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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  June 15, 2006

Happy Father's Day!  Make sure that the man and father that is most special to you knows how much he means to you.  And ohhh, what a time for soccer fans!  Just another indication how multicultural Canada is with support coming from every pocket community!

Special events coming up this weekend include
DK Ibomeka's CD launch in Oakville and Eddie Bullen and Afropan!  Mark your calendars for an upcoming comedy show - the Karnival Komedy Xplosion during the Caribana weekend.  As usual, all details are below!  And don't forget Barbados on the Water at Harbourfront this weekend!

Big news for musicians and artists under the
VideoFact and Factor pages.  Don't forget to check out all the TIDBITS pages - they're chock full of important information! 

Check out all categories - tons of 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.

 

 

 ::HOT EVENTS::

DK Ibomeka CD Launch at Hugh’s Room – Wednesday, June 14

At six foot seven, DK Ibomeka (pronounced ee-bo-MECK-eh) has a towering stage presence and a voice to match.  Musicians and industry insiders are calling DK Ibomeka one of the best new voices in years, with a three-octave range informed by the clarity and vibrancy of Ella Fitzgerald, the soulfulness of Ray Charles, and the deep, rich bass of Joe Williams.  DK Ibomeka’s debut album “Love Stories” (in stores June 6, 2006), presents a mix of classic jazz sounds combined with a touch of blues and a distinct flavouring of soul-informed jazz.  “Love Stories” was produced by Haydain Neale (jacksoul), with legendary engineer and producer George Massenburg on board as mixing consultant, and was mastered in New York City by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound. With each live performance (including an appearance at the 2005 Montreal Jazz Festival where he shared the stage with the Neville Brothers, Patti Labelle and Haydain Neale) DK continues to captivate audiences and critics alike.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14
DK IBOMEKA  DEBUT CD LAUNCH "LOVE STORIES"
**One Night Only**
Hugh's Room
2261 Dundas Street West,  Toronto
8:30 pm

Tickets: $20 in advance , $22 at the door
www.hughsroom.com

Eddie Bullen & Afropan - Ivory N' Steel – June 17, 2006

For the first time in Toronto, an exciting collaboration of Smooth Jazz and Steel pan music. The island sounds of Afropan with the titillating tones of Eddie Bullen’s contemporary jazz flavoured with Caribbean and Latin rhythms. Add to the mix, the seductive sounds of Anslem Douglas and the power of Liberty Silver, for an evening of entertainment that is designed to thrill. 

SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 2006
EDDIE BULLEN & AFROPAN - IVORY N' STEEL
The Toronto Centre for the Arts
George Weston Recital Room
5040 Yonge Street
8:00 pm
Tickets: $40;  $30;   Group tickets (20 and over) - $35 
Tickets available at:   TicketMaster - 416-872-1111 or www.ticketmaster.ca  or at the TCA Box Office, 5040 Yonge Street
For more information visit    www.afropan.ca    or    www.eddiebullen.com  

Debut Sports Presents The Karnival Komedy Xplosion

Source: Debut Sports


Join one of Canada’s fastest rising black comics, Jay Martin as he hosts the Karnival Komedy Xplosion.  Presented by Debut Sports & Entertainment, the show will feature Don DC Curry and Earthquake.  DC Curry is best known for his memorable portrayal of “Uncle Elroy” in the hits Next Friday and Friday after Next and his reign as BET’s comedian of the year. Earthquake attracted fans during his time on the Def Comedy Jam Circuit and BET’s Comic View. 

Special guest hosts include Caribbean comedians Marc Trinidad and Jean Paul. There will be two chances to catch this comedy extravaganza, with shows on Friday, August 4 and Sunday August 6, 2006.

About Debut Sports:

Debut Sports and Entertainment is dedicated to the personal and business service needs of professional athletes and entertainers alike. We specialize in the creation and execution of their events, sponsorship, marketing, endorsements, public relations, speaking engagements and public appearances. We also are dedicated to the marketing and promotion of athletes and entertainers by integrating them into the corporate business world.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 4 and SUNDAY, AUGUST 6, 2006
DEBUT SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS KARNIVAL KOMEDY XPLOSION
**TWO PERFORMANCES**
Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts
5040 Yonge Street
Friday, August 4-, 2006 - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 6, 2006- 2:00 p.m.
For event information please visit www.debutsports.com
Or call Kirk Brooks at (416) 213-0123 ext 555
To purchase tickets, please visit www.tocentre.com or
www.ticketmaster.ca

 

 ::TOP STORIES::

On June 20th, Prepare To Get Loose With Nelly Furtado!

Source:  Universal Urban


Nelly Furtado is back in full effect! We here at the Universal Urban headquarters must admit that we haven't heard a more exciting album all year! Loose will be in stores June 20th and "Promiscuous" is the lead single. I am sure by now you've heard the song ample times and seen the crazy video featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. After all, it's no question that DJs across the country have been showing crazy love to Nelly and are about to take record spins to a new level with her next single "Maneater". Take our word... this album is full of surprises and songs that will energize you and everybody in your surrounding vicinity! What can we say, your girl Nelly has not only come with some serious heat this year but is also ready to put the whole music game on lockdown yet again! And make sure ya'll check for the track "No Hay Igual" in case ya'll want to know what else heat homegirl's bringing to the table!

Big things coming down the pipe for Nelly. First off, starting next Tuesday you can listen to Loose a week before its release on Universal Urban and Umusic.ca. Please, please don't sleep on the exclusive preview. Nelly will be performing at the MuchMusic Video Awards on June 18th with Timbaland. Make sure to keep it locked to UniversalUrban.com as we will be bringing you exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of our very own Nelly Furtado and an exclusive Universal Urban Nelly Furtado interview! As well, of course, as the craziest promotions and cross promotions. I heard she might even be doing a couple of shows soon so guess you'll have to keep checkin' UniversalUrban.com to find out.

Y'all don't wanna miss Nelly Furtado Week on MTV ! Check out the evolution of Canadian chart-topper Nelly Furtado from her music start in Trip-Hop to her reinvention into a mega star touching into Hip Hop and R&B with her new album Loose. Check out an exclusive Overdrive interview, her videos and much more, all week long!

Can't get enough of Ms. Furtado? For Nelly Truetones on your mobile phone text "NELLYFURTADO" to 299299.

Pre-order Loose on iTunes now! Including a interview with Nelly, a digital booklet and the bonus track "Undercover".  :: site ::

Doom Generation

Excerpt from Eye Weekly - By Joshua Ostroff

(June 8, 2006) "Ripped from the headlines" is a popular refrain for TV movies, but those generally use dramatic licence to exaggerate reality. Not CTV's Doomstown, which hits the airwaves mere weeks after Toronto police marched into the real Doomstown -- Etobicoke's Jamestown projects -- and rounded up over 100 suspected gang members in the cinematically titled raid Project XXX.  By contrast, the movie version revolves around a single death and a subsequent arrest, but in light of last year's summer of the gun -- and with the mercury and body count rising once again -- reality trumps fiction here.  Keeping things intimate, Doomstown humanizes the victims, gangstas and mourning mothers who tend to get short shrift in media coverage. CTV's own role is even acknowledged with a recurring TV journalist who callously repeats "young black male murdered" as she attempts to give her stand-up report "a little more punch." A talk-show host later argues that it's just criminals killing criminals. "Is this not a situation that's taking care of itself? A self-cleaning oven, if you will."  But Doomstown is careful to spread the culpability around, from ineffectual cops and scared residents who buy into the "no snitching" rule, to the dope dealers and their customers. 

Penned and directed by Scarborough-born Sudz Sutherland, best known for his 2003 rom-com Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, the movie can get heavy-handed -- the music tends to swell unnecessarily as otherwise lifelike dialogue morphs into speechifying: "Why is that I can't go to the corner store without somebody in my face. If God cared, why is it so hard?"  But then, this is a message movie. A certain lack of subtlety is required if that message is to be clear. It's also made palatable by the cast, especially the three leads: Mark Taylor as Twist, the charismatic small-time dealer looking to go legit; Chris "KC" Collins as his best friend, Jeddi, a talented artist content with slinging 'caine; and Radio Free Roscoe alum Genelle Williams, a pleasure to watch as a college student with little luck avoiding thug suitors. Mpho Kaoho is another standout as murderous gang leader Countryman.  Twist and Jeddi try to get by in a section of Toronto where a b-ball game can lead to gunplay, and where the "code of silence" protects perpetrators and fills the morgue. As Twist prophetically asks his buddy, "Do you ever see any old dealers?"

Amidst Caribbean accents and the boom-bap of Canadian hip-hop, the plot plays out like your typical ghetto tragedy. But that's because it is, tragically, all too typical. After watching the advance screener of the movie, I flipped on the local newscast, which led yet again with a story of another young black male murdered.

DOOMSTOWN AIRS SUNDAY, JUNE 11 AT 9PM ON CTV. CLICK HERE

And did you know?  The original score for the movie was done by Jigsaaw Productions (Kenny Neal Jr. and Mischa Chillak). The movie also features music from my debut album "The Best Of Bounce".

Celebrating The Legacy Of Black Canadian Musicians

Source:  www.umac.ca - Written by UMAC Marketing Coordinator Staffeen Thompson & UMAC Executive Director Aisha Wickham

Black Music Month was created to celebrate the ways that Black music has influenced society, and it is a time to recognize the pioneers and trailblazers who have done so much to share these important musical forms with the world. UMAC takes the opportunity during Black Music Month to recognize African-Canadian artists and musicians of past and present that have built and are continuing a great musical legacy.

To honour Black Canadian music is to acknowledge the contributors to the Jazz, Blues, R&B, Funk, Soul, African, Gospel and Rock genres. It is to acknowledge those who have influenced people of all cultural backgrounds and have helped to forward the evolution of music of all types that we all enjoy today.

In a recent conversation with Black music historian and UMAC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Norman Otis Richmond from CKLN 88.1 FM in Toronto, he recounted a not-too-distant musical history that saw few African-Canadian artists receiving mainstream exposure due to a lack of outlets. He recalls, "It was not that Canadians were not willing or ready to embrace the Black music that was created, it was the 'gatekeepers' who were restrictive and refused to air Black music [on radio]."

A few of the major contributors to the evolution of Black Canadian music include:

Composer, educator, pianist
Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943): Dett studied piano as a child and was a church organist from 1898-1903 in his birthplace of Niagara Falls, Ontario. His formal studies were in the USA, and he went on to perform at Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, the Library of Congress, the Philadelphia Academy of Music, and before presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dett earned an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Harvard University in 1924. In 1998, to honour Dett's contributions, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor formed The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Canada's first professional choral group dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues.

Barrie-born singer and actress
Phyllis Marshall (1921-1996): A regular performer on the Toronto jazz and blues circuit, Marshall toured the United States with The Cab Calloway Orchestra in 1947 & 1948. She also performed in England on BBC TV in 1959 (The Phyllis Marshall Special), a rare achievement for Black musicians during that time.

UMAC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
Oscar Peterson (1925-present): Montreal-born pianist Peterson is arguably Canada's most internationally-acclaimed musician. Few jazz musicians have recorded or been honoured more extensively than Peterson. He actually started off playing trumpet at age five but switched to piano at eight after a year-long battle with tuberculosis. He went on host CBC Radio and CBC TV programs, to tour the world and record with some of the world's best jazz musicians and singers. Considered a "top-class virtuoso" by his peers, Peterson was inducted into the JUNO Awards' Hall of Fame in 1978 and received a JUNO for best jazz album (If You Could See Me Now ) in 1987, as well as JUNO nominations in 1977, 1980, 1991, 1993, 1997 and 2005. Peterson is a member of the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame. Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, he was elevated to Companion in 1984. Peterson assisted in establishing the Oscar Peterson Jazz Research Centre at Winters College at Toronto's York University and published his memoirs in 2002 (A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson).

Salome Bey (1939-present): Born in Newark, New Jersey, Bey made Toronto her home in 1966, singing jazz, blues and spirituals in nightclubs and on radio and TV, appearing as a featured performer at the CNE grandstand in 1969, and enjoying a particular success in musicals, usually in so-called 'earth mother' roles. Bey received an Obie award in 1972 for her performance in the New York production of Justine (renamed Love Me, Love My Children). Leading roles followed in Galt MacDermot's Dude (New York, 1972), in Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope (Toronto in 1973 and Washington in 1974), and in Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (New York, 1975-77). In 1982, Bey was nominated for a JUNO Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year.


The Black Canadian musical legacy is being continued by the new generation of A-List artists and producers such as Divine Brown, Saukrates, K-OS, Jully Black, Kardinal Offishall, Glenn Lewis, Keshia Chante, K'naan…and the list continues.

Black Music Month reminds us all that it is important to recognize the past so that we can build on the future.

For more info on the history of Black music in Canada, check out the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music.

Videofact Announces Submission Deadlines For 2006-07 Fiscal Year

Source:  www.umac.ca

VideoFACT has announced its application deadlines for the foundation's 2006-2007 fiscal year. Deadlines for both the VideoFACT and the PromoFACT programs are as follows:

Friday, September 1, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Thursday, January 4, 2007
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007

New application forms and criteria will be available at VideoFACT's Toronto office or at MusiquePlus by August 1, 2006. Application forms and criteria may also be downloaded from the foundation's web site (www.muchmusic.com/music/videofact for VideoFACT forms; www.muchmoremusic.com/promofact for PromoFACT forms). The final deadline for the year ending August 31, 2006 is Thursday, June 15, 2006.

VideoFACT is funded entirely by MuchMusic, MusiquePlus and MuchMoreMusic, and provides production grants towards Canadian independent music videos. PromoFACT is funded entirely by MuchMoreMusic and provides production grants towards web sites and EPKs for Canadian independent artists, record labels and management companies. To date, the foundation has allocated over $35-million to Canadian artists.

Factor Announces Changes To Its Funding Programs Effective July 1, 2006

Source:  www.umac.ca

At this past weekend's North By Northeast Music Conference & Festival, FACTOR President Heather Ostertag announced several program and policy changes that will take place effective July 1. These changes are being implemented following a comprehensive review/evaluation that took into account industry and stakeholder input over the past several months.

One of the most significant changes includes a new definition of
FACTOR-recognized distribution. In addition to the traditional model of having to have a deal with a FACTOR-recognized distributor, FACTOR will now recognize the confirmation of sale of a minimum of 2,500 units of a particular release through a combination of off-stage sales and monetized downloads. For off-stage sales, each CD sold off-stage is the equivalent of one unit, and must be supported by SoundScan reports.

FACTOR is also consolidating its various programs from 20 to 12. All of FACTOR's programs still exist, however they are being streamlined and blended so as to make the various funding options easier to find for applicants and more efficient for FACTOR staff to evaluate.

The new FACTOR programs will also increase the flexibility for artists to determine how they wish to utilize the funding to invest in their careers by opening up the eligible marketing and promotional costs that can be claimed, and by increasing the funding level from 50% to 75% of the total budget.

On July 1, FACTOR will be launching a new website, complete with a full overview of the changes and the new applications. For more information, contact FACTOR at 416-351-1361 or visit the FACTOR website.

Swollen Members Sign Exclusive Licensing Deal With Universal Music Canada

Source: Universal Music Canada

(June 13, 2006) – Universal Music Canada (UMC), the country’s leading music company, today announced that they have entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with influential Hip-hop outfit
Swollen Members.  The announcement was made by UMC President & CEO, Randy Lennox. “We are excited to be in business with Universal Music Canada,” stated Mad Child.  “We look forward to accomplishing great things with our new Swollen Members’ album Black Magic and with Universal Music Canada.” Commented Randy Lennox, President and CEO, Universal Music Canada – “We've all admired the music and incredible work ethic of Swollen Members during their impressive career to date.  All of us at Universal Music Canada are excited to be partnering with such a band of talented visionaries in their exciting future.”

Formed in the mid-90s by rappers Mad Child and Prevail, Swollen Members released a series of 12 inch singles on Mad Child’s own label, Battle Axe.  They exploded onto the Canadian mainstream Hip-hop scene with their critically acclaimed 1999 debut album, Balance.  The record’s dark but aggressive sound combined with Swollen Members’ reputation for rocking crowds earned the band their first Juno Award for ‘Best Rap Recording’.  The release of their 2001 sophomore album, Bad Dreams saw 'Swollen' earn their first platinum album and their second consecutive Juno Award for ‘Best Rap Recording’.  Monsters in the Closet followed in 2003 with a 3rd and 4th Juno Award (Group of the Year & Rap Recording of the Year), and Heavy appeared in 2004. Their music has been featured on soundtracks, computer games and other outlets while working with members of the Beat Junkies and Jurassic 5. Swollen Members are set to release their definitive album, the forthcoming and highly anticipated Black Magic in September, 2006.  Over two years in the making, the album sees the band return to the dark signature sound they have become synonymous with.  A melting pot of introspective lyrics, bookworm intellectualism, aggressive beats and party-rocking jams, the album features collaborations with Ghostface Killah, Everlast and Dilated Peoples.

Maxi Priest Live In Concert - Toronto

Source:  Teresa and/or Maria Castellucci; Publicity, Promotions & Public Relations 416.720.4061

(June 8, 2006) On Saturday July 8th 2006, music fans from all walks of life will gather at the Kool Haus, 132 Queen’s Quay East, to experience one of the greatest crooners of our time…Your Outlet To Entertainment (Y.O.T.E) Inc., proudly presents the internationally renowned, reggae, super-star, Maxi Priest - live in concert for one night only! Maxi’s sound has been described as “rooted in island rhythms, but laden with pop, soul, rap, disco and DJ sounds interwoven into a clever mélange of aural pleasure”. Simply put, his music is universal and crosses every ‘genre’ and boundary from rock to country, jazz to reggae and everything in-between. With a career spanning over two decades, countless live performances world-wide, and 11 albums, Maxi Priest has unleashed
a one-world music that heals, rejuvenates and uplifts.

Reportedly, he has become one of the most successful solo-reggae artists in the world. Hear Maxi Priest’s mellifluous sounds on Saturday, July 8th @ the Kool Haus, 132 Queen’s Quay East. Also performing will be two-time JUNO award winner, Blessed alongside veteran Anthony Malvo.  Show time is 10PM. Tickets are $35 in advance and on sale now through ticketmaster.ca, Play de Record, Eagle Force, Trea-Jah-Isle Records, Jaydee's and other leading Caribbean outlets.

Email: sweettee@sympatico.ca
Url: http://www.maxipriest.com

Jewish Rapper Rouses Faithful

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 14, 2006) Admittedly, the concept of a Hasidic Jewish reggae singer is an odd one. Stranger yet is the notion of such a performer opening for pop-rock's
Dave Matthews Band.  Last night, as Matisyahu took the stage at the Molson Amphitheatre, it all made sense.  After all, the Rastafarian beliefs that inform reggae music have some similarities — particularly regarding diet, facial hair and proprieties with women — to Orthodox Judaism.  And the Brooklyn, N.Y. entertainer's connection to the Dave Matthews Band becomes clearer when you consider his links to certain other jam bands: as a 3-year-old attending his first concert — the Grateful Dead — with his parents; and as a floundering teen who dropped out of high school to follow Phish (and experiment with LSD) for half a year.  From there, he joined a progressive synagogue, adopted the Orthodox lifestyle complete with name change from Matthew Miller, then got his music career rolling. And he was the perfect appetizer for loyal fans of Dave Matthew's free-flowing Virginia-based quintet, who showed up in near-capacity numbers last night even though the band was in town on the same tour in December.  Much of the audience was still filing in when the lanky Matisyahu took the stage, backed by drums, guitar and bass, but they responded heartily, singing along to songs like "Jerusalem" and "King Without a Crown."  Clad in grey slacks, black overcoat and a wide-brimmed hat that he doffed to reveal a yarmulke, Matisyahu sounded just like he does on his third record and major label debut Youth — a tolerable reggae/rap singer who co-writes earnest religious and political songs.

He showed he could ride a dancehall beat, Wyclef Jean-style, and deliver a melodic beatbox, but added nothing new or ear-catching to the genre.  Even so, Youth debuted at No. 4 on Billboard's album chart on first-week sales of 118,000 copies — more than any other reggae act in history.  That means more than spiritually themed Jamaican reggae artists such as Luciano and Morgan Heritage, who've been doing it longer and better; more than any Marley; more than lewd, but popular party starters such as Shaggy and Sean Paul.  There has been grumbling in some quarters about a white American in a yarmulke making music that stems from Jamaica's ghettos, as if skin colour or birthplace should dictate who sings what.  But what does puzzle me is why the big record labels don't give equal backing to the plethora of superior black reggae artists, such as Toronto's Blessed, and why record buyers would so eagerly embrace Matisyahu's mediocrity.  I guess it's the novelty factor. It can't be that reggae is more palatable emanating from white lips, 'cuz that would be ridiculous.

A New Latin 'Idol'

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Katy Kroll

(May 10, 2006) On her debut album,
Anaís asks listeners to accept her "asi soy yo," just as I am.   It was that straightforward attitude that helped the 21-year-old Dominican singer become the season two winner of "Objetivo Fama," a talent show similar to "American Idol" that airs in Puerto Rico and the United States.   That exposure has helped her skyrocket to the top of the Latin charts.   Anaís' first single, "Lo Que Son Las Cosas" -- a cover of an Ednita Nazario song that she performed on the show -- has spent the past five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs chart. Meanwhile, her Univision Records album, "Asi Soy Yo," is No. 12 on the Top Heatseekers list and No. 14 on the Top Latin Albums tally.   Between promotional gigs, Anaís, whose first language is Spanish, spoke to Billboard.com about her current wave of success.   "I feel like a ping-pong ball," laughs the Bronx, N.Y.-based artist about her whirlwind schedule since winning the competition one year ago. "But it's been fun, especially when I see the audience cheer for me."   On "Asi Soy Yo," Anaís showcases her personality and vocal range through a variety of styles, including tropical, pop, regional Mexican and reggaetón. The album was produced by Latin Grammy winner Sergio George (Marc Anthony, Tito Puente), and includes guest artists Bimbo and La Sister. 

"When I was in the competition," she says, "I barely sang reggaetón and stuff like that, so we wanted to [be] different and show the audience things that I like by doing [various styles]. I'm showing my fans that I'm capable of singing anything. I wanted to give the audience a little of myself, because I'm very spontaneous."  While in the studio, though, she quickly learned that discipline must trump that carefree attitude when it comes to creating a successful album.  "I learned that if you want something to come out right you have to do it over, even though it gets you tired and you feel like you don't want to do it no more," she laughs. "I learned that in order for things to come out right and become close to perfect, you have to redo it."   "Not everything is glamorous," she adds. "All the glamour you see on TV, that's what [artists] create. You create your own environment around you as a person and as an artist. You are the one that decides how you want people to respect you and how you want people to see you as an artist. So if you come out on TV and be fake and stuff, you're not gonna be happy at the end of the day because you suffer the consequences. An artist is what they want to be, and I'm not fake."  That said, Anaís' main focus right now is on the Latin music community that gave her this chance, but she doesn't dismiss the possibility of crossing over into the mainstream market by recording in English.   "Some people have recommended [it] to me," she says, adding, "A lot of people start [by singing] Spanish and then they do the crossover. But I don't look at it that way; I would like to stay with my Hispanic people. In the future, though, I hope I'll have that type of [Anglo] crowd and be able to get into people's hearts, even if they don't understand me."

More About This Artist: Biography

"If you come out on TV and be fake, you're not gonna be happy at the end of the day. An artist is what they want to be, and I'm not fake."

 

Bananarama Puts The 'Drama' Back In Pop

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Michael Papletta

"We simply got lucky. We were in the right place at the right time -- and with the right attitude."
-- Sara Dallin

(June 6, 2006)
Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin have experienced quite a bit in their 25 years together as Bananarama. Originally a trio (Siobhan Fahey married Eurythmics' Dave Stewart in 1987 and left the group the following year), Bananarama has scored numerous international hits, including "Shy Boy," "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin,'" "More Than Physical" and "Robert DeNiro's Waiting." In the United States, "Cruel Summer" and "I Heard a Rumour" cracked the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, while the act's cover of "Venus" reached the chart's top spot.  Last year, the duo's ninth studio album, "Drama," was released in the United Kingdom. Lead single "Move in My Direction," went top 20 and the Solasso remix of "Really Sayin' Somethin'" was a No. 1 dance hit. Steeped in dance pop rhythms, "Drama" was released in the United States last month by Los Angeles-based indie the Lab/Fuel. The collection finds Bananarama working with a handful of producers and songwriters, including Ian Masterson, Mute8 and Sweden's Murlyn production team.  Billboard recently met up with the ultra-photogenic duo in New York. During lunch at Balthazar in downtown Manhattan, it quickly became apparent that Dallin does not like anything banana flavored, while Woodward can't get enough of it. By the end of the meal, Dallin and Woodward had signed on to participate in the 13th annual Billboard Dance Music Summit, to be held Sept. 17-20 at the Palms Casino & Resort in Las Vegas. Indeed, Bananarama will be in the hot seat of The Billboard Q&A, one of the summit's most popular sessions.

You've experienced highs and lows in your 25 years of making music. Do you feel that, as a group, you have to give a lot more to have a hit today?

SD: Absolutely. You have to be at the opening of every bloody thing. It's become so commercialized. It's a nightmare. In Britain, it's completely changed. In the '80s, you had British pop acts that were successful around the world. It's not the same today. There are many pop acts that are successful solely in Britain --and they are seen everywhere, all the time. Now, we are obliged to perform at radio shows if we want radio play. It was never like this.

Since the dawn of Bananarama, and from the perspective of the artist, what has most changed in the music industry?

SD: Anybody can become a star today. On the pop side, it's not really about how much talent you have, but how much money and support you have behind you. Here in England, there are people who are famous for being on reality TV shows like "Big Brother." Even though they're not famous for anything else, they've made millions of pounds.

Do shows like "American Idol" and its British predecessor and counterpart "Pop Idol" help or hurt of what it means to be an artist?

SD: It's funny. The beauty for those who win is that the people behind the show, in a way, then own them. So, the winning talent knows that money, and the promotional push, will be there for them.

KW: Take someone like Will Young, the top winner of the first season of "Pop Idol." He's had a lot of success. He's a real artist. He genuinely writes songs. He's doing it for all the right reasons. There's integrity there. All too often, though, I think many do it to become famous.

In the early days, was there ever a Svengali figure behind Bananarama?

KW: We never had one. Growing up, Sara and I sang in school musicals together. And when we formed Bananarama I never thought we'd make a career out of it. Now, you have the option of getting on a reality TV show and becoming successful. Becoming a success was purely accidental for us.

SD: We simply got lucky. We were in the right place at the right time -- and with the right attitude. We had management from time to time. But we felt like we didn't always need [management]. We had the ideas and knew where we were going. Of course, it's easier to do this when you have success. And we had international success.

What did that kind of success bring the group?

KW: The label let us do what we wanted to do -- probably because they didn't understand us. We were signed as a novelty act with that first single [1981's "Aie A Mwana"]. When it kept on building, the label thought, "Well, they obviously know what they're doing." We didn't want to give up any of our freedom. That freedom remains with us today.

Is it true that Bananarama turned down an endorsement deal with Clairol several years ago?

KW: We turned down lots of stuff like that. We never liked the storyboards. They were so girly girl. We didn't care that it was a million dollar deal. But we did do a couple of deals in Japan. We recorded "He's Got Tact" for a Japanese TV commercial.

SD: We never wanted to sell ourselves short. But the whole branding thing has changed since then.

Does it surprise you how far branded entertainment has come? If a similar deal came along today, would you say yes?

SD and KW: YES!

KW: I don't think it really matters today -- partnering with a brand doesn't change people's perceptions of you. It's an essential part of the job today. Artists can do the tours and make the records, but branding deals are where a lot of the money comes from today.

Bananarama covered a lot of musical ground in its formative years, from punk and reggae to pop and dance. Throughout, there was always a left-field edge. Was that intentional?

KW: Some people might have thought we were a bit floppy when we started. But we still had an edge to us. And there seems to be nothing like that today in pop.

SD: But we weren't really pop when we started. We were more indie. Our music became more polished as we developed as an act. In fact, we were a bit raw when we started.

In the summer of 1984, "Cruel Summer" became your first top-10 pop hit in the United States. It definitely helped break you as a recording act here. How did things change for the group -- if at all?

KW: It's funny, but it really is true: That if you make it in the States, well, then you've really made it. And it was all very exciting. Fortunately, people don't seem to forget about these songs.

SD: There's something about America. "Venus" was such a massive hit for us. Everyone we talk to has a fond memory of those times. We had no idea we were creating this strong foundation in America.

And the music you were creating was not necessarily American in sound ...

KW: Exactly. We started underground and then we became successful. SAW [production outfit Stock Aitken Waterman] made us more pop. But "Shy Boy" was pop, too. It's funny, when we first started working with SAW, they weren't successful. They had Divine and a few others.

SD: It's quite irritating when we're remembered only for our SAW songs, because we've had so much more than that.

KW: At the time, it was a totally new sound that SAW was creating -- that whole hi-nrg sound. It was exciting. We worked with them way before they became cheesy.

How did the new album, "Drama," come together?

SD: We'd been floundering around for years, trying to get a deal. I went to a friend of mine and asked him who was writing all the hits. He said, "Murlyn, the Swedish production outfit." They ended up doing part of the album. And then we worked with some dance producer friends, like Ian Masterson. With this album, because we had taken some time off between albums, we had so many ideas waiting to come out. So, it was an easy record to make. From day one, we knew we wanted to write and record a dance-pop album.

You took several years off between albums. Were you recording throughout?

KW: We were always looking for people to write with. It was quite rough and wasn't always easy. It took a long time to find people who believed in us and what we wanted to do.

The album includes the Solasso remix of your 1982 hit, "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'." The remix was a No. 1 club hit in Europe. Did this catch you off guard?

KW: Absolutely.

SD: I could never get past the fact that the vocals sounded so great [on the remix]. In those days, when we originally recorded the song, our vocals were a bit rough -- not always in tune. But that was part of the charm.

Busta Rhymes' Been Through The Storm To Bring Ya'll The Big Bang!

Source:  Universal Urban


Flipmode is the squad and your boy
Busta Rhymes is set to drop the 2006 heavyweight bomb with the release of his newest album The Big Bang! Hitting stores this Tuesday, June 13th, the wait will finally be over and the world will bear witness to what can only be described as the hottest Hip Hop album to hit the streets in the past 5 years!! Ya'll heard me alright! Now signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label, one can only imagine the type of damage your boy Busta's gonna do with this much talked about release. By now, ya'll have heard "Touch It", "I Love My B****" and of course the street heater "New York S&%$"! Well, sit back 'cause Bussa Bus has teamed up with the game's finest beatsmiths, including the late great J. Dilla on the track "You Can't Hold The Torch" feat. Q-Tip, DJ Green Lantern on the smash joint "In The Ghetto" feat. the legendary Rick James and G-Unit's Sha Money XL on the track "Been Through The Storm" feat. the one and only Stevie Wonder! Now the collabos are definitely sick wit' it on this album, as it also boasts guest appearances by Nas, Raekwon and LaToya Williams to name a few. To celebrate the release of this album, Universal Urban is going out with a "Big Bang", hosting release parties in every major city! Check below to find out what's really good! And speaking of good, ya'll need to test out how good your memory is by trying out the exclusive "Big Bang" video game, courtesy of Universal Urban and The Asphalt Regime! It don't get sicker than this right here, people! Well, enough of my talk! It's all going down on June 13th when The Big Bang hits the shelves! Don't sleep 'cause The Big Bang is about to buss!!!

June 8th @ Living (Montreal, QC)
June 9th @ Standard (Edmonton, AB)
June 9th @ Cherry Lounge (Calgary, AB)
June 13th @ Lot 332 (Toronto, ON)
June 14th @ Dagobert (Quebec City, QC)
June 15th @ Monkeys (Sherbrooke, QC)
June 16th @ Maysens Pub (Trois Rivieres, QC)
June 16th @ Helsinki (Ottawa, ON)
June 16th @ Krave (Toronto, ON)
June 17th @ Essence (Toronto, ON) * Live To Air On Flow 93.5fm
June 17th @ Plush (Vancouver, BC)

Pre-order The Big Bang on iTunes now! Including a track-by-track breakdown of the album by Busta himself, a digital booklet and the e-video for "I Love My B****"   :: site ::

Christina Milian’s ‘Amazin’ Journey

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 9, 2006) *Amidst false rumours that she has been dropped from Def Jam due to poor album sales, Christina Milian sat down with The Associated Press and discussed her usual topics…Nick Cannon, being compared to Beyonce, Nick Cannon, her new album “So Amazin’,” singing vs. acting and Nick Cannon.

AP: Was it therapeutic to make this album after going through the breakup with Nick Cannon?

Milian: It was extremely therapeutic for me. Really that was the point. . . . I found it helped me to communicate and get it off of my mind and off of my chest and to not think about the certain issues that were going on and lurking in my brain. It helped to write about it and say I am over this guy.

AP: How difficult is it to go through a breakup in public?

Milian: When I went through the breakup, luckily I wasn't in the public (eye). That would have been the worst thing for me to have to be in front of a camera of to be faking it that I was OK. . . I got to handle it with my friends in private.

AP: Are you dating again?

Milian: After the heartache I have definitely moved on. I am dating right now. . . . He is a really cool guy. He actually understands my career. He is more behind the scenes of the business.

AP: Would you date a celebrity again?

Milian: You know it's hard to say. I am not really attracted to the celebrity lifestyle that some of these guys like to live so I probably wouldn't date a celebrity again. But, you can't say that. You just never know what will happen.

AP: How important is it for you to separate yourself from other women singers such as Beyonce and Rhianna?

Milian: It has been extremely important. We all are individuals but they do like to group us into one category. So you've got to figure out what's your thing that is going to make you stand out, whether it's style of clothing, the way you dress, your vocal style. For me, I've had to set myself apart. There is always somebody they want to compare me to all the time . . . which I think is ridiculous.

AP: Do you have a preference between singing and acting?

Milian: For me acting and singing go hand-in-hand. I grew-up watching a lot of the old-school actors and actresses. Back in the day, Fred Astaire, Shirley Temple, all those people, you had to do everything. You had to dance, tap, sing. You wrote songs. You act, everything. It was a group of people who did all of that. I watched a lot of that and that's where I feel I come from.

Mathew Knowles Launches Spirit Rising Music

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
By Mona Austin / mona@lachurchscene.com

(June 5, 2006) After the mutual agreement to part ways with Sanctuary, entertainment mogul
Mathew Knowles has regained ownership of his companies; Music World Entertainment and the Music World Music Record Label, and has revamped and restructured the gospel/ inspirational division, Spirit Rising Music, with plans to release several projects.  A simultaneous, September 2006, release will set off a snowball effect of inspirational bliss under the Spirit Rising Music umbrella on "Music World Entertainment."

A Threefold Experience

The rollout begins with a cohesive work of art from Pastor Rudy Rasmus of St. John's United Methodist Church in Houston, TX, where he invites one to travel through and experience his ministry, music and inspirational writings.  The musical experience: The Pastor Rudy Experience Volume I: Touch, is an exceptional production introducing an exciting variety of styles from various talents including Brian C. Wilson, Ron Summers, Nikki Ross (Kirk Franklin singer) and Soulfruit.  The inspirational writing: Touch: The Power of Touch in Transforming Lives (September 1, 2006 release), is the story of Rudy’s life, his response to God’s grace in his own life, and his passion to touch the lives of every person with God’s great love. This is a book of biblical truths and ministry principles, but more than that, it’s the story of God using Rudy and St. John’s to reach into people’s deepest fears and highest hopes—and touch them with God’s transforming love. A percentage of book sales will be donated to "Bread Of Life" to continue feeding the homeless.  The ministry: "Bread of Life" has provided meals 7 days a week feeding the Houston, TX downtown homeless community distributing 15,000 lbs of fresh food every week and serving 6,000 meals per month without fail. It also provides housing assistance, life skills/social services, temporary shelter, drug rehabilitation services, acute health care and mental health services/case management. Through “Bread of Life”, Pastor Rudy is on a mission to promote self- determination, self-empowerment, and ultimately self- sufficiency by using a community network approach.

Spirit Rising Volume I & II

The Spirit Rising Volume l & ll boasts a virtual who's who of gospel, inspirational and mainstream artists including Bishop TD Jakes, Michelle Williams, Mahalia Jackson, Marvin Winans, Mary Mary, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Kelly Price, Earth Wind and Fire, Israel & New Breed, Alvin Slaughter, and Men Of Standard. A bonus DVD featuring various artist performances will be available at Walmart.  Also in the works is a Michelle Williams dance re-mix record, Spirit Rising III and long-awaited projects from Ramiyah, and Trin-i-tee 5:7 all under the Spirit Rising Music imprint.  Mathew Knowles, President of MWE best-known for his role as manager of Beyonce and the global phenomenon Destiny's Child, the most successful girl group in the history of pop music, is dedicated to bringing quality entertainment and ministry to the world. For more information visit: www.spiritrisingmusic.com.  

Target & Def Jam Celebrate Black Music Month

Source: Target Media Relations & Leah Tillman / Fleishman-Hillard / 314-982-7700

(June 8, 2006) MINNEAPOLIS -- Whether borne from the East Coast, West Coast, or the "Dirty South," the permeation of hip-hop into mainstream culture has never been more evident than today. In celebration of Black Music Month this June, Target continues the celebration of this 30-year-old art form by creating an exclusive collection of hip-hop hits featuring Island Def Jam Music Group artists. Available at Target stores nationwide and at Target.com for $5.99, the "Target Black Music Month Sampler" includes unreleased tracks from such Def Jam rap, R&B, and pop recording artists as Ne-Yo, The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley, Rihanna, and Young Jeezy. "As more Americans recognize the impact hip-hop has had on their lives, neighbourhoods, and culture, we are pleased to spotlight this lyrically intense form of music with an exclusive collection of songs from today's hottest artists," said Darrell Tucker, vice president, merchandising, Target. "Our support of Black Music Month is an extension of Target's desire to encourage everyone to 'Dream in Color.'" "History has shown the impact that African-American music of all genres has had and continues to have in the lives of many," said Jim Roppo, vice president, sales, Island Def Jam Music Group. "We've partnered with Target to not only highlight Black Music Month but to also help elevate hip-hop music as a groundbreaking art form and voice of many."

In 2001, the Bush Administration first declared June as Black Music Month. The designation is intended to help encourage the public to learn about the contributions of black artists to America's musical heritage and to celebrate their remarkable role in shaping history and culture. Earlier this year, Target released a gospel compilation CD, which raised funds for the United Negro College Fund. Also, in a special partnership with Mary J. Blige, Target released the exclusive "Love Songs" CD. Both CDs and a dedicated Web site, Target.com/blackhistory, were developed in honour of Black History Month. For more information about Black Music Month at Target, please visit www.Target.com.  About Target Minneapolis-based Target serves guests at 1,418 stores in 47 states nationwide by delivering today's best retail trends at affordable prices. Target is committed to providing guests with great design through innovative products, in-store experiences and community partnerships. Whether visiting a Target store or shopping online at Target.com, guests enjoy a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to thousands of unique and highly differentiated items. Target (NYSE:TGT) gives back more than $2 million a week to its local communities through grants and special programs. Since opening its first store in 1962, Target has partnered with non-profit organizations, guests and team members to help meet community needs.

`A Truly Canadian Building'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Steven Page, singer/songwriter, Barenaked Ladies

(Jun. 10, 2006) With all of the talk these days about how music education makes students better at other subjects like math and science, one crucial point often gets lost: Music education also makes for better citizens.  As a product of the public education system of the 1970s and 1980s, I am of a generation of students who learned the value of art as an essential part of everyone's lives. Arts education teaches students critical-thinking skills and an appreciation of beauty; we learned that music sharpens the intellect and stirs the soul.  My greatest memories of school are of singing in choirs, band trips, and of Scarborough's music camp, where Barenaked Ladies had their genesis, and where I met my wife, Carolyn, herself a musician and scholar. She and I have been long-time subscribers and supporters of the Canadian Opera Company because we see opera as the convergence of so many of the arts (vocal and instrumental music, drama, movement, literature), and we are fans of the COC's vision of what opera is and what it can be.  But we also realize that as students have ever-decreasing access to the arts, the COC is more essential than ever in helping to broaden Toronto's musical landscape. 

We welcome the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts to Toronto, and look forward to years of great performances there, both by the COC and the National Ballet. With Toronto as the home city for these two national institutions, it is only fitting that we finally have a purpose-built home for them, with state-of-the-art sound and excellent sightlines from every seat in the house.  In a world of increasing cultural homogeneity, the Four Seasons Centre is a truly Canadian building. From the architect to the interior designers, to the performers onstage, the Four Seasons Centre gives a home to Canada's unique take on opera. We have seen the work of great directors and designers like Robert Lepage, Michael Levine and Atom Egoyan, along with the amazing vocal talents of Canadian singers like Michael Schade, Richard Margison and Ben Heppner, all international superstars.  Now they have a home stage that fits the calibre of talent we have in this country, and we as a city have an exciting new centre for our growing and vital arts scene.

Radiohead Ever Fresh

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

(Jun. 9, 2006) Maybe
Radiohead is overrated, and maybe those of us privileged to be writing about bands like Radiohead for a living are guilty of overrating them.  Still, there are few other acts on today's rock touring circuit that can take command of a room so decisively while adhering to a policy of sheer, ambitious musicianship.  Radiohead is accused of pretension, but it can get away with being pretentious because no matter what "difficult" directions its collective muse might follow — 10-minute capsule rock operas, clanging avant-techno spazz-outs, free-jazz breakdowns, mirthless refrains of "We hope that you choke" — it usually subverts them into real, meaty songs that play more and more like pop as time goes by.  The Oxford quintet attracts the sort of enlightened audience that will pack auditoriums for tours in which brand-new music takes precedence over old favourites, with unlikely set-list choices constantly redefining the canon of Radiohead "hits."  Indeed, the 3,200-strong congregation for the band's hot-ticket stop at the Hummingbird Centre on Wednesday — a second show at the venue was happening last night on the band's 19-date "warm-up" tour in which they're workshopping material for a later album — gratefully took in a volley of unfamiliar tunes that wound Radiohead's eccentric guitar rock into oblique new shapes.  The audience also "shushed" those elements who felt obliged to hoot, holler and occasionally clap along (tastelessly and off time, it should be noted) during such quiet, catalogue-perusing classics as The Bends' "Street Spirit," OK Computer's "Exit Music (for a Film)," Kid A's "How to Disappear Completely" and a mournful encore waltz through Amnesiac's "Pyramid Song." And when obvious set fodder was put aside for the complex impressions and mathematical playing of "Dollars & Cents," a raging "Myxomatosis" and a thoroughly tech-y deconstruction of Hail to the Thief's "The Gloaming," it all went down as easily as if Thom Yorke and his bandmates had suddenly busted out "Creep."

This is the first time one of Radiohead's storied preview tours has actually crossed the Atlantic, so the plethora of fresh songs scattered amongst "Morning Bell" and "There There" and a slightly scary "The National Anthem" gave the room a palpable thrill of discovery.  Some of the selections appeared to turn slightly backwards towards the more straightforward songwriting and post-shoegazer Jonny Greenwood/Ed O'Brien guitar fireworks of the band's green years. But they all marched to a heightened rhythmic intricacy that found bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway finding the seams in tick-tocking, tumbledown beats that seemed to reference electronic music and jazz in similar measures. The rattled "Bangers 'n' Mash" required a second drumkit behind which Yorke summoned his inner Phil Collins to sing and dole out polyrhythms.  "House of Cards," meanwhile, ushered in a newly slinky, R&B-haunted tone for the group, even prompting a sputter of laughter and a restart on the first verse from Yorke when he, too, was apparently struck by the oddity of his transformation into an elfin pseudo-soul man.  That moment, combined with a mid-song guitar breakdown on virtuoso Greenwood's part at another point during the show, offered a rare glimpse of imperfection in a Radiohead performance. Far from displeasing, It was proof the band is human, after all, and a tacit promise that the next tour will be even more astounding.

Rakim Resurfaces, Common Drops 'People' At NYC Benefit

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(June 09, 2006)
Rakim is preparing to release his third solo album, "The Seventh Seal," this summer, the rapper revealed last night (June 8) at fashion designer Mark Ecko's Save the Rhinos concert in New York's Central Park. The disc will be Rakim's first solo endeavor in seven years.  The new offering is expected to be released through his newly formed label Ra Records, though no distribution deal has been confirmed yet. The rapper's previous project was shelved after he split from Dr. Dre's Aftermath/Interscope imprint in 2003.  While performing on stage with Common, Rakim also said he hoped to hit the studio with the Chicago rapper. He is also rumored to be collaborating with Nas.  Rakim has released two solo albums -- 1997's "The 18th Letter/The Book Of Life" (Universal) and 1999's "The Master." The former disc bowed at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 648,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while the latter shifted just 144,000 units. Rakim partnered with Eric B. to release four albums, including the duo's classic 1987 debut "Paid in Full."  During his own set, Common previewed the new track "The People," from his seventh studio album, "Finding Forever," due in September via G.O.O.D Music. His set included songs from his Kanye West-helmed 2005 album, "Be" ("The Corner," "Go"), as well as older cuts like "I Used To Love H.E.R." and "The Light."

Sharing the stage with the hip-hop veterans were West proteges Rhymefest and Lupe Fiasco. Rhymefest performed tracks from his Allido/J debut "Blue Collar," due July 11, while Lupe offered mixtape favorites (including his freestyle to West's "Diamonds From Sierra Leone") and the single "Kick, Push," from his upcoming Atlantic debut "Lupe Fiasco's Food And Liquor."  Other highlights included surprise sets by Styles P. of the Lox and Ras Kass ("I just came out to have fun, but I guess I'm gonna spit," he said). DJ Z-Trip and DJ Kid Capri also performed and hip-hop pioneer Kool Herc made a brief cameo, handing out free t-shirts to the crowd.  The Save the Rhinos concert was organized by Marc Ecko, founder of Ecko Unltd. The inaugural event feature the Roots, De La Soul and MF Doom, among others, and raised $150,000. Proceeds from this year's show will benefit the International Rhino Foundation.

Mary J. Blige Summer Tour

Source: Geffen Records via PRNewswire

(June 12, 2006) SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Thirteen years into her career Mary J. Blige is still the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. She was anointed the title even before her boundary-breaking, genre-making debut smash "What's the 411?" dropped in 1992 and now on the heels of the success of her new album, "The Breakthrough," Mary J. Blige announces a summer headlining tour featuring opening acts Jaheim and Latoya. "Mary J. Blige: The Breakthrough Experience" tour will kick off July 1st in Houston, TX (see below for complete itinerary) and hit over 30 cities nationwide.  Released on December 20th, "The Breakthrough" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album Chart. Massive first week sales of 727,163 earned it the honour of being the best opening week for a solo R&B female artist in SoundScan history. The CD also had the distinction of being the fourth-best debut of all of 2005. "The Breakthrough" has currently sold over 2.3 million copies.

The first single off The Breakthrough, "Be Without You," has been breaking records as well. It remained on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart for 15 weeks which established Mary as having the longest running No. 1 song on this chart since it was reintroduced in 1965. "Be Without You" is the sixth Mary J. Blige recording to reach No. 1 on the R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. The other five were "You Remind Me," "Real Love," "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By," "Not Goin' Cry," and Family Affair." Mary's new single "Enough Cryin'" is poised to reach #4 on the R&B/Hip Hop chart. Beyond commercial success, the press is unanimous in their praise of the artistry of "The Breakthrough." Vanity Fair raves, "...she's still the Queen ... " USA Today claims, "Another Blige 'Breakthrough' ... Blige still touches souls...," People Magazine calls the CD "...one of her most impassioned performances, proving a little drama can go a long way." NY Daily News says Mary, "...wins by finely delivering songs that show how complicated simple joy can be." The Boston Globe hails the CD as "...a start-to-finish triumph." Mary's six prior platinum and multi-platinum hit albums include such classics, "No More Drama," "What's the 411," "My Life," "Share My World," "Mary and Love & Life." Below is a complete itinerary for "Mary J Blige: The Breakthrough Experience" tour:

DAY

DATE

CITY

VENUE

Sat

6/24

Chicago, IL

Bridgeview Stadium

Thu

6/29

Atlanta, GA

Chastain Park

Sat

7/01

Houston, TX

Reliant Stadium

Mon

7/3

 Milwaukee, WI

 Summerfest

Fri

7/14

St. Louis, MO

 UMB Bank Pavilion

Sat

7/15

Indianapolis, IN

 Conseco Fieldhouse

Sun

7/16

Charlotte, NC

 Verizon Wireless

Wed

7/19

Hartford, CT

  Mohegun Sun Arena

Fri

7/21

New York, NY

  Madison Square Garden

Sun

7/23

Philadelphia, PA.

Tweeter

Wed

7/26

Pittsburgh, PA

Post Gazette

Thu

7/27

Holmdel, NJ

PNC Bank Arts Center

Sat

7/29

Cleveland, OH

 Plain Dealer Pavilion

Sun

7/30

Washington, DC

Nissan Pavilion

Fri

8/04

Atlantic City, NJ

Borgata Casino and Hotel

Sat

8/05

Raleigh, NC

Altell Pavilion

Sun

8/06

Virginia Beach, VA

  Verizon Wireless

Wed

8/09

San Antonio, TX

  Verizon Wireless

Fri

8/11

Dallas, TX

 Smirnoff

Sat

8/12

Memphis, TN

Fed Ex Forum

Sun

8/13

Kansas City, MO

  Starlight Theater

Fri

8/18

Columbus, OH

  Germain Amphitheater

Sat

8/19

Chicago, IL

Charter

Sun

8/20

Detroit, MI

DTE Energy Music

Fri

8/25

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

  Bank Atlantic Center

Sat

8/26

Tampa, FL

  Ford Amphitheater

Sun

8/27

Atlanta, GA

Lakewood

Fri

9/01

Irvine, CA

 Verizon Wireless

Sat

9/02

Las Vegas, NV

 Mandalay Bay

Sun

9/03

Los Angeles, CA

  Gibson Amphitheater

Wed

9/06

Phoenix, AZ

Cricket Pavilion

Thu

9/07

Sacramento, CA

Sleep Train Amphitheater

Fri

9/08

Oakland, CA

Chronical Pavilion


http://www.GeffenRecords.com
http://www.mjblige.com  
 

Perlman Only Pearl In Concert

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


(Jun. 12, 2006)
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is offering up a series of final flourishes during the final month of its season. Not least was Saturday night's visit by Israeli-born violinist Itzhak Perlman, who wowed a capacity crowd with his seemingly effortless virtuosity.  Perlman, now 60, has been a household name in North America since he was invited to play on the Ed Sullivan Show at age 13. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall at 18, and the rest has been a sweet tale of successive artistic triumphs. The great virtuoso was in his element as he played Max Bruch's much-loved (perhaps over-loved) Violin Concerto No. 1, from the mid-1860s, followed by the bittersweet Theme from Schindler's List by American composer John Williams.  The Bruch concerto is all romantic richness and mood swings overlaid with passages that show off the violinist's technique. Perlman has played it so many times that he probably lost count a couple of decades ago, but you would never be able to tell that from the immediacy of his performance.  It is a mark of a truly great artist to make a well-worn work sound as if it has sprung freshly minted from his bow.

Too bad the Toronto Symphony could not match Perlman's exalted standard. Led by music director Peter Oundjian, the players sounded as if they could have used one more rehearsal.  The first piece on the program was Beethoven's Eighth Symphony. Oundjian conducted so briskly that there were times during the four-movement work that sections of the orchestra sounded as if they were having trouble keeping up.  In the Bruch, the orchestra played better, but the sound balance was less than ideal, overemphasizing the French horns several times. Perlman's playing was smoothness itself, but accompaniment was often lumpy.  Then there was the odd choice of a sonata for brass octet by Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrielli, who died in 1612. This is gorgeous antiphonal music that requires a great deal of finesse.  But things got off to a rocky start right after the intermission. Oundjian walked onto an empty stage and mounted the podium. When he raised his arms as if about to begin conducting an array of empty chairs and stands, many members of the audience began to laugh.  Only when the strains of the eight brass players emerged from either side of the great Gabriel Kney organ did people realize what was going on. Perhaps this threw the players a bit, too, because the horns and trumpets on one side and trombones on the other were not always in perfect synch.  Good thing that the evening ended with Perlman on stage. By the final ovation, the rest was pretty much forgotten.

Woody And His Clarinet Kick Off Fest

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter


(Jun. 12, 2006) Rochester, N.Y.—In a word: charming. That best summarizes
Woody Allen's appearance here with his New Orleans Jazz Band to kick off the 5th annual Rochester International Jazz Festival this past Friday.  The noted director, whose love for jazz is evident in the soundtracks to many of his films and whose nickname is derived from the late, legendary clarinettist Woody Herman, gave this rare large-venue concert as a benefit for the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund.  Oddly, though, he never once mentioned the charity, Hurricane Katrina or the displaced musicians in the 90-minute set before an enthusiastic audience of about 2,000 people inside the majestic Eastman Theatre.  But the seven-piece band lived up to his pledge at the outset, to play "New Orleans music as authentically as we can" and represented native sons such as Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet with its mirthful rendition of Dixieland-style tunes.  Allen, 70, is an average, low-key clarinet player given to idiosyncratic warbles and whinnys, but he is imbued with genuine affection for the genre and buoyed by thoughtful, competent musicians.  Thus, a would-be star vehicle becomes an ensemble project, and if you like this style of music the result is a toe-tapping, thigh-slapping, grin-generating good time.  Allen's cohorts are like a cast of characters from one of his films, quirky and unpredictable.  Banjo player and bandleader Eddy Davis exhorted the others with grunts and guffaws; trombonist Jerry Zigmont also crooned like Harry Connick Jr.; pianist Cynthia Sayer, the only woman onstage, brought an elegant, honeyed voice to the proceedings and a rendition of "By the Light of the Silvery Moon"; bassist Conal Fowlkes offered up a melancholy tone; while trumpeter Simon Wettenhall delivered raspy blues and drummer Rob Garcia kept them on time.

The group has been performing together for more than 20 years, usually in Europe, and Monday nights at the Café Carlyle in Manhattan ($85 U.S. cover charge).  Getting them was a real coup for this festival, which has quadrupled attendance since it started in 2002 and is known for attracting high-calibre artists such as Tony Bennett, Sonny Rollins and Norah Jones.  This year, the highlights are Americans Allen, Wayne Shorter, James Brown and Etta James, but acts from Brazil, Sweden and South Africa are also on the bill.  It's no surprise that Toronto is well represented — Jane Bunnett, Roberto Occhipinti, Rob McConnell — since festival producer/artistic director John Nugent is a Newfoundland native and Etobicoke resident.  A tenor sax player formerly of the Woody Herman Orchestra, Nugent, 43, taught jazz sax at McGill University and also co-owns the Stockholm Jazz Festival. He credits the success of the Rochester event to its diverse line-up.  With 170 shows and more than 600 musicians on tap, organizers are hoping to exceed the 65,000 people who attended the nine-day event last year and generate 20 per cent more than the $12 million that spun off for city coffers.  "We'd like to continue with small increases, because we don't want to jump into some gargantuan budget that we can't run," said Nugent.  The event is centred in the city's east-end cultural district and all 13 venues, including big halls, nightclubs and outdoor stages for free concerts, are within walking distance.  Some locals are still lamenting the demise of the ferry service which connected them with Toronto, but Nugent doesn't share their pain.  "Who needs a fast ferry? I have a fast car," he said.

The Rochester International Jazz Festival continues until June 17. Tickets $15 to $95. Visit http://www.rochesterjazz.com for more information.

Regina Carter: Jazz Violinist’s New Disc Honours Mom

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – By Kenya Yarbrough

(June 14, 2006)*Jazz violinist Regina Carter, who's appearing this Sunday at the Playboy Jazz Festival, in LA at the Hollywood Bowl, has released her sixth solo release this week, titled “I’ll Be Seeing You – A Sentimental Journey.” The record is appropriately titled in memory of her late mother, Grace, whom Carter says inspired her and incited her.  The disc, called “her most stylistically focused work to date,” was crafted from the memories of the renowned artist’s relationship with her mother who died in March of 2005.  “She was the reason for everything my brothers and I are and have,” Regina states on the Verve Music Group website.  Carter considers the disc a journey through the some of popular songs of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s that her mother loved during her youth.  “I call myself a jazz musician and I play this music called jazz and I’d talk to her and tell myself, ‘Well, she won’t know anything about it because it’s a specialized music.’ I had to realize that these tunes weren’t originally jazz pieces, a lot of them,” Carter explained when she took a moment to talk about the new disc with EUR’s Lee Bailey. “They were popular pieces in her time growing up, so she would know them and start singing and I’d get a big kick out of that. So a lot of times I’d run my repertoire by her because I figured if she enjoyed it and she’s not a music person, then most times than not, my audience would really like it.”

Carter spoke fondly of her mother, but admitted that their relationship, like many, wasn’t always appreciative or appreciated.  “In high school, I really took my mom through it, poor thing,” Carter admitted. “She would always say to me, ‘I hope one day you have children and you have one just like you.’ I just had to find myself and get some sense. And then I just realized I have a great mom here who’s always trying to give me the world. We got really close and after I lost my father, it let me know that tomorrow is not promised and you can’t take people for granted so then we started to talk every day.”  Fortunately, as most have found in their own relationships with their parents, Carter soon realized that her mother was one of the best friends she ever had. And that she owed much of her success to her.  “We became very, very good friends once I grew up and had some sense,” Carter admitted. “From my childhood, she exposed my brothers and me to so much – music, dance, and art – to things that she didn’t have when she was growing up because she was extremely poor. Whatever we wanted to do, as long as we were serious about it and as long as it wouldn’t hurt us, she would allow us to check it out and see if it was something we really wanted to do.”  Incidentally, violin was not something that Regina Carter thought she wanted to do. She stumbled upon the instrument after revealing a remarkable talent for the piano.  “I was two when I started piano, and that was only because my brothers were taking piano and the teacher would come to our home and give them lessons,” Carter reminisced. “My mom says that one day I walked up to the piano and started playing one of the pieces that one of my brothers was working. The teacher asked who had taught it to me and they were all shocked and said, ‘No one.’ So I took lessons for a while, but I was too young. My teacher was trying to teach me how to read music, and I resisted that. Instead I would go into my lessons playing songs that I had composed.”

Fortunately for jazz fans, Carter’s piano teacher understood that she had to continue with her creativity and instead of binding her to the technique and mathematics of piano playing, she suggested that Carter pursue the violin – particularly because the ‘Suzuki’ method was being offered for strings.  “The piano teacher thought it would be a great way for me to learn because a lot of it is by ear,” Carter said.  Growing up in Detroit, it may be a bit out of the ordinary that Carter would cling to the jazz violin. As it turns out, Carter’s “outside-the-box-but-in-front-of-the-rest” attitude is partially what attracted her to the genre and the instrument.  On becoming and being a jazz artist, Carter said: It’s kind of a label that’s been put on me and I accepted it, although Motown really influenced my playing as well as anything else. I think it was just when I was introduced to the music in high school, and people were giving me records of violinists playing jazz. That’s what really hooked me – hearing the violin in a different context. That was really attractive to me… The only time I heard violin in pop music, they were paying the background music. I wanted to be the lead instrument.”  Taking the lead, Carter has become the quintessential jazz violinist, working with a number of jazz greats in her career. With this as her sixth disc, the process, at least in anticipating the project’s release, has become a bit routine, she says.  “The first couple of records I was really excited; and the last project I recorded, ‘Paganini: After A Dream’, I was really excited because that was such a special project and the whole use of violins, so there was so much involved with that one,” Carter said in comparing previous releases. “With this one, people keep asking me if I’m excited. I kind of forget that it was not out. It feels like [it was recorded] so long ago. I’ve been touring a little bit and playing some of the music from it.

With the buzz on the new disc, which hit stores yesterday, the excitement is definitely there. The disc is comprised of acoustic arrangements of songs from the ’20s to the ’40s and features guest singers Dee Dee Bridgewater and Carla Cook, clarinettist Paquito D'Rivera, and accordionist/arranger Gil Goldstein, along with her current band.  “On different days, I have different picks,” Carter said of her favourite tracks on the disc. “One of my favourites, for sentimental reasons, is ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.’ It’s a very beautiful arrangement.  Also, ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket.’ That was one of my mother’s favourites.  Some of these tunes I hadn’t been familiar with, and then I heard them and they were fun to do. Just to find tunes that would work with each musician that I asked to be on the CD.”  “I'll Be Seeing You” does not mark the first time Ms. Carter has honoured her mother in song. She co-composed and recorded the piece “Something for Grace” as the title track of her sophomore album in 1997.  “Whenever I record music or want to record music with the band, I often think of her,” Carter said. “She always had really good advice. I used to hate to hear her opinion, but she was usually right. She was a strong person in my life.”  The 12-song CD, which includes W.C. Handy's “St. Louis Blues” and Duke Ellington's “Blue Rose,” is available in stores now on Verve Records. In addition, Regina Carter is scheduled to perform with Eddie Palmieri at the upcoming Playboy Jazz Festival. For more on the new disc and tours, check www.vervemusicgroup.com.

Field Mob Set To Release New CD Next Week

Source: Geffen Records

(June 14, 2006) NEW YORK  - Southern Hip-Hop Superstars, Field Mob get set to make their highly anticipated return to the scene with the release of their new album "Light Poles and Pine Trees," which will hit shelves next week.  After one too many bad deals and botched promotions for their previous efforts, Smoke (Darion Crawford) and Shawn Jay (Shawn Johnson) are finally getting the look that they deserve at their new home, Disturbing The Peace/Geffen.  Following the successful release of their hit single, "Georgia" featuring Ludacris and Jamie Foxx off of the "Ludacris Presents Disturbing Tha Peace" compilation, the Albany, Georgia rap duo's third album will feature 14-tracks of sure-fire hits and all-star collaborations which will be released nationwide on June 20th. Featuring guest appearances by music's top stars and producers, which include Ciara, Ludacris, Bobby Valentino and Jazze Pha, Field Mob looks to cement their much deserved place as hip-hop royalty through their ability to paint vivid pictures powered by their colourful, down home perspective, making them stand out for years amongst hip hop junkies.  Currently on the heals of success with their new album's first official single "So What," featuring Grammy Award Winning songstress, Ciara which was produced by Jazzy Pha, Field Mob has recently inked a tremendous promotional deal with Apple iTunes.

For a limited time, with every purchase of the hit single, "So What," consumers are given an exclusive Field Mob mix tape, which showcases 3 songs from "Light Poles and Pine Trees." With an overwhelming amount of online and radio support by fans, heavy airplay by video networks, in addition to the group's ability to maintain a top 3 position on AOL Radio, Field Mob is looking to redirect the Southern spotlight their way. Having paid just as many dues and shown just as much heart as other Southern rap stars, Smoke and Shawn J reaffirm their status as pioneers of the "Country Boy Movement" with the release of "Light Poles and Pine Trees." "I feel like we're the most posturpedic group in the industry right now," declares Shawn Jay. "Meaning, we're the most slept-on artists. Other artists know that if we finally get a little bit of light, it's over." This time, Field Mob cannot be denied. With the release of their highly anticipated third album, it's finally Smoke and Shawn J's time to shine. For more information on Field Mob, visit http://www.fieldmob.com  or http://www.myspace.com/fieldmob.   

MUSIC TIDBITS

Jodi King To Perform At Roots Clothing’s Flagship St. Vital Store

Source: Reach Records

(June 13, 2006)  Winnipeg bred singer/songwriter Jodi King is set to mark Canada Day 2006 with Roots Clothing at their St. Vital, Winnipeg store this Canada Day weekend with two amazing live shows  fit for a hometown crowd. Jodi recently hit the stage at the Roots flagship store in Toronto for their highly successful Rethink My Breasts/Fashion Targets Breast Campaign® event.  “We are excited about continuing our alliance between Roots Canada and Jodi” said Gail Phillip of Reach Records who recently signed a management deal with Jodi. “May’s charity event in Toronto kick started a great relationship will be we look forward to working together for Canada Day and in the future.” Reach sites Raymond Perkins, Director of Public Relations at Roots for his support and vision towards Jodi and Roots relationship.  A classically trained pianist with influences and inspiration from such artists as Lauryn Hill, Nikka Costa and Stevie Wonder, Jodi has shared the stage with some of Canada’s top new performers including Ivana Santilli, Sekoya and Ray Robinson.  Hot on the heel of her performance last month in Toronto’s historic distillery district, Jodi, will perform two sets at the St. Vital Centre Roots Store Location on Friday, June 30, 2006. In addition to Jodi’s performance, there will be giveaways and other surprises.

Beatles Convention To Be Held In Toronto

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Canadian Press

(Jun. 7, 2006) Forty years after
The Beatles whipped Canadian fans into a frenzy for the last time at Maple Leaf Gardens, Beatlemania is set to hit the city all over again.  The Toronto Beatles Celebration, the city's first-ever downtown Fab Four convention, will be held September 16 and 17, organizers announced Wednesday.  The Beatles performed at the now-closed indoor arena August 17, 1966, the same day John Lennon expressed his admiration for American Vietnam draft dodgers who had fled to Canada.  "We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of that performance," event producer David Goyette, founder of the Beaten Path recording project, said over the phone.  "However, we were unable to get a venue on August 17th and it wasn't particularly important to us that we get exactly that date in any event."  A huge line-up of guests will take part in the weekend-long event at Exhibition Place.  They include former Beatles drummer Pete Best, Canadian Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas, John Lennon's former personal assistant Fred Seaman, Beatles author Bruce Spizer and former Beatles promotion manager Peter Bennett.  Beatles cartoonists, autograph collectors, photographers and publishers will also be there for audio-visual presentations, a mod fashion show, a memorabilia exhibit and two concerts by the internationally recognized Beatles tribute band, 1964 The Tribute.  Toronto's Beatles tribute band Fab Four and Canadian Liverpool legend Hal Bruce will perform at the convention.  Peter Miniaci, president of Toronto's Beatlemania Shoppe, is also helping produce the event.

Guelph Jazz Fest Focuses On Eastern Europe

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - J.D. Considine

(June 9, 2006) Toronto -- Eastern European experimentalism -- with a particular emphasis on new Jewish music -- will be the focus of this year's Guelph Jazz Festival, it was announced this week. The line-up will include the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, Manouche, Russian accordionist Evelyn Petrova and the North American premiere of Hungarian pianist Gyorgy Szabados, the festival promises, in the words of artistic director Ajay Heble, "to offer a genuine celebration of musical surprise, innovation, risk-taking and community-building." The new music festival, which runs from Sept. 6-10 in Guelph, Ont., won't focus exclusively on Eastern Europe, of course. Its biggest names, trumpeter Bill Dixon and saxophonist Steve Coleman, come from the American jazz avant garde, and there will be everything from a duet between Chinese guzheng master Xu Fenghxia and jazz bassist Joe Fonda, to a trio featuring fiddler Oliver Schroer, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis and tabla player Ravi Naimpally. There will also be a pop component to the festival, with performances by Arcade Fire spinoffs the Bell Orchestre and Torngat, as well as an all-star panel discussion entitled "Arcade Emperor Underground: Montreal Meets Chicago."

B.C. Lottery Corp. Is Searching For A Star

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Alexandra Gill

(June 9, 2006)
VANCOUVER -- Do you have what it takes to become the next Michael Bublé or Celine Dion?  The B.C. Lottery Corp. is holding a province-wide star search in its mission to find an undiscovered singing sensation to perform at the celebrity-studded David Foster and Friends Charity Gala at the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond on Sept 10.  "You only have three minutes to show us what you've got, so pick a cover tune with a big crescendo," Mr. Foster advised would-be contestants during a media teleconference yesterday.  The Grammy Award-winning composer and producer who helped Mr. Bublé and Ms. Dion shoot to fame will be on the final jury panel that selects the winner. The David Foster Foundation, established in 1986, has provided financial support to 267 families across Canada with children in need of life-saving organ transplants.  Applications for the David Foster Star Search must be received by June 30. The first of six regional finals will be held in Langley on July 14. The contest is open to B.C. residents, aged 14 to 28, without a current recording contract.  For information: http://www.davidfosterstarsearch.com.

Christina Milian And Def Jam Part Ways

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2006) *It’s official, Christina Milian is no longer an artist under Island Def Jam.  While rumours had been circulating for weeks that the singer was kicked off the label, Milian’s publicist made the split sound less cut throat, stating: "Christina Milian and Island Def Jam have decided to end their relationship due to creative differences. This was a mutual decision." The news comes amidst sluggish sales of her latest album, “So Amazin’.” According to Lloyd Grove’s Lowdown column in the New York Daily News, Vibe magazine has reportedly decided to scrap Milian's scheduled August cover in light of her firing and has instead chosen Keyshia Cole.  Lloyd Grove also reports that Milian, 24, refused to take direction from Island Def Jam CEO L.A. Reid, who reportedly begged the singer to record "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)," which ended up becoming a hot single for her label mate Rihanna.  Def Jam reportedly spent a huge chunk of change promoting Milian’s album, only to have it move a paltry 50,202 units in the week after its May 16 release. By contrast, Rihanna’s latest album, “A Girl Like Me," sold 115,000 copies in its first week.  Sources tell Grove that “folks at Island Def Jam are blaming Milian's boyfriend and executive producer, Marcello (Dre) Valenzano, of the producing team Cool & Dre, for the artist's alleged lack of cooperation.”

91.5 The Beat Accepting Demos For Rhythm Of The Future Talent Search

Source:  www.umac.ca

Kitchener radio station
91.5 The Beat is currently seeking demos for its Rhythm of the Future talent search! The contest deadline is Friday, June 16, 2006 at 5 pm EST.  91.5 The Beat is looking for Canada's hottest Hip Hop, R&B and Mainstream talent. Winners will be part of the first ever Rhythm Of the Future compilation alongside some of Canada's most famous artists! In addition to that, you could: 

• Win $1,000 in cash!
• Record a single with JUNO-award winning producers
• Have your "single" album cover designed by the top artist photographers in Canada
• Have a chance to open up at 91.5 The Beat's "Beat Rocks The Block" party or "HipHopToberfest"!
• Receive 500 professionally designed copies of your single packaged for distribution.

Send a CD copy of your demo and a one page bio and picture to 91.5 The Beat and enter for a chance of a lifetime. For full contest details and entry forms, visit www.rotf.ca.

The Roots Get Serious About Their ‘Game Theory’

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(June 14, 2006)  The Roots, known for their innovative album concepts, return after a two year break to release their new album, Game Theory.  Game Theory is The Roots’ most thought-provoking album since their 1999 breakthrough Things Fall Apart and is the group’s debut for Def Jam Recordings (Universal Music Canada), home to the world’s premiere Hip-Hop artists.  “There was too much going on that we couldn’t just sit back and not speak on it,” says lyricist Black Thought.  Drummer ?uestlove describes the album as “very mature, serious and very dark.”  The band addresses everything from their uneasiness about society on, “It Don’t Feel Right,” to troops at war on “False Media” and government monitoring on “New World.” The band also honours their fallen friend and producer James Yancey (a/k/a J-Dilla) whose death from kidney failure in February devastated the Hip-Hop world.   Game Theory features samples from Sly Stone, the Ohio Players and the Jackson 5 among others.  It’s been nearly 20 years since Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter met on a fateful date in 1987 at the Philadelphia High  School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Since then, The Roots have become popularly regarded as among today's most innovative, adventurous and influential bands.  The Roots are: ?uestlove (drums), Black Thought (emcee), Leonard “Hub” Hubbard (bass), Kamal Gray (keyboards), Kirk “Captain Kirk” Douglas (guitar) and  Frank Knuckles (percussion).

The Roots will be in Canada on the following tour dates:
Wed     7/5     Toronto Kool Haus              
Thu     7/6     Quebec  Quebec City International       Quebec City Fest       
Fri     7/7     Montreal        Metropolis      Montreal Jazz Fest     
 

Streisand Announces First Tour In 12 Years

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(June 9, 2006)
New York — Barbra Streisand will embark on a concert tour in the United States this fall, her first in over a decade, she announced Thursday. Streisand will play 20 concerts in U.S. cities during October and November, her manager, Martin Erlichman, said in a statement. Her last U.S. tour was in 1994. The 64-year-old singer-actress plans to give "designated proceeds" from the tour to support several causes, including the environment, education and women's health. The money will be distributed through the Streisand Foundation. "The increasingly urgent need for private citizen support to combat dangerous climate change, along with education and health issues, was the prime reason I decided to tour again," Streisand said in a statement. "This will allow me to direct funds and awareness to causes that I care deeply about." The tour follows the release of her latest album, Guilty Pleasures, last September. In 2004, Streisand marked her return to the big screen, co-starring in the Ben Stiller comedy, Meet the Fockers. Dates and locations will be announced at a later date.

Shakira, Wyclef’s ‘Hips’ Shake Up Billboard

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 9, 2006) *After 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, Shakira and Wyclef Jean’s “Hips Don’t Lie” has finally reached No. 1 due to a sudden burst in digital sales.  The single, from Shakira’s "Oral Fixation Vol. 2" album, was downloaded a record 266,500 last week, which caused its sudden 38-1 thrust on the Digital Charts. The song also tops the Hot Latin Songs chart for a fourth week and the Pop 100 for its first. Epic Records kept the song off of digital sites in an effort to boost sales of the album’s recent re-release. “Hips’” one-week download tally beats the record set by D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” in December. Meanwhile, Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" featuring Krayzie Bone falls to No. 2 after a two-week reign at No. 1; "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland stays at No. 3, and Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down" snaps its way up the chart 24-4 and holds the No. 1 spot on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for a third week.  Elsewhere on the Hot 100, Lupe Fiasco's "Kick Push" enters at No. 79, Mary J. Blige and U2's remake of "One" pops in at No. 86, and Young Dro's "Shoulder Lean" featuring T.I. dips in at No. 86.

Queen Latifah Reigns On Capitol Hill

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 8, 2006) *Queen Latifah was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to help introduce National Women’s Conference Day, an effort supported by the YWCA USA and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY to be celebrated every first Wednesday in June. "I got the support I needed from my mother, grandmother and aunts. But many women today do not have the confidence they need," she said Wednesday at a press conference in front of the Capitol.  The day is meant to serve as a reminder for women to exude confidence, to get involved in helping other women live more fulfilling lives and in tribute to those who already contribute – via education, fund-raising, self-empowerment and volunteer work – to helping women gain confidence.  Following the acknowledgment in Congress, Latifah, Maloney and Peggy Sanchez Mills, CEO, YWCA USA, held a press conference on the Cannon Terrace on Capitol Hill, where they announced the Curvation Project Confidence YCA Educational Outreach Program, is the first confidence-building initiative at a national level in the YWCA's nearly 150-year history to be aimed at women over the age of 18.  "I'm so proud to be here today, because I have always felt strongly about empowering women,” Latifah said during the ceremony. "I'm living proof that with confidence and by believing in yourself, you can accomplish any goal. So today, in honour of National Women’s Conference Day, I'm encouraging all women to take the first step -- no matter how big or small -- to making their dreams a reality."

Eartha Kitt Back Performing After Colon Cancer

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 8, 2006) *Back in fine, feline form, Eartha Kitt returned from a victorious battle with colon cancer to begin her postponed month-long residency at Manhattan's Cafe Carlyle. The legendary entertainer, 79, had visited the doctor two months ago to address her carpal tunnel syndrome when the potentially-deadly disease was discovered. She was forced to postpone the Cafe Carlyle gig and undergo an operation. Due to the early detection of the disease, the procedure was successful and she was able to reschedule the show’s premiere, which took place last night.  "I never expect anything to happen to me,” she tells Page Six. “I'm the healthiest person in the world. They operated right away, and I'm fine. I'd advise everyone to get a colonoscopy. (Working again) makes me feel grateful that I'm still wanted. Anyway, what would I retire to?"

Sean Paul Is Number One On The New York Reggae Chart

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(June 8, 2006) Sean Paul’s recent Billboard Hot 100 chart topper Temperature has knocked Beenie Man’s We Set the Trend from the top of the New York Reggae chart this week.  Based on information received, Temperature s the first song by a Jamaican to top the US pop chart before topping the New York Reggae chart.  Usually, songs from Jamaican acts would first become hits in the Caribbean market before crossing over onto the Billboard charts.       Sean Paul’s previous number one hits on the New York Reggae charts include I’m Still in Love with You featuring Sasha, and Gimmie the Light. Temperature has given producer Rohan ‘Sno Cone’ Fuller his second chart topper on the New York Reggae chart, following Sizzla’s Run Out Pon Dem.       As for Beenie Man, We Set the Trend is the latest in a long list of chart toppers. His most recent one was A Nuh Mi (Frame I and I).       In related news, Beenie Man’s forthcoming album Undisputed is scheduled for release next month by Virgin Records. The first international single Hmm Humm is busy making its way up the Billboard R&B Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart.       And, still on Sean Paul, he recently shot the video for his new single Never Gonna be the Same here in Jamaica. The video was directed by Jamaican music video director Ras Kassa. Kassa is best known for his work on Beenie Man’s Dude and Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock videos. Never Gonna be the Same which recently peaked at number 10 on the pop charts in France, is dedicated to Sean Paul’s friend Daddigan, who died last year.

Makin' it to the Hall

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – By Vit Wagner

(June 11, 2006) As a self-avowed music nerd growing up in a small town near Huntsville, Ont.,
Hawksley Workman made numerous treks to hear his favourite artists perform at Massey Hall.  Last night, the 30-year-old singer/songwriter played that storied Shuter St. hall for the first time, in what must have seemed like the realization of an impossible dream.  Or maybe not.  Workman, making up for a show postponed a few months back by laryngitis, appeared comfortably in his element. Not all the seats were taken, but the size of the house was more than respectable. Besides, Workman had no difficulty filling the house's empty corners with the operatic power of his singing and the force of his personality.  "I don't want to just play Massey Hall," he said. "I want to destroy Massey Hall. But I'm not one for destruction. I want to destroy it with peace and happiness."  The show began somewhat sedately, with Workman sitting on a stool and playing the acoustic guitar as he slipped into "A Moth is not a Butterfly" and a handful of other tracks from his current disc, Treeful of Starling.  Eventually, he switched to an electric model and worked through his back catalogue, including "Jealous of your Cigarette," "Anger as Beauty," "Claire Fontaine" and "Tarantula". Throughout, Workman leaned on the sympathetic backing of long-time accompanist Todd Lumley on the piano.  Playfully, he occasionally inserted quotations from other songs, including Supertramp's "The Logical Song" and "Blow at High Dough," a song he very likely has heard the Tragically Hip perform in this very venue.  It might have been Workman's Massey Hall debut, but it had the feeling of a homecoming.

Crunchy Black Leaves Three 6 Mafia

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 9, 2006) *
Crunchy Black got his Oscar and has now left the building. A spokesman for Sony Records has confirmed that the member of Three 6 Mafia has officially parted ways with group mates Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard and Jordan "Juicy J" Houston.  The reason for Crunchy’s exit is unknown, but Sony claims the decision was entirely his own, and he was not forced out. In a recent interview with Hot 97’s Miss Info, DJ Paul and Juicy J said they haven’t spoken to Crunchy in several months.  According to Allhiphop.com, the artist is in the studio working on a solo album tentatively titled “From Me to You, 1 The Hard Way.  The rapper, whose real name is Darnell Carlton, wasn’t able to leave behind a March 2006 lawsuit that has been filed against him and the rest of Three 6, including former member Cedric Coleman. Ramone Williams is accusing the group members of assaulting him as they performed their song "Let's Start a Riot" at the Rock Jungle Night Club.

Jay-Z Brings Life To 'Reasonable Doubt'

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(June 08, 2006)
Jay-Z will take the stage June 25 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his 1996 debut, "Reasonable Doubt" (Roc-A-Fella/Priority), considered a classic hip-hop album. The rapper and current president of Def Jam will perform the disc in its entirety for the first time at New York's Radio City Music Hall.  Tickets for the concert go on sale tomorrow (June 9) at 9 a.m. ET through Ticketmaster. At deadline it is unclear if the artist will be joined by any of the guests from "Reasonable Doubt," including Foxy Brown ("Ain't No Nigga") and Mary J. Blige (opener "Can't Knock the Hustle").  "Reasonable Doubt" got as high as No. 23 on The Billboard 200 upon its initial release and has sold 1.4 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  Jay-Z stopped releasing albums under his own name after 2003's "The Black Album" but has appeared as a guest on numerous tracks since then. Rumors persist that he's plotting a new studio project.

Grafstein, Mills, Kinsella Plan An Anti-Terror Event

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(June 12, 2006) The men who brought the Rolling Stones to Toronto for a massive outdoor concert following the SARS crisis of 2003 say they want to show U.S. tourists that Toronto is a safe place to visit despite the recent terrorism-related arrests.  Senator Jerry Grafstein, former Liberal MP Dennis Mills and political consultant Warren Kinsella are organizing I Am Not Afraid, an event designed to showcase Toronto's resilience after 17 people were arrested on terrorism charges. Some Canadian celebrities have reportedly said they'll support the event, scheduled for June 25. CP

Cham’s ‘Ghetto Story’ Banned In Jamaica

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 12, 2006) *You thought Jr. Gong’s “Welcome to Jamrock” was bleak? Reggae star Cham’s new single “Ghetto Story” is so explicit in its description of poverty and hopelessness in Jamaica that the government has banned it from the island. "At first they were trying to fight it in Jamaica, but now it's the biggest thing," Cham tells Reuters. "The radio started playing it like probably two weeks after they said, 'No, no, no.' The fans were letting them know that it was the biggest song in the street. But that's how it is in Jamaica, they tend to draw a curtain to the real things going on." The video for "Ghetto Story" features Cham rhyming into a cell phone as children act out his verses of robbing store clerks and sleeping on foam squares. Shot in one day, the clip caught the attention of MTV, which ran it on "Direct Effect" and "MTV Jams." Cham also recruited Akon for the "Ghetto Story" remix, which recently went to radio. Atlantic will release Cham’s album of the same name in August.        Baby Cham, born Dameon Dean Beckett in Kingston, also had government bans slapped on his earlier tracks "Desperate Measure" and "Ghetto Play," as well as Bounty Killer's "Anytime," which Cham wrote with long-time producer buddy Dave Kelly.        "The government wrote me," Cham says regarding "Ghetto Play." "I was saying to give me the country to run for a day. And they said, 'We need to stop the bashing of the government.' That's not bashing, it's just showing up the government. There's no free speech there. They say you have free speech, but it's not free speech."

Wonder, Franklin To Perform At Detroit Event

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 12, 2006) *It’s back to the Motor City for Motown vet Stevie Wonder, who is scheduled to perform in Detroit’s Ford Field next year at an event marking the 40th anniversary of Detroit's deadly 1967 riots.   "We've had enough. We've seen enough. It's time for change," Michael Fezzey, co-chair of the group planning the July 27, 2007, concert, told The Detroit News. "The systems and structures in place aren't enough. What needs to happen is a change of heart. This is about making systematic change in our communities." Gospel singer Kirk Franklin is also in the performance line-up, and organizers said they are continuing to add artists to the roster.  Five days of rioting in Detroit, beginning July 23, 1967, were sparked by police activity in predominantly black neighbourhoods. The violence led to an estimated $22 million in property damage. Forty-three people were killed and hundreds were injured in the melee, which set in motion the city’s decline from an industrial hotspot of about 2 million people to an impoverished city of about 900,000. The riots also accelerated white suburban flight from what then was a majority white city. Today, about 80 percent of Detroit residents are black.    Nine days before Detroit’s riots, similar civil unrest occurred in Newark, resulting in the deaths of 23 people and the destruction of over $10 million in property.

Tyrese Speaks Out About Leaked Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2006) *Last week, the world witnessed how easy it is for Web sites to swipe pictures of the most guarded baby on the planet (Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt) from media outlets that paid millions of dollars for exclusive rights. If this is possible, music artists hoping to keep their mp3 or wav files from being leaked onto the Internet should just give up right now.  Tyrese Gibson’s forthcoming album “Alter Ego,” a dual disc with R&B songs on one CD and rap joints on the other, is making its way around cyberspace as we speak, thanks to an employee in his company, the singer recently told EUR’s Lee Bailey.  “Right now, we’re trying to get down to the bottom of who did this,” said Tyrese “They like to say that it ain’t really a big deal, but I think it’s a big deal because I got a new company and you kinda just wanna know you can trust people with your private files.” As previously reported, the album features collaborations with such artists as Snoop Dogg, Paul Wall, Chingy, Guerilla Black, Kurupt and the Game, his co-star in the upcoming film “Waist Deep.” “His record wasn’t leaked, fortunately,” Tyrese says of Game’s contribution to the album. “It’s called ‘Ghetto Days.’ That one is still going on the album. But right now, I’ve just shut down. I’ve put pass codes all over my computers, and I’m about to add some cameras in my studios now because I can’t trust nobody.”       The artist is decidedly more upbeat about his role in “Waist Deep,” a thriller arriving in theatres June 23. The film stars Tyrese as O2, an ex-con who tries to leave the street life behind to do right by his son. But when the boy is kidnapped by a gangster named Meat (rapper The Game), O2 falls back into his old lifestyle to get him back.

Prince, Tamar To Rock ‘GMA’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2006) *Prince and his protégé Tamar Davis will perform Friday morning (June 16) on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”  The pair will take the “GMA” stage at New York’s Bryant Park to perform songs from Tamar’s debut album “Milk & Honey,” due Aug. 29. The young singer/songwriter from Houston Texas has been a personal music student of Prince ever since she was 14, according to a press release.  One of the original lead vocalists in an early incarnation of Destiny's Child called Tyme, Tamar has been singing since childhood, eventually becoming one of only 20 high school students to be named a Presidential Scholar for the arts from a field of 8000 applicants. She also earned a degree in composing and arranging from USC. After graduating, she reunited with Prince and the two began co-writing and co-producing songs for “Milk & Honey.” The pair also began collaborating on a series of stage events to introduce Tamar, including this past February's 2006 Brit Awards (along with other Prince mavens such as Sheila E. and Wendy & Lisa), and a top-rated “Saturday Night Live” performance. The singer provides her own introduction to the world with the following message on her Web site: “U don't know me, nor do eye know u, But eye saw U years ago searching 4 a sound that a siren would make...”

Roots, Rock, Reggae Fest Is Back On

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2006) *The Marley Family has announced the return of the “Bob Marley Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival,” a five-hour genre-blending outdoor music festival tour featuring music, food, street vendors and good vibes.   The 17-city event kicks off Aug. 6 at the Reggae on the River Festival in Redway, CA (full tour schedule below).  The festival title was borrowed from the Bob Marley song “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” featured on his 1976 album “Rastaman Vibration.” This year’s festival marks the first time sons Ziggy and Stephen Marley have joined reggae pioneer Bunny Wailer on tour.  It will be the first time Ziggy will perform songs from his upcoming CD “Love is My Religion,” set for release July 2 on the Marley Family record label Tuff Gong Worldwide. (As previously reported, Target will act as the sole U.S. retailer for the album.)   The tour also marks the first time Stephen Marley will perform songs from his solo debut album “Mind Control,” set for release this Fall on Tuff Gong/ Ghetto Youths/ Universal-Republic.  Grammy-winning Latin rock band Ozomatli and MuzikMafia godfather John Nicholson are also confirmed for the bill.  During the event, the street vendors will also offer a variety items including authentic Jamaican cuisine and wares.  For more information, go to http://www.rootsrockreggae.com.  

Janet’s New ‘Old’ To Arrive In September

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 14, 2006) *Janet Jackson’s forthcoming album “20 Years Old” will drop Sept. 26 from Virgin Records. The company released a teaser statement, promising the new set will be just as hot and groundbreaking as the singer’s landmark 1986 album, “Control.” “Her new work promises to be no less influential, as Jackson teams with the most successful pop/R&B producer of the post-2000 period, Jermaine 'JD' Dupri, and longtime friends and hitmakers Jimmy ‘Jam’ Harris and Terry Lewis, her original collaborators on ‘Control,’ the statement read. “Just as ‘Control’ marked a personal rebirth and a smashing creative achievement twenty years ago, ‘20 Years Old’ celebrates, at once, two decades of continued growth, as well as the essential newness of creativity.”  The first single from “20 Years Old” will be “Call on Me,” featuring Nelly. Barring any premature leaks, radio stations will begin playing the tune on Monday (June 19).  Of the new album, Jackson’s beau, Dupri, says: "Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are musical powerhouses. Our individual successes have been unparalleled and have kept music fans bouncing to our beats and singing our songs for years. The world has no idea what they are about to experience -- Janet has the best production trio possible -- and I guarantee, we will deliver!"

::FILM NEWS::

Making a Great Escape - 12th Annual Worldwide Short Film Festival, June 13-18

Excerpt from Eye Weekly - By Adam Nayman Photography David Waldman

ARUBA ****
STARRING A.J. SAUDIN, DEVON BOSTICK. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY HUBERT DAVIS. 11 MIN. SCREENS JUNE 14, 4:30PM AT INNIS TOWN HALL (2 SUSSEX) AND JUNE 17, 7PM AT THE ISABEL BADER THEATRE (93 CHARLES W) AS PART OF CANADIAN PROGRAMME 1: I GOT IT BAD.

(June 8, 2006) When people talk about films as a form of escapism, they're usually referring to elaborate fantasies or swooning movie-star romances -- cinema as a tasty antidote to reality.
Hubert Davis' marvellous dramatic vignette Aruba, which makes its Canadian premiere at the Worldwide Short Film Festival, is about the desire to abscond to a better place.  This deceptively slight story of a boy trapped between a badly broken home and bullies at school may not be escapist entertainment, but it is terrifically perceptive about the ways in which we construct and pursue our own personal paradises.  "Escape was definitely on my mind," says Davis, the 30-year-old Canadian filmmaker whose autobiographical short documentary Hardwood garnered a surprise Oscar nomination last year. "It was the idea of how we try to escape day-to-day, and how, sometimes, we do it to survive."  Aruba's title refers to a postcard glimpsed by its 11-year-old protagonist (A.J. Saudin), whose living situation couldn't be further removed from its inviting tropical tableau. Saudin's character doesn't speak a single word of dialogue in the film, but his muteness is clearly a by-product of his stifling environment: you get the impression that nobody around him would listen anyway. "Later in life, we say, 'I wish that I could be a kid again,'" Davis muses. "But then we remember what it was actually like to be that age."  Unlike many films about youth, Aruba doesn't feature many low-angle set-ups or child's eye perspectives: Davis isn't interested in nostalgia. Which is not to say that Aruba is a downer. Its hero turns out to be surprisingly resourceful despite his silence and wounded manner, authoring a novel solution to his most pressing predicament: the looming, violent presence of his mother's live-in boyfriend. The suggestion is that salvation comes to those who work toward it -- that while the pretty picture on the wall is alluring, and even sustaining, it does not in itself constitute a plan.  At the same time, the triumph the film describes is hardly definitive. "There's never a single answer to your problems," says Davis, who based the script on the experiences of troubled children he worked with over the course of several summers in his native Vancouver. "[The story in] the film is just one hurdle that the character has gotten over. There's always going to be something else."

That Aruba is able to communicate its complex themes in just 11 minutes is a testament to Davis' storytelling skills, and doubly impressive given that this is his first foray into fiction.  "Someone gave me advice a long time ago about the problem they saw in shorts," he says, "which was that people are always trying to cram a feature film into 10 or 20 minutes. So I was very conscious when I wrote Aruba that it would only work in this format. But it is tough. A lot of the films you see at festivals like this are comedies, because it's hard to get someone invested in a drama in such a short amount of time."  The film's sense of economy is carried over from Hardwood, which drew praise not only for its unsentimental approach to sensitive material -- the film details Davis' difficult relationship with his father, a former star on the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team who was absent for much of the director's childhood -- but also its carefully balanced construction. And there's a more intriguing link: though markedly different in style and tone, Aruba is also a story about a fatherless boy. "It's funny," Davis says cautiously, "but I hadn't made that connection. But I think it's something that's very prevalent in my thoughts. I'm making another documentary now, and three of the subjects don't have fathers in their lives. So I guess it is something that I do come back to in a way."  Davis explains that while Aruba was less taxing than Hardwood emotionally, it was also more easily financed, mostly because of the previous film's success. "Everyone was pushing me to sign with an agent between the Oscar nomination and the actual ceremony, like it was my only window. It kind of freaked me out, actually. People would ask me, 'So, are you winning?' The actual day [of the Oscars] was great, though, because I had my family with me... my wife and my mom and dad, and my brother and his wife. It was like we were all in it together. Walking the red carpet, tripping over people as we were going in."  Davis knows that instant success isn't necessarily the best thing for a young filmmaker -- backlash is as ugly as it is unfair -- but he's not sweating his reputation. He's excited to accompany Aruba on the festival circuit -- it played Sundance earlier this year, and he's hoping to get into the Toronto International Film Festival this fall. He's also working on several new projects, including a script for a feature film.  "I always felt like I didn't know enough to go out there and do it properly," Davis says. "That's what I feel like I'm doing with these films, and making commercials [his work includes spots for Hockey Canada and Nike apparel]. It's like a chance to have someone else finance my film school. I'm just learning as much as I can right now."

 

Hey, got a minute? Worldwide Short Film Festival

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

(Jun. 9, 2006) In the primitive gloom of a near-forgotten past — that dark era before the internet — short films, by and large, had a single purpose: As self-promoting calling cards for fledgling filmmakers looking to do bigger and better.  That function hasn't been erased. But it has been expanded. Low-cost cameras and desktop editing have expanded the field beyond Hollywood aspirants to everyone from hobbyists to experimental artists. And online, sites like Atomfilms, iFilm, Clipland and Amazefilms, among dozens of others, have showcased shorts, transforming them from advertisements for one's self to a form of self-expression in its own right.  And along the way, they've actually managed what was long thought to be impossible: Making a little money along the way. Atomfilms, perhaps the online short film world's biggest distributor, now shares its not-negligible advertising profits with its filmmakers.  Not bad for a medium once seen as a necessary — and costly — evil for an aspiring filmmaker looking to get a foot in the door. And it's changed the way the medium itself is viewed.  "That's how we see it — we want to treat it as an industry and an art form in its own right," said Shane Smith, the director of the long-running
Worldwide Short Film Festival, which opens Tuesday. It runs until June 18.  The festival began 12 years ago. This year it garnered an all-time high 3,070 entries (which it then pared down to 250) from 30 countries.  Smith, who watched about 1,000 of them, wasn't always one to herald short film's artistic credibility.  "They're fun, they're filller, they're great," was his impression of shorts before joining the festival in 2000.  "But then I came here and saw the depth and breadth of the creativity and talent the medium draws."

Breadth is one thing. Even with a greatly slimmed down program of 250 films, the range touches nearly every form, genre — and length — in the film world. From Bugcrush, a dark 36 minutes of teenage alienation, sexual desire and peer pressure run wild, to the 1-minute tale of the Big Bad Wolf's overnight rise to media stardom (and subsequent fall) in A Friend I Know.  A good dose of documentary is sprinkled liberally throughout, like the iron-pumping, body-image obsessed Alberta teens in Shredded, or Heavy Metal Jr., a Scottish short about Hatred, an entirely adorable pre-teen death metal band preparing for their first gig.  Everything else is swirled into the program as well, from science fiction to horror to comedy to a raft of animation like Pimp Ma Botte, an animated spoof on the MTV hit Pimp My Ride, rendered cartoony and re-set in the Francophone Maritimes, with fishing boats tricked out for aging fishermen.  Not your speed? The try the vast range of experimental art film and video, which pushes convention to the point of dissolution.  Take, for example a standout piece called UA 93: Newark to Nowhere.  Only three minutes long, the animated piece takes recordings of conversations between the Cleveland control tower and United Airlines flight 93, which highjackers had aimed at the White House, only to be foiled by an on-board passenger revolt.  The film, based on the simple silhouettes on a radar screen, tracks the flight as it drifts off its path from Newark towards the U.S. capital. The control tower repeats requests for radio contact, their words rendered on screen in crisp white text as they say them: "United 93, do you hear Cleveland?" The response is silence.  Eventually, a transmission from the doomed flight is heard, rendered on-screen in a chaotic wash of crimson: "We have a bomb on board. Everyone remain silent," as the white shadow of the plane twists and rolls earthward.

Smith's priority was to make sure that each of the festival's 29 programs contained a smattering of each form, to make for a broad sampling of the medium's delights.  After all, the Web may have done the form some help, but it's also done harm. "It made people more aware of short films, but it's also made them aware of them as jokes — a quick punchline, usually off-colour," he said.  Not that the laughs aren't there. They are, in fact, in force, like in The Wood Spider, a Hinterland Who's Who spoof on the very real research into the effects of THC and LSD on the arachnid's spinning abilities, and then the not-so-real effects of crack cocaine on the same species.  But Smith wants each program to provide a broad sampling of the medium's offerings. Films are grouped not by genre, but, loosely, by theme, such as Work With Me Here or Pretty Young Things — to allow maximum variation.  "That's part of what makes short film such a brilliant medium," he said. "When you get in there, you're going to have a whole bunch of different journeys."

The Film Strip Spotlight: 'The Heart Of The Game'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore

(June 9, 2006) *A story that was to be based on Roosevelt High School girls basketball coach Bill Resler shifted gears when director Ward Semill walked into the school’s gymnasium in Seattle, Washington and laid eyes on team member Darnellia Russell. She could very well be described as the “heart” in “The Heart of the Game,” a new documentary opening today featuring a look at the school’s team, “The Roughriders.”  An African American street kid with sports skills; so what else is new, I ask Serrill?  “As a storyteller, I just look for really interesting characters and then I just follow them,” he explained. “When I went to that game, I saw sparks fly.” And seeing Ressler work his magic, helping girls “overcome obstacles and adversity” was the icing on the cake. Russell, prone to buck the system, did admit she could be difficult at times.  “I did have a little attitude,” she laughs, “but I never fought like how they were saying I fought all the time at school and would get kicked out and they would have to come and get me. I argued and stuff, but just never physically fought people…I just never liked school.”  Chris “Ludacris” Bridges was brought on to narrate the story after Serrill saw his performance in “Crash.”  “I am extremely proud of this project,” Ludacris told The Film Strip. “I think the documentary is very powerful because a lot of young ladies in particular have a lot of adversities thrown at them and I think this will make them realize that that sense of self confidence and self esteem will get them through.” “I continue to tell [Russell]—and I don't think she understands—about the impact that she is about to have on a lot of people lives,” he continued. “That’s why I wanted to be involved in this project because I know how powerful it will be. I’m trying to get as many people to watch it as possible.

Basketball Bio-Pic Chronicles Rise of Teen Phenom with WNBA Dreams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(June 9, 2006) *In 1995, Hoop Dreams was nominated an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. That fascinating flick followed five years in the promising careers of a couple of 14 year-old, black basketball phenoms from the slums of Chicago who were recruited to play for an otherwise lily-white high school located in the suburbs.  What made that picture particularly poignant was the sharp contrast between the subjects’ campus and disastrous home lives. For instance, during the film, we see one kid’s father become a crackhead and get carted off to prison. If that movie delivered any message, it was to indict the practice of treating athletes like commodities while questioning the wisdom of allowing even a talented basketball prodigy to put all his eggs in one basket.    The Heart of the Game might best be thought of as a female version Hoop Dreams, except that it is set in Seattle and focuses primarily on the plight of only one player instead of two. In this case, that talented teenager is Darnellia Russell, a shooting sensation who, with the blessing of her mother, April, opts to attend Roosevelt High instead of Garfield, the inner-city school located in the ‘hood. Early on, we see Darnellia adjust to her new surroundings (“I’ve never been around so many white people before.”) and to her new coach, Bill Resler, a 54 year-old clairvoyant who readily admits, “She’s my only chance to be famous.” The charismatic Ressler, a tax professor by trade, is relatively knew to the sport, having first volunteered for the job the season before. But half drill sergeant, half pop philosopher, he’s obviously up to the task. Unfortunately, Darnellia develops a complication in her personal life, namely, a pregnancy, which causes her to drop out of school after her junior year. Then, when she’s returns as a senior, the Board of Ed declares her ineligible to play anymore because of her newborn. The snubbed single-mom has to sue to get reinstated and ends up spending more time in the court of law as on the court of basketball.  Her lawyer argues that it’s an un-Constitutional double-standard to allow girls who get abortions and baby-fathers to remain in good standing. At this juncture, the question becomes, “Will Darnellia ‘s future blow up in her face or will justice be served just in time for her to lead her team to the state championship so she can continue to pursue her dream of playing in the WNBA?”  Here’s a hint. This is a Miramax film, and Miramax is owned by Disney. 

Eur Talks To Darnellia Russel: The Heart Of The Game Interview

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – By Kam Williams

(June 12, 2006)   *Basketball phenom Darnellia Russell exhibited such promise on the court that they started making a movie about her life when she was just 14. Back then, the Seattle native was being recruited by Roosevelt High, her neighbourhood school’s cross-town rival. Her new coach, 61 year-old Bill Resler, prophetically informed his African-American godsend that she was his last chance to be famous and to give his perennially woeful, lily-white team a shot at the state championship.  Under the watchful eye of the camera, Darnellia had to make the adjustment to being around white people for the first time while simultaneously preparing herself mentally to compete on the court against the girls she had grown up with and previously played alongside. And much like the stars of Hoop Dreams (1994), a similar ghetto kid goes to suburbia documentary, the spunky star suffered her share of setbacks over the course of her high school career, including dropping out for a year after becoming pregnant with her daughter, Trekayla. But fortunately, for Darnellia and for the filmmakers who devoted so many years to the project, her story has a happy ending, to the extent that you can say anybody’s story ends at the age of 22. Here, she talks about basketball, her baby, her boyfriend and her WNBA and other dreams.

Kam Williams: How does it feel to have a movie made about you?

Darnellia Russell: It’s kind of crazy to see myself up on the big screen.

KW: Are you getting noticed everywhere you go?

DR: Yes, pretty much. People say they’ve seen me in magazines, and heard about my movie. Or they say, “Oh, you’re that girl on that poster.”

KW: How’s your daughter, Trekayla?

DR: She’s fine. She’s in Seattle right now.

KW: How old is she now?

DR: She’s three and a half.

KW: Are you still with her father, Secoy?

DR: Uh-huh.

KW: What was it like for you when you first arrived at Roosevelt.

DR: When I first came to Roosevelt, I didn’t really like it that much, because I wasn’t used to being around so many white people. I came from a basically all-black school, so, Roosevelt was really different. It was really weird, coming from an all-black school. I didn’t know to interact, at first.

KW: When you matriculated at Roosevelt how many other black kids were in your classes?

DR: Usually one or two.

KW: Did they have any black teachers at the school?

DR: No, there was one black teacher there, Mr. Williams, but he passed away.

KW: So, when you had problems adjusting, who did you speak to, your Mom?

DR: I didn’t really have any major problems.

KW: What was it like to have a camera following you around for five years?

DR: It was okay. It was really easy. I didn’t trip about him being there. I’m new to the program, and then there’s this dude walking around with a camera. When I asked, “What’s this about?” they were like, “Oh, he’s just trying to make a movie.” And I went, “Oh, whatever.” I didn’t think too much of it, but now it’s like, Wow!

KW: At the beginning of the movie, Coach Resler says you were his only chance to be famous? Did he really say that you back then?

DR: He really said that. It so crazy to see all this happen after him saying that.

KW: Did you take him seriously at the time?

DR: When he said it to me, I was like, “Whatever! You’re corny.” I figured he was just talking out his butt, but he was really serious.

KW: Had you ever had a coach like Bill before?

DR: No, never. He’s just off the wall. He comes up with the craziest things.  But somehow it motivated us, so I guess it’s a good thing.

KW: He’s also sensitive. I liked the way he hugged the girl who was crying after she missed the last shot in a big playoff game you lost by a point.

DR: Yes, he wanted to help her out because he knew she was feeling bad. He’s always been like that. He’s really supportive.

KW: When you finally won the state championship your senior year, you beat the team from your own neighbourhood. What was that like?

DR: Oh, it was a great feeling, because we had lost to Garfield twice before. I couldn’t have ended my high school career a better way, because that’s the team I always wanted to beat.

KW: Do you still want to play in the WNBA?

DR: Yes I do.

KW: Do you have a favourite star in the WNBA?

DR: Cheryl Swoopes.

KW: Which franchise would you like to play for?

DR: The Seattle Storm or the Houston Comets. Either-or.

KW: What are you up to now?

DR: I have two quarters to finish up junior college, and then, hopefully, I’ll transfer to a four-year college.

KW: Your junior year at Roosevelt, why did you hide your pregnancy from everybody till you suddenly moved in with your boyfriend?

DR: No, at the time I didn’t know I was pregnant. And I didn’t really move in with Secoy. I just left for that day, because me and my step-dad had gotten into it, and my mom was out of town, so she wasn’t there to help. So, I just left.

KW: What’s it like trying to go to school while being such a young mom?

DR: It’s hard at times, because I don’t want to leave her, but then again, I know I have to. It’s not that bad. I have a lot of help around me, so I don’t get too stressed-out and feel like I need to quit. Everybody’s help makes it easier for me.

KW: Do you think Hollywood’s going to want to make a big-budget bio-pic about you?

DR: Yeah, I think they will. Everybody’s talking about a screenplay. So, they probably will.

KW: Who would you like to see play you in the movie?

DR: Myself, because I don’t think anybody could play me.

KW: What advice do you have for young girls who want to follow in your footsteps?

DR: I just want to tell them to always follow their dreams, no matter what happens. I’m not going to lie, and tell them that it’s easy, because it’s not. There’s always going to be something that’s trying to derail you, but just follow your dreams, because it’ll happen. And if you get down on yourself, just stop and pray, and get some support from somebody you know that really cares about you. Try to stay positive.

KW: Have you seen the movie Hoop Dreams?

DR: No, I haven’t.

KW: Is there any question that no reporter ever asks you, that you wish someone would ask?

DR: Nobody’s asked me if I wanted to model.

KW: Okay, would you like to be a model?

DR:  I would. [giggles] Yeah, I want to model and stuff. But I think that I couldn’t, because I got stretch marks after I had my daughter. And I don’t really like my teeth, so…

KW: Listen, you’re a very attractive young lady, and in this rainbow advertising age ushered in by Benetton, models come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Besides, you have to listen to your own advice and follow your dream!

DR: Yeah, that’s true. I was just thinking that to myself after I said it.  Modeling is something I want to do besides the WNBA.

KW: Thanks for the time, and good luck with all your dreams.

DR: Thank you.

Interview Lily Tomlin

Excerpt from Eye Weekly - By Adam Nayman

(June 8, 2006) March's Oscar telecast would have been 100 per cent highlight-free if not for the graceful presences of Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep, who turned the presentation of director Robert Altman's Honorary Academy Award into a loopy back-and-forth worthy of one of the man's own films. It was also a coming attraction for their marvellous double act in Altman's A Prairie Home Companion in which they play a pair of singing sisters bent on making the most of their farewell performance.  The 66-year-old Tomlin spoke to Eye Weekly by telephone from Los Angeles, where she was doing typical not-enough-minutes-in-the-day star stuff. "They're touching me up for a big photo shoot," she said apologetically after our conversation was cut short by an order from the stylist. "But if you need anything else, I can just call you back."

YOU WORKED WITH ROBERT ALTMAN 30 YEARS AGO ON NASHVILLE. HAS HIS APPROACH TO DIRECTING CHANGED?

Well, he doesn't ride the crane any more. I just don't think that he's agile enough. He's a perfectly strong and able person, but if I was 80 years old, I wouldn't want to go up there either. He's still a complete authority, though, and also benign and supportive and embracing. John C. Reilly said that with Bob "you never feel like you failed, or that if you did fail, it's because he wanted you to." There's never any fear on set, because his camera is so fluid and there's often three or four rolling at a time. You're never self-conscious. You don't worry about playing to the camera.

THERE'S SOMETHING MOVING ABOUT AN 81-YEAR-OLD DIRECTOR MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT MORTALITY.

Well, yes, Bob will say that it's a movie about death. And [screenwriter] Garrison Keillor will say that it's a light comedy. It was like when I did Nine to Five. Jane Fonda and I were doing it because of the women's movement, and we would be talking to people about the politics of it, and Dolly Parton would be sure to add "and it's hilarious." She wanted to make sure there was an audience for it. I think Garrison is mindful of the audience. It's also so he and Bob have stuff to say at press conferences.

WERE YOU APPREHENSIVE ABOUT DOING YOUR OWN SINGING IN THE FILM?

I mostly just sang the harmonies with Meryl, but I studied almost every day for two months with a coach. I worked at it so that I could sing competently. I even called Altman, and said, "I'm not sure I'm going to sing well." And he said, "Well, if [your character] doesn't sing well, then she doesn't sing well."

YOU DID A CAMEO ON THE SIMPSONS LAST YEAR. ARE YOU A FAN?

I was glad that after all these years they got around to inviting me on. I was always a fan of the show, and I was tickled to death to be able to voice a character. The Simpsons is fun and hip, and it has a lot to say in an offhanded way.

IT'S ARGUABLY BEEN AS IMPORTANT TO THE COUNTERCULTURE AS LAUGH-IN WAS WHEN YOU WERE STARTING OUT.

When we were kids, the culture didn't create stuff for us. We had to earn our place. Kids now have so much disposable income... it's like a whole youth culture is being created for them. The culture used to be more adult-oriented: look at Rebel Without a Cause. A popular teenage movie now is always going to have to stick a few things in to coarsen it a bit, otherwise it's too polite. It's not what they consider edgy -- as if farting was edgy. You know, boys are much more at home with coarseness. I've been on set with males where there were farting contests -- I'm talking about big stars, too. But, you know, on Laugh-In, that's why we had the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award. It was as close as we could come to saying the f-word.

Final Cut For Splice This!

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
John Terauds, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 9, 2006) Toronto independent filmmaker
Laura Cowell is making the unkindest cut of all.  But before she shuts off her projector for the final time later this month, the creative force behind the Splice This! Super 8 Film Festival promises one last bonanza of quirky, provocative filmmaking from the fringes of the art form.  The ninth — and final — edition of the two-day festival runs June 23 and 24 in the Kensington Market area.  It's a bittersweet moment for Cowell, as it must be for the dozens of artists she has worked with since founding the event with Kelly O'Brien in 1999.  "It's like a break-up with someone you're still in love with — a break-up before it goes bad," says Cowell.  "It's not like I got bored," she adds. It's that she thinks the festival isn't needed any more, because many of the city's other film-related programming now have Super 8 on their menus.  Cowell and O'Brien started Splice This! because "we wanted a format-based festival in the city, to show Super 8 in a festival setting."  O'Brien left after three years, but Cowell soldiered on. The format has remained consistent over the years, combining "by invitation" works with others culled from open submissions.  The most successful of the festival's innovations was a late-night show that brings together live music with the screenings.  "It's my favourite thing to do," says Cowell, who was inspired when she saw a band perform live during a silent film. She didn't like that the musicians played from behind the screen.  "We can watch the movie and the band at the same time," says Cowell. "In fact, we can do a lot more things at the same time."  Cowell says she was surprised by how many aspiring filmmakers she met when scouting bands for the live-music portion of her festival. When she chose a band that wanted to make a film but didn't know how, she made the film herself.  The festival organizer says she likes to watch the band's reaction to the film — one that its members have sometimes not seen before. "You're seeing an artist in real time crossing some sort of dividing line. It's amazing," she says.

This year's edition of "Soundstripe" gets underway at 11 p.m. on June 24. All events are at Xpace, at 303 Augusta Ave.  The regular screenings are grouped into three sittings. There are two sets of by-invitation films, one on Friday, the other on Saturday, both at 9 p.m. The open-submission works screen on the Saturday at 7 p.m.  The contributors are a who's-who of the Toronto indie arts scene. The list ranges from established filmmaker Bruce LaBruce to writer RM Vaughan, to Keith Cole, who is aptly described by the festival's press release as "the loudest, lewdest, tallest and most unsung hero of the Toronto arts scene."  Cole's entry is The Stars are Ruined, a 5-minute visit to the raucous 27th anniversary party thrown by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre last September.  The hands-on nature of Super 8 means that filmmakers can get all arty in manipulating the celluloid, such as hand-tinting each frame.  An interesting example of this is Steve Bal4's 3 1/2-minute Is*asPERaspe*, which is like watching abstract art come to life. Another great entry is George Ungar's cute two-minute animation, Four Play.  All three screen as part of the Soundstripe program. For more information, visit http://www.splicethis.com

Rock Doc `Postcard'

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

(Jun. 9, 2006) The career of the
Police is well documented as one of the greatest success stories in rock history.  It didn't start out that way, of course. After slogging away for a couple of years under the radar, playing in small clubs to a smattering of early devotees, singer/bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland scaled the heap quickly enough that by 1980 they were well on their way to becoming the world's biggest band — a status the trio maintained until its break-up five years later.  "The bubble we were in was so exclusionary to normal life that we all began to sense that it was all just a movie," Copeland says.  The observation is not entirely figurative.  During much of the London band's rise, Copeland, the lone American in the group, had his hands firmly fastened to a Super 8 movie camera, which he pointed at everything from technicians at early sound checks to the crowds mobbing the band years later outside shows and promotional events.  That trajectory is charted in Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, the documentary that debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and has its Toronto premiere as part of the North by Northeast Music and Film Festival and Conference. Copeland will be on hand when his film screens tomorrow at 9 p.m. the Royal Cinema (608 College St.), after attending a Q&A session earlier in the day for festival delegates.  The film is, by Copeland's own admission, a home movie. It just happens to be a home movie about the rise of a hugely successful rock band, rather than one about a family's summer holiday at the lake.  Instead of sunburnt Uncle Fred mugging for the camera with a burger in his hand, Sting and Andy are shown goofing off in their hotel room or in the recording studio.

"A few of the reviewers have said, `This is just hagiography. Where's all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll?'" Copeland says, on the line from his Los Angeles studio.  "That's fair comment. That's what it is. I pretty much made it as a postcard and was persuaded it's more than that by the august selection committee of the Sundance Film Festival. That's the only pretension the film has.  "There is no analysis of what the band means. There are some who may have wished for that. But that's contrary to the point of view of the film. It doesn't go behind the music, where you analyze the meaning of the band and why it was successful or anything like that. This is all about being a member of the band."  It was also made for a target audience of two: Sting and Andy Summers. In that sense, the reviews have been mixed.  "I got some nice e-mails back from Sting, but when I pressed him about it, it turned out he hadn't watched it," Copeland says. "He's got kind of a phobia about watching himself. He hasn't seen himself on the screen in decades. But his kids tell him it's great. And Andy loves it because he's the star of it. Andy's been great about it. He's helped with promotion."  There is a family dimension to the project as well.  One of Copeland's brothers, Miles, served as executive producer.  The other, Ian, who died last month at age 57 after succumbing to melanoma, was a promoter who helped launch the careers of punk/new wave-era bands Squeeze, the B-52s and Adam Ant. He pops up periodically in Everyone Stares, organizing an early U.S. tour for the Police.  "Ian invented the club circuit in America, which enabled groups without the backing of a large record label to go out and conquer America for themselves," Copeland says.

"And he did that by going to all these towns and finding freaky-looking kids who looked new wave rather than old wave and asked where the cool place was. He'd contact the cool place and say, `Look I can bring you bands like this.' And he created this circuit."  Copeland's camera fixation was little more than a way to pass the time on the road. For a long time, the more than 50 hours of footage remained stored on reels in boxes.  "I had no idea of how you make a movie or how you edit a movie," he says. "I just shot everything that moved because it looked so cool.  "And besides, with Super 8 there is no negative. That's a really big deal. Experimentation was not an option. I couldn't even watch the movies on my domestic-grade projector without scratching them. So I immediately put them all in shoe boxes. It wasn't until 20 years later, with the advent of the personal computer with affordable memory and Final Cut Pro (an editing program), that suddenly all the material became accessible."  Some of that footage will have to wait for the DVD, due in September. Copeland ends the narrative before the release of the 1983 blockbuster Synchronicity, figuring there isn't much new to add to the story after that point. The die was cast, personally, professionally and creatively.  "Sting was a complete competitor, a complete musician, a complete producer," Copeland says. "When he worked out a song, he wasn't just doing the chords and the lyrics any more. He was doing the whole arrangement. It became more and more of a sacrifice for him to relinquish his ideas. When it got to the point where that creative opportunity was not longer available to Andy and I, it became very frustrating."  Even so, Copeland, who continues to compose film scores and will perform next week at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee with the band Oysterhead, had imagined the Police would continue on as an intermittent enterprise in the way of other bands who get together every couple of years to make an album and tour.  Or, to quote from Copeland's narration of the film: "When you get to where you're going, the ride is over."

Kendra C. Johnson -- The Positive Side of Phat Girlz

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com  - by Deardra Shuler

(June 13, 2006) *Kendra C. Johnson was meeting with her dress designer to secure a dress for the upcoming Phat Girlz movie premiere in L.A., the day of our interview. Kendra plays the best friend to Mo’Nique in this romantic comedy about the mutiny of the bountiful. Phat Girlz opened April 7th.  A size 14, Kendra represents the average American women. Therefore, one wonders why from a common sense and purely business perspective, the fashion industry/Hollywood continues to ignore this sizably larger sized market in favour of an unhealthy media created market of size "0"s. In Phat Girlz the characters put a positive spin on being both big and beautiful. Drawn to Show Business at an early age, Kendra plays the role of a mousy, plus size department store manager in Phat Girlz who learns to appreciate her assets after meeting a Nigerian doctor played by comedian Godfrey. "In Phat Girlz the characters find self love. They come to see they are not so different from any other woman. All women want to be appreciated. Why wouldn’t a plus sized woman want to feel beautiful, find love, and self-acceptance? After all, the human body does not come in only one size. So, why should one size get praised while another doesn’t? People often say: "You have such a cute face… when I hear that, I say "…I have a cute everything, how about that! -- If I am F.A.T., I am "FLUFFY AND TASTY"’ giggled Kendra.

Johnson discussed her experiences as a bigger sized woman in an industry that leans toward lean women. "I knew I was going to have to carve out my niche and make people aware of my value. I’m aware I’m different from most of the other girls I audition with and that I might not be called back because of my size; however I am positive about making my career happen. I decided that my weight was not going to be an obstacle to overcome. My experiences will simply be a part of my story, a part of what I went through to survive in Hollywood." claimed the voluptuous and curvaceous artist. There was a time people loved Marilyn Monroe and women like Jane Mansfield, Jane Russell, and Mae West. "They were all voluptuous curvy women," remarked the up and coming thespian. "Just because someone is not a size 6, doesn’t mean they are obese or unhealthy. Ask yourself this, how healthy is it to see someone’s bones sticking out through their skin? Is it healthy when your face is so thin, it looks sunken in? Anorexia and bulimia is now affecting young women. Look what we have given them to aspire to --unreal expectations of what their bodies can and should look like to be desirable. These diseases are not just physical diseases they are emotional diseases. Those girls that are size ‘2’ look in the mirror and think they are too fat because they are not a size "0." Standards are being set that encourage women to strive for unhealthy and unrealistic body images. Personally, I feel like a shift is coming --perhaps in my industry and even in society. So, a movie like Phat Girlz is coming out at exactly the right time." Kendra has always been a dynamic force. Her parents recognized her vivacious personality and enrolled her in The Artists Collective in Hartford, Connecticut, her home state. While there, Kendra took piano, jazz, tap, voice, and acting classes. She was in a number of school productions that allowed her to write, direct, and perform. "When I first came to Hollywood, I had never been in a movie or television, so I signed up with Central Casting in Burbank to do background work. I worked as an extra in order to prepare myself and learn all the TV vernacular. Eventually, I ended up being Queen Latifah’s stand-in. I worked with her on "Last Holiday," "Taxi," "Beauty Shop" and even Cover Girl commercials. Every day, Latifah worked, I worked. That is how I got into SAG. Queen Latifah has been very supportive of my acting career. In fact, both she and Mo’Nique have been more than generous. Neither woman is threatened thus have no problem helping striving actors succeed." said Kendra respectfully referring to Mo’Nique and Latifah.

"If you don’t know what a stand-in does, I’ll explain. If the camera/lighting crew wants to set up a shot, instead of using the principal actors, they call in what is known as the second team (the stand-ins), so that the principal actors (the first team) can do make-up, wardrobe, learn lines or whatever. The stand-in recreates what is happening in the scene so that the camera and lighting crew can set up the scene and be ready to shoot with the principal actors. Sometimes a director may want to do a second team rehearsal. The rehearsal helps the director see whether the scene works or not" explained Kendra about the inside workings of filmmaking. Only 4 years in Hollywood, Phat Girlz will showcase Kendra in her first lead character role. "I saw this huge poster of Phat Girlz advertising the movie and got so excited. I thought: "Wow, I’m in a movie!" Though, my TV roles have been co-starring spots on "Bones," "The Shield," and Strong Medicine, the good part is that I was cast for my acting ability alone and not because of my size. A lot of that is due to my management team. They are wonderful and are supportive of my talent, thus send me out on auditions for any part, not just big girl parts," said Johnson. "The most important thing in life is to persist in your passion" claims Kendra. "Teach your children to pursue their passions too so that when they are adults, they already know how to acquire them. In my having come to Hollywood, I have pursued my passion and am just beginning to realize my dreams. Everything is a work in progress."

Mr. X Tricks Up Movies Shot Here

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Mckay, Canadian Press


(Jun. 14, 2006) Thank God for the CN Tower!  So says
Mr. X.  At least, so says the man who founded Mr. X, the Toronto post-production studio that handles both physical and digital special effects for many U.S.-financed movies being shot in the city.  Dennis Berardi says "painting out" the big tower on the skyline, or unwanted wires, is a frequent assignment for F/X houses working on sequences shot here but set in some other metropolis.  But companies like his are doing a lot of the post-production work that used to get sent back to Hollywood when photography wrapped up in Toronto.  "The reason I started this company was to try and capture the work here because I believed it didn't need to go back to L.A.," says Berardi, 38, a Torontonian who cut his F/X teeth in the early 1990s at a company called Toybox before launching Mr. X five years ago.  "We had all the talent and all the imagination and all the technical know-how to make it happen here, and all we needed was a chance."  Business is good, but he admits it was difficult at first, working on music videos and Canadian films like Ararat and Men With Brooms. The big breakthrough came with the 2004 filmed-in-Toronto remake of the 1970s horror hit Dawn of the Dead, for which Berardi's team had to provide one-stop-shopping F/X, in this case both prosthetic and digital zombies.

At the Mr. X premises on McCaul St., dozens of computer artists toil at work stations, finessing digital animation for such upcoming titles as the Navajo thriller Skinwalkers and the crime drama Shoot 'em Up. Sprinkled throughout the workshop like cigar-store sentinels are full-size werewolves and zombies from Skinwalkers and other recent productions.  One of Berardi's innovations in the industry was to suggest working with a production from the start, instead of just being called in after filming wraps.  "Our formula has been: send us your script before the film is even financed ... so we can help you find locations," he explains.  "Get involved early, consult on the script, consult on the logistics, advise on what can be done digitally and practically and then just make it happen."  Berardi says recent computer software has become both cheaper and considerably more powerful and intuitive. And he credits such Canadian software companies as Alias and Discrete Logic for breaking ground in this area.  As a result, he says, lower-budget films can look much better than they used to.  It's surprising how much computer-generated imagery is in today's features. A decade ago perhaps 5 per cent of the average film had digital shots. Today, Berardi says, it's more like 35 per cent.  Mr. X, for example, has created snowy roads for
Four Brothers, the ball's-eye-view of the golf course in The Greatest Game Ever Played, and even the bullet hole that appears in the middle of actor William Hurt's forehead in A History of Violence. Not to mention thousands of digital cockroaches in the recent horror flick Silent Hill.  One of Berardi's regrets is that too many productions now count on computer imagery to rescue a poorly conceived film.  He cited the jet-fighter action film Stealth as a film that was trashed for its premise and acting. "If you turn the volume off and just look at that film, it's beautiful.  In other words, despite the fancy special-effects toolboxes, it's still actors and writers who make a film good or bad.

FILM TIDBITS

Show Your Shorts

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 9, 2006) Are you up for a challenge?  The concept is simple enough — film and edit a short film over a 48-hour period, present the results to the
Toronto Film Challenge's panel of judges and find out if you've got the right stuff to, for example, re-make The Right Stuff.  This is the second year for the challenge, which also holds two shorter 24-hour challenge events, one in the spring and fall, with a limit of 30 teams.  The 48-hour challenge — which runs from 8 p.m. on Friday, June 23 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 25 — has no limit on the number of teams that can compete.  In fact, says spokesperson Kim Aasen, "we're actually going for the Guinness World Record on the most amount of (film) shorts made in one weekend in one city."  Bill Marshall, co-founder and director of the Toronto International Film Festival, has already been confirmed to sit on the panel of judges and organizers are hoping to lure a few other celebrities to join him.  The contest is open to anyone. So far, there's a split of about 50-50 among competitors between professionals at production studios and amateurs with camcorders using editing software and laptops, Aasen said.  Team Mighty Brave, which won last summer's 48-hour challenge with Chasing Aces, has sold the film to the Ontario College of Art and Design, Aasen said.  A team which included director David Cronenberg's son, Brandon, won a cinematography award in last year's event.  Several other competitors have entered their works in other film festivals, she added.  Films entered by the deadline will be screened over the two weeks at the Innis Town Hall leading up to a July 7 gala at the York Event Theatre, at which awards will be presented.  Between $15,000 and $20,000 in prizes are being awarded in the form of products, services and gift certificates.  Call 416-994-4719 or contact http://www.torontofilmchallenge.com

Hollywood Pays Tribute To Sean Connery

Source: Associated Press

(June 9, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Hollywood's elite gathered Thursday to pay tribute to Sean Connery, who received The American Film Institute's annual lifetime achievement award. Directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and actors Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia and Mike Myers were among the stars who cheered on the legendary actor Thursday at the ceremony at the Kodak Theatre. Myers wore a tuxedo jacket and a kilt to honour the Scottish actor. Men want to be him, women want him, and in my case I both want to be him and want him,” Myers joked. “He's extremely professional, very talented and has an amazingly strong presence on the screen,” Lucas said from the red carpet. Connery thanked the audience for “one hell of an evening.” “I got my big break when I was five years old, and it's taken more than 70 years to realize it,” he said. “At five I learned to read, and I would not be standing here without the books, plays and scripts.” Connery was launched to stardom in the 1960s and 1970s, playing agent 007, or “Bond, James Bond,” as he introduced himself to foes. He also starred in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October and The Untouchables, which earned him an Oscar for best supporting actor. He is the 34th recipient of the award, the Institute's highest honour for a career in film. Past recipients include Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep and George Lucas.

Jeffrey Wright Cast As Easy Rawlins

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 9, 2006) *It’s hard to imagine Easy Rawlins and his partner in crime Mouse played by anyone other than Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle. The famous characters from Walter Mosley’s novels were famously brought to life by the actors in the 1995 screen adaptation of his book “Devil in a Blue Dress.” But for HBO Films’ upcoming adaptation of the author’s 2004 novel “Little Scarlet,” acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright will step into Easy’s shoes and rapper-actor Mos Def will take on the colourful, trigger-happy Mouse. "Little Scarlet," considered one of the strongest in the mystery series featuring Rawlins and Mouse, takes place in Los Angeles right after the 1965 Watts riots. White cops, afraid to poke into the murder of a black woman when the suspect is a white man she sheltered, recruit Rawlins to investigate.  Mosley is writing the script and will also serve as one of the producers. HBO Films is looking to release the film in theatres via its venture with the production company Picturehouse.  Mosley previously adapted another of his novels into "Always Outnumbered," an HBO drama that starred Laurence Fishburne. 

U.S. Director Investigated For Filming In Cuba

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jun. 10, 2006) HAVANA—Cuban-American filmmaker Luis Moro expressed his disdain for the long-standing U.S. trade and travel restrictions against Cuba in a very public way: he made a movie there.  Moro's Love and Suicide has been shown recently in U.S. film festivals.  The film, linked as it is to Moro's personal crusade against the U.S. embargo, led U.S. officials to investigate Moro for possible violation of U.S. laws that make it almost impossible for most Americans to legally visit communist Cuba.  If officials act against him, Moro says he will refuse to pay any fines, even if it means jail time.  "It's a farce — the embargo has not worked, and it is not going to work," Moro said of the policy imposed since the early 1960s. "I'm committed to fighting this to the end."  Moro, who left Cuba with his mother at the age of 5, says his campaign doesn't mean he favours the Cuban government or its leader Fidel Castro.  "I'm not pro-Castro. I'm anti-embargo," he said by telephone from Los Angeles.  A writer, actor and producer, Moro travelled to Havana in December 2003 to attend a film festival showing one of his movies.  He took the opportunity to shoot Love and Suicide, directed (and co-written with Moro) by Lisa France, using a small digital camera.  Moro says he hopes Love and Suicide will show in Havana's international film festival in December. If it does, he says he'll be back. Without a U.S. licence.

::TV NEWS::

Award-winning Canadian Documentary Airs On Rogers OMNI.1 in Celebration of Pride Month 2006

Source: OMNI.1

(June 12, 2006) - Toronto, ON - Rogers OMNI Television is please to present an encore presentation of the 60 minute documentary Gloriously Free in celebration of Pride Month. The English language version of Gloriously Free will air on OMNI.1 as part of OMNI’s Signature Series, Saturday, June 24th at 9PM with an encore presentation the following night at 8 PM.   Winner of the 2005 CAB Gold Ribbon Award for Documentary/Public Affairs programming, Gloriously Free is a stunning profile of Canada’s growing reputation as a safe harbour for individuals who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered (LGBT).  Excluded from the opportunity to live freely in their native countries, five remarkable and resilient young men, the subjects of Gloriously Free, tell stories of blackmail and torture, of broken legs and facing the end of a gun barrel.  Among these are:

·                     Al-Hussein from Jordan, who went on to form Salaam, a gay rights organization for Muslims, and Wattan, an organization that helps gay refugees;

·                     Julian, blackmailed and blacklisted in his homeland of Mexico and a resident of Canada for three years;

·                     And Frantz, a graphic artist from Jamaica. 
 

By following the desperate search of these five young men to find welcoming arms outside their countries of birth -- where persecution and hatred of gays may lead to torture or death -- Gloriously Free reaches across all borders to offer firsthand views on the world of gay immigration. International audiences have screened Gloriously Free at such festivals as the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival; Australia’s Queer Doc Festival and “Queerscreen,” part of the Commonwealth Film Festival in Manchester, England. Plus, the production has further expanded its viewership through sales to Here! Networks (USA); CBC Newsworld and OutTV (Canada).  In addition to English, Gloriously Free has been produced for airing to Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Polish, Russian and Spanish language audiences. Gloriously Free was exclusively funded through OMNI's Independent Producers Initiative, a $32.5 million independent production fund that to date has supported over 200 new documentary programmes. Interested producers can access funding criteria at OMNI Television’s web site http://www.omnitv.ca/ontario/info/funds.

About Rogers OMNI Television:

Rogers OMNI Television is a free over-the-air system consisting of four regional broadcasters covering nine markets in British Columbia (Victoria, Vancouver, and Fraser Valley), Manitoba (Winnipeg), and Ontario (Ottawa-Gatineau, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area). All Rogers OMNI Television stations are owned and operated by Rogers Communications in the Rogers Media division, and have the collective mandate to reflect Canada’s diversity through the airing of inclusive and accessible programming. In addition to specializing in Canadian multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith programming, OMNI TV also carries well-known American and International series and films. 

OMNI.1 is currently available across Canada to Starchoice subscribers on channel 343 and to ExpressVu subscribers on channel 215. LOOK carries OMNI.1 on channel 65 in Ontario. Rogers Digital Cable subscribers can catch OMNI.1 on channel 508.
 

Malinda Williams Experiences A 'Windfall'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By J.C. Brooks

(June 8, 2006) *She’s the lovable, baby face beauty we all loved inviting into our home once a week on the Showtime series spin-off of the feature film “Soul Food.”  In the ground breaking drama, Malinda Williams starred as Bird, the beauty salon owner and youngest of the close-knit Joseph sisters.   In 2003 and 2004, she earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, and in 2002, 2003 and 2004, “Soul Food” received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Drama Series.  Since the series was cancelled in 2004, BET has since picked up the drama for its weekly evening line-up. EUR’s Lee Bailey caught up with the talented starlet to find out how life has been since Soul Food. She has several new projects on the table and is generous enough to share her personal progress with her fans since the highly publicized break with Mekhi Phifer, who starred as Lem in the breakthrough film version of Soul Food in 1997.   

“Going through the divorce part was very painful,” Williams admits. “When you’re going through something like that there are a lot of people in your life both saying things good and bad and I said I need to tune everybody out and listen to me to figure out what it is I want and to figure out what it is that is best for me…I was like ok, you did the pain thing, now I wanna do the joy thing.” Williams insists that the media tried to fan a flame on their relationship that did not exist.  According to her, the reports were not true.  She recounts an interview Phifer gave a magazine. “What’s crazy is that, I saw it and I felt bad that people were going to read it because that part … he gave about it may have been his truth, may have been the way he saw it from his perspective.  But, for me, it wasn’t the truth,” said Williams. “I think people probably thought that we were at each other’s throats.  We weren’t.  We never were. I know it’s very bizarre, but that was the perception…When you genuinely have love for someone and you get to the point where it’s not working anymore, it’s like… before we get to the point where we really hate each other let’s walk away…I can’t even tell you how it played out that way for the public.  It is completely different than how it played out at home.”

Since the marriage ended, Williams began to soul search and ended up in a very good place in both her heart and career.  In fact, we can catch her  in a brand new series called “
Windfall.” The show is an NBC summer series - debuting (at 10 pm / 9 central) TONIGHT, Thursday, June 8 - about friends who share a lottery ticket and win.  But, her character is not one of the friends.  “My character’s name is Kimberly George and she’s delivering pizzas to this party and she gives the hostess her change and she gives her a tip.  And she asked her to put a dollar in for the lottery and the girl Kimberly says no,” recalls Williams. “At the last minute as she’s walking out the door, she decides to play. She decides to put a dollar in and she becomes one of the winners.” What she really loves about the storyline is the opportunity she gets to celebrate as a black woman.  She feels there is not enough happy and/or joyful roles for black women in the industry.  “I want to see an African American woman who is on her way up, just in a really happy place,” said Williams.  “Initially, it was just a guest starring role in the pilot and I thought, ‘you know what, I don’t care.’  Just one time in my career, I wanna do the happy dance.  I wanna laugh and scream and just be happy, express pure joy,” said Williams.

Williams has also launched a line of lingerie called “Modern Goddess.”  The company has a web site [ModernGoddess.net] and is sponsoring an essay contest entitled “What Makes You a Modern Goddess?”  The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the BET awards with Malinda. (The contest ends Monday, June 12. To enter/get details details, click here.) Although her business is off to a good start she says, “I don’t wanna get too far ahead of myself because I am by trade an actress.  I want to take the steps slowly and carefully.   I don’t want to put myself in a position where I’m out of business before I really get going.   I know what my capabilities are and I don’t want someone to rush me into something that we may not be ready for just yet.” And if that wasn’t enough, we’ll also see her gracing the big screen in August for the debut of “
Idlewild.”  The long awaited musical also starring Andre 3000 and Big Boi of Outkast.  Williams has long been a fan of the dynamic duo, but the soundtrack and working with them on the film has boosted her love for the two. “It falls along the lines of a Cotton Club, a Moulin Rouge.  My character is Zora, Big Boi’s wife.  It’s like late 30’s early 40’s,” reveals Williams. “I was hearing these period songs while we were on set and I was thinking… what kind of soundtrack are we going to have?  Then I began to hear some of the numbers that the Outkast boys had done from the soundtrack… and I was like wow, that’s what you call musical genius.  That you can be inspired by that music, but somehow make it contemporary and relatable to this generation.  I was a fan before, but now I’m really a fan.” Williams has definitely found a happy middle ground and is enjoying the fruits of a joyful outlook.

 “You can’t necessarily believe what’s out there, you have to believe, really believe what’s in your heart.  That’s when the windfall of joy began to come into my life.  It was almost like make believe.  I began to say to myself, only happiness and only joy is what  I am.  So no matter what the situation was … I had to be grateful for it because it ultimately, had to be contributing to what I was putting out there.”  The good news and acting parts just keep coming for Ms. Williams. Along with Gabrielle Union, Terri J. Vaughn and Tracee Ellis Ross, she's been added to the cast of Tyler Perry's "Daddy's Little Girl" feature. Shooting starts in Atlanta in the next few days. On the web: www.ModernGoddess.net

Champagne Toast, A Goodbye Grope As Vieira Leaves 'The View'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - David Bauder

(June 10, 2006) With a roast, a champagne toast and a goodbye grope from Joy Behar, The View said goodbye Friday to Meredith Vieira, who's leaving to take Katie Couric's job at the Today show. “I do not want to get emotional,” said Vieira, who starts Today in September. “I simply want to say thanks. I love you all.” The Rhode Island native smiled broadly as Michael Feinstein sang Rhode Island is Famous For You. Barbara Walters, who created the daytime talk show nine years ago, said The View had succeeded in large part because of Vieira. The former 60 Minutes newswoman usually played the moderator role, guiding discussion with her three co-hosts — four on the days Walters joined them. “The Today show is lucky to have you,” said Walters, who spent 13 years on the NBC morning show. “We send you off with our arms outstretched. You are very, very dear to us.” For the most part, however, Vieira's last stand was muted and hankie-free. Mario Cantone, Joan Rivers and Gilbert Gottfried joined for a Friar's Club-style roast, and Vieira gave as good as she got. “You guys put a show together that looks like it took the time that Bill takes to comb his hair,” she said, as the camera panned to bald executive producer Bill Geddie.

The bawdy roast included a monologue of sex jokes from Cantone, a frequent guest on The View, as Vieira's husband and three children looked on uncomfortably from the front row. Leaving the estrogen-fest means no longer having to suffer through colleagues complaining of bad hair days, Rivers said. “Matt Lauer will never say, ‘Does my tie make me look fat?”' she said. Even “roastmaster” Walters got into the act: “We just hope that given your drinking habit, you'll be able to tell ‘Today' from tomorrow,” she said. Behar alluded to Vieira's replacement, Rosie O'Donnell, in giving Vieira an exaggerated kiss and grope goodbye. While Behar and Walters each spoke during the roast, the finale had surprisingly small roles for Star Jones Reynolds and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. With film clips that showed Vieira dancing with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and in a succession of Halloween costumes — a pirate, a witch, a space alien — it seemed evident how much The View and Today have in common. Couric's three-hour Today farewell showed footage of her “flying” in a Peter Pan costume. As she held a glass of champagne, Vieira offered the show's send-off one final time: “Take some time to enjoy the view.”

TV Networks Can Relax

Excerpt from
The Globe and Mail - James Adams

(June 10, 2006) A discussion paper prepared for this year's Banff World Television Film Festival, which kicks off Sunday, predicts that conventional Canadian broadcasters will weather the rise of on-demand TV and that the Internet, contrary to some soothsayers, won't become the primary way viewers to watch TV. However, the paper, prepared by the Toronto consultants Nordicity Group, says that Canadian broadcasters and producers are going to have to integrate more with "the global media business" to prosper in "the new digital environment." While "public financial support will always be necessary to achieve cultural objectives" in Canada, the paper acknowledges that this support has stagnated in recent years at the same time as the regulatory protections afforded by organizations like the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission have started to erode. The paper, titled The Future of Television in Canada, will be debated at a meeting and panel discussion Wednesday afternoon at the Banff event. The panelists are a who's who of television and film mavens, including Telefilm Canada head Wayne Clarkson, Guy Mayson, president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Valerie Creighton, Canadian Television Fund president and Fred Fuchs, CBC's new executive director of arts and entertainment.

The paper notes that co-productions have declined steadily since 2000 as have foreign sales of Canadian programs. As a result, any debate on TV's future here "is how Canadian programming can become more competitive in appealing to and reaching both domestic and foreign audiences through emerging distribution systems." The paper is likely to strike a chord with Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda who, in a recent debate in the House of Commons, declared: "An artist's dream is always for a bigger stage, a bigger canvas and a bigger audience. . . . The question we must all ask ourselves is: How can we maintain or improve the market share of Canadian cultural products in the new reality of the 21st century?" Tomorrow, Oda, who is attending the Banff festival, is expected to announce a review of the CBC's mandate. She has been intimating for some time that such a review was imminent because she believes the 69-year-old Crown corporation "has not been kept up to date and is threatened by new technologies."  In April, the CRTC had told CBC president Robert Rabinovitch that hearings to renew the CBC's licence -- which expires in August, 2007 -- would be deferred. Late last month the House of Commons passed by a 155-to-121 vote a motion by Liberal Heritage critic Mauril Bélanger that said the Harper government should, among other measures, "maintain or enhance . . . financial support for public broadcasting in both official languages." (Oda and her fellow Conservatives voted against the motion, which is not binding, while the Liberals, New Democrats and BQ MPs voted in favour.) Also last month the all-party Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage voted unanimously in favour of getting Oda to seek "its advisement" if she sets up a task force to review the CBC's mandate. The committee also wants "the opportunity to review and offer modifications to the terms of reference" of such a review before it starts.

Diversity's on the agenda, but do World TV Fest delegates care?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon, Television Columnist, vmenon@thestar.ca

(Jun. 14, 2006) Banff—An indigo video screen reads: "Putting The `Colour' Into Colour TV."  Inside the conference room at the
Banff World Television Festival, a panel is about to exhume one of television's most enduring skeletons: diversity.  Today's questions will include such timeless classics as: "Is there a social responsibility when creating shows around race?" and "What are the best examples of diverse and inclusive programs?"  To gauge interest, I do a quick head-count before the session begins: 18 people are seated in the audience. This is not a promising start.  Outside the conference room, on a sun-drenched patio, diversity appears to be the last thing on anybody's mind. Delegates sip cappuccinos and smoke and plan and meet and bark exciting news into their cellphones.  The panel, moderated by actor and producer Tonya Williams, includes: Marcella De Veaux, co-chair for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Committee on Diversity; Anthony Wall, series editor with the BBC; Paul Scheuring, creator and executive producer of Prison Break; and Ali LeRoi, co-creator of Everybody Hates Chris.  During the introductions, LeRoi sets the tone for what's to follow with this sardonic line: "I've been a black person for 44 years."

Scheuring, who looks like he'd like to break out of this session, is staring at his chest, maybe hoping to find the hotel blueprints tattooed under his sweater.  Williams attempts to draw both LeRoi and Scheuring into the mushy terrain, but they refuse to accept the argument. Skin colour, LeRoi says, has nothing to do with it. The only thing that matters is quality, talent and hard work. You could be orange so long as your show attracted viewers.  "You don't have a right to be in show business," says LeRoi, halfway through the session. "You have to prove yourself."  In the crowd, a few curious glances are exchanged.  Yesterday, during Day 3, the D-word was mostly absent. There were pitch sessions, classes on product placement, advice on optioning a novel, a session on how to conduct business in Asia, and lessons on how to sell children's programming to the U.S.  Once upon a time, when television operated in a more stable environment, executives yapped endlessly about diversity. But has a litany of more pressing concerns today — multi-platform delivery, audience fragmentation, online competition — pushed the issue of representation into the shadows?  In another wing of the hotel, I meet LeRoi to talk about Everybody Hates Chris. Of course, given the cast, the diversity issue is impossible to ignore.  LeRoi, bedecked in hip-hop suede and a white bandana that gives way to a mane of dreads, believes "commercial" is the operative word in commercial TV.  "At the end of the day, marketers are trying to find a way to sell socks or coffee or hamburgers or a Ford," he says.

Everybody Hates Chris is broadcast in dozens of countries. And LeRoi has talked to fans in Germany, Finland, Sweden and elsewhere who say they relate to the show. The reason is simple: LeRoi and Chris Rock set out to create a show about class, not race; about family, not ethnicity.  "You have to sell the program like it's a bigger program," he explains. "If Lenny Kravitz was sold like Usher he'd sell two albums a year."  So Everybody Hates Chris was sold as a comedy with universal appeal. Period. (At the diversity session, LeRoi makes the point another way, wondering aloud if anybody could possibly know that Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey's Anatomy, is black by simply watching an episode.)  "Was everybody who watched Archie Bunker a bigot? No. Was everybody who watched Will & Grace gay? No. Is it a good show? Yes. That's all. It's not about being the people on the program; it's about being able to understand the people on the program," LeRoi observed.  I'm reminded of something Paul Haggis told me earlier: "Multiculturalism is a wonderful thing, to celebrate how we're different. But at the same time, I think it's very important to celebrate how we're the same. And that sometimes gets lost."  David Shore, the creator of House, says the networks are still very conscious of diversity.  "Unfortunately, to some extent it's more of a checklist item now," he tells me yesterday. "But you do have to check off that item in casting and in your writing and production staff."  Before a new season of House begins, he says, there will be a diversity meeting with the network. But doesn't the very idea of colour for the sake of colour create a culture of mediocrity? Shouldn't merit be the overriding concern?  "Yes, quality always should be the benchmark," says Shore. "Having said that, we are facing an audience in the United States of close to 300 million people; a large percentage of them are minorities.  "I don't think of the issues we're dealing with on the show as white issues or black issues or brown issues. They're just human issues. I honestly try to work that way and we try to cast colour blind as much as we can."

The primary concern, he says, is to avoid stereotyping. Scheuring says he still sees "egregious stereotyping" of Asian characters. Or, as comedian Russell Peters joked during his edgy hosting gig at the annual awards lunch, the only time you see an Indian on TV is when he or she is selling long-distance phone service.  Back at the session, Scheuring says he initially wanted the character of lawyer Veronica Donovan to be black, which would have created an interracial love story. But he couldn't find the right actress. Robin Tunney, who got the role, was signed after production started.  By the end of the diversity session, I'm not sure the discussion unfolded as some had hoped. If you came here expecting to hear a rousing clarion call for greater ethnic and cultural representation on television, you would have left with a confused frown.

Haggis Jumps Back To TV

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon, vmenon@thestar.ca


(Jun. 13, 2006) As the audience applauds with giddy affection,
Paul Haggis saunters toward the stage smirking and wearing movie-star sunglasses.  The shades are a prop for a deadpan quip that's coming: "People ask if winning the two Oscars has changed me at all."  The crowd roars. The glasses come off.  It's Day 2 of the Banff World Television Festival. And yesterday, inside the Cascade Ballroom, Haggis was feted with yet another honour.  But if recent triumphs have disfigured the ego of this screenwriter, director and producer, it's impossible to detect at close range.  Haggis was a model of self-deprecating charm, thanking the festival for giving an award to "a guy like me, who failed his way to the top."  Two hours after he accepted the Award of Distinction during the Annual Awards Lunch, we're sitting alone inside a wood-panelled room. The smell of cigarettes lingers on his black golf shirt as Haggis sits hunched forward, legs crossed, arms entangled, one hand cradling a glass of water, the other clutching those same sunglasses.  So what's next? How do you follow Million Dollar Baby and Crash? How does Paul Haggis top Paul Haggis?  "I don't think of it in terms of topping it; I think of it in terms of continuing to do projects that trouble me, things that scare me," he says. "If I stop doing that, then I will be very worried."  This philosophy, I point out, seems like self-torture.

"Yes, it's a masochistic pursuit, it absolutely is," he says, laughing. "You want to explore issues that are troubling and to which you don't have answers. It's a great way to live and I love doing it. But it's not always easy."  Easy or not, Haggis continues to work like a masochistic fiend. Two new film projects in development are both about Iraq. The first, based on a true story, is about men returning from the troubled country and a father who searches for his AWOL son. The second, titled Against All Enemies, will explore the political situation in the United States during the run-up to war.  He also wrote the script for an upcoming Clint Eastwood film about the Battle of Iwo Jima. And he penned the script for Casino Royale, the new Bond flick.  If all this wasn't enough, Haggis is returning to television. His previous work includes the short-lived but now celebrated EZ Streets (his personal favourite), thirtysomething, Due South and Walker, Texas Ranger (the creative albatross forever tethered to his neck).

His new show,
The Black Donnellys, premieres next season on Global and NBC. It is about familial love and harsh reality.  "The show is loosely inspired by a tragedy that took place in southern Ontario where a family of black Irish farmers and homesteaders were massacred by the local population," Haggis says.  "I decided to play on that, so I created this fictional neighbourhood in Manhattan where these black Irish kids, 18 to 22, find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into crime."  Was he apprehensive or nervous about returning to TV?  "I was very excited to do it, actually. I love television. So I jumped at the chance. Nervous? I'm nervous about everything I do because I think I'll fail. But I'm really only happy when there's a really good chance I can fail at something. Oh yeah, it's an odd, odd thing. I'm not a well-balanced human being."  I wonder if, at a point, being identified as "Canadian-born" begins to seem absurd. I mean, it's not like Haggis lives in this country. He's spent most of his professional life stateside. Yet — and this is particularly obvious at the festival — Canadians want the world to know that he's one of ours.  "It's actually delightful," he says. "It's delightful that people want to celebrate that. I was stunned at first. Because I'll pick up your paper or some other and there's almost a full-page picture of me and I think, `What, is there no news today? What is going on?'  "But it's kind of nice. You do like to celebrate your family's victories and successes."  Speaking of which, how does he explain his success?  "I can't explain it," he says, glancing out a stained glass window. "Persistence, I suppose. There's a hubris involved. There's an ego that says I can make this, I can say something or ask a question that others haven't asked."  In the end, though, it's a bit of a crapshoot. As Haggis noted during his acceptance speech: "The gods of television are incredibly cruel motherf---ers."

CRTC To Review TV Sector

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Grant Robertson

(June 13, 2006)
Canada's broadcast regulator is moving ahead with plans for a major review of the television sector at a time when it is also taking a close look at the country's radio industry. The head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission told an industry conference in Banff yesterday that long-awaited hearings that will examine the future of Canadian television broadcasting will be held in November. The announcement came one day after Heritage Minister Bev Oda said the government was also asking the CRTC to launch a six-month study on the impact of new technology on the broadcasting sector. That study, to be completed in December, will be combined with the information gathered by industry players over the next several months to determine the regulatory landscape for the industry over the next several years. CRTC chairman Charles Dalfen told the Banff World Television Festival that the industry is at a key point in its evolution as new forms of unregulated content emerge, including streaming video over the Internet and downloadable shows that are offered on demand, rather than through scheduled programming. "The coming year or so is going to test the capacity of all players in the system to adapt to change and carve out, amid technological ferment and much uncertainty, the best way forward for Canadian broadcasting," Mr. Dalfen said. The review will cover several topics including how Canadian programming is funded and creating a system that will encourage Canadian broadcasters to increase their investment in domestic shows, particularly dramas and documentaries.

Mr. Dalfen said the overall investment in such shows must increase. Of particular concern for the CRTC are dramas, which cost more to make than comedies, talk shows and reality shows. "Drama costs more to produce on a per-hour basis than any other genre of regularly scheduled television," Mr. Dalfen told the audience. The CRTC also wants to look at whether over-the-air broadcasting is still necessary, since four out of five Canadian homes get their TV signals through a cable or satellite carrier rather than through antenna. Mr. Dalfen said the review will also look at the status of small market television in Canada and its role in the future. The TV review comes as the CRTC is also finishing an extensive review of the radio industry, looking at many of the same issues that face television, including how new technology such as Internet broadcasting is threatening the business models of conventional networks. The results of the TV review will be announced in late spring of 2007. Public hearings will begin Nov. 27, with written arguments to the CRTC due Sept. 27. The study into the impact of new technology on the broadcasting industry is to be completed by mid-December.

TV TIDBITS

Vivica A. Fox To Dance With The Stars

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 9, 2006) *The last time we saw Vivica A. Fox really kicking up her heels was in “Kill Bill Vol. 2” – but in a violent manner, with Uma Thurman’s face on the receiving end.  In September, the actress will attempt to kick the Quickstep and Paso-Doble in the third season of ABC’s hit reality show, “Dancing with the Stars.”  According to Us Weekly magazine, the actress’ name was leaked as one of the celebrities confirmed to take part in the ballroom dance competition. Other names mentioned were actors Mario Lopez and Harry Hamlin, husband of last year's second runner-up, Lisa Rinna.  Hamlin, a co-star on the CW’s “Veronica Mars,” reportedly bugged producers to join the next cast after watching how obsessed his wife became during her run. ABC, of course, will not comment on the casting rumours. The third season is scheduled to begin in mid-September.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Trysts A Gripping Musical

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Hello Again

By Michael John LaChiusa. Directed by Michelle Ouellet. Until July 1 at Tarragon Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.
416-531-1827

(Jun. 9, 2006) You don't just change partners, you change decades as well.  That's the time-tripping path of promiscuity pursued by the characters of Michael John LaChiusa's
Hello Again, which opened at the Tarragon Extra Space last night.  This independent production takes a good stab at putting LaChiusa's complex musical vision onto the stage and even if it doesn't succeed totally, those involved deserve credit for bringing this author's work to Toronto.  It's a fascinating new riff on Arthur Schnitzler's classic La Ronde, last seen here in a Soulpepper mounting in 2001. It consists of 10 scenes, each one between a pair of sexual partners.  What gives it extra appeal is that one partner from each scene carries on into the next. A whore seduces a soldier, then the soldier seduces a maid, etc. until we finally wind up back with the whore again.  It's interesting enough material on its own, but LaChiusa has added a twist by having the action spill wildly back and forth across the decades of the 20th century. He wrote this piece in 1994 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, but chose not to mention it directly and to end his time travels in the '80s, just as it all started.  The spectre of AIDS, of course, permeates the whole piece and gives it a sadness that outweighs any salacious content. Sure, these people are searching for sex, but maybe what they're really looking for is love. 

Michelle Ouellet has directed with a nice sense of the work's themes and how she wants them conveyed. There isn't a lot of set, but what Aleksandra Podbereski has provided works well enough.  Allison Plamondon's choreography is always apt and the three-piece ensemble led by Jacqueline Sadler handles the complex music well.  Unfortunately, the same can't be said of many in the cast. They all act with conviction and do creditable work, but LaChiusa's sometimes sinuous, sometimes soaring music needs first-rate voices if it's to truly make its mark, and that capability is lacking here.  The men in the ensemble are generally better than their female counterparts, with Graham Coffeng as the horny soldier, Greg Campbell as the uptight husband and Glen Sheppard as a sexually pliable Young Thing all bringing their characters nicely to life.  Best of all is Daniel Krolik as the Writer, equally believable as a disco-hopping wannabe in 1976 and a sexually enslaved author of a 1920s musical. Krolik has the panache as well as the vocal chops to do the most with his material.  If everyone were as good as Krolik, Hello Again would be a smash. But it's still worth your time, because a Michael John LaChiusa musical is a lot like sex: it's better to experience it imperfectly than not at all.
 

::OTHER NEWS::

Bold New Comedy Quite Contagious

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

By The Company. Directed by Chris Earle. At Second City, 51 Mercer St. 416-343-0011.

(Jun. 10, 2006) Every now and then, we need to be reminded that going to Second City is one of the best things about living in this city.  And their latest revue, Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest, certainly rings the bell.  I don't think it matters if you're a Torontonian or a tourist, if you're 19 or 90, you'll find plenty to enjoy in this fast-moving, truly hilarious show.  The audience I joined at the final preview this week was certainly a mixed bag, but they all enjoyed it heartily, uncorking those waves of laughter that can't be faked.  Why is this particular show so good? Probably because it manages to work on at least three distinct levels of comedy.  First, the cast are all skilled performers in their own right, with the kind of hidden-action personalities that let you think you've figured them out, only to have them surprise you when you least expect it.  Then there's the material, which operates from a smart, satirical point of view. The run-of-the-mill comedy troupe is content to poke fun at easy targets like telemarketing or Internet chat, but the gang at Second City takes these topics into strange and different directions. I defy you to guess where many of the sketches are heading.  The whole thing has been put together by director Chris Earle with a precision and care that give the proceedings the slick appeal of a piece of theatre, without losing the freewheeling edge of a comic revue.

It starts out with a mock musical theatre opening, in which the chipper tune and cheery choreography fight it out with a lyric that promises "Another motherf---er of a day." Right away you know you're not in Kansas any more, Dorothy.  The fun begins with Matt Baram (clearly the love child of Woody Allen and Martin Short) trying to score some make-out action off the blissfully sexy Naomi Snieckus by reminding her of the terrible shape the world is in. Inept seducers, glib doomsayers and overly sensitive ladies all take it in the neck on this one.  Then there's Anand Rajaram, who dispenses attitude as though he had a limitless supply of it, confronting the feisty yet funny Lauren Ash in a doctor's office.  He wants to prescribe pills; she wants "natural" treatment. They switch roles to get inside each other's heads with hilarious results, culminating in Rajaram shrieking, "I'm going to dance naked around a prayer circle of soy burgers!"  Or how about a confrontation between Stephen Harper and George W. Bush? Scott Montgomery has the right lanky bearing and icy glare to give us Harper, while the totally adorable Jim Annan (think of a kinder, gentler Will Ferrell) gives us a Dubya as dangerous as he is stupid ("Wanna do some cocaine?"). I won't give away the twists in this sketch, but it scores some killer political points between laughs.  You'll also guffaw as much as I did about a sequence where a mother goes online and pretends to be her 13-year-old son in an MSN session with two friends. And once again, the writing and performing go past the merely clever into something finer by the time it's done.

There's also a taxi encounter between a man who can't stop putting his foot in his mouth (Montgomery) and his constantly disapproving boss (Ash). This one actually has the shape and substance of a short, one-act play, but with plenty of laughs, as well.  And a certain amount of satanic revenge exists in a scene where a smug woman (Snieckus) thinks she's foiled a stumbling telemarketer from the Egg Marketing Board (Ash), only to have it all blow up in her face.  Need more reasons to buy a ticket? I know you'll enjoy the scene where Osama Bin Laden decides to "show his sweet side" by auditioning as a country singer, or the skit where two bored women at work share their fantasies of having sex with most of the male characters on Sesame Street.  The whole thing zaps along at high speed, courtesy of Earle's turbo-charged direction, and the rare sequence that doesn't work is gone before you know it.  Finally, if you haven't visited Second City's new home on Mercer Street, it's definitely worth a look. It has that packed, convivial feeling that makes you feel a really good party is about to happen.  Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest is good for whatever ails you. Check it out.
 

Kenneth Thomson - A 'Great Canadian'

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Terry Weber

(June 13, 2006) Kenneth Thomson was remembered Monday as a “great Canadian” and generous philanthropist whose passion for art and love of animals were legendary. “We at the Art Gallery of Ontario are enormously saddened at the untimely death of Ken Thomson, a great Canadian and the greatest benefactor of the gallery,” AGO chief executive officer Matthew Teitelbaum said. “We express our deepest sympathies to the Thomson family.” Although he widely guarded his privacy, Mr. Thomson's long-running relationship with the AGO was well known, thrusting him into the spotlight four years ago with an unprecedented gift to the gallery. In 2002, Mr. Thomson gave the gallery $50-million to initiate the transformation of the facility plus $20-million to endow future operations. Alongside the donation, Mr. Thomson gave the gallery more than 2,000 pieces of art, including works by the Group of Seven and the Peter Paul Rubens masterpiece The Massacre of the Innocents. The value of that collection has been estimated at $300-million (U.S.) and has been described as the finest private art collection in Canada. “For the past number of years the Art Gallery of Ontario was privileged to work with Ken to realize a shared dream, of making our institution one of the great cultural centres in North America,” Mr. Teitelbaum said.

“It saddens us all that Ken will not be with us to realize and celebrate this great vision. It was for all of us, a dream to share our pleasure with him at our opening.” At the public launch of the AGO's transformation — designed by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry — last year, Mr. Thomson described his relationship with the gallery as “the best opportunity to share my passion for art.” “Knowing Frank and knowing what he's putting into this building, I know I'll be intensely proud of the Art Gallery of Ontario and it won't be difficult for people to catch the spirit.” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, in expressing his sadness over Mr. Thomson's passing, also noted that both the province and its residents were better off thanks not only to Mr. Thomson's business leadership but also his passion for the arts and culture. Toronto Mayor David Miller said Mr. Thomson's personal and professional contributions won't soon be forgotten and praised Mr. Thomson for his contributions to the AGO in particular. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed Mr. Thomson and his family for making “significant cultural gifts to the city of Toronto during the past three decades.” David Silcox, president of Sotheby's Canada, also credited Mr. Thomson with contributing greatly to the Canadian art scene. “He set an example by saying that first of all art was important, and that it mattered, that Canadian art mattered a great deal,” Mr. Silcox told Canadian Press from Turkey. “I think his enthusiasm is something that rubbed off on other Canadians with means and Canadians in general.” In addition to art, Mr. Thomson was also well known for his love of animals. Despite ranking among the 10 wealthiest people in the world — as listed by Forbes magazine — Mr. Thomson still found time to volunteer with the Toronto Humane Society as a dog walker. When told of Mr. Thomson's passing on Monday, a spokeswoman expressed sadness on behalf of the humane society and described Mr. Thomson — long believed to be a generous benefactor to the cause — as a “great friend” to the organization.

Addiction Centre To Open Video Game Detox Clinic

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Fia Curley, Associated Press

(June 9, 2006)
AMSTERDAM — An addiction centre is opening Europe's first detox clinic for video game addicts, offering in-house treatment for people who can't leave their joysticks alone. Video games may look innocent, but they can be as addictive as gambling or drugs — and just as hard to kick, said Keith Bakker, director of Amsterdam-based Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants. Bakker already has treated 20 video game addicts, aged 13 to 30, since January. Some show withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking and sweating, when they look at a computer. His detox program begins in July. It will run four to eight weeks, including discussions with therapists and efforts to build patients' interests in alternative activities. “We have kids who don't know how to communicate with people face-to-face because they've spent the last three years talking to somebody in Korea through a computer,” Bakker said. “Their social network has completely disappeared.” It can start with a Game Boy, perhaps given by parents hoping to keep their children occupied but away from the television. From there, it can progress to multi-level games that aren't made to be won. Bakker said he has seen signs of addiction in children as young as eight. Hyke van der Heijden, 28, a graduate of the Amsterdam program, started playing video games 20 years ago. By the time he was in college he was gaming about 14 hours a day and using drugs to play longer. “For me, one joint would never be enough, or five minutes of gaming would never be enough,” he said. “I would just keep going until I crashed out.”

Van der Heijden first went to Smith & Jones for drug addiction in October, 2005, but realized the gaming was the real problem. Since undergoing treatment, he has distanced himself from his smoking and gaming friends. He says he has been drug- and game-free for eight months. Like other addicts, Bakker said, gamers are often trying to escape personal problems. When they play, their brains produce endorphins, giving them a high similar to that experienced by gamblers or drug addicts. Gamers' responses to questions even mirror those of alcoholics and gamblers when asked about use. “Many of these kids believe that when they sit down, they're going to play two games and then do their homework,” he said. However, unlike other addicts, most gamers received their first game from their parents. “Because it's so new, parents don't see that this is something that can be dangerous,” Bakker said.  Tim, a gamer who is under treatment, agreed to discuss his addiction on condition that his last name not being used. He said he began playing video games three years ago at age 18. Soon, he wouldn't leave his room for dinner. Later, he began taking drugs to stay awake and play longer. Finally, he sought help and picked up other hobbies to occupy his time.  Symptoms of addiction are easy to spot, Bakker says. Parents should take notice if a child neglects usual activities, spends several hours at a time with the computer and has no social life. Bakker said parents of game addicts frequently echo the words of partners of cocaine addicts: “‘I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was.'”

 DVD Review: 'Dave Chappelle's Block Party'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Gerald A. Radford

(June 9, 2006) *What if you had the clout to put together a concert whereby you could handpick the artists you thought were best at their craft to perform and you could also personally determine who would attend? Nice, right? Well, most of us may not have that type of clout, but controversial funnyman Dave Chappelle does. After walking away from his multi-million dollar deal with Comedy Central, Chappelle signed on with Universal Studios to write and develop the film "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party."  Chappelle was given a modest budget to put together a stellar roster of artists and to travel around the country, including places like his rural hometown, Yellow Springs, Ohio, to promote the film and present select unsuspecting fans with the opportunity to take a bus ride to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York to attend his tailor-made, self-hosted block party. 

The film, which was only in theatres for a short while, is now set for release on DVD and features performances and appearances by music luminaries such as Kanye West, The Fugees, Common, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, Keyshia Cole, Pharoahe Monch, and Cody Chestnut.  With his comedic flair, Chappelle turned the invitation process into a series of quirky comedic vignettes that made for the perfect thread to weave the featured heavyweight performances together. Along with the highlight of The Fugees reunion, the performances include various snippets of his personal picks delivering some of their classics (with the option of viewing extended performances) along with a few ill collaborations, including Erykah Badu with both Jill Scott and Common.  Through various interviews, ‘Block Party’ also gives you a behind the scenes glimpse into the artist’s worlds after they step away from the mic and some pretty candid moments while they’re still in front of it. Badu was particularly "candid," even snatching her troublesome wig from her head, mid-performance, and tossing it over her shoulder.  Copping a copy of ‘Dave Chappelle’s Block Party’ is a good way to take in a few laughs, while preserving performances of some of the most intriguing artists of today -- especially if you’re one of millions who can appreciate Chappelle’s humour and are passionate about music not tainted by commercial appeal. The energy of the New York crowd and the film’s underground vibe are refreshing.

Uncloseted SF On Our Radar

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Garnet Fraser

(June 11, 2006)
Pride Week is next week. Toronto Trek, the science fiction convention, comes next month. If you're anxiously awaiting both, here's good news: a gathering that straddles the two starts Friday.  Gaylaxicon, North America's annual meeting of queer fans of science fiction, fantasy, horror and gaming, is coming to Toronto for the first time. Up to 500 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or otherwise interested fans will meet at the Best Western on Carlton St. Don't be surprised by the crowd; co-organizer Stephanie Clark points out that in fantasy and SF, part of the point is to delve into ways of living that might seem strange.  "When I was a teenager I could never read about any queer characters," says Clark, 35, a local bisexual web designer. "Then I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books."  She started attending mainstream SF conventions, where the gay groups would often have a panel. The road led to Gaylaxicon.  Clark said Toronto's very strong gay SF community has "thrown some of the best room parties" at past Gaylaxicons, and "we thought it might be time" for Toronto to host.  If all you expect is a three-day pre-Pride party — with Klingon same-sex weddings, say — check the list of panel discussions on the convention's website. There will be sly questioning of Doctor Who's apparently inert sex life, yes, but also more meaty topics, such as Is Cybersex Cheating? and Does Gender Have a Future? Guests include Ellen Muth (of TV's Dead Like Me).  Still, lighthearted elements remain. The costume competition, for example, typically has drag queens, painstakingly conceived original queer characters, Xena and Gabrielle ...  "And there'll always be Batman and Robin," said Clark, noting gay ties to the duo were revived by the 1997 film of the same name, in which nippled rubber outfits and lingering butt shots made unambiguous statements. Said Clark: "I think it'll be screening in our movie room."

::SPORTS NEWS::

CBC Lowers Boom On Brian Williams

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - William Houston

(June 9, 2006) He was a star at the CBC for more than 20 years, but
Brian Williams was fired Thursday, just days after informing the network on Monday he would be leaving for rival CTV at the end of the year. Williams’ departure marks an abrupt and bitter end to a career at the CBC that started in 1974. “I'm surprised,” Williams said. “Obviously surprised. But that's their decision and a decision I will live with.” Williams said he will join CTV immediately. Nancy Lee, the executive director of CBC Sports, said the CTV's announcement on Monday that Williams will anchor its 2010 and 2012 Olympic coverage sealed his fate. “Because of the news events on Monday, it didn't make any sense to continue the relationship,” she said. Williams appeared to have fulfilled his contractual obligation to the CBC by giving the network six months notice on Monday. When his contract was drawn up, the CBC insisted on the notice clause. However, sources say the CBC is claiming breach of contract and will not pay Williams for the remaining six months. Neither Williams nor Lee would comment. The CBC's termination last year of sports announcer Chris Cuthbert, now with TSN and NBC, resulted in litigation. Williams had planned to stay with the CBC to cover the Canadian Football League and Grey Cup. With his departure, reporter Elliotte Friedman will replace him as the CFL anchor. Other networks have kept personalities on the air after they signed elsewhere. NBC's Katie Couric continued to be a host of the Today show after signing with CBS to anchor its evening news, beginning in September. “All I can say is we were advised on Monday about his move and he's now clearly identified with another network,” Lee said. “So, it just didn't make sense to continue the relationship.” According to sources, there is a 50-50 chance the CBC will lose the CFL rights in two years to CTV and its sports cable channel, TSN. The mood at CBC Sports over the past four days, insiders say, has been fraught with intrigue and speculation. Williams was forbidden by CBC management from attending the CTV news conference on Monday. He appeared anyway, and now the CBC may argue he breached his contract by showing up. On Wednesday, the CBC suddenly cancelled Williams’ scheduled interview with the Toronto Argonauts' new running back, Ricky Williams.

Yesterday afternoon, Brian Williams received a telephone call from Lee informing him that he was being replaced with Friedman. “Anything else?” Williams asked Lee. Lee told him he would be receiving a fax in 10 minutes. The fax, when it arrived, stated he was terminated. Insiders say Williams’ relationship with CBC management had declined in recent years. A source said his work as the prime-time anchor of the Turin Winter Games coverage in February was barely acknowledged by management. “None of them phoned Brian,” the source said. “Not one of them congratulated him after Turin. Trevor Pilling [Williams’ CFL producer] was the only one. “Terry Ludwick [the CBC's Olympic executive producer] didn't call him. Nancy didn't call him. Not even a nice note.” Sources say Williams was overwhelmed by the reception he received on Monday from people at CTV and Bell Globemedia. (Bell Globemedia owns CTV and also The Globe and Mail.) “He received couriered notes from people on the board of directors congratulating him,” a source said. “They treated him so well. He hadn't been treated that way in 30 years with the CBC.” Williams also received a note of congratulations from Wayne Gretzky in a Blackberry message that said, basically, “I told you the Olympics wouldn't be the same without you.” Lee's problems in the sports department extend past replacing Williams. Ludwick, out as the executive producer of the Olympics, has moved to another part of the department. His programming decisions during Turin were criticized in the media. What's more, Terry Leibel has resigned as the Olympic morning anchor. For its Turin coverage, CBC chose to keep Williams and Leibel in Toronto, where they worked out of a studio. TSN president Phil King said Williams will begin filing reports to SportsCentre and appearing on CTV's Canada AM in the next few weeks. “We're thrilled to be getting him earlier than expected,” he said.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Tiger Voted Most Popular

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 12, 2006) *Golf star Tiger Woods has outranked NBA legend Michael Jordan for the first time on the Harris Poll’s annual tally of the nation’s favourite sports star. Jordan, who has topped the list every year since 1993, slides down to No. 2. Others on the list include New York Yankees star Derek Jeter (No. 4), Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal (No. 6), LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant (No. 7), Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James (No. 8) and San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds (No. 9). Venus Williams returns as the nation's favourite female sports star after a one-year absence. Her sister Serena follows behind her at No. 2.