wasserstein said in an interview with the Forward. "I can see her, I hope, as a person." Born Oct. 18, 1950, Wasserstein, the youngest of four children, grew up first in Brooklyn in what she has called, "a nice, middle-class Jewish family," and later in Manhattan. Her father, Morris, was a textile executive. She attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and then went to Yale University where she became friends with such budding playwrights as Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato and began her theatre career. "I find myself being more interested in my old friends and in deeper alliances," Wasserstein said in an interview with Time last year. "My 50s are also about being a mother and the joy of my daughter Lucy Jane and about loss. Real loss. My sister Sandra died of breast cancer at 60, so I know about things I didn't know about before. My father died two years ago, and then my friend (director) Gerald Gutierrez died. He was 53. I think if you experience loss, you also on some level try to treasure joy. It can be as simple as going to the ballet or being with your child."


Dynasty Stars Plan Toronto Rematch

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Jan. 31, 2006) Alexis and Krystle are at it again and this time, the cat fight is going to start in Toronto.  The Star has learned that
Joan Collins and Linda Evans, who sent sparks flying through the world of 1980s television as the duelling divas of the night-time soap opera Dynasty are going to come here this fall as part of the Mirvish subscription season in a play called Legends.  The script by James Kirkwood deals with two aging screen stars, once the bitterest of enemies, who plan to revive their careers by co-starring in a Broadway show.  With Carol Channing and Mary Martin in the leads, the show played a 23-city tour in 1986 but never got to New York. Kirkwood (best known as one of the authors of A Chorus Line), later chronicled the trauma-riddled proceedings in a hilarious memoir called Diary of a Mad Playwright.  Rumours of this Collins/Evans theatrical bitch-fest have been circulating for over a year now, with Collins on her own website saying she "will be starting rehearsals in the summer of 2006 for Legends" and admitting she has already been "eyeing a Toronto tryout."  Sources close to the production confirm that the show will indeed be opening here, probably in September.  But there's no indication that Blake Carrington will be coming along for the ride.


Who Will Helm Heritage?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Val Ross And James Adams

(Jan. 28, 2006) The last time it looked as if a Stephen Harper government would take office, in June, 2004, Canada's cultural industries were in panic mode: The Conservatives would abandon arm's-length policies governing the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, they said. They'd open the Canadian heavens to U.S. satellites. They'd starve the Canada Council and the CBC. Yet the last time Conservatives did take the reins, under Brian Mulroney, cultural nationalists recall it as a golden age. Ministers Marcel Masse and Flora MacDonald brought in ownership restrictions, tax protections and funding. This time, the cultural industries are watching to see how the Conservatives face three tests. The first involves honouring Canada Council funding promises. The second involves federal-provincial turf issues. The third concerns whether they'll top up the huge arts and heritage building projects now under way in Toronto and other cities. Some lobbyists are hopeful the Conservatives will keep the money flowing for projects such as Toronto's opera house and Western art galleries. "The fact that the Conservative Party will want to make a dent in the very large urban centres should help focus their attention," suggests Alain Pineau, national director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts. Cultural lobbyists also cite the Conservatives' desire to consolidate their newfound base in Quebec, and hope this will suggest a Mulroney-era strategy that recognizes (at minimum) the strategic importance of culture -- at least in Quebec. They take as a hopeful sign the Conservative promise to establish a francophone secretariat within the Heritage Department, and their offer that Quebec could play a role in international institutions such as UNESCO. These promises, meanwhile, feed rumours that the next Heritage minister could be a Quebecker (or someone with a strong Quebec lieutenant). Then again, that might send a signal of accommodation with Quebec, with memories of the way things have always been done -- and neither are messages the Harper Conservatives want to send. One thing is sure: In the days following a change in government, speculation itself becomes an art form. Some of the names rumoured to be candidates for Heritage minister:

Bev Oda
61, MP for Clarington-Scugog-Uxbridge, Ont. Pluses: Said be the author of the Conservative culture platform. "She knows her stuff," is the consensus. No wonder: veteran of TVOntario, City-TV, a former CTV executive and CRTC commissioner, she has worked as a policy adviser to three secretaries of state. Drawbacks: No western base, no Quebec base, and despite her impressive CV, she's still remembered as the one who scared the artsy horses when she said, "If no one's watching CBC television, English language, then does it justify the utilization of those dollars in that way?"

Lawrence Cannon
56, MP for Pontiac, Que., a riding that stretches from the civil servants of Ottawa suburbs to first nations in the north woods. Pluses: Handsome, bilingual, described by one gushing Albertan reporter to be "Trudeauesque." A seasoned politician, he was member of the Quebec National Assembly from 1985-1994 and served as provincial communications minister under Robert Bourassa in the early 1990s. Drawbacks: He is said not to want culture, a minor portfolio. And is an old pal of Sheila Copps.

Josee Werner
AGE XX, MP for Louis Saint-Laurent, a Quebec City riding once represented by Wilfrid Laurier and Louis St. Laurent. Cut her political teeth as an aide to Lawrence Cannon (see above). Pluses: Named by Stephen Harper to his Quebec shadow cabinet, and for the francophonie, she chaired the Conservative Party's Quebec caucus. Drawbacks: Mixed loyalties? Once a provincial Liberal, then involved with Action Démocratique du Québec, she is part of an ADQ presence in the Quebec Conservatives that worries more right-wing red-meat Conservatives (so does her social liberalism).

Michael Chong
34, MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, which includes one of Canada's artsiest small cities, Guelph.
Pluses: Young, well-spoken, former information officer for the NHL Players Association and, in 1997, one of the founders of the Dominion Institute which has endeared itself to Tories for its promotion of Canadian history and values. Impressed Ottawa types last year with his presentation on creative cities at the Rideau Club. Also on the board of the internationally renowned Elora Festival of Music. Negatives: He's not fluently bilingual, and a political novice, having first been elected in 2004.

Jean-Pierre Blackburn
57, MP for Jonquiere-Alma. Pluses: Bilingual. Well-known in Quebec, having first been elected MP in 1984 as a Mulroney Tory and again in 1988. Also, since his riding is one of the most francophone in Canada -- almost 97 per cent of registered voters named French as their mother tongue -- Prime Minister Harper will be keen to hang on to. Member of the Standing Committee on Communications and Culture during the Mulroney years (Communications became Canadian Heritage in 1996). President, Blackburn Communication Inc., a public relations firm.
Negatives: May be seen as more businessman than cultural maven in Quebec. Has been out of electoral politics since 1993. Touted as cabinet material but even though Quebec is often consumed by cultural issues may think Heritage is too modest a perch.

Canada’s Black History Heritage A Click Away

Source: Torstar News Service

(Jan. 30, 2006) A new Internet site will allow students to explore Black Canadian history materials in an organized manner over the Internet instead of having to rely on vast American cyber-sources which may distort the Canadian experience. The site,, features categories such as slavery, early settlement and human rights. It was launched yesterday as the Ontario Black History Society kicked off Black History Month at a downtown Toronto hotel. Rosemary Sadlier, a Toronto writer/activist and president of the Black History Society, says the month long program of educational and cultural events is "tremendously" important because, "African Canadian students need to feel affirmed, be aware of the contributions made by other Blacks in Canada, have role models, and understand the social forces that have shaped and influenced their community ... They need to feel empowered." Eleven-year-old James Valitchka says he felt empowered to know that he could learn so much about Black experience in Canada over a Canadian website. He logged in and zeroed in on Oscar Peterson. James, a Grade 6 student from Brampton, will undoubtedly deserve his place on the site. He is already the author of six books, including I’m Not Brown, I’m Human and Superheroes Don’t Have Dads. The website is funded by the Toronto Dominion Bank and produced by the Historica Foundation of Canada which also publishes the online Canadian Encyclopedia. TD Vice-President Scott Mullin says he got the idea for the website after reading a Toronto Star report on a panel at last year’s opening of Black History Month which explored why many Black youth identify with a particular U.S. Black experience — the condition reflected in pop cultural portrayals of poverty, violence and isolation. 


Our Queen Of The Slopes:  Jennifer Heil

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Randy Starkman

(Jan. 29, 2006) The Turin Olympics give Jennifer Heil an opportunity to enjoy two of her great passions — moguls skiing and chocolate. The two-time defending World Cup moguls champion is a chocoholic and Turin crafts some of the world's best chocolate.  But there's no doubting her first priority. Heil, who has been a force again this season, can put Canada on the medals board on the opening day of competition in Turin on Feb. 11. In Salt Lake City four years ago, she was the youngest Canadian Olympian at 18 and placed fourth, missing a medal by 1 /100 of a point.  The 22-year-old native of Spruce Grove, Alta., spoke with Unplugged recently about navigating the Amazon, her healthy appetite, and travelling with the comforts of home.

What would be the first thing you'd do if you became Prime Minister?

I think being so involved in sport, I would want to work on the overall program in sports, build it from the grassroots up. But first thing there would be other priorities. I'm an environmentalist so I would want to put in place some laws that protect the environment.

What's your favourite Internet site?

Right now, I'm on GORP ( and I'm planning my trip to Brazil on that site. It's affiliated with Outside magazine so it's got a lot of great adventure ideas. There's one about taking a riverboat through the Amazon. Basically, you buy a hammock on the dock, you sleep in the hammock outside for four nights. If I can be brave enough, I'd like to do that.

What's your most annoying habit?

It would be my desire to eat chocolate all the time. I've thought about the difficulties I'm going to have when I retire and am a little less active. We'll have to deal with that when it comes (laughs).

If you could invite any three people in history to dinner, who would they be?

Hmmm. I would invite probably Albert Einstein. I would like to meet Leonardo Da Vinci. And third person? ... Bono.

What's your go-to song to get cranked up before an event?

I have a list for comp (competition) day and I have to play them in a certain order. Right now, it's Justin Timberlake, Senorita. I've had that one on the iPod for two years now. I like the more dancey tunes. I have Alicia Keyes. I don't listen to her right before I go, but I listen to her early in the morning. You don't want too much energy too soon and she keeps it in check. I have a ton of stuff.

What's the strangest thought you've ever had in the start gate?

The worst thought is if I have to go to the washroom (laughs). Then, you're in trouble because it's too late.

What's the best thing about the Olympics being in Italy?

The people are so passionate. We went to the Olympic site when we were in France competing in Tignes. We drove down on a day off. We went for lunch and we tried to order pizza. The man was like, "No, no, no, we don't serve pizza here. We serve pasta and this is my specialty and this is what you'll have" (laughs). So we asked for a cappuccino and he said, "No, I don't like cappuccino, there's no cappuccinos here" (laughs). He was so passionate about his cuisine and his pasta and I thought it was pretty neat.

What's the most underrated pleasure?

Eating (laughs heartily). I'm not sure if it's underrated, though, because there's a lot of great restaurants out there and a lot of people enjoying it. But I love a great meal with a glass of red wine. Actually, I'm really hungry ...

What's the biggest extravagance in your life?

I wouldn't say there are a lot. I don't really have a permanent residence. I don't have a car. I wouldn't know what to say to that. I would say maybe the number of boots I own.

What are we talking about here?

I've got a winter pair of boots. I've got a pair of white crazy boots from Belgium that everybody thinks are ski liners. Then I've got a casual black pair of boots from Montreal for every day and then I have a pair of dressy black boots (starts giggling) and those are just the ones that came to mind.

What's your biggest pet peeve?

People who double park. I grew up on wide roads where everyone parallel parks. Having to adjust and drive around downtown Montreal, that's been a difficult time for me (laughs).

What's the best thing about being a freestyle skier?

Actually, there's two things. Definitely this sport is an exciting sport and there's a lot of great people. I think it goes a long way when you can speak to your competitors, hang out with them and then go and race against them the following day. I think that's pretty neat. And also the travel. I mean it's really challenging and draining at times, but it can be so incredible just to see so many great things and countries and cultures. I've really enjoyed that.

What's the worst thing about being a freestyle skier?

I would say the travel (laughs). I would love to be in one place a little bit longer than we are. Just because during the off-season we're travelling all over the world — I was in Australia, Switzerland, France, Whistler — because we're chasing the snow. It would be nice to be in one place for half of the year.

What's the one thing you can't live without on the road?

This year my luggage has definitely gotten a little bit heavier because I think I'm at the point where I really want to decorate my own place and that hasn't been able to happen because I'm not in one place.  Right now, I'm travelling with a sheepskin rug (laughs hard). It's pretty small but, oh, I love it. It's right next to my bed every time. It's the first thing that comes out of my bag.

What about hobbies?

I love architecture. So I have a little bit of an architecture journal that I'm making of just different photos from around the world and design ideas maybe for houses in the future. It's a possibility (as a future career). I'm really passionate about it and I love the idea of building things. Right now, I'm in business (courses at McGill University). I think I'll stick with that for now.

What's the biggest misconception about you?

I don't really know, because I don't know what's all out there. I know a lot of people always say, "I can't believe how short you are. You look so much bigger on TV." (She is 5-foot-3.)

When was the last time you cried?

It was only a couple of days ago. Actually, that's the way I deal with stress. It's a good release for me. So I cry quite often.

Do you have any superstitions?

I try not to have superstitions. There's enough stress on competition day I don't want to worry about stuff I put on first (laughs). I had more when I was younger, but I really did try and get away from that.

Who makes you laugh?

I love the TV show Just for Laughs. It's filmed in Montreal. I love when they play pranks on people. I watch that in hysterics all by myself from start to finish (laughs). They're great.

Now that you're working with a nutritionist, what foods are you dying to have but you're being told you can't?

Well, it's been a little disappointing in some respects because now I know what's good for me and what's not (laughs). I'm definitely having to make some better choices — and I love to eat.  I still have allowed chocolate to remain on my menu, just because I love it so much. I figure that if it keeps me happy that's quite important (laughs). I've had to eat a lot more fish and that's tough for me.

Not a big fish eater?

Only if it's sushi. It's hard to eat that four nights a week.

What is your comfort food?

Chocolate. When I go home to Alberta, my neighbour brings over a chocolate cake with fudge icing. That's a definite favourite at the top of the list. Then, in Switzerland, I mean I tend to eat all the Swiss chocolate and chocolate fondue and chocolate chip cookies, it really doesn't matter.

I understand Turin has some pretty good chocolate.

I love the cappuccinos over there, too. You have to take what they're good at in each place and the cappuccinos are at the top over there.


Tiger comes from behind to win Buick

Excerpt from

(Jan. 30, 2006) *It was another Sunday nail-biter for fans of
Tiger Woods won the Buick Invitational in a three-way playoff against Australian rookie Nathan Green and two-time Masters champ José María Olazábal.  Woods sunk an 8-foot birdie on the 18th hole to get into the three-way playoff at San Diego’s Torrey Pines, then simply had to par the final two holes to claim the victory following crucial mistakes by the other two players. For Woods, it was the fourth time in 10 years that he won in his first PGA Tour event of the year, and he became the first four-time winner at the Buick Invitational on a course he played regularly as a kid.


Nine Secrets of Top Trainers

By Tom Storms, CPT, eFitness Guest Columnist

(Jan. 30, 20060 Don't you wish sometimes that you had your own personal trainer to guide you through your workout and give you hints about getting more out of your exercise? You may not be able to afford a trainer of your own, but by incorporating these trainer hints and tips into your day, you'll be on your way to making your workout even more effective!

1. Buddy up. One of the best benefits of having a personal trainer is having someone to hold you accountable for your exercise. A trainer is paid to do this for you, but the easy (and free!) solution is within your own circle of friends. Ask a reliable friend to be your workout partner and just the knowledge that they are depending on you to work out will increase your odds of staying on track with your exercise.

A unique way of ensuring success is to allow each partner a certain number of cuts per month at a price. Failing to show up for a session with your trainer still costs you money and so should skipping your workout with your friend. Pony up $10 for each cut and let it accumulate for six months or longer. At the end of a predetermined time frame, count the money and use it to treat you and your workout partner to a luxurious splurge.

2. Shorter workouts can be as effective as longer ones. Sure, everyone would like to be able to workout for 45 minutes of uninterrupted time, but let's be serious! With today's busy schedules and demanding jobs, finding time to exercise can be a struggle. The good news is that you don't need a huge block of time to see results. Studies have shown that workouts as short as 10 - 15 minutes can strengthen the body and improve your health.

Fit several brief workouts in your day and you not only increase your metabolism, but you also reach the ideal activity level of 45 minutes to one hour. Don't let yourself be discouraged by a lack of time; do the best with what you've got.

3. Gym membership isn't required. It's too easy to use lack of a gym membership as an excuse for not getting it done. The fact is, bodyweight workouts are just as effective, if not more than conventional gym equipment. It reduces the risk of injury, and everybody has one! I have quite a few clients who've seen tremendous results while working out at home, with or without equipment!

4. Add variety to see results. Undoubtedly the fastest way to see changes in your body is to keep surprising it. Changing up your routine every few days prevents your body from becoming conditioned to the same exercise day after day and requires it to call on different muscles for different activities. This means more muscles are worked over the course of just a few days, so you see the effects on your body in much less time than usual. An excellent method of adding variety is to incorporate weight lifting into your cardio routine. This requires the body to respond to challenges to balance. It speeds up your results, too!

5. Intensify for more strength. Most trainers recommend increasing the intensity of your workout to see improvement in your strength and aerobic capability. Too often people become comfortable with their level of exertion and aren't working as hard. Boosting the intensity keeps the body challenged and working harder. Taking deep, wide steps during aerobics and squeezing the buttock and thigh muscles challenge the body to a higher level of exertion and produce some amazing changes in just a few workouts. Those of you who weight train should try adding 3-5 pounds to your current weight and see the difference in toning and strength after a few sessions.

6. Know your excuses and head them off. As a personal trainer I often deal with clients who make all kinds of excuses to get out of a session or to avoid a certain exercise, and I must keep the client on track without offending. When you are your own personal trainer, it can be difficult to discipline yourself to your exercise schedule unless you give yourself an advantage. Sit and write down all the excuses you would use to avoid exercising or eating better. Once you've done that, go back and counter all your excuses. If you wrote down lack of time as an excuse, oppose it with suggestions for short, frequent workouts rather than one long session. If you wrote down sugar cravings in the evenings, be prepared for those by having a pre-determined meal plan. If you can anticipate your own excuses and know how to respond to them, you've won half the battle.

7. Make it fun! Perhaps the most common complaint about exercise is that it becomes boring too quickly. Personal trainers help you get through boredom by changing your routine or offering you new choices for activities. Help yourself break out of the boredom by choosing activities that appeal to you. Instead of spending 30 minutes inside on the treadmill, go for a hike on a local nature path. Rather than doing your aerobics video for the millionth time, go outside with your kids and jump on the trampoline for a while. The goal is to choose an activity that you enjoy and that requires physical activity.

8. Schedule and commit. Signing up for a personal trainer is a commitment of your time, money and energy, and perhaps because of that commitment people with personal trainers tend to stick with the program and get results. Apply that same sense of obligation to your personal at-home exercise program and you'll increase your chances of having a consistent workout plan.

Schedule your workouts just like any other appointment and write it on your calendar or Palm. Knowing that you have set aside time for exercise can help you follow through and stick to a successful program.

9. Reward yourself. Set checkpoints throughout your exercise program to assess your progress. Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or simply improve your health, take the time to check up on your improvement and then reward yourself for all the hard work!


Motivational Note Are You Really Ready To Get Busy?

By Willie Jolley, Visit

Do you want to do more, be more and achieve more? If the answer is yes then it is important you make a commitment to work on you, and sometimes that is hard, yet you must realize that if you want to succeed in life it will be because you face those hard things and deal with them, and that takes motivation. Motivation is taken from the Greek word "motere" which means, "to act". See it is one thing to talk about what you want but it takes motivation to do something about it, to act on it! I love the story about three little birds who are sitting on a telephone wire. One of them decides to fly away! How many birds are left? Three! Why? Because until you take action on your decisions nothing happens! You must be motivated! You must ACT! Get busy right now and act! You'll be so glad you did!