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Updated:  October 26, 2006

Wow - so much good news this week!  Tons and tons of it.  Dione Taylor launches her sophomore album I Love Being Here With You - join Dione at Lula Lounge on November 8th - see details below under HOT EVENTS

This week's editorial is my take on
50 Cent ... Speaking of hip hop, FLOW 93.5 made it possible for me to attend and take photos at their exclusive Ludacris show on Monday night.  Check out the photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.

Check out the
FITNESS section this week - featuring an article by my dear friend, Leslie Salmon Jones.




JAZZ.FM 91 presents Dione Taylor’s CD Release Concert - Wednesday November 8, 2006

Source:  Soular Productions Inc.

With her sparkling sophomore album, “I Love Being Here With You”  (Marquis/EMI) set for release on October 31, soul jazz songstress Dione Taylor has emerged as a fully formed and exciting young artist. While unmistakably a jazz album, “I Love Being Here With You” reflects Dione Taylor’s love and background in gospel, rhythm & blues and soul. Her rich and smoky voice has a truly soulful quality and has earned her international praise and nominations from the Juno’s, National Jazz Awards and the Canadian Urban Music Awards.

To record her latest album, “I Love Being Here With You”, Dione paired up with producers Doug Riley (Ray Charles, David Clayton-Thomas, The Brecker Brothers) and Sandy Mamane (Dione Taylor). “I’ve always been a big fan of Doug Riley and loved the results of the last album with Sandy so all three of us put our heads together and made some magic! ” The producers helped assemble an ace team of players including Jake Langley, Guido Basso, Pat LaBarbera, Terry Clarke and international piano virtuoso, Benny Green.  Another special guest on the album is vocal jazz sensation Denzal Sinclaire who duets with Dione on the tender and romantic title track.

This is my Love album. It explores all different kinds of love: intimate love, love for yourself, love for your friends and love for God.  The universal language of love is music and this is my gift to the world.”

Don’t miss her eagerly anticipated debut at The Lula Lounge!

"Dione Taylor is one of the brightest young stars on the Canadian music scene. She is the total package! She has the looks, the voice and the musical experience to make a huge impact on the music industry."

David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat and Tears)


This is Who I Am - Kelly Price

Kelly Price has been said to possess one of the most extraordinary voices in modern music. Born and reared in Queens, NY, Price’s musical talent showed itself at an early age. Price’s mother vividly recalls the many, many nights the household was awakened to the sound of Kelly singing out from her crib. As a child of the Church, both of her parents are ordained ministers, music became inextricably intertwined with the emotional fabric of her life, and it was through music that she expressed feelings she was often unable to speak aloud. One day, after being deeply saddened by a book she read for a black history project, Price wrote a song to express the complicated emotions she was feeling. That was her first song. She was 7 years old.



I Like 50 Cent?

Not having been an avid fan of rap music for long, and specifically not gangsta rap, I found something surprising this week.  Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by the discovery of an articulate, intelligent man in the rap game, but normally, rap music that I can relate to has been more of the old skool rap - more from my generation I suppose.

50 Cent first piqued my interest in my interview with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of Tribe Called Quest,  when Ali told me that he would love to sit and talk with 50 Cent about life and his journey.  This caught my attention first because I respect Ali and the path that he has taken both professionally and personally and second because his response did surprise me.

But 50 Cent has more recently piqued my interest - not from a fan perspective per se but more because I've paid more attention to things I've watched on TV about him - other than just the self-indulgent music videos that I dislike so much.  I finally had the time to watch MuchVibe's interview conducted by Namugenyi KiwanukaAli was right - 50 Cent is quite intelligent and articulate. 

A few points that he made about the music business stood out to me.  One point he repeated was that the music business is just that - a business.  If you're not performing songs that will make sales, then you probably shouldn't be in the business.  His point was that if artists want to make music for themselves then they should keep the music to themselves and only play it in their homes.  I recognize that this may be perceived by some as harsh or even untrue for some, but I found it an interesting perception - there's no disputing that he has racked up the sales as well as wealth, companies and notoriety.  He said in one year he did over 400 shows - with one week off in total that was not days in any succession.

50 Cent was as personal in the interview as he could be - admitting that he has trust issues and doesn't have many friends.  That he wishes he could spend more time with his son.  That the most appealing feature of a woman was one that didn't have her own agenda - one that could take care of herself and wasn't trying to advance her own career by being with him.  He was matter-of-fact in that 'I am the s**t' kinda way but somehow it didn't turn me off but kept me tuned in.  And there were lots of times when he was half-smiling too which you also don't see a lot in his videos and pictures.

What you saw was a hardworking artist - almost possessed with the work and a man that I didn't completely understand but that I actually found myself starting to ... like ... me? 

I also watched
Get Rich or Die Trying (I know, so I'm a little behind in movies!).  And even though the role was not a huge stretch from who he is in real life, his portrayal was compelling and believable.

I don't think it means that I'll be running out to the next concert or purchasing his latest work but it does mean that I'll give him more of a break than I had.  I had done that dangerous human thing - categorizing and judging someone before I took the time to take a closer look. 

We can all learn from each other - even those that are quite different from ourselves - and that's just my opinion.



More Sopra Please

A few weeks back, I featured a Toronto Star article by Amy Pataki on
Sopra Upper Lounge that sparked my own interest so last week I went to check it out at the invitation of their publicist, Elaine Quan of E.Quan Entertainment.  To my delight, the featured vocalist that particular night was Wade O. Brown and his band, Volume I, featuring David Williams, Neil Brathwaite, Miloš Angelov and Deryck Roche.

As soon as you walk into Sopra, you know that you're in a classy establishment.  I felt an easy feeling as I walked up the stairs (above the famed Mistura , 265 Davenport) and entered Sopra.  Patrons filled every table and lined the bar as well - an obvious new hot spot that people want to check out.   But there is a reason why they have kept coming back for the two months that it has been open.  Sopra is filling that void that Toronto has been missing, especially with the recent closings of Montreal Bistro and Top O' The Senator.  But unlike those jazz spots, Sopra is broadening their musical scope by also offering R&B and soul. 

As soon as the band played and Wade sang "Cruisin'", I remembered feeling, "Finally!  A spot where I can hang out, have a seat, eat some good food and listen to good music - MY music!".   But don't get it twisted - this is not another music venue - it is a restaurant first and foremost featuring the wares of Chef Joey Malandrino.  One patron at the bar was ummming and ahhhing over the mushrooms done in pastry, is just one example of the high quality food available. 

Monday evenings feature an after-work cocktail lounge featuring DJ Cronin who will provide a sexy vibe with soulful R&B and House grooves to ease the mood.

There are still a few kinks being worked out when it comes to service and their direction on musical offerings but I do predict that this spot will be here to stay for awhile.   Stop by and check it out at your first opportunity.  There is no cover charge but bring your wallet for some good eats and some fine drinks!  All in all, an excellent night out for me.

For more information, reservations and menu, go to


::top stories::

7 Questions - Adam Beach

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Strauss, Special to The Globe and Mail

Born Nov. 11, 1972 on Dog Creek Reserve near Ashern, Man.; raised in Vogar and Winnipeg. Currently lives in Ottawa with his second wife, Tara Mason. Two sons, Noah and Luke, from previous marriage. Saulteaux tribe member. Films include Squanto: A Warrior's Tale, Dance Me Outside, Smoke Signals, Joe Dirt, Windtalkers and Mystery, Alaska. Upcoming television series: Moose TV, Comanche Moon, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

(Oct. 20, 2006) LOS ANGELES -- The tragic life of U.S. Marine Ira Hayeshas been the subject of stories, songs and at least one movie (in which the Pima Indian was played by Tony Curtis!). But in the Clint Eastwood-directed Flags of Our Fathers,
Adam Beach brings unprecedented sensitivity and emotionalism to the misunderstood Second World War veteran. One of three survivors of the team that raised the American flag on Iwo Jima, Hayes eventually drank himself to death. But Beach locates the troubled man's strong spirit, and in the process reconfirms his own status as the premiere aboriginal actor in Hollywood today.

Is it ironic that a Canadian has now played two legendary U.S. Marine figures, Ira Hayes and one of the Navajo linguists in Windtalkers?

There are two iconic images of World War II, and those are the code talkers and Ira Hayes. They represent the partnership that native American people have in this country, that they are patriotic and will help when the country needs them. Native American Indians don't really look at our borders. Canadian, American, we're all peoples that share North America. So I don't feel at all that it's odd I'm playing the American Ira Hayes because we see each other as people sharing this land.

Were you concerned that Hayes's drunkenness might reinforce a negative stereotype?

Not at all, because what you're portraying is true to form. It's unfortunate that alcohol is a substance that has taken away a lot of lives of native Americans, but it's also done that to a lot of other diverse nationalities. Hollywood from the start has glamorized the drunken Indian. With Ira Hayes, you can understand why he was drawn toward that substance. It would drown the effects of the horrors of war. It's too bad that people need that depressant to suppress things in a way that they don't want to remember. I hope that, from this film, a lot of people can understand the truth of Ira Hayes and the extent he went to live his life, and learn from it; to see his spirit and try not to turn against yourself in a way where you have to deteriorate.

So, working for Clint Eastwood. Cool? Intimidating? Both?

Me, Ryan [Phillippe] and Jesse [Bradford] were joking on the plane, saying, okay, how could we get kicked out of this job? Let's push him to say, 'Make my day.' We'll see how long it takes him to say, 'Make my day' without getting fired. So we show up on set and Clint comes by. He's wearing this hat and Jesse asks, 'Hey, what does that say on the back of your hat?'

'It's a Latin saying,' Clint says, and he says it in Latin.

'What does that mean?' Jesse asks, and Clint says, 'Make my day.' Then he walks away and we're all like, 'Yesss! One day! And we're not fired!'

Practically everyone in the movie, including his friends, speaks to Hayes in a racist manner. No doubt true to the era, but that couldn't have been easy for you to take.

There's just a history of people not liking Indians, y'know? Primarily, it's because everybody has a fear of what they don't know. But I've always been surrounded by ignorance. I've been one to grow up in a passive nature; my stepdad, my dad's brother, is very like that, and he's taught me how to remain passive. My friends in school would always call me Chief; they were all white, a couple of black guys too. But I didn't mind because a chief, for our people, is the highest standard. But once my buddy accidentally called my cousin Chief and he nearly got his head knocked off!

That said, you had to deal with some serious issues growing up: your parents' deaths when you were 8, getting involved in a gang. How did discovering acting as a young teenager affect that?

At the start, acting gave me different characters to play with, so it allowed me to run away from all of my emotions and not have to deal with them. It wasn't until I was 24 or 25, when I did a movie called Smoke Signals, that I could kind of apply acting to a story that was like my life. How do I deal with the anger and resentment and all those issues? That's when I realized how far I was disguising myself as other people. So that grounded me real fast.

You sing, right?

Me and a buddy are thinking of putting a cover band together to play our favourite music. We'll see what happens in the next year. We were calling it Jesus Murphy for a while, but we ended up picking the name Lethic -- it just sounded more heavier! It sounds like Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura; the heavy stuff.

You've got the highest profile of any native American actor working today. Where to from here?

I am who I am. Everybody will see me as the native American guy, but I think what people are going to see in this film is that I've come to my own space in acting. People are acknowledging that and all the doors are open. Now, I think you're going to see me playing, say, a psychiatrist, being involved in a different direction. I have an opportunity now to just play a person, a character who isn't just defined by ethnicity. I look forward to that; it's gonna be fun.

Studio Behind Will Smith Film Launches Contest

Excerpt from

(October 20, 2006) *Columbia Pictures is partnering with eight of the world's leading companies to offer
"The Pursuit of Happyness 'Pursue It' The Ultimate Internship Contest," in which contestants will compete for dream internships at Gap Inc., The Hollywood Reporter, Morgan Stanley, NBC, the National Football League (NFL), PEOPLE Magazine, PlayStation and Yahoo! In addition to the internship position, each winner also will win a trip to the Hollywood premiere of the studio’s upcoming drama "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith, Thandie Newton and Smith’s son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. Winners will have the opportunity to meet Smith and enjoy the evening with the film's cast.  Based on a true story, "The Pursuit of Happyness" stars Will Smith as Chris Gardner, a marginally employed salesman who finds himself with nowhere to go after he and his five-year-old son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) are evicted from their San Francisco apartment. When Gardner lands an internship at a prestigious brokerage firm, he and his son endure numerous hardships as he struggles to create a better life for the two of them.” "Chris Gardner, the person I portray in 'The Pursuit of Happyness' is a bright, talented guy who's barely making ends meet until he gets an internship that enables him to pursue his dreams," said star and producer Will Smith.

Steve Tisch, one of the film's producers and a co-owner of the NFL's New York Giants football team added: "America is the land of opportunity, but to succeed in the corporate world everyone needs that first break, that foot in the door. The winners of this contest will get a unique chance both to learn about how great companies work and to demonstrate their own creativity, energy and determination."  Through October 30, 2006 contestants can visit the contest Web site and choose the company at which they would like to intern. As part of the online application process, entrants will need to create a video of themselves, in which they share, in five minutes or less, their own personal motto or "words to live by" giving examples of how this philosophy makes them uniquely qualified to work at the company they have chosen.  For more information, along with complete contest rules, visit The film opens nationwide on Dec. 15.

'Fire' Is Catching: Derek Luke & Patrick Chamusso Talk On New Film

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(October 20, 2006) *
Derek Luke may still be considered an up-and-coming star, but the actor’s repertoire certainly has the look of a veteran’s. With his breakout role in “Antwone Fisher” with Denzel Washington in 2002, industry-ites and fans figured he was one to watch, in so many ways.  Now the young actor takes on the role of Patrick Chamusso in the film “Catch A Fire.” The film follows the true story of young Chamusso, who carried out solo attacks against the Apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s.  Chamusso himself had a say in every scene of the film and told the EUR that the film about his life is eerily realistic. “It is painful,” Chamusso said of watching the film, though he said it is outstanding. “I do enjoy it from the first part until the first capture. I don’t like to watch it. You see what exactly happened. The director and the actors did a very good job.” Chamusso had a part in the stellar performance of one actor in particular – Derek Luke, who plays him in the film. And though he was very pleased with how well the film turned out, Chamusso said that not only was he initially unsure of the actor, he wasn’t even sure who Luke was. “First, they told me that the movie was going to be made and I was so excited. But I only knew people like Denzel Washington and Cuba Gooding Jr., but I didn’t know [Derek Luke],” he said. “But when he came, I looked at him and said, ‘He’s still young, and I think he can do it.’” Luke said that Chamusso made sure he played the part to a tee and worked very closely with him on the film, so much that he really began to discern the importance of the project. “I sensed the responsibility,” Luke said about taking on the role. “I came to interview Patrick and Patrick turned around and interviewed me. When I came to South Africa for the first time, I didn’t think I was going to be accepted and I wanted to be – for the simple fact that my dad was from South America and on my street, I was always the foreigner kid; the guy with the high cheek bones and the dad that had this different language. So, I had an awesome responsibility to play Patrick and he made sure that I was up to par.”

In addition to the education that Luke received on set from the real Patrick Chamusso, he said that he learned a lot of things about the culture and the history of Apartheid in doing the film in Africa and being surrounded by the African culture. “What startled me more about the apartheid is how much, as an African American, I did not know about apartheid,” he said. “When I went down the bush, they were playing hip-hop and all of our favourite artists and how we don’t play any of their music. It was startling how in ’88-’89, it was difficult for a black woman to have a baby in a white hospital and I asked myself, ‘Where was I in ’89?’ The awesome responsibility that I felt was, if acting is any bit educational, maybe this will wake up my old neighbourhood. When we say that we really have it hard, I think sometimes we can be naïve about it. I sensed the psychological aftermath of Apartheid, and it was alarming.” Chamusso reiterated that the aftermath of Apartheid is certainly visible, but that things are getting better. “It wasn’t easy for us to forgive,” he said. “Our leaders did a lot of work on us… and educating us. It is necessary to forgive, because if we carry on with a war on revenge, it won’t work. It would affect our own children.” Now, Chamusso heads and orphanage of sorts, though a number of followers and admirers assumed that he would take the political route after his infamous battle with Apartheid. It’s quite the modus operandi for the reluctant leader though. As a matter of fact, he considered himself rather apolitical right up until he and his wife were jailed during the turbulent times. So, he’s taken on another cause – the children. “There are a lot of poor people and a lot of HIV orphans. I cannot turn a blind eye to them,” he said. “Having a high position in the government, doing a lot of things and leaving the people there dying of hunger – I decided, for me, to remember where I come from. Every child that is there, I do take care of them.” Luke is continuing with his own cause, too – to make movies that inspire and teach. “I feel like I’m going in the paths of some great actors and great mind changers and influential people – like Mr. Washington, he did Steven Biko, Luke said of the historical role Denzel Washington played with much critical acclaim. “‘Antwone Fisher’, for a long time, had been a crutch for me. In the back of my head I’ve always been crying for a mentor. A lot of times mentors haven’t come until I was ready to be taught. Sometimes I think about Denzel. I was in Africa thinking about Denzel saying, ‘Man, I wish he was here to help me.’ And now I felt like I had to do it on my own. I had to become a man.” “Catch A Fire” opens next Friday, October 27 at theatres nationwide. For more on the film, check out

'Da Kink's Finds U.K. Home

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - J. Kelly Nestruck, Special To The Star

(Oct. 24, 2006) LONDON—With the European premiere of her hit play
'Da Kink in My Hair a whisker away, trey anthony's hair is standing on end in anticipation.  "I'm more excited about this than anything I've ever done," says the Toronto playwright and actor, mingling with well-wishers in the Marie Lloyd Bar, a cabaret space attached to the east-end Hackney Empire theatre.  'Da Kink in My Hair, which grossed over $6 million in ticket sales as it worked its way from the Toronto Fringe to a held-over run at the Princess of Wales Theatre to the San Diego Repertory Theatre, opens at the 1,300-seat Hackney Empire on Nov. 8 for a three-week run. Then, in 2007, it will embark on a U.K. and European tour, which the producers hope will lead to a run on London's West End.  "That's our dream, really," says anthony, who was born in England to West Indian expat parents. Currently filming a television series for Global based on 'Da Kink, she will be the only one missing from the original Canadian cast on the London stage. (Her role as the omniscient salon owner Novelette will be played by Karen Robinson, straight from the Stratford Festival.)  In advance of opening night, however, Anthony flew to her birthplace to read some of 'Da Kink In My Hair's monologues in the Marie Lloyd cabaret space for a crowd of journalists, artists and representatives from regional theatres considering booking the tour. Also in attendance was the home branch of anthony's family — her father, uncles and cousins — many of whom were seeing their prodigal perform for the first time.  "It's exciting for me, for my family to see what I do in Canada," says anthony, whose vestigial British accent re-emerges when she is overseas.

Born in Hackney — a crime-afflicted, but multicultural London borough that is now home to many artists — anthony moved to the suburban development of Wembley as a toddler, then came to Canada with her mother at age 11.  "Even though I totally identify with Canada as my home, I do have a very strong connection to England," she says.  Cultural administrator Hazel Durrant, who scouted 'Da Kink for the Hackney Empire when it played in Toronto last year, believes the connection goes both ways. "I'm so glad that trey's come back with the play," she says. "She's a Hackney girl; so am I."  When Durrant entered the Princess of Wales Theatre, she felt very much at home. "It was like being in the Empire — the feel of the building, everything is the same," she says. "I thought, `Oh yeah, it's going to work.'"  The time seems right in London for 'Da Kink in My Hair, a music-filled cross between The Vagina Monologues and Beauty Shop centred on the black women who frequent a Caribbean hair salon in Toronto.  With a revival of Porgy and Bess, the Motown musical Dancing in the Streets and the Boney M musical Daddy Cool at West End theatres, and Tony Kushner's civil-rights musical Caroline, or Change at the National Theatre, London has rarely had so much black content in its mainstream theatre.  "If the U.K. press are open to a Caribbean-Canadian fusion play, I think it can do really well," says Durrant, noting that many of the Toronto production's dramaturgical kinks were ironed out in San Diego.  What really sold Durrant on 'Da Kink was the performance of d'bi young. She said young's high-energy portrayal of a young victim of sexual abuse was impactful in the way of Kevin Spacey's much-heralded London performance in The Iceman Cometh.  For Anthony, basking in the glow of a bar full of relatives, whether the play goes off with bangs, er, a bang won't diminish her pleasure at taking it across the pond. "It feels like coming home," she says.


Ziggy Marley: Celebrating Artistic Freedom & Healing Through U.R.G.E.

Excerpt from - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(October 24, 2006) Without a doubt the famous dad of musician Ziggy Marley would be proud. As the eldest son of legendary reggae influence and cultural icon, Bob Marley, Ziggy has led a successful career as the guiding force behind The Melody Makers; the Grammy-winning group comprised of himself, brother Stephen and sisters Sharon and Cedella.  Now, with the release of his second solo CD, “Love Is My Religion,” the signing of a sweet deal with the Target Stores chain and finally, with the founding of a charitable organization called U.R.G.E., Ziggy Marley continues to prove that he is not one to rest on laurels. In his recent telephone interview with EUR’s Lee Bailey, it is apparent from the very first “Irie!” that this Marley, too, is a force to be reckoned with. High on being an emancipated artist, the conversation is sprinkled with Ziggy’s desire to maintain control of his artistic destiny. “Things are going good. I’m making the music I want to make. I’m independent. I own my masters. I made a deal with Target independently and so it is the right steps. I’ve finally got my freedom from some kinds of contract with a record label. I’m free so that’s good... To have ownership of my music, that was a dream of my father’ own his masters and now I kind of fulfill that dream for him and for myself.” Ziggy, who lost his father at the age of 13, admits to growing up around his music. “I grew up around my father’s music. It had spirit you know what I mean? That’s my foundation, to have spirit in the music; not just a song.”  He contends that he got to spend a lot of time with his famous dad; whose politically-charged music only underscored the immense passion he felt for his beloved Rastafari religion; and conveyed his message of urgency in the fight for human rights; using powerful lyrics sometimes lifted from the speeches of Jamaican leader Haile Selassie. Marley’s untimely death at a Miami hospital in 1981 following an eight-month-battle with cancer stunned the world. He was only 36.

As the eldest male of eleven siblings, Ziggy espouses big brother wisdom on the Marley clan while at the same time, showing respect for their individual choices. “...They don’t own their masters at this time. One day they will reach that point also. I’ve spoken to them about it, owning your own masters. That is the future of music, you know... Record companies, you do an album with a record company, they own it for the rest of their life. And the artists’ get a very small percentage. It doesn’t really reflect the input of the artist; as to how much he makes from his own record so...when you own your own masters you have the ability to, its like, when you own your own home, you don’t want to rent for the rest of your life, you want to own your own home because you want to be free from that burden of owing somebody your whole life. That’s what its like with record companies; it’s like you owe them forever.” With “Love Is My Religion” Ziggy flexes his muscles as writer of all 12 cuts on the CD; musician, playing most of the instruments, and producer on all but three cuts which was co-produced by Grammy winner Ross Hogarth. And while simplicity may have been the aim, the triple-threat artist found himself surprised by the direction the album had taken while playing back some of the cuts. “...Simplicity was a main part of what I was trying to write. Don’t get too complicated. Don’t put more than what needs to be there. Don’t overproduce, don’t overplay. Just let everything flow. Whatever the feeling is, feel... When I started doing the record there was no concept. But then [with] “Love Is My Religion” -- I wrote that song and...realized when I was listening back [that] there was something to do with love in ... the majority of them.”  Recorded in Los Angeles but written "all over the world," (with some songs penned during his youth), “Love Is My Religion” expands upon the personal, social and political themes explored in Ziggy's debut CD, “Dragonfly.” Its musical center is clearly reggae, peppered by African percussion and other flavours. Opening with the subversively danceable "Into the Groove," Ziggy delves into an upbeat meditation on finding one's self. On the title track, "Love is My Religion," his message is one that "people need to hear," a unifying devotion to love that "needs to be preached in churches and mosque and synagogues." The notion of overcoming stereotypes and superstition informs the slinky "Black Cat," while the romantic "Make Some Music" finds a partner in the mid-tempo "A Lifetime."

Friendship is one of the album's recurring themes, whether as the core of monogamous love or the connective tissue of global brotherhood. "Friend" and "On the Beach in Hawaii" each offer an ode to love. In "Keep on Dreamin'," Ziggy extends the idea into the spiritual world, reconnecting with his father through dreams. The album's most political song, "Be Free," implores the listener to reject the manipulating power of fear. Slavery and its continuing effects are explored on "Still the Storms," which laments the crises in nations like Sudan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone by analogizing the path of hurricanes with the path of slave ships. The album closes with the simple and the complex: an acoustic guitar version of "Love Is My Religion" and a bass-heavy, trip-hop mix of "Be Free." The CD is on the Tuff Gong Worldwide label; which was founded by Bob Marley in 1965. In an unprecedented move the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter entered into an agreement with Target last May; giving the chain exclusivity as the U.S. retailer of “Love Is My Religion,” which was released on July 4, 2006. The “direct-relationship” deal, a first for both parties (Ziggy’s first independent album and Target’s first time acting as the sole U.S. retailer for a major recording artist) will allow the album to be offered at the low price of $9.99 to Target Store consumers.  "One of my father’s goals was to release an album independently. His plan was to do that after the release of his final album on a major label - unfortunately, he never had the chance" shared Ziggy. "This album and the way it is being sold is important to me in honouring my father’s spirit. I am excited to be a part of this new relationship with Target.... the Target deal comes in kind of cool because Target, it’s a store that a lot of people go to; they have a lot of marketing power. Their product is at good prices, good value so they’re not overcharging or trying to make 200 percent on their profit; they’re just selling it at a good value and that was very important to me...”  Marley’s founding of the charitable organization U.R.G.E. is another way of honouring the spirit of his father, and the parents he credits with raising him to be intuned with the world’s suffering populations and further, to be contributive towards a solution in any way possible. “Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment” acts to help children. Where there is a lack, U.R.G.E. seeks to make enduring contributions; to improve the communities in which children learn, live and grow, in hopes of nourishing their future.

“In Jamaica, you know I learned from my father and my mother that we have people who are more fortunate, and less fortunate. That is our philosophy of love: help people who need help; help the orphans, help the children. We do that anyway so I said, ‘OK, let me start a foundation and if anyone feels the urge to help in the causes that we are doing they have a way to do it; where they can donate money, donate products or whatever, and officially do the tax write-off thing... It’s very small. We’re very limited in our resources so right now its just Jamaica because we’re not big or anything; we’re not some big charity or anything. We’re just doing it [at a] grassroots level. If one day we get big we’ll expand our charity and do other things but right now we’re kind of small so we just kind of concentrate on orphanages and Jamaican children. For example, we pay for teachers to teach at orphanages; we give books, you know? Simple things like that; we give clothing, medical supplies, food, [and] those things.” EUR readers can send donations to U.R.G.E. at the following address: Bob Marley Music Inc., RE: U.R.G.E., 632 Broadway, Suite 901, New York, New York, 10012 or you can Email them at: for further information.

Rare Club Show Enthrals The Hip's Fans

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

(Oct. 24, 2006) Nearing the end of the
Tragically Hip's packed show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre on Sunday, singer Gord Downie offered a demonstrative show of appreciation, bowing with hands clasped and thanking the "music lovers" who had boisterously cheered on their Canrock heroes through the preceding two hours.  It was the first of four sold-out shows by the Kingston, Ont. quintet at the Sherbourne St. club; after a day off tonight, performances resume tomorrow and Thursday. And the gratitude was mutual, with fans palpably overjoyed by the relatively rare chance to catch the Hip in an intimate setting.  Downie and company — guitarists Bobby Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay — aren't strangers to the club circuit. They cut their teeth in Ontario bars in the 1980s and are still accustomed to playing smaller venues when they leave this country.  But arena shows — including a tour that will see the band return to Toronto for a Feb. 8 date at the Air Canada Centre — are the norm at home. So it's no surprise that scalpers are asking as much as $200 each for tickets that cost less than a third of that when they went on sale at the end of last month.

There were superficial similarities between the Phoenix show and the band's 2004 gig at the Mod Club. Both times, the occasion was the promotion of a new album. But the Mod Club event was frequently interrupted to fit the demands of a live radio broadcast. No such loss of momentum this time around.  The Hip, which also performed a private show at the Horseshoe last week, was in superior form from the outset of their Phoenix opener, kicking things off with "The Lonely End of the Rink" from newly minted World Container. Although the disc had been in stores less than a week, plenty in the house already knew the lyrics well enough to sing along word for word.  As if not to belabour the present, the band followed with the hallowed "Fifty Mission Cap" on the lost Leaf Bill Barilko, establishing a comfortable balance between the new, the old and the irrefutably iconic.  Downie prefaced a couple of favourites with oblique political remarks, dedicating the Dieppe narrative "Nautical Disaster" to "President Harper," and introducing "Wheat Kings" as "one for the forever certain and the forever wrong."  Whether pumping out classics "Ahead by a Century" and "Blow at High Dough" or the radio-ready new single "In View," the Hip worked with the adoration of the audience to create an unrelenting, celebratory vibe.

Roberta Flack -- Killing Us Softly With Her Songs at Lehman College

Excerpt from - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(October 24, 2006)  *Grammy Award winner Roberta Flack appeared on the Lehman College stage located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx, on Saturday, October 21, 2006, at 8:00 pm, to a packed house where she and Tony Terry slew the hearts of her fans.  Roberta definitely was killing them softly with her songs. Most people are well aware of the talented divas music, so it wasn’t the first time ever they saw her face or heard her beautiful and romantic assortment of love songs because Roberta Flack is one of the most recognizable voices of our generation.   Roberta sang the songs of Marvin Gaye and other artists.  Songs like “Merci Merci Me,” “What’s Going On.”  Bill Withers song “Aint No Sunshine,” the Beatles “Here Comes the Sun,” Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and her own “I Feel Like Making Love To You,” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”  She orchestrated these pieces with a jazzy arrangement and even performed a few new songs from her upcoming CD; songs that were spiced up with a South African flavour.  “I am going straight to South Africa with some of my news songs.  No detour” Claimed Roberta who talked about being inspired by Nelson Mandela.  “I paid tribute to Nelson.  I am so glad I have a creative mind. I met Mandela who spent 36 years in prison.  In my mind, he comes out of prison and all of Africa comes together in one spot to greet him” said Roberta of her vivid dream world. “I see there is joy and there is sorrow.  In my mind, I see the women move to their own rhythm.  Their bodies the oasis, they are the medicine, the shelter from the sun.  I think of this in the morning when I see the sun. Its part of my mental creation,” remarked the long time singer.  Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Ms. Flack grew up in Arlington, Virginia.  As many African American artists do, she developed her musical chops in church.  Learning to play the piano early, Roberta divided her attention between gospel, pop, soul, jazz, and blues.  So musically talented and academically brilliant was Roberta, she skipped several grades.  In fact, she was proficient enough to secure enrolment in Howard University at the age of 15 on a full music scholarship.  Eventually Roberta changed her music major from voice (initially piano) to music education where at 19 she became a student teacher in an all white school in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Unfortunately, her father’s death prompted her to leave Chevy Chase. 

Struggling for money, Flack took a $2,800.00 a year teaching job in Farmville, North Carolina where she taught impoverished children. She eventually left that school only to go to other schools where the children were poor and barely literate.  It became frustrating for Roberta to try to teach English and Music to high school children that couldn’t even read.  Roberta comforted herself by playing background to other artists and eventually singing on her own in various clubs.  Eventually she was heard by Les McCann who got her an audition with Atlantic Records.  Roberta never looked back.   Atlantic Records recognized Flack’s talent and put her in the studio where she recorded “First Take.” Her single “Compared to What,” followed next.  A year later came “Do What You Gotta Do,” “Reverend Lee,” and “Just Like A Woman.”  By 1971, Roberta found herself collaborating with Donny Hathaway in “You Got A Friend.”  She ended that year with her third album “Quiet Fire” which featured the song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”  She once again reunited with Hathaway to produce “Where Is The Love.” And in 1972, Clint Eastwood, chose her song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” for his movie “Play Misty For Me.”  That year, Roberta was named Top Female Vocalist by Down Beat magazine.  Then the Grammy Awards came.  She won for “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and “Where Is The Love.”  Song after song topped the charts, turning gold.  1999 found Flack wining the coveted “Star” on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame.   Roberta has performed before domestic and international audiences.  She has worked and appeared with artists such as Donny Hathaway, Peabo Bryson, Miles Davis, Alicia Keys and India Arie, and many others.  A proponent of artist’ rights, Roberta is involved with the Artist Empowerment Coalition that advocates for the rights of artists to control their own creative properties.  Roberta’s long and powerful musical odyssey has currently led her into the studio where she is hard at work putting the finishing touches on her most recent CD.  “I have been working real hard on my upcoming CD.  I have got together with some incredibly talented folks.  I call it the real artist symposium” explained the singer/arranger/songwriter.  “We did a new version of a song I did with Donny Hathoway.  I worked on “Get Together Again,” “Soft and Gentle Rain”, and “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  There are a lot of things I am doing.  I have been asked to work on a project featuring the music of John Lennon and Paul McCarthy. It’s the music most of my peers performed way back when.  I was asked to do it and do it my way with my own arrangements.  Yes, I am working hard and trying to nail it to the wall” said Roberta.  Ms. Flacks upcoming CD is expected to be released at the end of the year.

Rush Preserved For Posterity

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

(Oct. 21, 2006)
Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has mixed feelings about the Toronto trio's 1976 prog-rock masterpiece, 2112, being singled out for conservation.  On the one hand, Peart is flattered that the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust, an organization dedicated to safeguarding Canada's film, TV, radio and musical legacy, is adding the 2112 masters to its archive.  The album will be officially inducted during the organization's annual MasterWorks ceremony to be attended by Governor General Michaëlle Jean Thursday at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. It will be honoured alongside 11 other works, including the NFB documentary The Champions and the classic Quebec film Les bons debarras.  "It seems a worthy thing," says Peart on the line from Los Angeles, where Rush is working on a new album to be released next year. "We've been slowly trying to rescue our old master tapes and transfer them to digital because they do degrade horribly over time. So I understand the necessity of what they're doing."  Whether Peart would have chosen that album — or any other by Rush — for preservation is another matter.  "I accept the transitory nature of music in general and especially popular music," he says. "As a listener I move on and very rarely go back and listen to anything I listened to 30 years ago. I'm always about moving forward. When an artist I like puts out a new record, I don't listen to the old one any more.

"I see it the same way with Rush. When we tour, we play those songs. They're still great to play and I'm still proud of many of them. But I would definitely fear the realization that the best record we made was 10 or 20 years ago. That would be hard to live with."  Peart might be reluctant to flag 2112 as Rush's best album, but has no reservations about identifying it as the band's breakthrough. Recorded in a month by Peart, singer/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, it was a calculated act of creative defiance.  "Our first three albums had all done so-so in Canada and the U.S.," Peart recalls. "We were under a lot of pressure from our record company and management to be more commercial, to toe the line as it were, and write some singles. We were made to understand that this was our last chance.  "We could cave under that kind of pressure, of course, or we could rebel against it. We were mad at people daring to tell us how to make music. For me, growing up in the '60s, that was simply evil. It was very much us against the suits. That kind of energy was present big-time during the recording."  Far from delivering radio-friendly singles, Rush devoted the entire first side of 2112 to the title track, a 20-minute composition on the theme of rebellious individuality loosely inspired by the Ayn Rand novel Anthem.  "Suddenly, our sales multiplied five or six times and we were headlining small theatres," Peart says. "It was absolutely the hinge in our whole career. It could so easily have gone the other way. If that record had fallen between the cracks, it would have been the end of us I'm sure."

Sloan's Drummer Keeps His Cool

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Oct. 20, 2006) 'Check. Check-check. Check-one-two. Check . . ." At an afternoon sound check, technicians and roadies do their thing, as members of power-popping
Sloan do theirs.  Bassist Chris Murphy boyishly charms a music writer at the back, while high-strung Patrick Pentland precisely attends to the sound level of his acoustic guitar onstage. Second guitarist Jay Ferguson, with the manner of a meek but capable office intern, stays to the periphery. The drummer is different than the others: vigorous, with a quiet maturity that goes well with his rock-star good looks -- somewhere between Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Police drummer Stewart Copeland and a school's top jock. The only member of the band with a wedding ring, he's accompanied by a nanny and two Christopher Robin children, a boy and a girl. Andrew Scott gets noticed without even trying. Murphy has known him forever, but he looks up as Scott passes by. "If we lose Andrew," he says, "we're [in peril]." It is the drummer's aesthetics and composure that allow the rest of the band to act as ridiculous as they choose, safe in the knowledge that the hip guy behind them holds down more than the beat. "Without him, we're the Barenaked Ladies," is how Murphy puts it, referring to the Canadian pop-jesters.

Scott scoffs. "I'm taller than the rest," he answers when asked about his dissimilarity. "And I'm older." Okay, he is that -- 38 years old, and about six feet to his fit frame. But, seriously, what sets him apart? "We're all wildly different people," he allows, "but I probably maintain an air of confidence that the others don't have, or that they pretend not to have." Sloan is democratic, with each member writing and sometimes recording material on their own. Though the tracks don't carry individual songwriting credits, hard-core fans are highly aware of each song's origin. They probably know that drummer Scott, who also sings and plays guitar, contributed eight compositions to the new 30-song album Never Hear the End of It, including I've Gotta Try, Something's Wrong and I Can't Sleep. The method of branch-assembling albums has helped to keep a group of transplanted Haligonians together for 15 years, Scott says. "Everybody gets to make their own album, within the confines of the band. It's not as if we write songs that are so radically different from one another." Surely Scott's musical tastes are more refined, yes? "Well, sometimes I'll stick Louis Armstrong on, and the Philistines start freaking out," Scott concedes. "As if it's Chattanooga Choo Choo or something." Sloan plays Oct. 24 at the Commodore Ballroom, 868 Granville St. Tickets are $23.50 at Ticketmaster, 604-280-4444; and Zulu, 604-738-3232.

Shannon Mercer's Credits Growing

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

(Oct. 21, 2006) There's an intensity about
Shannon Mercer on stage that is even more powerful in person. She radiates poise and determination well beyond her years during a pre-opera chat at the University of Toronto's Edward Johnson Building.  That self-possession and a strong, flexible lyric soprano voice are behind her quick progress as one of Canada's growing number of international-class young singers.  On the cusp of her 30th birthday, the Ottawa-born soprano is Despina in the Canadian Opera Company's current production of Mozart's Così fan tutte, which runs to Nov. 5.  Despina may not be at the centre of the six-person cast, but she gets a couple of difficult solo arias. Mercer sings them with agility and grace — and that ever-present firm edge.  She will release her second solo CD this spring and, Thursday afternoon, will receive a $10,000 Career Development Award cheque from the venerable Women's Musical Club of Toronto, CBC Radio Music and L'Espace musique de Radio-Canada, in recognition of her talents and progress.  Mercer only graduated from McGill University's Faculty of Music in 1999 and University of Toronto's Opera School the following year, yet she has already amassed a number of interesting credits that span 400 years of Western music — from baroque opera to Queen of Puddings Theatre's latest creation, The Midnight Court.  "Yes, it's quite a busy time," she smiles, "but I'm enjoying every minute."  Among her recent experiences, she particularly treasures a stint in Vienna. "There's something special about seeing a Mozart or Strauss opera in the Staatsoper," she says.

"They have been performed here over and over, the orchestra has played the scores hundreds of times, and the music is so much part of the overall culture."  Despite having loved Austria, Mercer is happy to be back home in Canada. "But I have this feeling that I'm going to be back there at some point in the future," she adds, smiling.  Asked if the $10,000 from the Women's Musical Club — a considerable sum of money for a classical artist — will make any difference in her future plans, Mercer replies that she intends to bank most of it.  "I did buy my first laptop, though, and I set up my own website."  Her current COC gig is a homecoming, as she was part of the company's young Ensemble Studio just a few seasons ago. "It's great to be working again with so many people I know," she says. Like most who have had a chance to visit it, Mercer loves the new opera house.  "But it is a bit scary in its own way, you know," she says. "You stand on the stage and you look up and the rings just keep going higher and higher."  We won't hear Mercer in Toronto too often in the coming months — she'll return in group concert for the Off Centre Music Salon in February and the Aldeburgh Connection in April.  Once Handel Messiah season is over in December (one in Montreal, one in Calgary), Mercer takes off to Montpelier, France, to sing in a reconstruction of Marin Marais's baroque opera Sémélé with Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel. She is also singing a lot in Montreal and surrounding regions.  "I love the city and the culture, and I've got so many connections there," she says. The soprano is a favourite of conductor Bernard Labadie, who heads Les Violons du Roy.  The list of prominent admirers keeps growing.

Timberlake Announces World Tour

Excerpt from

(Oct. 19, 2006) *Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy around the world via his FutureSex/LoveShow tour, which is scheduled to kick off on Jan. 8 in San Diego. Backed by a 14-piece band and dancers – all performing in the round – the singer will hit 34 cities in North America before wrapping March 29 in East Rutherford, NJ.  (See tour dates below). On-sale dates will be announced locally in each market and dates for the complete worldwide tour will be announced shortly. Meanwhile, the pop star unveiled new fashions from his William Rast clothing line during a runway show Tuesday night at nightspot Social Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.  Celebrity guests Wilmer Valderrama, Eve and Timberlake's girlfriend, Cameron Diaz were among the audience members taking in the spring 2007 collection dubbed "Street Sexy." Timberlake started William Rast less than a year ago with his childhood friend Trace Ayala. They named the brand after their grandfathers. Here are the confirmed tour dates for FutureSex/LoveShow:

Shakira Kicks Off MTV Latin Awards

Source: Olga R. Rodriguez, Associated Press

(Oct. 20, 2006) MEXICO CITY — Colombian diva
Shakira donned a flowing red and black dress for a mariachi trumpet-backed performance that got thousands of fans on their feet to open the MTV Video Music Awards Latin America 2006.  British pop star Robbie Williams, who won for best international pop artist Thursday night, wore decidedly less — he pulled down his pants and bared his buttocks while performing "Rudebox" during the live show. It was not clear if producers used their three-minute delay to delete William's mooning.  Shakira's brief appearance — notably devoid of hip-shaking — was followed by accordion-toting Julieta Venegas who joined up with Puerto Rican reggaeton sensation Daddy Yankee for a duet that closed the opening act with relatively tame fireworks.  Basking in the success of her latest album, Venegas, a Tijuana native, took home the best singer award. She also competed in five other categories, including best video, artist of the year and song of the year.  Venegas, who writes many of her songs, topped the nominations for this year's MTV Video Music Awards Latin America Thursday night in Mexico City, the first MTV Latin America awards show held outside the United States.  Venegas, whose album "Limon y Sal" — "Lemon and Salt" — also garnered her four Latin Grammy nominations, won the 2004 Latin Grammy for best vocal rock album, "Si."  "I'm thrilled, a little overwhelmed and happy about what is happening," Venegas recently told The Associated Press.

Also nominated for video of the year are Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 for "Atrevete Te Te," Argentine rocker Gustavo Cerati for ``Crimen," the Mexican rock band Mana for "Labios Compartidos" and Miranda!, a techno-pop band from Argentina, for "El Profe."  Previously held in Miami, the awards last year were planned for the swanky Caribbean resort of Playa del Carmen, but had to be cancelled when Hurricane Wilma ravaged the area.  A crowd of some 10,000 packed the Palacio de los Deportes for the awards show hosted by irreverent rap band Molotov and Mexican actress Ana de la Reguera, who starred in the movie "Nacho Libre" and walked on stage doing a striptease.  MTV organizers promised that Thursday's show, the fourth annual, would be a rocking concert headlined by Robbie Williams, Evanescence, Nelly Furtado and Shakira, who won on her single nomination for song of the year for "Hips Don't Lie."  The Mexican pop-rock band Mana was honoured with a legends award.  MTV said the winners were chosen by fans who cast more than 5 million votes on its Web site and via text message. The show was expected to reach about 215 million people around the world, organizers said.

Roll over, Beethoven. Moses Has Arrived

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(Oct. 21, 2006) One balmy Friday a few weeks ago, about 40 members of the Classical Club gathered in the tightly packed lobby of a small radio station on Toronto's Queen Street East. The group, aged early 20s to 75-plus, were assembled to hear a private performance from the acclaimed Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, in town for some sold-out performances that were part of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Beethoven Festival. You could hear a pin drop as the 36-year-old Andsnes — dubbed “best fingers” by Vanity Fair in 2005 — settled himself on the bench. As he began to gently stroke the keys of a Steinway, coaxing out a Bach-Busoni chorale prelude, many in the room sighed. Others shut their eyes. But one jaunty guy in a dark suit just beamed.

Moses Znaimer, who had just picked up the keys to the station Classical 96.3 FM (call numbers CFMX) and had organized this intimate recital, was lapping up the ambience. Everything. The music. The culture. The class.  “He sounds like he's making love to the keys,” purrs Znaimer, the media guru who founded CITY-TV three decades ago and later brought rock 'n' roll to television with MuchMusic. “See, he's barely touching the keys. It's almost erotic.” Anyone who's ever had contact with Znaimer — renowned for his pop-culture savvy and active libido — finds it fitting that he would see his latest business venture in a totally sensual way. “I want to tell you a dirty little secret,” the crafty 64-year-old whispers when Andsnes's performance ends, leaving the room in mute awe. “Under-30s like classical music. Look around. Not only old people listen to it. Many of the people here today are very young and, may I say, good-looking girls,” Znaimer adds sassily. For him, classical music has been a lifelong passion. So Classical 96.3 is not a job, but a calling. “It's been proven scientifically that people who love classical music live longer. They live better. They go on to more stable lives, and better paying careers.” Asked where that tidbit came from, Znaimer waves off the question with a flick of a slender wrist. “I can't recall. I read it somewhere.”

The statement is vintage Znaimer. Nobody knows how to milk a tale, and turn it into legend, better than he. This son of Jewish immigrants who was born in Tajikistan and emigrated to Montreal in 1948 is both a huckster and a dreamer — a hard-nosed businessman and a diehard romantic. And his journey forward with Classical 96.3, which cost him $12-million, means he's determined to work the same magic at this radio station that he did with CITY-TV many years ago, a network everybody thought would fail, but ended up being a television groundbreaker in so many ways. Znaimer plans to bring CITY-TV's Rambo-style marketing to shake up what has been a sleepy, genteel genre. Seated at the Steinway that Andsnes recently vacated, surrounded by people dressed conservatively in tweed and ties, Znaimer is light years removed from the funkiness of CITY-TV headquarters. Still, the transformation seems to suit Znaimer. “Listeners to this station are very well-educated, and a very well-heeled group of people,” he asserts. “They are the best-educated and highest-earning people in the Greater Toronto area. This audience is valued, and we want to hang onto them. But I want to bring in fresh blood. There are lots of young people listening to this station; we just want more of them.” Classical 96.3 FM's core audience is folk aged 50-plus, and it's Znaimer's goal to bring along the under-40 or even under-30 crowd. He's the only private classical-music-radio player in a Greater Toronto radio listening market of roughly 4.5-million. According to the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, 96.3 has a respectable market share of 5 per cent, among the highest of any North American commercial classical station. And the only other classical radio game in town is the CBC.

Znaimer's station draws between 350,000 and 450,000 listeners who stay tuned in for at least a quarter of an hour during the week. While that's small potatoes compared with the 900,000-plus weekly listeners at CFRB and CHUM, Liz Janik, president of Media Mix Inc., says Znaimer has a perfectly viable business model. “Jack FM would love to have those numbers,” says Janik. “Classical 96.3 has already proven there's an audience for it. People are listening, and the numbers indicate they tend to listen a long time. It's a format that performs well even with a smaller listening base because the numbers of hours that audiences spend with the station are long. That drives up their share of the tuning.” The big question, though, is whether Znaimer will be able to popularize classical music and bring it to the youthful masses. Time will tell, muses Janik. But she figures if anyone can, it's probably Znaimer. Over the years, Znaimer's been called many things: media visionary, television addict, brilliant impresario, crazy as a fox, mercurial, unpredictable, a lady's man and a marijuana advocate. The one thing he most assuredly is, however, is a master of invention. And this $12-million investment is testament again to a man who never dips a toe in — but jumps in with both his Lucchese boot-clad feet. Sitting on the stairwell in his second-floor lobby, Znaimer explains his marketing assault strategy, set to go into effect in the new year. First, he's going to hire “a classical core” of young people who will be divided into two so-called “brigades.” The first team will be made up of roughly a dozen attractive “reporters” of both sexes who will travel around the city reporting on the latest classical events. They'll travel in easily identifiable “zippy” cars (model still to be decided), he adds, painted with Classical 96.3's tag line: “Relax. Refresh. Recharge.” The second “brigade” will be made up of classical performers — soloists, duets, trios — who he plans to send into “at-risk” neighbourhoods — such as schools in the Jane and Finch area. His aim? To give young adults — who may never have heard of Mozart or Chopin — an alternative to hip hop.

One has to wonder how keen these guinea-pig musicians will feel about his scheme. “Hey, this is coming from the daddy of video rock 'n' roll,” says Znaimer, who early on in his career owned a Toronto recording studio called Thunder Sound that boasted a sauna in the basement where bands used to go to sweat and smoke dope. “So I think I'm the proper guy to say I think there's room in radio to try something else.” Janik, who points out that Classical 96.3's five-point market share in the GTA is ahead of younger-format stations such as The Edge and Z103.5, says the greatest challenge for Znaimer and his Rambo classical tactical squad will be “finding the sales force that's willing to be original and aggressive in identifying what the key benefits are for this kind of format in this city.” Znaimer is undaunted. “I'm doing this because I truly love the music. And I believe that some level of showmanship applied to this rather severe realm is going to yield some excitement. There's a delicious irony in a guy who brought Canada video rock 'n' roll taking this turn.” In a way, Znaimer's move into classical has returned him to his childhood roots. As a pre-teen growing up on Montreal's Rue St-Urbain, Znaimer's parents (dad, a shoe salesman, mom, a waitress) scraped and saved every penny to put him into piano lessons at McGill University's faculty of music. Alas, he discovered after a few years that he was no virtuoso. “I got to the age of girls, movies, reading books and shooting pool, and knew I wasn't Leif [Ove Andsnes] material.” He eventually graduated with a degree in philosophy and politics from McGill and earned a masters in government from Harvard (and by then, his parents had finally forgiven him for dropping out of the faculty of music). In the early 1970s, he teamed up with partners to launch CITY-TV, which he eventually sold to CHUM Ltd. He then became programming guru for an rapidly expanding media outlet before resigning in 2003. Then he went underground, presumably to nurse some wounds. But in the last year, the man's been everywhere — investing in Cannasat Therapeutics, a publicly traded company pioneering a new class of drugs from marijuana), producing a comedy called Rumours for the CBC — and now his mug can be seen on buses and billboards around the city in ads promoting Classical 96.3. A riff on earlier ads that showed a comely young lass in the bathtub saying, “I'm listening,” Znaimer's ad says, “Are you listening?” And it has superimposed his wicked elfin face onto the girl's suds-covered body.

Classical 96.3's office — a stone's throw from Toronto's Humane Society at Queen and River streets — is a placid, restful spot, distinctly at odds with the mayhem-in-motion that is such a part of the cult of CITY-TV. But don't for a second suggest to Znaimer that his new digs are stodgy or sedate. The advertising community infuriates him because it insists on viewing classical music as the realm of doddering old fools.  “Where does this idea come from [in the ad world] that when you hit age 50, you somehow die,” Znaimer asks. “I'm Moses Znaimer sitting in a rocking chair, chewing my gums, waiting for my pension cheque to buy my dog food? It's so bizarre and misplaced.” It makes him madder still that Classical 96.3's core listening audience contains the captains of industry running huge ad houses and laying down the rigid rules that only the young 18-to-35 demographic matters. “You have to wonder about industry leaders who deny their own experience. You have to be pretty alienated from yourself,” he fumes. “The reality is our core listeners are at the peak of their careers, living larger, living well, on second and third marriages, spending like crazy on travel, on things related to health and well-being, and on whimsy. “Our main challenge here at Classical 96.3 is to open [advertisers'] eyes to the truth. And get rid of the notion that classical music is for ancients.” He might have a point. Over at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 15 to 20 per cent of regular concert sales go to people under the age of 30 — a large jump from under 1 per cent only five years ago. Well-programmed, Media Mix's Janik believes classical radio has the “capacity of being very strong in the 25-to-65 age group, with the heart [of the audience] being 50 to 60. “The sound of the station fills a mood service of calm and relaxing, which is important to people today, with busy lifestyles and all,” she adds. Znaimer bought Classical 96.3 from Trumar Communications, owned by Martin and Truus Rosenthal. He got Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approval in the summer and now has an application before the federal regulator for a digital classical video channel.

He's hired veteran radio man George Grant (who worked at CITY-TV the first year it opened, has been in radio 42 years, including a stint as general manager of CHFI, and was part-owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) to be CEO of the radio division of MZ Media. Recently, there have been rumours that former Sony Music Canada president Denise Donlon — who launched MuchMusic for Znaimer and recently organized the star-studded birthday party at the Fairmont Royal York for former U.S. president Bill Clinton during the Toronto International Film Festival last month — is being courted to join the Classical 96.3 team. Znaimer wouldn't comment, but Donlon was front and centre at the Andsnes concert. And she stayed for the gourmet brie-and-black-angus-beef sandwiches. And while some staffers at the FM station may have, at first, been sceptical about Znaimer and his real motivation for buying 96.3 — his enthusiasm for the genre has now won them over. As Louise Thomas, the radio station's veteran office manager puts it: “Any change makes people nervous. But Moses's reputation precedes him as taking little, and making big.”

Natalie Cole Plays The Apollo Fri., Nov 10

Source: Nina Flowers, PR Coordinator, Apollo Theatre,

(Oct. 19, 2006) (New York, NY) - The Apollo Legends Series sponsored by JP Morgan Chase invites you to spend an evening with the ever versatile and ever elegant Natalie Cole in her first concert at the world famous Apollo Theater in over 20 years.  Over the course of her amazing 30-year career, Natalie Cole has done it all, altering musical styles with the greatest of ease, beginning with R&B and moving on to find success in the arenas of Pop, Jazz and Adult Contemporary music.  With her latest Verve Records release Leavin' signifying her return to her R&B roots, Ms. Cole will give the Apollo audience a special treat, performing songs from the highly anticipated album and showcasing her consummate artistry.  Don't miss Ms. Natalie Cole returning to R&B and to the Apollo Theater on  Friday, November 10th, 8pm. Tickets are $75 and are available through the Apollo Theater Box Office, 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, 212/531-5305 and Ticketmaster, (212) 307-7171,

With her distinctive vocals, musical fluidity and enduring connection to her fans, Natalie Cole's iconic status is undeniable and the release of her 20th studio album, Leavin' (released on September 26th), marks an impressive milestone for the star.  Leavin' is a recording that returns Ms. Cole to her musical roots in R&B and is led by a remake of the 1972 #1 Billboard R&B single and Aretha Franklin smash "Day Dreaming".  An eclectic mix of Pop, R&B and Rock tracks, Leavin' mixes Ms. Cole's stunning vocals with a list of classic songs from the likes of Fiona Apple, Aretha Franklin, Sting and others, as well as a new song, "5 Minutes Away," a writing collaboration between Ms. Cole, the album's co-producer Dallas Austin and keyboardist Chanz Parkman.  Ms. Cole's Apollo appearance is part of the Leavin' Tour, her first full contemporary club tour in nearly two decades. The hits, "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)," "I've Got Love On My Mind," and "Unforgettable," as well as "Day Dreaming", are sure to be highlighted during this performance for what is promised to be as an intimate, rocking evening with Natalie Cole.  Ms. Cole will be backed by a 7-piece band including Chris Johnson (drums), James Manning (bass), Agape Jerry (guitar), Chanz Parkman (keyboards), Gail Deadrick (keyboards and music director) and backing vocalists Traci Brown and Marcellina Hawthorne. 

Natalie Cole, daughter of legendary jazz great Nat King Cole, began her professional singing career at the age of eleven at Los Angeles' Greek Theater. Growing up around her father and his contemporaries, a young Natalie was exposed firsthand to the music of artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington and went on to forge her own path in the music world. Her first album, Inseparable, released in 1975, earned her two Grammys, including Best New Artist. She went on to have several major best-selling albums, among them Natalie, which went gold in 1976, Unpredictable and Thankful, both of which achieved platinum sales in 1977. However, it was her 1991 release of Unforgettable…With Love that rocked the music world, selling an amazing 14 million copies worldwide and earning seven Grammy awards. Performing songs first made famous by her father, she fulfilled a lifelong dream of recording a duet with him by incorporating his original recording of the title track in with her song. Unforgettable…With Love confirmed her royal lineage as one of the most elegant, gutsy interpreters of American popular song and soon her audience expanded to include jazz and traditional pop aficionados. Subsequently, she released the equally impressive Take a Look in 1993 followed by 1996's Stardust, which featured the Grammy-winning version of "When I Fall In Love", a duet with her father.  In 1999, Elektra Records released Snowfall on the Sahara, which showcased Ms. Cole on an array of pop songs, and The Magic of Christmas, a collection of holiday standards performed with the London Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Cole completed her tenure with Elektra in 2000 with the release of a Greatest Hits Volume, which was issued to coincide with the publication of the singer's autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder. The book made its appearance on several national best-seller lists and NBC adapted the book for a television film called The Natalie Cole Story directed by actor/director Robert Townsend. Ms. Cole (who was a co-producer on the film) won an NAACP Image Award for her appearance in the acclaimed biopic. Currently, Natalie Cole is signed with Verve Records and continues to record and perform.

About The Apollo Theatre

Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo Theater has played a major role in the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul and hip-hop.  Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Bill Cosby, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and countless others began their road to stardom on the Apollo's stage. Based on its cultural significance and architecture, the Apollo Theater received state and city landmark designation in 1983 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    The Apollo Theater Foundation was established as a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation in 1991 and is dedicated to the preservation and development of the Apollo Theater. The historic venue hosts major concerts and special events and continues its tradition of discovering future stars with its weekly instalment of Apollo Amateur Night every Wednesday night and with the syndicated television show, Showtime at the Apollo, which is taped at the theatre and airs weekly in over 150 markets nationwide. Harlem is Manhattan's third most popular tourist destination and the Apollo remains Harlem's top attraction, drawing 1.3 million visitors annually.  The world famous Apollo Theater, "where stars are born and legends are made" ™ is located in the heart of Harlem at 253 West 125 Street, between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd (7th Ave.) and Frederick Douglass Blvd (8th Ave.). For further information about the Apollo Theater, visit the website at

Pavlo  - Local Hero Has `Dream' Massey Gig

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(Oct. 21, 2006) The posters have been up for weeks in storefronts along the Danforth.  After eight years of building a fan base at craft shows, street festivals and, of late, small theatres, local hero
Pavlo is to play Massey Hall tonight.  "Just stepping onto the stage I might cry," he said recently over dinner at Mezes, one of his Danforth Ave. hangouts. "It's that sentimental to me. I grew up going to Massey Hall to see Paco Pena, Liona Boyd, Paco de Lucia — I must have seen 150 acts there."  Now 37, he grew up in the neighbourhood as Pavlo Simtikidis, the son of immigrants from northern Greece. He studied classical guitar but early on began combining Spanish flamenco, Greek bouzouki and various Mideast styles into his signature rapid-fire festive pop that he calls "Mediterranean."  He also studied the music business at Toronto's Harris Institute for the Arts — production, engineering, management, everything he needed to know to become an independent artist — and in 1998 set out to find his audience, beginning at the One of a Kind craft show.  He played for free and from his guitar case sold his self-produced CD of guitar songs, Pavlo. Then he started travelling with three accompanists to craft fairs across North America.  "In one week, I would sell 1,000 CDs," he said over calamari and octopus. "All the profit would go directly to me."  More self-produced CDs of his compositions followed — Fantasia, I Feel Love Again, Frostbite — and by 2004 he had sold 400,000 units without a major record label or commercial radio play.  "I'm a really under-the-radar type of artist and I kind of like that," he said. "Musically I'm in control. I'm never dictated to by anyone."

A lucky break brought even more independence.  While riding in his car one day, Pavlo heard a four-note lick from his song "Fantasia" looped 27 times into a radio tune. It turned out to be the hit single "Fiesta" by Chicago R&B star R. Kelly, which sold 5.5 million copies and was featured on Kelly's 4-million-selling album  A friend of R. Kelly's had bought Pavlo's CD at one his Florida appearances and passed it on.  Pavlo notified R. Kelly's people of the sample and received a 25 per cent song credit, which to date has earned the Toronto artist more than $1 million.  "With the R. Kelly (royalties) I'm able to go around the world without worrying about a breakeven point," Pavlo said. "I've just played 17 cities in Germany, which normally I would not have been able to do.  "In February, I'm going to England for the fourth time and this is the first time I'll be making money."  Confident of local fan support, Pavlo has also underwritten the Massey Hall concert and arranged to record it for his seventh CD, Live at Massey Hall.  Joining him onstage will be his three-member tour band, vocalist John Acosta, six other musicians, a salsa dancing couple and a belly dancer.  After dinner, he talked of a 6 a.m. start the next day to drive to Gaspé, Que., where they were to play for two hours and drive back again. "If it's a place I've never played before, I'll play it. I don't care where it is. My goal is to play every place (in Canada) at least once."

50 Ways To Change A Paul Simon Song

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

(Oct. 19, 2006)
Paul Simon turned 65 last Friday, but when a fan tried to acknowledge the milestone during last night's concert at the Hummingbird Centre, the newly graduated senior citizen wasn't having any of it.  "That birthday's long gone," Simon said with a dismissive shrug. One of the performer's longest remarks on the night, it was consistent with a program that steadfastly refused to belabour the past.  It wasn't so much that Simon and his seven accompanists eschewed the legendary singer's back catalogue in favour of selections from his current disc, Surprise, released earlier this year. It was more that the many favourites — both from his solo career and his earlier heyday with Art Garfunkel — were often made over to the point of reinvention.  Opening with "Gumboots" and "The Boy in the Bubble," the early set list telegraphed a heavy emphasis on Simon's 1986 landmark Graceland, an album burned into the memory banks of anyone even remotely acquainted with the singer's output. But the arrangements were sufficiently reworked that the initial flurry of applause sparked by recognition was often slow in coming, even in the case of the album's once ubiquitous title track.

Some songs were speeded up. Others were slowed down. Almost all were rhythmically refreshed.  This was as true of the songs from Surprise, which, given the contemporary status of the disc, might have been spared from reinterpretation. None of the new songs, including "Outrageous," "Father and Daughter" and "How Can You Live in the Northeast?," rigorously hewed to the recorded version.  "Wartime Prayers," another track from the new disc, was performed solo by Simon as part of a lengthy encore.  He seemed poised to offer the same stripped down reading of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," but before he was very far into the Simon and Garfunkel classic, the rest of the band had rejoined him on the stage, transforming the contemplative folk tune into a danceable party piece. "Cecilia," also of that 1970 vintage, received a similarly perky treatment, as did "Mrs. Robinson."  Tweaking arrangements is not entirely new for Simon, a musician who has always been drawn to the possibility of shifts in stylistic approach. But the renovation has seldom been as complete.  It is essential, of course, to have musicians who can pull it off. And Simon can always be counted on to have a crack ensemble in tow.  It also doesn't hurt to have an audience on hand that is willing to play along with having its expectations slightly subverted.

Tramiane Hawkins Ushers In Holy Spirit At Divas Simply Singing

Excerpt from - By Mona Austin /

(Oct. 16, 2006) A technical snafu harpooned
Tramaine Hawkins into an encore performance at the Sweet 16th Anniversary AIDS benefit show, Divas Simply Singing (DSS) on October 7.   When the CD track to “Changed,” perhaps her most recognized song, skipped an entire verse, with the esteem of a legend she sailed through the song as if nothing happened. This occurred after intermission and hers, mysteriously, was the only noticeable glitch in the long list of acts that evening.   With a sweet voice to match her chocolate coated complexion, her heart was fixed on allowing God’s light to shine through her ministry.  Hawkins said she is always mindful when singing at a secular event that there are people who may not know God, but confided that she had a funny feeling that “something” was going to happen just before she stepped onto the stage.  Although her number didn’t go as planned, Hawkins bowed graciously (like a true Godly Diva) and exited stage left.   Before the applause faded, out walked a vexed Queen Diva, Sheryl Lee Ralph to offer an explanation for what went wrong with her favourite gospel singer’s performance.  Apparently, she exclaimed, there were “gremlins” in the equipment and she commanded a second take.  (As a DSS rule, vocalists perform to piano only accompaniment, but Hawkins was the only performer who sang to a CD instrumental.) Ralph returned to the stage to give some history about the resilient vocalist and a mini concert ensued. After Hawkins humbly took the stage to sing “Changed” a second time she brought the house down!  She was crowned Diva of the evening with rousing praise from the packed house. That’s when she knew that the “something” she’d sensed would happen earlier was divinely guided. 

The lyrics of the song “Changed” speak of a person’s life being completely changed through a relationship with God. The energy in historic Wilshire Ebell changed with the echoing of the Gospel Diva’s incomparable singing.  The audience embraced it, many of whom knew people who had died from AIDS.  Diva #1dauntily advised the gay patrons, “If they don’t accept you at your church—find another church!”  Dawning a dashingly beautiful evening gown, Ralph even stepped out of character and began waving her hand and stomping her feet in praise with a passionate look on her face.   The crescendo of the Holy Spirit rose as the audience joined the hostess in singing Hawkins’ 1969 rendition of “Oh, Happy Day.” Hawkins was beckoned to the stage once more.  Jamaecia Bennett and daughter, American Idol Paris Bennett (daughter and grand-daughter of gospel artist Ann Nesby, respectively). In addition to the star-studded list of participants, celebrities such as Ananda Lewis, Lee Bailey, and Rolanda attended as did a number of local and national media representatives.   The show was at the height of excellence, barring Jennifer Lewis’ satirizing “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” in which she cursed like a sailor’s sister.  Other stand out performers included Karen Clark Sheard, Jennifer Hudson, Shanice and the “mock” Dreamgirls reunion. Dreamgirls is 25 this year and Jennifer Holiday was unable to attend as hoped. Lewis was the stand-in. 

The program ended with American Idol Frenchie Davis convincingly belting the Jennifer Holiday classic “You’re Gonna Love Me.”  Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without the cake.  Final curtain lowered to a stage packed with all the Divas (and Divos) with an ornate pink and white, multi-tiered 16th Birthday cake designed by Delights by Lionel front and center.  At the after party, where Loretta Devine, Jamaecia and Paris were spotted jamming hard on the dance floor, Ralph announced that after 16 years, DSS will be televised next year. Sadly, the fight for a cure for HIV/AIDS continues.

Newton-John Radiates 'Grace' On 30th Album

Excerpt from - Chuck Taylor

(October 20, 2006) Since her first U.S. hit in 1971,
Olivia Newton-John has maintained her standing as a beloved artist across a demographic swath that is practically unparalleled. A staple at country, pop, AC and dance, she has logged more than 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Her new "Grace & Gratitude," available exclusively at Walgreens, is her way of trying to return the favour with a collection of comforting, healing songs.

"Grace & Gratitude" is beautiful, serene, accepting. Please explain the concept, why the time was right and what you hope listeners will gain from it.

I really made this for myself as a journey of healing, and I feel that in doing so maybe I can help other people who have gone through something difficult, as well. [Producer and co-writer] Amy Sky and I did a couple of tracks on a previous album, including a beautiful song called "Serenity" that she had written, and I thought, I really want to do an album of these kinds of songs. I didn't know what or when, but it was in my psyche. And then I had a difficult year, so we got together and both had ideas.  The body is broken up in chakras -- in seven layers -- and there are the Christian seven sacraments as well as the seven trees of the Kabala. There's a wonderful woman named Caroline Myss who wrote a book called "Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing," where she combines those three ideas. Amy had read the book about the merging of these three belief systems and how we really are one-and how our emotions are caught in our bodies.

We've combined Tibetan chanting and Japanese Buddhism and some Islam, some Hebrew. The last song the poem is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. The first song, "Pearls on a Chain," represents us as pearls and every pearl is a little bit different-in our imperfections or our perfections, whichever way you want to look at it -- but we're all joined. And I believe that everybody wants to know god, but there are a billion ways to know god, and everyone on the planet probably looks at it from a different view, but we're all looking for the same thing, I believe. If only we could have more compassion and understanding between us-and perhaps music could be a link for that.  It was kind of a wonderful, wild notion to write an album based on the different levels of healing and belief systems. Amy came to my house and I have this beautiful white room that has a lot of light coming through it. In five days we wrote seven songs. If you asked me where they came from now, we can't even imagine how we did it, but it just flowed through us. Then we decided to make the album seamless, with no breaks between the tracks so that you can listen to it as one piece. So if you're in meditation or having a massage, you're not jolted between tracks.  The title came from the idea that no matter what you've gone through, if you have gratitude for something, it creates a feeling of well-being. It always makes you feel good to thank whatever it is that you want to thank: the universe, the planet, the god you believe in. It's true -- no matter what I've gone through, I still have incredible gratitude.

The disc is an exclusive with Walgreens, where you also have a new line of women's wellness products. How did the alliance come about?

I met with Walgreens, because they were interested in my Olivia Breast Health Kit and Olivia Breast Health Dietary Supplement and I had the idea that we should put them together with the CD -- that music is part of the healing and the wellness. I went to the Walgreens offices at 9 in the morning with my computer, under fluorescent lights and sang with a track to the head of the company. And he went, "Yes, I like this." He got together the head of the music department and the women's health department and said, "I don't know how you're going to make this happen, but do." He got what I was trying to do. It's amazing.  The breast health exam kit is designed to help women find lumps more easily. It's like a magnifying glass for your fingers, so if you have any changes whatsoever it will show the lumps much more easily. We're giving 10% of the profits to the Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization and the City of Hope, which is another reason Walgreens is partnering with me, because they're also giving money.

Your output has been generous in recent years, with three albums over the past three alone. Your fans thank you for that.

I love to sing and I think I appreciate more now that I've been given this gift. I don't know how many more years I'll be able to do it or want to do it, so I want to while I can. But thank you.

So you've been entertaining for more than 35 years. What keeps it rewarding and what do you most enjoy now?

I love the writing and the creative part of the process. It's such a rush when you're writing a song, and I get to use my brain! I also really enjoy the recording process. And now I like the touring. I guess I've discovered that I like it all. I've learned to let go of a lot of the fear. When I was younger I used to be afraid of forgetting the words; I always had to be perfect. Now I know there's no such thing. It's okay to make a mistake; people actually forgive you for it. So I enjoy going out onstage and singing songs that I love, and there being no expectations. I don't need to create a hit record. I've done it long enough, so I'm very fortunate to have a core group of fans that keep coming back. I can't believe that they're still coming. A few times I've thought of retiring and I think, okay, what would I do that I like better? I couldn't think of anything. What an amazing position to be in.

I have a great band. I love the whole bus thing and I take my dog Jack, a big Irish setter, with me. And my daughter Chloe is coming with me. She's 20 and has a new CD coming out, which is fantastic. She'll do a couple of her songs, maybe do some backups for me; it will be a lot of fun.

How much are you on the road? And are you touring internationally?

I'm out every year. We're on the road now in October through part of December. I was in Japan this year. I did Australia a couple of years ago, and they keep asking me to go to Europe, but I haven't done it in a long time. I'm going to China next year for the first time. I've been to Hong Kong and Singapore. I haven't done a huge tour in a long time; I prefer to break it up into fun, smaller trips.

There are some artists that the world holds dear. Everyone has a favourite Elton John or Beach Boys song, and a favourite Olivia song. What's yours?

Oh, there are many that bring back a memory or a feeling. I never tire of performing "I Honestly Love You," because every night I find something new in that song; it's such an amazing lyric and melody. John Farrar wrote so many great songs that are all spiritual and haunting in their own way. His melodies are beautiful and they go to unexpected places and they're so timeless. There are some more obscure songs of his like "Suspended in Time" and "Falling" that are incredible. And "Suddenly." He was very deep, Mr. Farrar. Stevie Kipner also wrote me great songs.

So here's an impossible question. Looking over all of it -- the hits, the tours, the movies, the enduring fame -- do you have a prized memory that stands above all others?

There are so many, of course. Singing with Cliff Richard on television in the early days, the Sydney Olympics where I sang with John Farnham. But overall, "Grease" was the most fun in every area. It was a blast to make, the music is great, and people still seem to love those songs. The whole "Grease" experience was magical, it really was. That was a gift.


Sting 'Bored' By Rock Music

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Reuters News Agency

(Oct. 19, 2006) BERLIN — British rock star
Sting said contemporary rock music is so stagnant that he prefers to sing 16th century English ballads.  The former teacher who shot to fame as lead singer, bassist and composer in the 1970s and 80s for The Police told German newspaper Die Zeit that he prefers singing songs of Elizabethan lutenist and composer John Dowland to the rock music of today.  "Rock music has come to a standstill, it's not going forward anymore, it only bores me," Die Zeit quoted Sting as saying.  The 55-year-old singer, whose birth name is Gordon Sumner, had a string of hits with The Police with songs like "Roxanne" and "Don't Stand So Close To Me". He has since also had a lucrative solo career with songs like "Englishman in New York".  "Forty years ago it was my dream to break out of Newcastle and never be poor again," he told the magazine.  "I'm very privileged. I'm a successful musician, live in a beautiful house, and have a wonderful family."

Fifth Element Records Signs Richie Spice Multi-Album Deal With VP Records

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Oct. 19, 2006) *VP Records and Fifth Element Records have signed a multi-album recording agreement for reggae sensation Richie Spice. In early 2007, VP Records will release Richie Spice’s new album entitled ‘In The Streets To Africa’ which features a selection of new powerful anthems along with recent chart-toppers such as “Youths Dem So Cold” and “Brown Skin.”  Born Richell Bonner, the Kingston native was exposed to music at a young age from his brother Pliers, of the reggae duo Chaka Demus and Pliers (best known for their hit song “Murder She Wrote”). His breakthrough hit, “Earth A Run Red,” put the young singer on the reggae map in 2004, and he further solidified his presence internationally that same year with the smash album, ‘Spice In Your Life.’ Earlier this summer, VP Records reissued ‘Spice In Your Life.  
Devon Wheatley, CEO of Fifth Element Records, is eager to consolidate their efforts with VP Records. “With VP Records, we feel we have the support needed to move Richie Spice to the next level. Now is the perfect time to make conscious reggae music stronger with Richie Spice at the forefront of this movement.” Neil Edwards, A&R Director of VP Records, adds to this excitement. “We are very blessed to team up with Fifth Element and flourish a great talent like Richie Spice, one of the most dominant voices in reggae today. He has a very laid-back approach and style reminiscent of Gregory Isaacs.” VP and Fifth Element will work closely together to cultivate Richie Spice’s talent and ensure that he receives the mainstream recognition he deserves.

Ludacris Snatches Hot 100 From Timberlake

Excerpt from

(October 20, 2006) *Justin Timberlake totes his “SexyBack” down to No. 2 this week on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart thanks to
Ludacris, whose latest single “Money Maker” featuring Pharrell takes over the No. 1 spot.  "Money Maker" is also the Hot 100's greatest airplay gainer and rises 2-1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, ending the two-week run of Chris Brown's "Say Goodbye." Meanwhile, Timberlake’s new single "My Love" featuring T.I. just entered the Hot 100 top ten this week moving 13-8.  Elsewhere in the top ten, Akon’s “Smack That” featuring Eminem is No. 4, and JoJo’s Too Little Too Late" ascends 8-7, Jibbs' "Chain Hang Low" drops 7-9.

New Tupac Album Due Next Month

Excerpt from

(October 20, 2006) *Previously unheard material from the late
Tupac Shakur will fill a new album co-executive produced by his mother Afeni Shakur and released Nov. 21 via Amaru/Interscope Records.  Titled “Pac’s Life,” the CD features contributions from Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Keyshia Cole, T.I., Ashanti, Young Buck, Lil Scrappy, Carl Thomas, Outlawz, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Big Syke and Papoose. Producers include LT Hutton, Sha Money XL, Swizz Beatz and more.  "I say it every time, that Tupac left us the blueprints to follow, and without the amazing contributions made by everyone of these artists, producers, musicians, everyone, I do not know how I would get this great task accomplished," says Afeni Shakur, his mother, the album's executive producer (along with Tom Whalley) and founder of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, "I believe whole-heartedly that Tupac sends the people he wants to these projects," she continues.  “Pac’s Life” is the latest in Afeni Shakur’s effort to release Tupac’s complete body of work left behind in the wake of his death in 1996 at the age of 25.

Fans Order k-os

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Oct. 22, 2006) If
k-os hasn't already chilled out after his tirade over a so-so CD review in one of the city's weeklies, debuting atop the Toronto chart should sunny things up for the popular, Juno-winning rapper. A couple of years back, Joyful Rebellion provided the eclectic hip-hop artist with a breakthrough, courtesy of the ubiquitous single "Crabbuckit." Atlantis: Hymns for Disco picks up where its predecessor left off, unseating the Killers' sophomore outing after a one-week stay at the top. Elsewhere, Rod Stewart continues to mine commercial gold by lending his voice to songs you've already heard a million times, this time eschewing the classic American songbook for more contemporary material — if, that is, Nazareth's done-to-death "Love Hurts" counts as contemporary.

Janet Jackson Back To Dancing

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Oct. 23, 2006) TOKYO —
Janet Jackson said she is returning to her roots with her latest release, focusing on dance music 20 years after her breakthrough "Control" album.  Jackson, on her first promotional tour in Japan in two years, said, "I miss dancing, so I wanted it to be a dance album." She appeared at a packed news conference in a bright red kimono.  Jackson's album went on sale in Japan on Oct. 20. Its "Call on Me," with hip hop star Nelly, became Jackson's 30th single to hit the Billboard top 10.  The album, "20 Y.O.," comes 20 years after her release of Control made her an international star.  She said bringing in producer Jermaine Dupri made its mark on the sound.  "He added a rawness," she said. "He brought a freshness to the project."  Jackson said she is preparing a tour, with rehearsals to begin at the end of the year. She said she will likely be on the road from March or April.  Japan, she said, is on her list of stops.  "I always enjoy myself in Japan, even though the majority of my time is work-related," she said. "I will definitely be back."

Jermaine Dupri Quits Virgin Over Janet Album?

Excerpt from

(October 23, 2006) *Fox411 columnist Roger Friedman is reporting that
Jermaine Dupri has left his post as head of urban music at Virgin Records following the release of his girlfriend Janet Jackson’s latest album. Friedman writes: “According to my sources, Dupri quit—i.e. was forced out—after disappointing sales of Jackson's comeback album, ‘20 Y.O.’” “Three weeks into its release, the album is a dud with less than 500,000 copies sold,” Freidman continues. “I told you in this space last week, before anyone else, that the CD had dropped an astonishing 77 percent in sales in its second week.” Friedman reminds folks that Dupri has the Midas Touch as far as music production, as he and “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson were behind Mariah Carey’s successful comeback album, “The Emancipation of Mimi.”  As previously reported, there was even talk of having Carey join Janet for a duet that would be available on a planned re-release of “20 Y.O.” “But with Dupri gone, '20 Y.O.' will probably just get written off as a mistake now,” writes Friedman. “This will leave Jason Flom, head of Virgin, to rebuild the urban department at the label—something I'm told he's been itching to do since he took over last year.” As of EUR's press time, Dupri's camp had not responded to our request for a comment on the matter.

Brand New Heavies Have Brand New Tour

Excerpt from

(October 23, 2006) *Best known for their mid-90s hits “Dream Come True” and “Never Stop,” the British R&B band
Brand New Heavies are back and currently working the United States on a 20-city tour to promote their new album, “Get Used To It.” The disc was recorded with original vocalist N’Dea Davenport following her reunion with the group earlier this year.  The set’s first single, a cover of the 1971 Stevie Wonder classic, "I Don't Know Why (I Love You)," recently debuted on the Billboard Dance Singles Chart at #46 and has been re-mixed by some of dance music's hottest DJs including Kenny Dope, DJ Spinna and 4 Hero.

Evelyn 'Champagne' King Readies New CD

Source: Phyllis Pollack, Def Press Public Relations,

(October 23, 2006) (Los Angeles, CA) -- Dance, disco and R&B diva
Evelyn "Champagne" King, known for her string of dance driven, energy charged hits including "Shame" and "Love Come Down," has just inked a deal with RNB Entertainment Group to release her first new material in over a decade.  "I've been consistently doing material live at shows non-stop, so this album is way overdue," says King. "It's time for me to get back in the studio. I know what my fans want from me."  Tom Cartwright, President of RNB Entertainment Group, adds, "We are thrilled to have an artist of Evelyn's stature choose to work with us, and I can't wait to see what magic is being brewed in the studio."    King's repertoire has been heard in films and documentaries, and it has been sampled by a myriad of artists ranging from Ice Cube to Lil Kim. Her new album will be produced by hit-maker Preston Glass, who has produced albums by artists including Stanley Jordan, as well as Kenny G's five-times platinum smash album "Duotones." Among his extensive credits, Glass has penned thirty Top Ten R&B hits and five Top Ten Pop hits including "Who's Zoomin Who" for Aretha Franklin, and he has served as a co-writer for Whitney Houston, George Benson, Cindi Lauper, Diana Ross, and other artists. King started her career as a young teenager, after being discovered one night while singing to herself, as she was cleaning with her mom at the legendary hit factory Sigma Sound Studios, the musical production base of Gamble and Huff and Philadelphia International Records by producer T. Life.  Warren Foster, CEO Of RNB entertainment group says of the singer, "Evelyn is current, consistent and still dynamite. With the current turn of R&B, Evelyn is right on time."  Evelyn is still rockin' the mic these days. Check her out the clip below where she is literally "gettin' down" in a live performance of the classic "Love Come Down."

It's A Happy 5th Birthday For iPod

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jen Gerson

(Oct. 24, 2006) Three
iPods later, I call it the brick.  But when I bought the blue Mini three years ago, I was addicted. Though it took a chunk out of my rent money, slithering through my pirated music on its glassy scroll-wheel caused shivers of techie delight.  It was love.  The iPod turned five years old yesterday. While my affair with the Mini dwindled, I eventually traded up for sleeker specimens (iPod #2 was stolen. I'm not wanton.) Yet Apple's MP3 player has never strayed far from my heart — or, since the aforementioned thievery, my sight.  But I am not its only mistress. The player has its buds in the ears of 60 million other people.  A recent poll conducted by Student Monitor found that college students think the iPod is cooler than beer. That statistic makes part of me want to weep for my generation. It makes the other part go, Ohh, pretty, shiny, bright colours that sing!  Others who have been seduced include Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush and the Pope. (Think the papal iPod is white, to match the robes? Is it holy? Can it revive U2?)  But after five years and total market saturation, how long can Apple continue to ride the wave of its fans' open hearts and pocketbooks into profitdom? Some tech-bloggers are grumbling that the player's ubiquity has caused it to lose its edge.  Microsoft is about to release its hopeful iPod-killer, the Zune, replete with slightly improved features at the same price. And, last week Apple announced that 1 per cent of iPod videos were released with a virus for Windows — finally Apple is taking notes from Microsoft's Rules of Engagement.  Will the iPod's place as the iconic, electronic status symbol of our era be challenged?  Probably not, but the coming face-off should be fun to watch.

Quincy Jones To Work The 2008 Olympics

Excerpt from

(October 24, 2006)  *Multi-Grammy winning producer Quincy Jones has been named as a Culture and Art consultant to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, it was announced by Vice Mayor of Beijing and Beijing Olympic Committee Executive Vice President Liu Jingmin.  Jones will join previously announced culture and art consultants Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee in advising the Beijing Olympic Committee on the creation of the opening and closing ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad which will take place Aug. 8 – 24, 2008.     In addition to serving as an advisor on the opening and closing ceremonies, Jones will also compose an original song for the Games.  No stranger to producing global extravaganzas, Jones executive produced the An American Reunion concert at Lincoln Memorial, an all-star concert and celebration that was the first official event of the presidential inaugural celebration of Bill Clinton, as well as the most watched awards show in the world, the 68th Annual Academy Awards.   Jones also executive produced America’s Millennium: A Celebration for the Nation, the United State’s official millennium celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

New Orleans Returns To Its Essence

Excerpt from

(October 25, 2006) *The Essence Music Festival will return to New Orleans next year for the first time since Hurricane Katrina knocked it into Houston.  In a deal struck Monday with magazine publisher Essence Communications Inc., which owns the festival, the Crescent City will host the annual Fourth of July weekend event for the next three years.  "New Orleans is just the obvious choice. It is just the perfect city with phenomenal venues," said Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, according to AP. "It's also important for the festival to participate in the rebirth of this city."  Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said he’s been leading the negotiations to keep the Festival in New Orleans since a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.    The event, featuring musical concerts and empowerment seminars, started in New Orleans in 1995 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine.  "The point is that Michelle and Essence really never left us. They just needed us to be ready for them," Landrieu told AP.  The festival will run next year from July 5 through 7. Tickets are expected to go on sale Nov. 3. Prices, sponsorship and the talent line-up will be announced soon.



October 23, 2006

"The Don Bishop" Agallah, You Already Know, Nocturne
50 Cent, 50 Cent Is the Future, BCD Music Group
5th Ward Boyz, Recognize Tha Mob [Chopped & Screwed] [2002], Asylum/Rap-A-Lo
Aaron Neville, Bring It on Home... The Soul Classics [Bonus Tracks], Sony
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black, Universal/Island
Amy Winehouse, Rehab, Universal/Island
Avant, Lie About Us, Universal/Island
Bass 305, The Final Frontier, DM
Belief, Dedication, Nature Sounds
Beyoncé, Irreplaceable, Pt. 1, BMG/RCA
Beyoncé, Irreplaceable, Pt. 2, BMG/RCA
Big Truth, The Absolutte Truth, Republic
Big Tuck, Tha Absolute Truth, Universal Republic
Biz Markie, Make The Music With Your Mouth Biz, Traffic Ent.
Bob Marley, Definitive Gold, Deja Vu
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Just Vibe, Interscope
Boney M., The Magic of Boney M. [Hansa], MCI
Cassie, Long Way 2 Go, Pt. 1, WEA/Bad Boy
Celph Titled, The Gatalog: A Collection of Chaos,
Chamillionaire, The East Coast Shake Down, Pt. 2, Best of the Block
Cherish, Do It to It, Pt. 1, EMI/Capitol
Crooked Stilo, West Side Greatest Hip-Hop, Fonovisa
Cupid, The King of Down South R&B,
Dave Hollister, Book of David, Vol. 1: The Transition [Bonus Track], BMG/Zomba
De La Soul, Impossible Mission: TV Series Pt. 1,
Dennis Brown, Wolf & Leopards [EMI], VP / Universal
Diana Ross, I Love You [Bonus Track], Toshiba EMI
DJ Green Lantern, You'll See,
Flavor Flav, Flavor Flav, Draytown
Frank-n-Dank, Nice 2 Meet U/MCA,
Frank-n-Dank, Xtended Play 3.13,
Future Pigeon, The Echodelic Sounds of Future Pigeon, Record Collection
Gnarls Barkley, Gone Daddy Gone, WEA
Gnarls Barkley, Who Cares, WEA
Gregory Isaacs, Love Songs [Box Set], Charm
Hard 2 Obtain, Ism and Blues, Traffic Ent.
Hector & Tito, A La Reconquista, Machete Music
I Kong, The Way It Is, VP / Universal
Irv Alexander, Swurve, Thump
J Rock, Streetwize 15th Anniversary Edition,
Jay-Z, Greatest Hits, Sony / BMG Import
Jibbs, Jibbs Featuring Jibbs, Geffen
John Legend, Once Again, G.O.O.D./Sony Urban Music/Columbia
Kelly Price
, This Is Who I Am, Gospo
Kenny Latimore, Uncovered/Covered, La Face
Lil Boosie, Bad Azz, Trill Ent/Asylum
Lil Sic, The West Is Back, Thump
Lionel Richie, I Call It Love, Island
Lord Finesse, The Awakening, Traffic Ent.
Luciano, Child of a King, VP / Universal
Marcia Griffiths, Play Me Sweet & Nice, Trojan
Marva Wright, Do Right Woman, Shout
Matisyahu, Youth [Japan Bonus Tracks], Sony
Menace Clan, Da Hood [Chopped & Screwed], Asylum/Rap-A-Lo
Millie Jackson, Soul Circuit Retrospectives, DM
Moka Only, Station Agent, Camobear
Monica, Dozen Roses, J
Monica, Makings of Me [Bonus Track], J/BMG
P.K.O., Live in Japan, 3D
Paula DeAnda, Doing Too Much/Walk Away, J-Records
Paula DeAnda, Paula DeAnda [Bonus Track], BMG/Arista
Pharrell Williams, That Girl, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Pitch Black, Revenge,
Project Pat, Crook by Da Book: The Fed Story, Sony
Ray Charles, Definitive Gold, Deja Vu
Remy Ma, From the Grind to the Glamour,
Rihanna, We Ride, Universal/Def Jam
Rosie Gaines, Welcome to My World, Susu
Ruben Studdard, Return [Japan Bonus Track], BMG/RCA
Saigon, Pain in My Life, Atlantic / Wea
Shareefa, Point of No Return, Disturbing tha Peace/Def Jam
Sisters Love, Give Me Your Love, Soul Jazz
Slave, Funk Essentials, DM
Smokey Robinson, 50th Anniversary Collection, Universal/Umtv
Solange, Solo Star,
Tapper Zukie, Escape from Hell, Trojan
The Big Family, Evolution, Sony International
The Brand New Heavies, I Don't Know Why (I Love You), Delicious Vinyl
The Game, It's Okay [Single], Universal/Polydor
The Temptations, To Be Continued..., Umvd Special Markets
Too Much Trouble, Bringing Hell on Earth [Chopped & Screwed], Asylum/Rap-A-Lo
Tribol Clan, Los Bacatranes [2004], Machete Music
Trick Daddy, Bet That, Atlantic / Wea
Various Artists, Haunted House: The Skinhead Reggae Box Set, Trojan
Various Artists, Hector "El Bambino" Presenta: Los Anormales, Machete Music
Various Artists, Las 9 Plagas, Vol. 1, Machete Music
Various Artists, Las 9 Plagas, Vol. 2: La Epidemia, Machete Music
Various Artists, Old Skool Hip Hop Klassiks, Vol. 1, St. Clair
Various Artists, Six the Hard Way, Heartbeat
Various Artists, Soul Men: Their Greatest Hits, Fuel 2000
Various Artists, Tributo a Bob Marley [Bonus Track], DeLanuca
Various Artists, Trojan Selecta, Vol. 4: Boss Sounds Festival Special, Trojan
Various Artists, Welcome to 6 Blocks 96 Buildings,
Yabby You, Deliver Me from My Enemies, Blood and Fire

October 30, 2006

2Pac, The Complete Live Performances, Eagle Vision USA
50 Cent, No Mercy No Fear, BCD Music Group
A.M., Troubled Times, DeFend
AG, Get Dirty Radio, Look Records
Avant, Lie About Us, Universal/Island
B.G., The Best of tha Heart of tha Streetz, Vols. 1 & 2, Koch
B.G., The Heart of tha Streetz, Vol. 2, Koch
Baby S, Street Swangin,
Bad Seed, Dirty Urine, Draft
Balance, Balance Yo' Chips, Sumo
Beanie Sigel, Still Public Enemy #1,
Big D, Salem Girls, Springman
Big Snake, Snake Eyes, Nexxlevel
Big Youth, Musicology, Nocturne
Birdman, Like Father, Like Son [Bonus CD], Cash Money
Blackbeard, I Wah Dub, Astralwerks
Blackbeard, Strictly Dub Wise, Astralwerks
Bob Marley, Definitive Gold, Deja Vu
Bob Marley, Reggae Master, Immergent
Bodaiga, The Warehouse,
Boney M., The Magic of Boney M. [Hansa], MCI
Bootsy Collins, Christmas Is 4 Ever, Shout
Bun B, Texas Legends, Oarfin
C-BO, 100 Racks in My Backpack [Bonus DVD], Sumo
Cee-Lo, The Closet Freak: The Best of Cee-Lo Green, The Soul Machine, Arista
Celly Cel, Brings the Gumbo Pot, Independent Music Network
Channel Live, Secret Science Rap, Draft
Cherish, Do It to It, Pt. 1, EMI/Capitol
Ciara, Promise, La Face
C-Rayz Walz, 1975: Return of the Beast, Draft
Crew GRRL Order, B GRRL Stance, SLAMjamz
Criminal Element, Career Criminal, Season of Mist
Dave Hollister, Book of David, Vol. 1: The Transition [Bonus Track], BMG/Zomba
Dayton Family, Return to Dayton Ave,
Decompoze, Decomposition, LA Underground
Desmond Dekker, In Memoriam: 1941-2006, Secret
Desmond Dekker, Mastercuts, Mastercuts / Artist
Diddy, Press Play, Bad Boy
Don Dinero, El Ultimo Guerrero, Universal Latino
Eminem, Eminem Presents the Re-Up, Shady
Explicit, Devil's Prayer, BCD Music Group
Fat Joe, Make It Rain, Virgin
Fiend, Can I Burn, Fiend Entertainment
Flavor Flav, Flavor Flav, Draytown
Four Corner Hustluz, 4 Corner Hustluz, Thug City
Frost, The Best Of Frost: The Remix Album, Aries Music
Gemini, Gemini Rising,
Ghetto Mafia, Draw the Line [Remastered Classic Street Hits],
Ghetto Mafia, Full Blooded Niggaz [Remastered Classic Street Hits],
Gina Darby, One More Day, Showgun Ent
Gladys Knight, Everybody Needs Love/Bluely, Universal/Motown
Gladys Knight, If I Were Your Woman/Standing Ovation, Universal
Gladys Knight, Knight Time/A Little Knight Music, Universal
Gladys Knight, Silk & Soul/Nitty Gritty, Universal/Motown
Gnarls Barkley, Who Cares, WEA
Greedy Loco, Golden State, Aries Music
Heet Mob, They from Where, Slam Jamz
Hyphy Mode, Go Dumb Get Stupid, 40 West
Ice Cube, Laugh Now, Cry Later, Lench Mob
Incredible Bongo Band, Bongo Rock [Bonus Tracks], Mr. Bongo
Incredible Bongo Band, Bongo Rock [Compilation], Mr. Bongo
J. Holiday, Be with Me/Back of My Lac, Capitol
Jackie Mittoo, Wishbone, Light in the Attic
Janet Jackson, 20 Y.O. [Japan Bonus Track/DVD], Emi Japan
Janet Jackson, 20 Years Old [Bonus Tracks], Emi Japan
Jhevon Paris, Dirty Laundry, SPG
Jim Jones, Bright Lights, Big City, Koch
Joker, Southside Gangster, Aries Music
Juggaknots, Use Your Confusion, Amalgam Entertainment
Kenny Lattimore, Uncovered/Covered, La Face
Kevin Federline, Playing With Fire, Reincarnate
K-The-I, Broken Love Letter, Mush
LeToya, She Don't [Single], Capitol
Lil' O, South Sid Tippin, Oarfin
Lil-Tec Corleon of Da U.S.C., Hitz from Da Sticks, Vol. 2, BCD Music Group
Luciano, Wisdom, Knowledge & Overstanding, Island Entertainment
Lupe Fiasco, Daydreamin', Pt. 1, Atlantic / Wea
Lyrics Born, Overnite Encore: Lyrics Born Live!, Quannum Projects
Magno, All Flows 10 Mixtape, Oarfin
Marva Wright, Do Right Woman, Shout
Michelle & Christina, Toxic, Promise Communication
Mickey Avalon, Mickey Avalon, Myspace
Millie Jackson, It Hurts So Good, Southbound
Mobb Deep, Life of the Infamous: The Best of Mobb Deep, Sony
Mobb Deep, Life of the Infamous: The Videos, Sony
Monica, Makings of Me [Bonus Track], J/BMG
Mr. Shadow, The Mistahs: Neighborhood Tales, Aries Music
Naledge/Double O Are Kidz in the Hall, School Was My Hustle, Red Urban
Nicolay, I Love the Way You Love, BBE
NYR, NYR, Virtuoso
Omarion, Invitation Only, Music Video Distributors
One Chance, Private, J Records
P.K.O., Live in Japan, 3D
Pastor Troy, Atlanta 2 Memphis, Money & Power Rec.
Paul Wall, Before the Storm, Koch
Paul Wall, Get Ya Mind Correct: The Remix Album [Chopped & Screwed], KR Urban
Paul Wall, Get Ya Mind Correct: The Remix Album, Koch
Paula DeAnda, Paula DeAnda [Bonus Track], BMG/Arista
Pharrell Williams, That Girl, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Pitbull, Ay Chico (Lengua Afuera), TVT
Pitbull, El Mariel, TVT
Public Enemy, Beats and Places, Slam Jamz
Qwel, Freezerburner, Galapagos
Rapid Ric/Trae, All Flows from Da Garage, BCD Music Group
Raven Symoné, From Then Until,
Ray Charles, Definitive Gold, Deja Vu
Rena Scott, A Love Thang, Amor
Roblo, Street Epidemic, Sumo
Ron Artest, My World, Lightyear
Rosie Gaines, Welcome to My World, Susu
Ruben Studdard, Return [Japan Bonus Track], BMG/RCA
Sister Carol, 1Derful Words, Black Cinderella
Smokey Robinson, 50th Anniversary Collection, Universal/Umtv
Squeak Ru, Fatworld, Free Agency
Stacy Mitchhart, I'm a Good Man,
Stink Mitt, Crime Scene,
Tattoo Ink, Wanted Dead Or Alive, Aries Music
"The Don Bishop" Agallah, You Already Know, Nocturne
The Chi-Lites, Sweet Soul Music [DVD], St. Clair
The Game, It's Okay [Single], Universal/Polydor
The Spinners, Sweet Soul Music, St. Clair
The Stylistics, Sweet Soul Music, St. Clair
Various Artists, 40 Reggaeton Hits, EMI International
Various Artists, Aggro Berlin Presents: Aggro Videos, Pt. 1, Groove Attack
Various Artists, Asian Dimes: Reggaton Mix, Sony International
Various Artists, Can You Flow? Instrumental Renditions of Eminem's Greatest Hits, Re
Various Artists, Chicano Rap Allstars, Vol. 3, East Side
Various Artists, Death Row's 15TH Anniversary, Death Row
Various Artists, Hip-Hop Tribute to Def Leppard, Tribute Sounds
Various Artists, Hyphy City [Bonus DVD], Sumo
Various Artists, New Orleans: Rebuild Restore Rejoice, Mardis Gras
Various Artists, Rap or Die: West Coast Rappers with an Attitude, C&B Productions
Various Artists, Rebel Salute 2006, Vol. 1, Island Entertainment
Various Artists, Rebel Salute 2006, Vol. 2, Island Entertainment
Various Artists, Rebel Salute 2006, Vol. 3, Island Entertainment
Various Artists, Reggae Masters, Vol. 1, Immergent
Various Artists, Romance del Reggaeton, Sony International
Various Artists, Soldiers United 4 Cash: Bonafide Hustlas, BCD Music Group
Various Artists, Solo Under, Vol. 2, Universal Latino
Various Artists, The Soul of Money Records, Vol. 2, Kent
Various Artists, Tribute to Busta Rhymes, Calvin
Various Artists, Trojan Box Set: Bob Marley Covers, Trojan
Various Artists, Ultimate B-Boy: City vs City, Music Video Distributors
Various Artists, Urban Latino Hip Hop, Ava
Various Artists, Vintage Sound Clash: Bodyguard vs Saxon, Reggae Exports
Wreck, The 18th Angel, Thump
X-Clan, Return from Mecca, Suburban Noize
Yukmouth, 100 Racks: The Album [Bonus DVD], Sumo



Flagging Truth

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

Flags of Our Fathers

Starring Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell and Paul Walker. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 132 minutes. At major theatres. theatres. 14A

(Oct. 20, 2006) Poll a random group of citizens about the significance of the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, and few under the age of retirement would have much of an answer.  Show that same crowd the famous photo of U.S. soldiers hoisting the American flag on Iwo Jima, claiming the remote island in victory over Japan. All of them, young or old, would nod their heads in recognition of an immortal image.  Such is the power of symbols to seize the mind. It's a fact Clint Eastwood holds up to impressive yet uneven scrutiny in
Flags of our Fathers, a movie that argues the meaning of "hero" and "truth" in a world where shiny legend is a far easier sell than dull fact.  Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal didn't think he had much that day at Iwo Jima, Feb. 23, 1945. He snapped five Marines and one U.S. Navy corpsman struggling to plant Old Glory on a length of water pipe into the volcanic rock of Mount Suribachi, the summit of the strategic Japanese stronghold.  He'd already shot another flag-raising, the first one after the Americans claimed the island earlier that day, after days of pitched battle that took thousands of lives on both sides.  But Rosenthal captured more than just a great picture with that second shot, perfectly balanced in the angling of human forms against the flag fluttering in the breeze. His camera also grabbed the imagination of ordinary Americans, whose enthusiasm for the war — and their desperately needed financial contributions — had been waning.  The folks back home didn't want details. And they didn't seem to care that it wasn't the first flag raised on Iwo Jima, a pile of rocks that looked, in the words of one military trainer, "like a burnt pork chop."

They wanted victory and the names of the faceless heroes who brought it, even if the soldiers in the photo didn't feel like heroes, having survived when more than 6,000 of their brothers hadn't.  Rosenthal's photo gave Americans a reason to believe and the U.S. government capitalized on the moment with a victory bond drive to raise the billions of dollars needed to keep the war effort going.  It has often been said that truth is the first casualty on the battlefield. Eastwood understands this completely, and he and screenwriters William Broyles Jr. (Jarhead) and Paul Haggis (Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby) make a worthy attempt to pull open the curtain of wartime propaganda, to reveal the ordinary humans huddled behind it.  Yet one senses an ambivalence in the message, along with a failure to pay more than lip service to the human need for sustaining myth. Curiously missing from Flags of our Fathers, which is based on the best-seller by James Bradley and Ron Powers, is any real appreciation of how desperate the stakes were at the time, much more important than bruised egos or puzzled historians.  A cigar-chomping character in the film, charged with persuading the three surviving Iwo Jima flag-raisers — John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) — to participate in corny re-enactments at stateside fund raisers, makes a stab at explaining that the $14 billion raised in the victory bond drive will save many lives and end the war sooner.  But none of the soldiers really seem to believe it, especially the highly principled yet unstable Hayes, so caught up are they in hand wringing over the ethics of parades for the few and graves for the many.  Eastwood is being somewhat disingenuous in demanding strict fidelity to the truth, since he has made his share of movies with iconic figures — think of Dirty Harry and Unforgiven's Bill Munny — who loom larger than any real person ever could. He is also aware of the role Hollywood figures played — everyone from Donald Duck to Mae West — in rallying Americans in World War II to support concurrent battles against Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

And what is truth, anyway? It is what someone tells us, or what we believe in our hearts? Eastwood wrestles with this conundrum in a scene where Bradley lies about the identity of the lead flag raiser, in order to give comfort to a dead man's mother.  Speaking of conundrums, how do actors portray heroes in a movie that discounts the entire notion of heroism?  It's a struggle taken up manfully by actors Phillippe, Beach and Bradford, who each in turn attempt to show how the brutalities of war and the banalities of peace tear at a man's soul.  Beach gets closest to revealing a fully rounded character, although it's unfortunate that his portrayal of Hayes, a Native American derisively called "Chief," is forced to track the awful stereotype of the drunken Indian, even if it is based on unforgiving fact.  It's as if Eastwood really didn't want to sabotage his instincts about the folly of war by making war heroes out of these men.  This is by no means the first movie to chronicle the disconnect between fact and fiction. And it's not by a long shot the first movie about this particular snapshot of history, that distinction going to the 1949 John Wayne vehicle Sands of Iwo Jima, in which the real Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon all happily made cameo appearances.  The look of Flags of our Fathers recalls Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, with its desaturated colours, its bloody opening battle (which Eastwood constantly returns to in flashbacks) and in the use of Ryan's Barry Pepper as a central figure. (Spielberg also shares a production credit with Eastwood.)  This is not to suggest that Flags of our Fathers isn't worth seeing. On the contrary, this is a sober and sincere attempt to grapple with the larger existential issues of war. Eastwood intends to continue the study with Letters From Iwo Jima, a Japanese-language film showing the other side of the story that will be released early next year.  In terms of spectacle alone, this is a great movie. Cinematographer Tom Stern pulls the camera back to reveal the American armada preparing for the grand assault, contrasting with the gunner's-eye view of Japanese soldiers who are dug into the mountain, an almost invisible menace.  If the larger vision in Flags is somewhat out of focus, there are many small glimpses and grace notes that show Eastwood's well-developed sense of the particular in revealing a larger truth.  A scene where Bradley sits in astonishment at a banquet, while a white cake shaped like the Iwo Jima image is presented to him covered with blood-red strawberry sauce speaks volumes of the chasm between a soldier's duty and its exploitation for mass consumption.  Yet Eastwood ultimately seems uncertain about what he really wants to say. His quest for truth leaves him standing in awe at the power of myth.

Flicka: Horse (And Girl) Power

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Daphne Gordon, Toronto Star

(out of 4)
Starring Alison Lohman, Tim McGraw, Maria Bello and Ryan Kwanten. Directed by Michael Mayer. Based on the novel My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. 94 minutes. At major theatres. G.

(Oct. 20, 2006)
Flicka has all the elements of a hit film for teens.  For starters, there's a healthy dose of innocent romance, since there is arguably nothing more romantic than the relationship between a young girl and her horse.  In this case, it unfolds between Katy McLaughlin, a 16-year-old rebel who is flunking out of school, and Flicka, a wild horse with questionable bloodlines and a talent for bucking. Though Flicka is a mare rather than a sturdy stallion, it's no matter to the romance. Katy wants to be with Flicka and nothing will stop her.  There's dramatic tension, too, as Katy must fight for her horse's life against the wishes of her father. An old-school quarter-horse rancher with hopes of passing his farm onto his son Howard, Rob McLaughlin thinks Katy's future lies in academia and forbids her to date — I mean ride — Flicka. It's all very Romeo and Juliet.  Then, there are hot guys with big ... belt buckles. As Katy's buff older brother Howard, Ryan Kwanten is totally crushworthy, and as Rob the rancher, country singer Tim McGraw will evoke dreamy sighs from the moms in the theatre. Here, handsome is an understatement. The guy can ride and looks fine in his Wranglers, too.  With McGraw as executive producer, the soundtrack hits the right note every time, featuring cool girl rockers like Chantal Kreviazuk, Gemma Hayes and Natasha Bedingfield doing a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll, and McGraw crooning the closing theme, a nostalgic tune called "My Little Girl."

The story is a retelling of Mary O'Hara's classic children's novel My Friend Flicka, which was published in 1941 and first adapted for the screen in 1943. But Flicka touches on themes that are relevant to modern audiences.  The original story focused on a boy and his horse; in the 2006 version, Kenny becomes Katy. Instead of witnessing a 1950s-style struggle between a sensitive boy and his controlling father, we see a more modern struggle between a girl and her overprotective father.  For people who love horses, the story will resonate. But Flicka is not without controversy among animal activists. Some have vowed online to boycott the film because two horses died during the movie's production, although the American Humane Association was on set to monitor how animals were treated and ruled the deaths "unpreventable accidents."  But the film is just as much about family as it is about the special bond between human and horse.  The relationship between Rob and his beautiful wife Nell, played by Maria Bello, is interesting. Though the farm is clearly his manly domain, in the background Nell plays his heartstrings with virtuosity, defending her daughter's right to become her own person while allowing her macho husband to maintain the illusion that he's in charge.  It's satisfying to see the whole family come together in the time of crisis, though there are some flaws in the script that make the drama seem overwrought and manipulative.  But Alison Lohman, the 27-year-old actress who plays Katy, makes the whole thing worth watching. She's in almost every scene and proves she's capable of conveying a wide range of emotions with a raw lack of self-consciousness that brings to mind Lindsay Lohan (no relation), back when she was an actress and not a celebrity.

Kate Winslet On Being Touted For Fifth Oscar Nod

Excerpt from The Toronto Star Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Oct. 20, 2006) It's the middle of the Toronto International Film Festival and publicists are whirling about
Kate Winslet, shuffling journalists in and out of her presence like air traffic controllers landing 747s.  Winslet, resplendent in a curve-hugging brown top, barely seems to notice the fuss in the crowded hotel suite. The smiling actress greets a visitor as if she's welcoming someone to her kitchen in England.  "Would you like to have a little bit of this coffee?" she asks, offering to share her jumbo Starbucks. "It's quite a lot. I'll get you a fresh cup."  She distributes the hot beverage, careful to share it exactly, like the mom of two she is. Can't have the kids squabbling over portions!  "Is it all right that I'm smoking?" she asks. It's perfectly all right. In fact, she could go right ahead and burst into flames.  "You just watch out!" Winslet parries. "I might do that. You never know."  With her white-hot career, she might indeed. The A-list actress has been nominated for an Oscar four times, all before her 30th birthday (she turned 31 on Oct. 5). The kudos were for Sense and Sensibility (1995), Titanic (1997), Iris (2001) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).  And now there is serious buzz of a likely fifth nomination, for her role as unfaithful housewife Sarah in Little Children, Todd Field's new movie of suburban angst. She's paired with Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), who describes his co-star as "one of the great ones" of acting.  "She just digs right in," Wilson says. "There's a real intensity and striving for perfection in her work. You see it on film and you see it when you meet her. That's the truth."  You want more truth? Winslet once told Meryl Streep she wanted to French kiss her, and she has an oyster story about Paul Newman, a memory prompted by sharing the Starbucks. Revelations unfold:

Q.        Do you ever get star-struck?

A.            Not really, although when I met Meryl Streep last year for the first time, having admired her pretty much all of my life, didn't I tell her that I wanted to tongue-kiss her! And she said, "Okay, good." Needless to say, we didn't. I'd still like to, though.  I don't necessarily get star-struck but it's a tremendous privilege where you get to meet people who you really have so much respect for and you look up to, you know? And thank God those people are there. They keep the bar high; they keep us all trying and working hard and always wanting to learn."

Q.        What's the story about you and Paul Newman?

A.            It's funny sharing things with people. Paul Newman gave me my first oyster. I don't know why I suddenly remembered that. But I accepted the oyster purely so I could tell that story.

Q.        The best actors are the ones who make it seem easy. That applies to you.

A.            That's debatable! I do without question absolutely love acting. I love the whole process. I love the hands-on experience of making films. I love how surprising it is. I love how subtle you're allowed to be and how big you can be sometimes. It's just a little bit like going to a fantastic party that doesn't end for three months. And you're always hanging around at the end of it.  But at the same time, I do find it really hard. You have to be everything. You have to be 100 per cent somebody else. And Sarah in Little Children is nothing like me. It's sometimes uncomfortable to slide into her skin. I didn't particularly respect her parenting. In fact, I didn't respect it at all. And that was very hard to play that and embrace that side of her.

Q.        Your Sarah is different from the book, where she's described as a bisexual lapsed feminist. How much of that was Todd's decision, and how much yours?

A.            It was a combination of both of us. I loved working with Todd Field. We had a very collaborative relationship. I'm sure you've heard actors say that a basquillion times before, but this really was that way ... It's wonderful when you have a director who has already written the script who doesn't have any ego surrounding his baby and lets you chip away at it, too. And along with Patrick, as well, we were very much working out who these people really were, and how to make them as palatable and real as possible. To convey all these extraordinary emotions and this journey that they all go on. This whirlpool of glory and hell at the same time.

Q.        What do you mean by "glory and hell"?

A.            Little Children is very much about the human condition and the decisions we make when we're unhappy, that we actually believe are the right ones. And it's only after the events unfold that we look back and we go, "Jesus Christ, what was I doing?"  The glorious thing about Sarah is she is unflinchingly convinced that (her affair with Wilson's Brad) is the love of her life. This is her future. And without question, she has to be with him.

Q.        You're very brave in your acting choices. You don't hold back.

A.            No, I definitely don't. And I don't hold back in my life, either. The person I am here, giving this interview, is the person I am on set. I'm no different; I'm just exactly the same person. I don't go into a corner and cry quietly and bang my head against a wall or do straight shots of vodka. But I think it is about taking risks, even though that's a terrible cliché. I love to frighten myself and I love to put myself in a position where I think, "Jesus, how on earth am I supposed to play this part?" And I felt that very strongly with Clementine in Eternal Sunshine and I felt that with Sarah ... I am a bit of a hopeless romantic. I'm very hook, line and sinker. If I'm in love with someone, I'm in love with someone. That's it.

Caine In His New Role: A Happy Homebody

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

Michael Caine was on a trip down Memory Lane. He had spent the previous day touring his old Los Angeles hangouts, and the memories were still haunting him.  Many of the bars, cafés and restaurants that were part of his life during the decade he lived there are long gone, and some of his oldest and dearest friends are dead.  But the recollections of his Hollywood heyday were as vivid as if they were yesterday, rather than 25 years ago and more.  "The Daisy on Rodeo Dr., the MLK diner on Wilshire Blvd. where we all used to go at 2 in the morning, the Luau on the corner — they're all gone," he said. "All the time I'm passing places that were part of my history here but they're not there now. I'm walking down the street and seeing things and people that only I can see. The town is full of ghosts for me. Frank Sinatra was a friend, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye ... They're no longer here.  "And the bloody traffic — it's a nightmare. It used to be like a little country town here but now the traffic is terrible."  The 73-year-old actor was on a brief visit to California from his home in England to publicize his latest film, The Prestige, in which he co-stars with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and to attend its Los Angeles premiere. It opened yesterday.  He was in a relaxed and reflective mood as he sat back in an armchair at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, and reminisced about his life and career. An entertaining raconteur who has worked with virtually every leading actor and director over the years, he is a walking treasure trove of stories and anecdotes.  Unlike some stars, he seemed to be actually enjoying his promotional and publicity duties. "I haven't done this for ages because I take character parts now — the stars do the interviews," he said.

With a 50-year career, 110 movies, a knighthood and two Oscars, Michael Caine is no longer a star?  "That's right," he said with a chuckle. "I've made the transition from star to character actor and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I regard myself as someone who is retired but who occasionally goes out to work. In fact, I'm offered so much good stuff that it's not so occasional.  "I'm living a life of professional luxury. I have a basic attitude that I'll only do something I can't refuse, and now I'm getting all this stuff I can't refuse. I'm a sucker for anything that's vaguely different and that's why I'm here. How could I turn this down?"  "This" was the script for The Prestige, a twisting tale of two duelling Victorian-era magicians in a powerful rivalry and an escalating battle of tricks as they strive to uncover each other's trade secrets. An intricate thriller, The Prestige was adapted for the screen from Christopher Priest's novel by Jonathan Nolan and his brother Christopher, who directed the film.  The fact that it was Nolan's project was a bonus for Caine, who had previously worked with the British filmmaker on Batman Begins and is due to team up with him again in the New Year for the sequel, The Dark Knight.  "I've had some intimate, quiet direction from great directors in my time — I always think great directors don't say very much because they know exactly what to do — but I've never had the sort of intimacy and minimalist direction like I get from Chris. He actually directs me with a blink of his eye while I'm shooting. He's extraordinary."

In The Prestige, Caine plays Cutter, a retired conjuror who is the ingeneur — the behind-the-scenes technical expert who creates the tricks for Hugh Jackman's magician. "He's a bit like Alfred the butler in Batman Begins — he is the ordinary guy among extraordinary people," he said.  Before beginning work on the next Batman film, Caine will star with Jude Law in Sleuth, a reworked version of the Anthony Shaffer play, the 1972 movie version of which starred Caine and Laurence Olivier. The new version, which will be directed by Kenneth Branagh from a Harold Pinter screenplay, begins production on Jan. 4.  Caine is convinced that the new Sleuth will not meet the fate of previous remakes of his films such as Alfie and Get Carter, which, he agreed, were disastrous. "I wasn't starring in those," he said with a grin. "And as Ken Branagh says, we're not doing a remake of Sleuth. We're making a movie and we're using the linear plot of Sleuth and we've stolen the title."  Nowadays Caine finds himself frequently confronting ghosts from his past.  "It's very funny," he mused. "We were shooting a scene for Batman Begins at Shepperton Studios a couple of years ago. It was the one in the cavern where the bats come out. Then I realized that we were shooting on the exact spot where I shot A Hill in Korea 50 years ago." That was his first film  "Then very recently I went to Twickenham with Jude Law, Ken Branagh and Harold Pinter to do a read-through on the soundstage where we are going to shoot Sleuth in January. Halfway through I thought the soundstage looked familiar and then I realized it was the same soundstage where I had shot Alfie 40 years ago."  He recently completed Flawless, playing a janitor in 1960s London and co-starring with Demi Moore, with whom he last appeared in Blame it on Rio 23 years ago. "If she tells you she's only 23 years old, don't believe her," he joked.

Caine, as every film fan knows, was born Maurice Micklewhite in South London. He toiled in small roles until the filmgoing public discovered him in Zulu in 1964, a time when it was gradually becoming hip for actors to come from working-class backgrounds.  "Timing was very important for me," he said. "I refused to give up my working-class Cockney accent and at the same time working-class writers began to make a name for themselves."  A poster boy for 1960s "Swinging London," he conquered Hollywood in 1965 with The Ipcress File, playing the working-class spy Harry Palmer, and he won his first best actor Oscar nomination as Alfie. Since then he has earned two more nominations, for Sleuth and Educating Rita, was knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2000 and has won two Best Supporting Actor Oscars, for Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules. He received another best supporting actor nomination for The Quiet American.  He left England in a well-publicized move to California in the mid-'70s because he was fed up with the Labour government's taxation policies. He returned home 20 years ago and has no intention of moving any more "unless the tax rate reaches 82 per cent again, then I'll be off," he laughed.  He and his wife Shakira, whom he married 34 years ago — he was divorced from actress Patricia Haines in 1957 — live in a 200-year-old barn which they have converted to a luxurious, modern home, in the Surrey countryside. He has two grown daughters.  "I'm deliriously happy," he said. "I love the house. I'm very happy there and I'm a real family man. I just love to go home, no matter where I am — even the most luxurious hotel suite in the world — I love to go home. People ask me, where do you go for your holidays?' I say, `I go home.'"  He once came out with the classic quote that he chooses the great roles and if none of those come he chooses the mediocre ones and if they don't come he chooses the ones that pay the rent.  "That was a long time ago," he laughed. "I haven't needed to pay the rent for some time."

DVD Colourful Story Behind Reds

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Oct. 20, 2006) It's not often that a movie has its own built-in bonus features. The genius of Warren Beatty's impressive 1981 epic Reds was to tell his globe-spanning story of the rise of the American left and the Russian Revolution from 1915 to 1920 with the help of more than 30 people who were alive in that period and had known the film's two protagonists, journalist John Reed (Beatty) and proto-feminist and frustrated writer Louise Bryant (the luminous Diane Keaton). The interspersed clips of such talking heads as Rebecca West, Henry Miller and Adela Rogers St. Johns (writer of Richard Nixon's infamous Checkers speech) not only remind the viewer that Reed and Bryant were real but allow these "Witnesses" to shoulder the burden of historical exposition. That means the actors -- notably Jack Nicholson as playwright Eugene O'Neill and Maureen Stapleton in an Oscar-winning turn as birth-control advocate and anti-capitalist campaigner Emma Goldman -- don't need to stop in their tracks to announce where they are or what battle they're fighting. In an excellent accompanying documentary, executive producer Dede Allen remembers the taxing logistics of filming the Witnesses, who were of all political stripes. The goal was to make sure "the righties and the lefties" didn't run into each other by accident. Actor-director-co-writer Beatty loses his DVD virginity ("I've never done one of these interviews for DVD and I basically disapprove of it") by speaking easily and at length about his project. He says he had all but convinced the Russians to let him shoot in Russia when he slipped and referred to "the Bolshevik takeover." The crew had to shoot in Finland. He praises ultra-capitalist Gulf + Western, parent of Paramount, for agreeing to finance "a 3½-hour movie about a Communist who dies," and says he overcame his discomfort with simultaneously directing and acting by giving the other actors the feeling that they were co-directing. "Of course, the fascism of it all in the long run is -- they're not. I make the decision."

The quality of Michael Caine's movie output is as variable as the weather, and the three titles released by 20th Century Fox this week are lesser Caine: the Maltese Falcon spoof Peeper (1975), the melodrama-cum-heist-flick Deadfall (1968) and that exasperating catalogue of tests and mind games on a Greek island, The Magus (1968), which John Fowles wrote from his novel because he didn't like everyone else getting the credit for an earlier film from his work, The Collector. But there are attractive extras: Peeper (by coincidence adapted from a book called Deadfall) has an interview with director Peter Hyams; Deadfall has a segment on composer John Barry and offers the film's complete musical score as an isolated audio track; and The Magus, with Anthony Quinn and Candice Bergen, has a warts-and-all documentary on the author. Fowles had an affair with Elizabeth Christy, wife of a colleague, and they moved in together, but Fowles laid down an impossible condition, which Elizabeth accepted: that her young daughter Anna could not live with them. "I think they paid for that throughout the whole of their marriage -- that choice," says Anna, now in middle age. "Because it always left my mother with an emptiness and a sense of loss and loneliness."

Gabrielle Union Interviewed On TV One

Excerpt from

(October 23, 2006) *TV One on One host Cathy Hughes has
Gabrielle Union in the hot seat for an hour-long interview airing October 29 at 8 p.m. on TV One. Hughes, who grew up with Union’s mother in Omaha, discusses a range of topics with the actress, including her motivation to take on a completely different type of character in the film “Running with Scissors,” her relationship with her family and strong roots in Nebraska, her future career aspirations, as well as her efforts in adopting an inner-city school in LA and as an advocate for rape victims and increased funding for rape crisis centers throughout the U.S. Union tells Hughes she had no reservations about taking on the role of a manic depressive, drug addicted lesbian in “Running with Scissors,” the adaptation of Augusten Burroughs' best-selling memoir of his dysfunctional childhood and adolescence, which opens this month.  “I loved it because it’s daring… was so flashy and because it’s an ensemble film. It was so different than anything anyone had ever seen me in. Anytime you do an ensemble, you want to make sure that your character stands out…has something to work with,” Union said.   The award winning cast of “Running with Scissors” includes Annette Benning, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alex Baldwin, among others.  When Hughes asks how she stays so grounded, Union credits her family and the people of Omaha, where she lived until the age of 8. Union grew up in Pleasanton, California, but she returned to Omaha every summer staying with extended family, playing sports and starting college at the University of Nebraska where she played on the soccer team.  

When asked by Hughes what she’d like to do next in her career, Union said her goal is to be a producer. “After working with Jerry Bruckheimer and Joel Silver, I realize where the true power lies and that’s in producing. I want to call the shots,” Union said.    Union also talks about the rewards she has gotten from her work speaking out on behalf of U.S. rape crisis centers. Raped at gunpoint in 1992 while working at a shoe store, Union said,” I got so much support and help from the UCLA center…it kept me in school and kept me sane…that I want to make sure other people who are facing the same predicament have, at the very least, what I had –if not more.” In surprise visits that have become the hallmark of TV One on One, Union is visited by friend Hill Harper from “CSI Miami” and author of a New York Times bestseller “Letters to a Young Brother.” Hill talks about meeting Union on the set of “City of Angels” as well as her contribution to his book. The Gabrielle Union interview will repeat on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 10 a.m..

Terry Gilliam's Holy Grail

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jennie Punter

(Oct. 23, 2006)
Terry Gilliam is a knight errant of filmmaking. Whether one loves or loathes his films, one cannot deny that they are filled with spectacularly adventurous imagery and that he will, if need be, do whatever it takes to save or defend his work. And he has done that quite famously at times. Tideland is Gilliam's latest crusade. From its world premiere at last year's Toronto International Film Festival to its theatrical opening in North America this month, the film has taken Gilliam around the world to special screening events and numerous festivals -- and not for the red carpets and party treats. Despite receiving a standing ovation at its first TIFF public screening (Jeff Bridges, one of Tideland's stars, whispered "it's a masterpiece," according to the director), Tideland was savaged by most critics' reviews the next day. Some stated the film based on Mitch Cullin's 2000 cult novel -- in which a severely neglected girl is abandoned in a derelict prairie house and uses her imagination to survive bleak, gruesome and increasingly dangerous surroundings -- was unreleasable. This effectively dashed any hopes of selling distribution rights to lots more countries at one go. (A week later at Spain's San Sebastian International Film Festival, Tideland won the FIPRESCI Prize, bestowed by a jury of critics. Go figure.) And so for the past year, territory by territory, Gilliam has been helping secure distributors ("the hardest thing I've done") for a film he unapologetically calls "difficult."  More interestingly, especially for such the high-profile 66-year-old filmmaker, it appears he is single-handedly trying to build an audience for Tideland -- one viewer at a time. Earlier this month Gilliam was building an audience in Toronto, holding court at the Drake Hotel. "It's a film that hopefully gives people an experience they don't normally get in cinema. Some people like being taken by the hand and led gently through the world. That's not what we're doing. We're shifting perspectives and rhythms all the time -- and some people don't like that." A couple of weeks ago in New York, Gilliam hit the line of people waiting to get into a taping of The Daily Show. Carrying a sign stating "Studio-Less Film Maker/ Family to Support/ Will Direct for Food" (written on the back of a Tideland poster) and a cup for donations, he spent an hour chatting up the crowd, many of whom were fans tipped off the night before by the popular movie website Ain't It Cool News. A few amusing amateur videos of Gilliam's panhandling can be found on

The Monty Python alum's most notorious act of derring-do happened during his well documented clash with Universal Studios over Brazil (1985), which followed his successful Time Bandits (1981) and Cannes Grand Prize-winning The Meaning of Life (1983), co-directed with Terry Jones. The studio held back Brazil, insisting on re-editing it for a happier ending. Gilliam placed a full-page ad in Variety asking Universal to release his version, secretly showed the film to Los Angeles critics, who gave it their Best Picture award, and the studio released a Gilliam-approved version. Other notable misadventures include Gilliam's misfortune-plagued Don Quixote project, the subject of the illuminating and engaging 2001 documentary Lost in La Mancha, and a tussle over The Brothers Grimm with Miramax founders the Weinstein brothers, who finally released the film in August 2005 just before departing the company. Grimm was in limbo, so to speak, in the late fall of 2004 as Gilliam, a small cast -- including British Columbia native Jodelle Ferland as Tideland's young heroine -- and mostly Canadian crew were getting the final shots of Tideland in Saskatchewan. "This is the most sensible film I've ever been involved with, a return to seat-of-our-pants filmmaking which has been fun," said Gilliam, who began raising production money in 2002 with U.K. producer Jeremy Thomas. Thomas soon brought on board Toronto producer Gabriella Martinelli of Capri Films. The affable, adaptable Gilliam from the early scenes of Lost in La Mancha was in full swing on the Tideland set. While waiting for a shot to be set up inside a large bizarrely decorated rabbit hole, Gilliam explained the characters, the dialogue and the outrageous scenes in Cullin's novel surprised and disturbed him. "I want people to be lured into the thing and see where it leads.  "That's what's intriguing about the book and what I hope the film will be. I don't want people to feel comfortable." Almost two years later, Gilliam's wish has finally come true. During a lively conversation filled with self-deprecating humour, he recounted tales of close encounters with viewers around the world who have embraced Tideland. "The audience of this film is the people who like it. Here we have an abandoned little girl thrown into an even stranger world after the death of her parents, and she's trying to recreate a world worth living in by play acting," continued Gilliam, who taped an introduction that will now run at the front of the theatrical version. "I start saying 'Many of you are not going to like this film,' then tell people to try and rediscover what it was like being a child, to put away adult fears and preconceptions, as they watch it." Imagination as salvation is a constant theme in the films of Gilliam, whose says his own childhood in Minnesota was idyllic. "I played all the time, imagining and drawing things from fairy tales, knights in shining armour," he said.  "Life is designed to crush your imagination, so I always encourage people to use theirs."  Clearly bad reviews and other misfortunes have not crushed the imagination of this resilient artist. The knight errant rides on.

Tables Turned On Robbins

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Oct. 23, 2006) If you want to start an interesting conversation with
Tim Robbins, just ask him what he thinks of President George W. Bush.  "I believe he was never really elected," said the 48-year-old Oscar-winning actor in an interview during the recent Toronto Film Festival. "It was stolen in 2000, it was stolen in 2004 and I'm not sure that they haven't already cooked the next election in their little computers and figured out how to keep power."  Such comments aren't unusual coming from Robbins, whose disdain for the current administration in Washington is well known. But it's surprising to hear the way he connects it with his latest film, Catch a Fire, which opens Friday.  The Phillip Noyce movie is about the true story of Patrick Chamusso, who was radicalized into joining the African National Congress when the brutality of apartheid destroyed his family.  Says Robbins, "There are so many parallels between South Africa back then and my country today. It's all about how you can turn a law-abiding citizen into a rebel by abusing the basic principles of personal liberty."  And while that may sound a bit like Robbins's own personal political journey, it comes as a surprise that this time around he's not playing the radicalized innocent, but the authority figure who brutalizes him.  "What do they say?" asks Robbins wryly, his pale-blue eyes glinting, "`If you want to defeat your enemy, first learn to understand him.' And I thought what better way to understand him than by playing him?"  Chamusso was a simple man, working as a foreman at the enormous Secunda oil refinery when it was sabotaged by the ANC in 1980. Because of his position, suspicion fell on Chamusso, who was innocent of the crime.  However, on the night in question, he was visiting a woman he had once been involved with. To protect his wife, he lied about where he had been and the apartheid anti-terrorism police tortured him in an attempt to make him confess. When he wouldn't break, they did the same to his wife.

They released both of them, but witnessing firsthand the horrors of what those in power were doing turned Chamusso into a rebel and he joined the ANC, eventually leading another attack like the one of which he had been falsely accused.  Robbins plays Col. Nic Vos, the head of anti-terrorist investigations in South Africa's police security branch, the man who targets Chamusso and sets out to break him down.  But for Robbins, even portraying a man whose beliefs are the complete opposite of his requires some empathy.  "I've got to understand the human being," he insists. "I can't play a monster. I've got to play a man who tucks his daughters in at night, who loves his family and is essentially a good man who winds up doing bad things."  Robbins reflects on the difficulties inherent in the position. "In the best of all worlds, being a police officer is a tough job. You go to work and see the worst part of humanity. It's a stressful situation to begin with and then you add morally compromising positions as part of your job and ..."  Robbins leaves the sentence unfinished. He shifts his 6-foot-5 frame on the hotel room sofa as he reaches for the words.  "I spent a lot of time with men who held these jobs 25 years ago. Their marriages were destroyed, they became alcoholics. Some of their children go to university now and learn in the textbooks what their fathers did.  "I asked these guys if they had ever thought of quitting. They said it wasn't an option. Because if you ever quit the police in South Africa, you would be considered a traitor. You had abandoned the ship. They thought they were at war.  "So a lot of these men took the burden on their shoulders, did things they knew weren't morally correct and didn't tell anybody about them because they thought it was their duty to their country."  Robbins senses the philosophically murky waters he's navigating and leans in to make his next point clear.  "But just because you can understand what they were going through doesn't make it right, doesn't justify it. Nothing can justify what those years of apartheid did to the black people of South Africa."

After 9/11, the word "terrorist" has a different meaning to many people in the world, but in Catch a Fire that's the term used to describe Chamusso and his activities. Isn't Robbins worried about people linking the struggles of the ANC to the activities of Al Qaeda?  "I don't see and I never saw the parallels," he asserts firmly. "Yes, they called the ANC terrorists, but it's a whole different breed of terrorist than we have today. Back then, we were talking about people who were struggling for basic human rights, for their fundamental dignity. Their policies strictly never targeted civilians. They would never have caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people."  Robbins returns to his feelings concerning the character he played. "I believe a tortured man is forever changed by that experience, but I think it also affects the torturer. I don't think that person is ever the same again.  "In every society where there is a breakdown of the rule of law, there are victims on both sides. It's all about how you keep adjusting your bottom line and why you keep doing it."  All of this brings Robbins back to the ongoing conflict in Iraq.  "It's very clear since the war that there are two different realities working in America today ... when I came out against the war, I was called a traitor by the press and the media. I was a Saddam-lover for saying we should just wait a little bit to see if we could actually find any of these weapons of mass destruction. That's one reality.  "But then I had the reality of walking out in the streets of Manhattan and there was nothing but support. People saying things like `We don't have a voice; give us one.'"  Robbins still firmly believes he was right to oppose the war in Iraq. "The `tell,' to use a poker term, was the government's reaction to me. If they had any hard facts, they could have just laid them on the table. They didn't, so they just threatened me and tried to shut me up. That's scary, man."  He takes heart from Catch A Fire and its message that those who believe and fight for what is right will eventually win.  "The great liberating thing that happens when somebody is frustrated and angry, and joins a protest with 150,000 other people, is that he looks around and says, `My God, I am no longer alone.' And that is how you begin to bring the bad guys down.  "There's one thing you have to remember, whether you're talking about apartheid or the Bush administration: this intimidation of theirs only works if you let it.  "If you believe you are a slave, then you are a slave. If you believe you have no voice, then you have no voice."

Telefilm Rejigs Funding Rules

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - James Adams

(Oct. 24, 06)
Telefilm Canada announced major changes yesterday to how it finances the making and marketing of English-language and French-language movies in Canada, changes it believes will put more Canadian films, including documentaries, on the country's screens and increase audiences for them. The changes, to take effect next spring, are being made at a time of relative buoyancy in the Canadian market, thanks to the box-office successes of Bon Cop, Bad Cop -- which to date has earned more than $11.5-million, mostly in Quebec -- and of Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, which has grossed more than $3.4-million in the past 17 days, almost all of it outside Quebec. At the same time, the Montreal-based Crown agency acknowledged in its annual report last week that the Canadian film industry is "grossly out of balance." In 2005-06, Quebec films accounted for 27 per cent of the total French-language box office, while English-language Canadian films scored only a 1.1-per-cent market share. The overall picture has been rosy enough for Telefilm to say it has reached the 5-per-cent share of the domestic box office mandated by the federal government in its 2000 "From Script to Screen" policy, but it has done little to silence criticisms that the English-Canadian industry is in a deep funk and that the French-language industry isn't getting enough aid to sustain and build on its successes. Changes announced yesterday to the $81-million Canadian Feature Film Fund derive, in large part, from the creation this year of two working groups, one for each official language, to review the fund and make recommendations "to bring [it] more in step with market realities." The groups were composed of representatives from all sectors of the film industry, including producers, distributors, performers, government administrators and exhibitors. One of the biggest changes on the English side is a lowering of the assistance threshold for access to Telefilm's "performance envelope" system. Currently, if a movie earns $1-million or more domestically, its producer automatically qualifies for Telefilm assistance of up to 49 per cent of the production costs of his or her next project.

Critics say the envelope system, while it rewards and encourages commercial achievement and offers "increased predictability," has reduced the amount of "selective" (as opposed to performance-based) funding available and, in some instances, has granted eligibility to genre movies like White Noise and Resident Evil: Apocalypse with only nominally Canadian credentials. Starting next year, performance envelopes are to be awarded to the top 15 per cent of films grossing a minimum of $500,000. On the Quebec side, the "selective" component is going to be increased by $1-million, to a total of $12.5-million, while the number of performance-based envelopes is to be reduced to five from 12. Moreover, in calculating the envelopes, Telefilm will take into greater account a film's "box-office efficiency" as well as its "prestige and international exposure." Also starting next year, a cash "recognition award" (value as yet unspecified) will go the director and writer of the French-language film with the biggest box-office take in Canada. All this seems to be in response to the lashing Telefilm took last June when the Crown agency announced that it didn't have enough money to support 32 French-language features seeking more than $52-million in assistance. Instead, it financed only five -- with more than half of the $4-million reportedly at its disposal going to just one film, Oscar-winner Denys Arcand's L'âge des ténèbres -- and declined requests from such notables as Robert Lepage, Louis Bélanger and Patrick Sauvé. Other changes due next year include: Telefilm permitting commercially successful, feature-length documentary-production companies access to production-performance envelopes, up to a maximum of $1-million per company per year (This year, on an "exceptional" basis, Telefilm gave production aid to one English-language documentary producer. In April, the agency said documentaries would remain ineligible for assistance from the selective component in 2006-07, but producers could ask for marketing assistance); The creation of "development envelopes" of up to $150,000 each for a producer whose box-office take for his previous film was considered a "success" but whose envelope calculation by Telefilm was less than $750,000 -- not enough, in other words, to take a film into actual production;  The elimination of the $500,000 minimum marketing envelope for distributors seeking Telefilm aid -- a boost to smaller-budget films with more modest distribution ambitions. (In 2000, the federal government said it wanted the average marketing budget of a film to increase to a minimum of $500,000. The system announced yesterday "commits resources based on market realities." Currently, if a distributor fails to meet the $500,000 envelope threshold as calculated by Telefilm -- if, for example, it is $375,000 -- the distributor doesn't get that money; it's $500,000 or nothing. Telefilm provides "non-interest bearing advances" of up to 75 per cent of an eligible film's marketing budget.)

Films Should Reflect Our Canada Today

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 24, 2006) Make better films, make them specific to the Canadian experience and Canadians will watch them.  Film distributor Hussain Amarshi, and director and writer
Deepa Mehta agree on the main ingredients for success in the Canadian film business.  They had a public conversation yesterday at the 2006 Innoversity Summit before an audience of people interested in diversity and innovation in the media and cultural sectors.  Distributing films that appeal to a diverse audience (including Mehta's) is what has kept his Mongrel Media going since its inception in 1994, said Amarshi.  "Canadians are citizens of the world," said Amarshi, who moved to Canada in 1984 from Karachi, Pakistan.  Both see little institutional acknowledgement of the true nature of Canada's population.  "The world we live in is a mongrelized world. There is no such thing as a pure culture any more," said Amarshi, in answer to a question from Mehta about his company's name. "My sense of Canada is that immigration continues to be the identifying characteristic of the country."  It's a case of finding films for an audience that is already there, he said of his experience with well-received films such as Eve& the Fire Horse, and Mehta's movies Bollywood/Hollywood, Fire, Earth and Water.  The first film Mehta brought to him was Fire, a movie about two New Delhi women who find each other in the wake of failed marriages. That movie, like three others she first made after moving to Canada from India, were considered ineligible for Telefilm funding because her scripts never met the criteria.

"People felt if it was not set in Canada, it couldn't be Canadian," said Mehta. The quality of the screenplay, she says, ought to be the only criterion used to judge a film.  Her distributor agreed: "A good story will travel. It comes down to having the right story at the right time," he said.  Mehta, said Amarshi, has two films in the five top-grossing English Canadian films made in the last five years: Bollywood/Hollywood and last year's Water.  Water, set in 1938 in India, shot in Hindi on location in Sri Lanka, grossed $2.2 million at the Canadian box office. It is Canada's official entry in the Best Foreign Film category for the coming Academy Awards.  Amarshi said the release of the movie was timed to get it into theatres before it was driven out by the Christmas 2005 movies. Water stayed on screens until the end of January and is still playing in a New York cinema, even though it is out on video.  "The fact is there is more audience for films like this than films made in Canada that are generic and could be made in any other country," he said.  He is not in favour of any government quota system that would guarantee Canadian-made movies a place on domestic screens. "I don't believe that is the way we will build a viable industry. The debate should be how do we create the conditions to make better films."  Mehta is currently at work on a movie about the Kamagata Maru incident, in which a ship carrying 375 Indian men was held in Vancouver's harbour. They were eventually sent home without setting foot on Canadian soil, only to confront British soldiers, who killed 90 of them.  The director cited her interest in the story over any desire to convey a message as what drives her as a filmmaker.

'Shortbus' Distributor Sold

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist

(Oct. 24, 2006) The occasion was ThinkFilm's annual high-end breakfast at the Windsor Arms Hotel six weeks ago during the Toronto International Film Festival.  "Toronto is our company's head office, and hosting this event is our way of welcoming our colleagues who have come from all over the world for the festival," crowed Jeff Sackman, Think's president and CEO.  But the Toronto Star has learned that Think — currently enjoying a rare success as the distributor in both Canada and the United States of the movie
Shortbus — has just been sold and is Canadian-owned no longer.  The buyers: Los Angeles film financier David Bergstein and his partner Ronald N. Tutor, who recently purchased the British sales company Capitol Films and are putting together a cluster of small movie firms.  In the background is an extremely personal and extremely nasty long-running feud between Sackman and his major investor, Robert Lantos.  Lantos is one of the biggest players in Canadian showbiz and Think's former chair, who owned a controlling interest in the company.  Industry sources say Lantos, who invested about $3 million in the company, made a tidy profit on the sale.  But some were wondering how that could be possible, since Think has had chronic financial problems and has never had a breakthrough hit.  Sackman also sold his shares as part of the deal, but he has negotiated a contract that allows him to continue running the company while continuing to live in Toronto with his young family, even though head office will be in New York.

One big benefit of the deal to both parties is that Lantos and Sackman won't have to speak to one another.  Animosity reached a peak when Sackman refused to invest enough to satisfy Lantos in marketing Where the Truth Lies — a $26 million murder mystery-sex saga starring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, directed by Atom Egoyan and produced by Lantos. The movie floundered when released theatrically in October 2005.  Neither Lantos nor Sackman could be reached for comment.  Until now, what made Think unique was that it was the only Canadian-owned distribution company that distributes movies in the U.S. While spending as little money as possible on acquisitions, the company has made a specialty of releasing quirky, low-budget documentaries with the capacity to turn into mainstream hits.  Along the way it has picked up an Academy Award (for Born Into Brothels) and several nominations, including one for Murderball, a marvellous documentary about paraplegic rugby players. But commercial breakthroughs have proved elusive.  A few question marks concerning the sale remain to be answered. If Think is no longer Canadian, then it will have a problem releasing several Canadian-content movies it bought, including Citizen Duane, because those movies will no longer be eligible for tax breaks and Telefilm marketing assistance. For now, the release of the Canadian films has been delayed until next spring until this situation can be resolved.  And it is not clear what will happen to one of its few valuable assets, its Canadian library. Among rumoured potential buyers were Alliance Atlantis and Maple Films — but no deal has been made.  But one thing is clear: There has been another casualty in the long history of Canadian movie distributors, even if the company itself has a future tense on the other side of the U.S. border.

Isabella On Her Inspiring Father

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Oct. 25, 2006)
Isabella Rossellini has a shocking secret. For years her psychiatrist has been urging her to express anger against her deceased famous parents: Italian neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini and the great Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman.  But during a candid and delightful appearance at Cinematheque Ontario last weekend (mostly in conversation with Toronto International Film Festival CEO Piers Handling), the striking model-turned-actor confessed that she feels nothing but love and admiration for her parents.  The closest she can come to knocking her father (the subject of a huge Cinematheque retrospective playing through early December) is to recall that when the Russians launched Sputnik in the 1950s, he rushed to school to pull his son out of class — but not his daughter.  One of the short films screened as part of what was billed as "An Evening With Isabella Rossellini" was an entertainingly playful and surreal 16-minute tribute to her father that she made in collaboration with Winnipeg director Guy Maddin.  My Dad Is 100 Years Old is the title of the film, in which his provocative daughter — countering the master's austere neo-realism with Maddin's affinity for fantasy and quirky humour — appears in the roles of Hitchcock, Chaplin, Fellini, Selznick and even her mother.  Which led to a question from the audience: in the name of equal adulation for female parents, is Isabella planning to make a film tribute to Bergman (whose 100th birthday is still nine years off)?  Not likely, she admitted. Not that she doesn't love her mother as truly, madly and deeply as she loves her father. But the world has not forgotten Ingrid Bergman, whose memory will live as long as people slip Casablanca, Notorious and Anastasia into their DVD players.

By contrast, Roberto Rossellini — well known to film students as a key figure in Italian cinema history — made a lot of films that have been forgotten.  Or as Isabella puts it: "He was a pioneer who influenced others, but he had no apostles."  Which is why she feels terribly protective. Also why she has written a book about him, made a film and flown to Toronto to promote this retrospective.  A lot of the films she hasn't seen since she was a child, she says. And in freewheeling conversation, she provided tantalizing glimpses of just how unusual her childhood must have been.  "He didn't want me to go to school," she explained. Born in 1952, when war memories were still vivid, she recalls a school system dominated by military matters like learning how to march.  Her father, on the other hand, taught her how to think, imagine and create — even how to laugh — although the humour rarely comes through onscreen.  Roberto Rossellini spent most of the day in bed, working, reading and receiving guests while wearing pyjamas. He was always preaching about the importance of cinema and had his own purist approach to it.  In a way he paved the way for the current explosion of independent filmmaking but took things to extremes, insisting unnecessary camera movement was pretentious and immoral.  What made him a pioneer artist was that he shunned carefully written scripts and studio settings, preferring to take his camera into the streets, using non-professional actors and catching improvised bits of unrehearsed life in the raw. Those were the ingredients of his most famous movie, Rome: Open City.

Shot on war torn streets in 1945, it told the story of resistance fighters, inspired future film directors, including Jean-Luc Godard, and introduced the magnificent Anna Magnani.  Indeed it was Magnani whom he left when Bergman fled Hollywood and her marriage to live with him in Italy in the late 1940s — leading to the birth of Isabella and her twin sister Ingrid in 1952.  Yet Rossellini, according to Isabella, was so prudish and old-fashioned that he broke with his friend Federico Fellini because he disapproved of Fellini's emphasis on sex in his movies.  His way of making movies was different from what Bergman had known in Hollywood and, according to Isabella, the change came as a shock to her.  For a decade, they made movies together and brought up their family as quietly as the glare of the spotlight permitted. But by the late 1950s they had parted. Bergman was forgiven and returned to Hollywood.  In the end, Isabella sees Rossellini's legacy this way: "My father's films are not intimidating, they're encouraging. He had to work with modest budgets and he wasn't attracted to spectacle.  "When you see a Hollywood film, you might think `I could never do that.' But when you see a Rossellini film, because of the way he worked, it inspires you to pick up a camera, go out into the street and make your own film."


Djimon Hounsou Pops ‘The Trunk’

Excerpt from

(Oct. 19, 2006) *Djimon Hounsou will go from playing a fisherman in the upcoming “Blood Diamond” to an aspiring concert pianist trying to escape the hood in Melee Entertainment’s “The Trunk.” The Oscar-nominated actor will play an inner-city music prodigy trying to get out of the ghetto through his music as his jealous friends try to hold him back.  Boris Kodjoe and Brian White are also in the film, which director Sylvain White will begin shooting later this year in San Francisco.  In the meantime, Hounsou’s “Blood Diamond” arrives in theatres Dec. 15 with a story set in 1990s war-torn Sierra Leone. The film follows South African mercenary Danny Archer and Mende fisherman Solomon Vandy (Hounsou), whose disparate lives ultimately cross in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives.  While in prison for smuggling, Archer learns that Solomon--who was taken from his family and forced to work in the diamond fields--has found and hidden the extraordinary rough stone. With the help of Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), an American journalist whose idealism is tempered by a deepening connection with Archer, the two men embark on a trek through rebel territory, a journey that could save Solomon's family and give Archer the second chance he thought he would never have.

Clooney No.1 Man's Man: Website

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Oct. 24, 2006) LOS ANGELES —
George Clooney is the No. 1 man's man, according to a list compiled by  The Oscar winner tops the website's list of what it calls the 49 best representatives of the male gender. Rap mogul Jay-Z, adventurer-entrepreneur Richard Branson, cyclist Lance Armstrong and designer Tom Ford make up the rest of the top five, in order.  The list was culled from nominations submitted by readers of the online magazine, who were asked to name the top "ambassadors of male-kind." Voters were asked to look for traits such as integrity, charisma and intelligence.  The list will be posted Tuesday.  Bill Clinton ranked 10th and Tiger Woods 13th. Travel-show host Anthony Bourdain was 19th on the list.  "I shall be sure to spend the week shooting things, barbecuing, drinking manly drinks to excess and high-fiving loudly while watching organized athletics," Bourdain said.  Rocker Bono was 27th, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was 29th and director Martin Scorsese was 46th. "Entourage" star Jeremy Piven ranked 49th.

Terrence Howard Books Ridley Scott Film

Excerpt from

(October 25, 2006) *Terrence Howard continues to stack film roles – the latest being a thriller for New Line that follows the capture in Wichita, Kansas of the so-called “BTK killer.” Titled “Factor X,” the film follows young, black counterterrorism expert Stanley Campbell from Washington, who joined the hunt for the BTK Killer when he teamed with a Wichita police detective who spent his career trying to track down the perpetrator. Howard will play the counterterrorism expert and Eric Bana (“Munich,” “The Hulk”) will portray the detective for director Ridley Scott. The script will be written by Gregory Allen Howard ("Remember the Titans," "Ali").  Gregory Allen Howard came across Campbell at a dinner party thrown by his cousin, a federal judge, reports Variety. After hearing his story and discovering that he invented a data reduction process to rule out suspects, he pursued Campbell for a year in an attempt to get his life rights. Campbell eventually caved, partly because of Howard's promise to not make an exploitative movie. Howard then got Bana on board, followed by actor Terrence Howard, who was also recently cast in the upcoming film, “Iron Man.”  The BTK killer, born Dennis Rader, murdered 10 people in and around Wichita, Kan. between 1974-91 and was finally caught in 2005, when he was living as a mild-mannered church leader. The acronym described his modus operandi, which was to bind, torture and kill. "Factor X" takes its name from what Rader described in taunting letters to the police as his motive for murder.

Andre 3000 Ready To Do ‘Battle’

Excerpt from

(October 25, 2006) *Andre Benjamin, a.k.a. Andre 3000 of the rap group OutKast, will star in the ensemble drama, “The Battle in Seattle,” opposite Oscar winner Charlize Theron, Martin Henderson, Woody Harrelson and Ray Liotta. Written and directed by Theron’s longtime boyfriend, Irish actor Stuart Townsend, the political action film is set against the backdrop of the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.  Like “Crash,” various storylines will weave together to recount the WTO meeting and ensuing riots from various perspectives, such as those of protesters, pedestrians, politicos, police and WTO delegates.  During the five-day WTO meeting, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Seattle. What started out as a peaceful protest intended to stop the talks escalated into a riot and eventual state of emergency, with the National Guard called in to restore order. Townsend will use some actual footage of the riots.

India’s Rai Has Seen Script For Will Smith Film

Excerpt from

(October 25, 2006) *Many actors dream of starring along side Bollywood leading lady Aishwarya Rai, who once appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” for being considered “the most beautiful woman in the world.” But these days, she is eager to share the screen with only one man. "There are quite a few scripts from abroad, but I hope to be able to work with Will Smith,” Rai told the Press Trust of India.  The two film stars met for the first time during his visit to India in February, where Smith launched Sony Entertainment's English-language movie channel, Pix, and served as a guest on "Indian Idol."  During his tour of the country, Smith mentioned that he’d love to star opposite the “Bride and Prejudice” actress someday. "She has a powerful energy. I'd love to work with her," Smith told reporters in Bombay at the time. An actual script has emerged for a Rai/Smith project, and Rai says she’s already read through it.  “The script was great and it will be fun to work with him," said the former Miss World, who has acted in more than 30 movies and is considered among India's top actresses.



Howie Heads Home With Deal

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 24, 2006) In this case, it's deal.  Global Television will air a Canadian version of the hit NBC game show Deal or No Deal, and that includes bringing host and hometown boy
Howie Mandel up to emcee the five-segment show set to air next spring.  Mandel, who has lived in Los Angeles since 1978, was born and raised in Toronto and still has a home here. In an interview yesterday, he said he is more than pleased to come back for the show.  "Any opportunity to come home, I do and I'm there a lot regardless. So to get paid and to be able to do the thing that I love doing most right now and to do it in my hometown is pretty exciting," Mandel said.  "I speak the language," he added, with a laugh.  Global inked a deal with Endemol USA, which produces the show along with other hits, including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Fear Factor and Big Brother.  

The U.S. version, which airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays on Global, is actually the 66th incarnation of the program, which is a hit around the globe. In Canada, the U.S. show regularly falls within the top 20 programs on television.  After almost 30 years in show business as a comic, a regular on former television series St. Elsewhere and the occasional movie role, Mandel said the show is his biggest success to date.  The phrase "Deal or no deal" has "even become part of the vernacular, which is pretty amazing," Mandel said.  Mind you, it's not the first time Canadians have flirted with a game-show catch phrase. In September 2000, the popular Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, with its "Is that your final answer?" phrase, shot two episodes with Canadian contestants and a Canadian host, Pamela Wallin. The show drew 4.1 million viewers its first night on CTV.  Mandel says, half-seriously, that part of Deal or No Deal's appeal is that "that there is no skill involved in this game."  "There is absolutely no skill involved in this game, no trivia, no stunts, no skill. You could possibly be a moron and change your life forever," he said.  "There hasn't been a show on television that I can remember where you can actually sit there with the entire family and scream at the TV. People do that, including myself. Because I don't do it when I'm the host ... I will come home and watch it and sit there with my kids, and we scream at the TV."

Coyne Earns Two Geminis For Slings & Arrows

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Oct. 19, 2006) Susan Coyne of Slings & Arrows won
Gemini Awards last night both for her acting and as a member of the writing team.  Also honoured:

Best TV movie: Hunt for Justice: The Louise Arbour Story airing on CTV

Best Guest Actor in Drama: Maury Chaykin, At the Hotel

Best Guest Actress in a Drama: Linda Kash, At the Hotel

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama or Miniseries: Judah Katz, Canada Russia '72

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama or Miniseries: Lushin Dubey, Murder Unveiled

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Paul Soles, Terminal City

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Susan Coyne, Slings & Arrows, Season 2

Best Comedy Performance: Mark McKinney, Robson Arms

Best Variety Performance: k.d. lang, Words to Music: Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

Best Direction, Drama: Peter Wellington, Slings & Arrows, Season 2

Best Direction, Variety Program or Series: Mario Rouleau, Voices of Soul

Best Direction, Performing Arts Program or Series: Tim Southam, Perreault Dancer

Best Direction, Comedy: James Allodi, Naked Josh II

Best Writing in a Dramatic Series: Susan Coyne, Bob Martin, Mark McKinney, Slings & Arrows

Lifetime achievement awards: Pete White (writing) and Donnelly Rhodes (acting).

For a complete list of winners, see

Dog The Bounty Hunter Grabs Legal Victory In Mexico

Source: Associated Press

(Oct. 21, 2006) HONOLULU — The Dog remains unleashed — for now. Lawyers for TV reality star
Duane “Dog” Chapman on Friday said the Mexican federal court has granted them an order that halts the criminal case against the bounty hunter until further evidence and witness testimony are gathered. U.S. Marshals arrested Chapman here on Sept. 14 along with his son Leland and another associate after Mexico issued a warrant because of his capture of fugitive convicted rapist Andrew Luster, the Max Factor cosmetics fortune heir, on June 18, 2003, in Puerto Vallarta. Bounty hunting is considered a crime in Mexico. Chapman was released on US$300,000 bail after spending a night in a federal detention centre. He and his crew have been facing extradition to Mexico since then.

At a circus-like news conference Friday, the star of the popular A&E show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” said the “tide is changing a little bit.” His side of the story, he said, is finally being told to the court through his lawyer, William Boller, who spent the past month in Mexico. “If it comes out right, would I do it again? You damn right,” Chapman said. The possible extradition has ignited an uproar among members of Congress and Chapman's fans, who consider him a hero for capturing a rapist and doing a job the government could not. Twenty-nine congressmen have sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to deny the extradition. At the press conference, Chapman said Mexico is becoming a safe haven for American fugitives and killers. “These guys know where to run. Where can we go so the Dog can't catch us?” said Chapman, wearing a powder-blue dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves, black jeans, cowboy boots, a big silver bulldog belt buckle, a Rolex watch and mirrored Oakley sunglasses. He was not wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet that a judge agreed this week to remove. After the press conference, Chapman, 53, spoke with The Associated Press and reflected on his legal and personal challenges since his arrest. “I'm too old to be traumatized, but it's right next to that. It's just incredible,” he said. Chapman's capture of Luster, who had fled the United States during his trial on charges he raped three women, catapulted the bounty hunter to fame and led to the reality series on A&E, the network's highest-rated series ever. Luster is serving a 124-year prison term.

Obituary: Jane Wyatt, 96

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Thomas, Associated Press

(Oct. 23, 2006) LOS ANGELES —
Jane Wyatt, the lovely, serene actress who for six years on Father Knows Best was one of TV's favourite moms, has died. She was 96. Wyatt died Friday in her sleep of natural causes at her Bel-Air home, according to publicist Meg McDonald. She experienced health problems since suffering a stroke at 85, but her mind was sharp until her death, her son Christopher Ward said. Wyatt had a successful film career in the 1930s and '40s, notably as Ronald Colman's lover in 1937's Lost Horizon. But it was her years as Robert Young's TV wife, Margaret Anderson, on Father Knows Best that brought the actress her lasting fame. She appeared in 207 half-hour episodes from 1954 to 1960 and won three Emmys as best actress in a dramatic series in the years 1958 to 1960. The show began as a radio sitcom in 1949; it moved to television in 1954. “Being a family show, we all had to stick around,” she once said. “Even though each show was centred on one of the five members of the family, I always had to be there to deliver such lines as ‘Eat your dinner, dear,' or ‘How did you do in school today?' We got along fine, but after the first few years, it's really difficult to have to face the same people day after day.” The Anderson children were played by Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin, and all grew up on the show. In later years critics claimed that shows like Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet presented a glossy, unreal view of the American family. In defence, Wyatt commented in 1966: “We tried to preserve the tradition that every show had something to say. The children were complicated personally, not just kids. We weren't just five Pollyannas.”

“In real life my grandmother embodied the persona of Margaret Anderson,” said grandson Nicholas Ward. “She was loving and giving and always gave her time to other people.” It was a tribute to the popularity of the show that after its run ended, it continued in reruns on CBS and ABC for three years in prime time, a TV rarity. The show came to an end because Young, who had also played the father in the radio version, had enough. Wyatt remarked in 1965 that she was tired, too. “The first year was pure joy,” she said. “The second year was when the problems set in. We licked them, and the third year was smooth going. Fatigue began to set in during the fourth year. We got through the fifth year because we all thought it would be the last. The sixth? Pure hell.” The role wasn't the only time in her 60 years in films and TV that Wyatt was cast as the warm, compassionate wife and mother. She even played Mr. Spock's mom in the original Star Trek series and the feature Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She got her start in films in the mid-'30s, appearing in One More River, Great Expectations, We're Only Human and The Luckiest Girl in the World. When Frank Capra chose her to play the Shangri-la beauty in Lost Horizon, her reputation was made. Moviegoers were entranced by the scene — chaste by today's standards — in which Colman sees her swimming nude in a mountain lake. Never a star, Wyatt enjoyed career longevity with her reliable portrayals of genteel, understanding women. Among the notable films: Buckskin Frontier (with Richard Dix), None But the Lonely Heart (Cary Grant), Boomerang (Dana Andrews), Gentleman's Agreement (Gregory Peck), Pitfall (Dick Powell), No Minor Vices (Dana Andrews), Canadian Pacific (Randolph Scott), My Blue Heaven (Betty Grable, Dan Dailey) and Criminal Lawyer (Pat O'Brien). Father Knows Best enjoyed such lasting popularity in reruns and people's memories that the cast returned years later for two reunion movies. She also remained active on other projects, such as Amityville: The Evil Escapes in 1989, and in charity work.

When Young died in 1998, Wyatt paid tribute to him as “simply one of the finest people to grace our industry.” “Though we never socialized off the set, we were together every day for six years, and during that time he never pulled rank [and] always treated his on-screen family with the same affection and courtesy he showed his loved ones in his private life,” she said. Wyatt was born in Campgaw, N.J., into a wealthy family in 1910, according to McDonald, her publicist. Her father, an investment banker, came from an old-line New York family, as did her mother, who wrote drama reviews. They gave their daughter a genteel upbringing, with her schooling at the fashionable Miss Chapin's school and Barnard College. She left college after two years to apprentice at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Mass. For two years she alternated between Berkshire and Broadway, appearing with Charles Laughton, Louis Calhern and Osgood Perkins. While acting with Lillian Gish in Joyous Season in 1934, she got a contract offer from Universal Pictures. She agreed, on condition she could spend half each year in the theatre. During college, Wyatt attended a party at Hyde Park, N.Y., given by the sons of Franklin D. Roosevelt. There she met a Harvard student, Edgar Ward. In 1935 she married Ward, then a businessman, in Santa Fe, N.M. The family will gather for a funeral mass Friday, followed by a private interment, family members said. Wyatt is survived by sons Christopher, of Piedmont, California and Michael of Los Angeles; three grandchildren Nicholas, Andrew and Laura; and five great grandchildren.

Show Some Intelligence -- Watch This!

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Oct. 24, 06) Chris Haddock has not missed a beat. The Vancouver-based writer-producer barely took a breather in between creating several seasons of Da Vinci's Inquest -- and, more briefly, Da Vinci's City Hall -- and his new series,
Intelligence (CBC, 9 p.m.), which is only two episodes old and already the sharpest drama on Canadian television. I hope Haddock receives a nice gift basket from CBC each Christmas. Haddock has given the best creative years of his life to the CBC -- surely a thankless task on a level none of us can ever appreciate. And even though his newest crime saga measures up fully to his earlier efforts, there's no any guarantee of an extended run on our public broadcaster. Ratings count with the new-look CBC, apparently, and it was low numbers, remember, that sealed the fate of City Hall after one season. Intelligence is not in ratings trouble -- yet. Spinning off from last season's TV movie, the weekly series burst out of the gate two weeks ago with 433,000 viewers -- healthy ratings indeed for anything on CBC these days -- but the audience dipped to 341,000 for the second episode. Intelligence needs viewer support, so all good Canadians are advised to take a break from Dancing with the Stars, if just for tonight. And people really should see what they're missing. Tonight's third outing of Intelligence fairly crackles with energy and further sets up the story of Vancouver drug dealer Jimmy Reardon, a career-making role assumed by ex-Da Vinci regular Ian Tracey. Tracey was a quiet, understated presence as a stolid copper for several seasons on Da Vinci. He's still a good guy on Intelligence, but the character is also a key player in the thriving marijuana industry. Jimmy deals high-end B.C. bud, seemingly by the ton, and business is very good. Haddock has created a complex anti-villain in Jimmy Reardon -- a Canadian take on Tony Soprano, of sorts. The only parallel: Both characters run their operations out of strip clubs. Otherwise, they're different criminal species. Tony Soprano is a rageful mob boss on Prozac, but Jimmy Reardon is a smooth operator.

Haddock's hook: Jimmy is making millions, all the while supposedly working as an informant for the government through Mary Spalding (Klea Scott), the director of a CSIS task force assigned to crack the drug trade. Jimmy and Mary have begun a cat-and-mouse game and seem bound to keep changing positions. As on Da Vinci, Haddock controls the vision and writes each episode. Based on the first few shows, Intelligence splits evenly between the two Type A personalities: Jimmy is constantly taking care of business. He's always on the cellphone, or wheeling around town in his Jag making deals, or checking out new sites for potential grow operations. Equally driven, Mary works late into the night and uses tips from Jimmy and equally doubtful sources to ensnare other criminals. Tonight, she nails a money launderer and immediately flips him into an informant role. The dramatic subtext of Intelligence plays out through damaged or dangerous support characters connected to Jimmy and Mary. Jimmy is beset with a deadweight, drug-abusing brother and an unstable ex-wife named Francine (Camille Sullivan), who's desperately bitter and looking for revenge. Mary's cross to bear is her backstabbing underling Ted, played with glee by former Max Headroom mainstay Dwight Schultz, who's openly campaigning for her job. Mary is also having an affair with a senior co-worker, who, naturally, supplies insider information. She's always moving to the greater cause. Haddock knows this netherworld, and Intelligence is probably the most honest TV offering on any network this fall. It's that good. Tonight's third episode is the entry point for anyone who has lost faith in Canadian TV drama. Don't let the fact that it's on CBC scare you off. In other forthright viewing tonight: The Boy Inside (The Lens, CBC Newsworld, 10 p.m.) is a heartfelt documentary from Vancouver filmmaker Marianne Kaplan. Airing in consort with Autism Awareness Month, the film documents a school year in the life of Kaplan's son, Adam, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Adam seems like a decent enough kid, but he's unnaturally fearful of his new school long before the first day of classes. He knows the bullying will come. Adam was forced to leave his previous school after a student put a knife to his neck. Although regarded as a high-functioning form of autism, Asperger's often manifests itself in socially and emotionally unacceptable behaviour. Kaplan films Adam interacting at home and in the schoolyard, where he has considerable difficulty making new friends. Adam's actions do not endear him to his classmates, who speak in interview segments of his tendency to blurt out inappropriate comments. Much of the film involves Adam revealing his inner feelings and you can see the frustration mounting as the school year progresses. "I don't like being considered different," he tells the camera. But Adam's mother never loses hope or stops trying to make her son's life better. Kaplan has lensed a compelling film diary in The Boy Inside, which demonstrates that life's biggest problems never come with an easy solution. It's a remarkable, very personal story, with a mother's love at its core. Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings. John Doyle returns on Oct. 31.

Boy Meets Girl Is Never Tired

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

Some people call it Grease meets West Side Story, while others think of it as Mickey and Judy for the iTunes generation.  But however you want to describe it,
High School Musical is one of the big show-business success stories of the past year. No wonder that a concert version of the hit Disney Channel television show will begin a 40-city tour in late November and play Toronto on Jan. 2, 2007.  When the 90-minute, made-for-TV musical was first broadcast on Jan. 20 this year, nobody really knew what to expect.  There was something seriously retro about its Romeo and Juliet-ish plot that had superjock Troy and math whiz Gabriella falling in love with each other, while going through numerous complications that all centered around auditions for — you got it — the high school musical.  But the songs everyone kept breaking into sounded like music that kids today would actually sing, the dances had a real contemporary vitality and the dialogue seemed genuine, if a little on the squeaky-clean side.  The combination of old and new really worked for the young audience and High School Musical earned 7.7 million viewers for its first broadcast, an impressive showing on cable.

And that was just the beginning. Before 24 hours had passed, the show's website had 500,000 hits, everyone wanting to download lyrics to the song "Breaking Free."  The soundtrack from the show hit the top of the Billboard charts by March, has currently gone triple platinum and is currently expected to be the No.1 selling album of the year.  "Breaking Free" was the first of six songs from the soundtrack to go gold, which earned it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.  The DVD, released on May 23, sold 1.2 million copies in its first six days, making it the fastest-selling television movie ever.  In Canada, where it's seen on The Family Channel, its success has been just as impressive, rating No.1 for the programming season among its core audience (kids 8-14) and scoring 125 per cent more viewers than average for its time slot.  Disney Theatrical Productions licensed a live version of the material for stage companies to do around the world. The first place to get the rights was the legendary Stagedoor Manor in upstate New York, the inspiration for the movie Camp.  A total of 1,260 amateur stage productions have been scheduled for this school year and numerous other professional companies have hopped on the bandwagon as well.  With all that going on, a sequel (High School Musical 2) is on the boards and the concert tour announced today will play major venues in 40 cities around the continent.  Five of the original program's stars will take part in the tour, including Monique Coleman, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Hudgens.  Conspicuously absent will be hunky Zac Efron, who created the leading role of Troy.  Efron is currently in Toronto, where he's playing Link Larkin in the film version of the hit Broadway musical Hairspray, shooting here since early September.  It seems that every generation has its own High School Musical, a property that allows the time-worn boy-girl scenario to dress itself up in the latest threads and win the hearts of all the kewl kids.  Whether it's Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland hoofing their way to Broadway, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello vowing their love in a Beach Party flick, or John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John working out their courtship in sleek black leather, there's always room for a pair of lovers to sing their hearts out to the sound of the day.  High School Musical is just the latest proof that — especially in the world of show business — everything old is new again.


Oprah To Interview Madonna On Adoption

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Oct. 24, 06) CHICAGO —
Oprah Winfrey was scheduled to tape an interview with Madonna on Tuesday about the pop singer's planned adoption of a 13-month-old boy from the African country of Malawi. The interview is scheduled to air Wednesday on Winfrey's talk show, a spokeswoman for Harpo Productions Inc. said Monday. It will be Madonna's first TV interview about the adoption. Madonna travelled to Malawi on Oct. 4 with her husband, Guy Ritchie. They spent eight days visiting orphanages she is funding through her charity. The child, David Banda, was taken to London last week after Malawi's High Court granted Madonna and Ritchie an interim adoption order. Madonna, 48, has said she acted according to the law, but the toddler's father, Yohane Banda, said Sunday he didn't realize he was signing away custody of his motherless son “for good.” Madonna has two children — daughter Lourdes, 9, and son Rocco, 6.



Beyond Beads And Buckskins

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Harris

(Oct. 20, 2006) Yvette Nolan can pass for white. Her mother is Algonquin and her father is Irish. Growing up in Winnipeg, she says, "made for an interesting time." One memory: She's a teenager, shopping at the Bay. Mom, an educator, is ahead of Nolan in the checkout line. The woman serving them takes mom's new shirt, puts it in a brown paper bag and staples it shut. Daughter Nolan gets a new striped plastic bag for her purchase. Have a nice day. The big problem with the word "pass" is that it sticks its reverse -- "fail" -- on those who don't. Such issues are the crux of Honouring Theatre, a national tour of indigenous theatre from Canada, Australia and New Zealand that is making its fourth and final stop in Vancouver this month. Nolan, artistic director for the Toronto-based theatre company Native Earth, has written the Canadian content. Nolan's
Annie Mae's Movement is a brief and historically interesting play, despite its inclination toward overwrought sentiment and two-dimensional characterization. The drama recounts the political wrangling of the real-life Annie Mae, who worked for the American Indian Movement in the United States. Nolan calls her "a woman in a man's movement, a Canadian in America, an aboriginal in a white-dominated culture." Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was slain in 1976. It's a worthy subject. But theatre and therapy are divided by a very thin line. What struck me most about Annie Mae's Movement and the New Zealand contribution Frangipani Perfume (written by Makerita Urale) was their raising of identity politics to the level of gospel and, subsequently, their diminishing of all other theatrical fuels.

Sometimes the result is bizarrely engaging. In Frangipani Perfume, for example, three Polynesian women working as cleaners in New Zealand dream of their lost home. Naiki, Pomu and Tivi grow ever more pissed off at their lot in life, and then turn on each other. "Shut up! I hate you!" they scream in succession, before entering a techno-swordfight dream sequence. Neat. But not exactly subtle. Maybe it isn't time yet to be subtle about issues of colonization and diaspora. As Nolan puts it: "My struggle has been to not become silent." There are hundreds of indigenous theatre groups around the globe and Nolan hopes to build an international community. "Loss of language and loss of land are the common issues," she says. "We're pushing to break that beads and buckskins idea." With luck, Honouring Theatre will tour Australia in 2007 and New Zealand in 2008. And true to her Irish roots, Nolan may open up Honouring Theatre to the Gaelic-speaking people of Ireland as well. In Canada, playwrights such as Tomson Highway, Drew Hayden Taylor and Margo Kane (all affiliated with Native Earth) help to create more nuanced perceptions, Nolan says. "We've moved beyond the drunk and the whore," she adds, "but there's still the wise Indian." When I ask Nolan about times when she felt invisible, times when she felt crudely represented, she gives a little laugh, as if I'm asking her to point out sand on the beach. "Examples? There are so many. It is just the way one lives." Honouring Theatre, which includes Annie Mae's Movement, Frangipani Perfume and Windmill Baby, runs until Oct. 22. Tickets are $20 to $24 at the Firehall Arts Centre, 280 E. Cordova St., 604-689-0926.

Steinbeck Tale Needs To Grow

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

Of Mice and Men

By John Steinbeck. Directed by Dennis Garnhum. To Nov. 11 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E. 416-368-3110

(Oct. 20, 2006)
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck's story of two itinerant farm labourers destined for tragedy is a staple of high school curricula continent-wide.  Unfortunately, that requires a stage production that carries a powerful emotional punch necessary to wring the empathy from the audience for an all-too-familiar tale.  Unfortunately, the CanStage production ultimately falls a little short. It is far from a lost cause, though; it just needs to extract a little more skill and power from its talented cast to carry it the extra distance.  Critical to that success are the lead actors playing Lenny and George.  Ashley Wright as Lenny Small, the gentle giant who loves to pet soft things but can't comprehend or control his enormous strength, came closest to filling the large shoes of his tragic character.  Shaun Smyth as his diminutive guardian George — who does most of the talking and thinking for this odd couple — has more work to do. The intensity was there last night but he seemed three days shy of dress rehearsal rather than ready for opening night.  Director Dennis Garnhum needs to take both actors to the metaphorical woodshed before this show can truly triumph.

Because in technical aspects, this production is a winner.  The set design, by John Jenkins and Allan Stichbury, has many wonderful details, including a pool that actors can drink out of and a backdrop of jagged hills and sky that is expertly transformed from early evening to dusk and then to a dark summer sky with twinkling stars.  The set changes — from a field to a bunkhouse in the first act, then to a barn from floor to rafters, followed by the loft in the barn, then back to the original field by a river — were exceedingly well done.  There was fine attention to detail, in touches such as the sheen of sweat on the labourers and their sweat-stained clothes, that brought a wonderful authenticity.  Many of the minor players also need to bring up their game, though John Kirkpatrick as Slim evokes a quiet empathy and authority in his role.  We needed a little more from Stan Lesk as the wonderfully rotund Candy, the aged bunkhouse gossip who sees his hopes rise and crash.  Lisa Norton, as the wife of the farm boss's son whose wandering eye brings on the tragedy, should ditch the brittle '30s screen star accent and focus more on the humanity of this pathetic woman who just wants "someone to talk to." And kick off the high heels — it's a farm.  With such expert behind-the-scenes backing, it's up to the cast to work a little harder to give this production the full emotional wallop.

Powerful Play Exposes Flaws

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

By Vern Thiessen. Directed by Ken Gass. Until Nov. 12 at Factory Theatre
1215 Bathurst St. 416-504-9971

(Oct. 23, 2006 ) “You’re looking for a way out.”  “No, I’m looking for a way in.”  This piece of dialogue in Vern Thiessen’s
Apple, now playing at Factory Theatre, tells us two things about this powerful play: nobody is what they may initially seem to be and everybody is searching for something.  Thiessen’s story is about three lost souls: Andy, Samantha and Evelyn. Each has a void inside them that they’re trying hard to fill.  Andy and Evelyn are in a dead-end marriage. She compensates by living for her career, but since he has just been downsized when the play begins, he can’t even cling to that. For about half of the play’s 90-minute length, we follow this trio as they play out their destinies.  Thanks to Thiessen’s writing, Ken Gass’s direction and the excellent work of the cast, we are totally held.  Then Thiessen simultaneously throws us two curve balls, one of which deepens his story profoundly and one of which cheapens it slightly.  Evelyn has developed breast cancer and Samantha turns out to be the intern of the oncologist who is treating her.  While the first event brings us into a whole new level of truth, the second takes us into the world of artifice, and one has to wonder why Thiessen made such a choice — the only flaw in a masterful piece of writing.  Still, what’s amazing about Apple is that Evelyn’s disease does not turn it into a play about cancer, but one about choices, needs, and obligations.

It lends a fine toughness to the writing and the ultimate compliment I can offer is that while I was profoundly moved by what I saw onstage, tears never seemed the right response. Thiessen was looking to engage us on a deeper level.  The work that Gass has done here as a director should also take its share of credit for the overall excellence on display.  Not only is the staging on Marian Wihak’s minimalist set full of interesting angles and levels, but Gass has a sure sense of orchestration, raising the emotional pitch to a crescendo, then letting it fall off the edge in a long and painful silence.  Kevin Hanchard turns in a seamless performance as Andy, a man of so many conflicting needs that it’s a wonder he doesn’t combust.  And Niki Landau makes some brave choices as Samantha, giving us a real, flawed person instead of some fairy-tale other woman.  But the one you’ll remember best is Sarah Orenstein, doing some of the finest work of her career as Evelyn. She’s not afraid to show us all of this woman’s initial shallow bitchiness, or the rage and pain she displays when diagnosed with her illness.  “It’s all about knowing,” Orenstein says at one point, and the people involved with Apple all seem to share the same insight into the human condition.  Make sure you see it.

As If By Design

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 25, 2006) Beset by physical and emotional burn-out and mounting debts, winning the $100,000
Siminovitch Prize in Theatre could not have come at a better moment for set and costume designer Dany Lyne.  The 44-year-old Montreal native, based in Toronto, said the award named for playwright Elinore Siminovitch and her scientist husband, Lou, will enable her to take an urgently needed breather before coming back to the theatre even stronger.  "Ironically I had decided to take time off before I won — not that I could afford to, but I felt that I had to. I felt I was at a turning point and ... if I didn't stop, physically I would suffer," Lyne said yesterday in an interview.  "Now I get to have the time off. I get to pay my debts and I get to sleep well at nights and have peace of mind.... The timing is actually really exquisite for me. I feel incredibly blessed," Lyne said.  "I can recuperate and regenerate and I can come back to the (theatre) community in better shape and ready to take more risks." The Siminovitch Prize, created in 2001, is awarded on a rotating basis to a theatre director, playwright or designer. Lyne was chosen by a jury drawn from the theatre community for her body of work, which includes 72 productions in Canada, the U.S. and Europe in a relatively short career.  A quarter of her prize — $25,000 — has been designated by Lyne to go to two protégés, Camellia Koo and April Anne Viczko.  People in her field must struggle to get by in Canadian theatre, Lyne said. In Germany, Lyne said, a set designer can make a "decent living" — the equivalent of a professor's salary — by doing two productions annually.

In Canada, "we're exhausted because we overlap so many projects to try to earn a living. Exhaustion, physical and mental, is a huge issue," she said.  "I don't feel (designers) are supported in their journeys. It takes them many years to try to break into the business and these are very talented people.  "My concern is definitely the burn-out rate. I think a lot of designers are just incredibly stressed ... and that can't be good for the art form." Lyne called on various levels of government to do more to nurture artists and theatre in this country. "The grants aren't there to take that research trip to Europe for two months, to train in a master class." Lyne also cited the crucial need for budding artists to be mentored and encouraged.  Her own mentor, Paul Baker, taught her the importance of "narrative" in a play or opera, and the need for costumes and sets that reflect that, she said.  Among her credits is the Canadian Opera Company's 2005 productions of Rodelinda and Macbeth. She has also worked with Stratford Festival, Tarragon Theatre and Soulpepper.

Booze, Jealousy At Play's Core

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 25, 2006) It's a story about two guys named Randy, the habit (booze) that brings them together and the woman who may end up tearing them apart. 
Descent, Tom Walmsley's newest work, opens Theatre Passe Muraille's season tomorrow night and the actors playing the two Randys can't wait to see how audiences will react to this tragicomic ménage à trois.  "I have no idea how this is going to wash over an audience. I'm dying for people to come," said Christopher Morris, who plays Randy Wells, the more dipsomaniacal of the duo.  Brendan Murray plays a poet, Randy Wake, who brings a woman (Deborah Hay) into their lives who is intent on having one last wild fling before her impending marriage and a predictable ever after. Eight years later, a reunion takes place.  "There's a huge change in the eight years, without giving too much away," Murray said.  Though the two actors have never shared the same footlights, they have both worked twice with the play's director, Kate Lynch, though in different capacities.  Lynch, a prolific actor/director, has directed Murray both in drama class and in a 2005 Fringe play, while she and Morris have acted together in two Soulpepper productions.  "She's great because she loves actors and she loves to see people invent things," said Murray. "She's a chum and we can just talk. It just gets rid of barriers there might be between an actor and director."  Playwright Walmsley has been on hand during rehearsals and Morris — a long-time fan — calls him "the least pretentious writer I've ever met."

"(Walmsley) has no ulterior motive; he doesn't give a f--k what happens. He wants people to like the play and enjoy it and hopes it triggers something, but he doesn't care what people think of him," Morris said.  It's not the first time Walmsley has used the dynamic of two buddies and a girl. In fact, the Descent characters have been lifted from another play he wrote, White Boys, staged at the Tarragon Theatre in 1982.  "These guys are highly dependent on each other," said Murray, and share a need for instant gratification.  "The weird thing about these guys is they're so moment to moment. They're kind of like children in a way, `I want this now.' The one need that overrides (everything) is the drink," Murray said.  "Booze is first," Morris chimed in.  Murray said doing the play has made him more aware of the people on the fringes of society he sees every day; typically, he says, it's two older men hanging out together, panhandling or looking for their next drink.  "The other day I was walking to work and there were a couple of guys coming out of the beer store just after 9 a.m. And I thought, `These are the Randys in 30 years,'" Murray said.  "I think Tom (Walmsley) was once part of that. It's no secret he was a drinker 23 years ago."  Morris noted Walmsley is in a prolific period, having completed another play, Three Squares a Day, earlier this year while also working on a libretto for an opera, and with a new book of poetry set to come out soon.  "Something is coming out of him right now," Morris said. "He's very open about who he is."


Nemo Now A Fish-Out-Of Water Musical

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Oct. 20, 2006) NEW YORK—If you have been looking for Nemo, that rebellious fish from the 2003 animated film
Finding Nemo you can soon find him onstage, along with his overprotective clown fish of a father Marlin and the movie's other aquatic characters.  Disney is converting the undersea tale of Marlin's search for Nemo, who is scooped up by a diver, into what company officials are calling a "Broadway-calibre short-form" stage musical.  Preview performances of Finding Nemo-The Musical are set to begin next month. The show premieres in January 2007 in the 1,500-seat Theatre in the Wild at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.  The production marks the first time Disney has made a musical of a non-musical animated film. There will be tap-dancing sharks, bike-riding puppets and a punk performance by the great white shark Bruce.  The musical will run about 30 minutes, compared to the 104-minute movie, which grossed hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.  In the musical, the main characters — Nemo, Marlin and Dory — will appear as animated puppets operated by live performers.

At 81, Angela Lansbury Plans Return To Broadway

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Oct. 24, 06) New York -- Game, match and it's all set. After an absence of more than two decades, octogenarian
Angela Lansbury will return to Broadway this season to co-star with Marian Seldes in Deuce, a new play by Terrence McNally. The play concerns two retired tennis players (played by Lansbury and Seldes) who meet again at the U.S. Open.  It will premiere May 6 at the Music Box Theatre, Jim Byk, a spokesman for the production, said yesterday. Michael Blakemore, who directed such hits as Benefactors, Noises Off and Copenhagen, will direct. Additional casting as well as the show's design team will be announced. The 81-year-old Lansbury (long-time star of TV's Murder, She Wrote) is a four-time Tony-winner. AP



Dance Fest May Have To Bow Out

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(Oct. 23, 2006) The future of the
Toronto International Dance Festival is very much in doubt following financial losses from the August event in the Distillery District.  This year's festival was the first time the event, formerly known as the fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists, featured mainstage shows with invited artists. Many of the performances were poorly attended.  On Sept. 8, festival director Michael Menegon issued an email indicating the size of the problem.  "The 2006 Toronto International Dance Festival was a wonderful success in terms of number and quality of acts.... Unfortunately the festival incurred huge financial losses mostly attributed to lower than expected box office revenues.  "The losses were so large that the board of directors and staff need some time to contemplate how best to proceed."  Losses are estimated by a former insider at between $40,000 and $50,000. The organization launched the 2006 festival with an accumulated debt of $40,000.  In his email message Menegon wrote, "We are hereby informing you that we are unable at this time to honour any payment due to you. In the interest of all concerned and to proceed in the best and fairest manner we anticipate that it will take up to 30 days before a decision is made."  Creditors have received no further communication from Menegon, who did not return calls from the Star.

Recipients of the email message include dancers, musicians, production technicians and FLIP Publicity.  Mark Groulx, listed as board chair of fFIDA, producers of the festival, says he has resigned.  Laura Arsiè, named as treasurer on the fFIDA website, says she no longer serves in that capacity. She would only comment that the organization needed time to figure out a course of action.  The Penderecki String Quartet, which performed with Dancetheatre David Earle, is owed $3,500. Richard Paul, who represents the quartet, says he is distressed by the lack of response to a registered letter he sent requesting a payment plan.  "I don't know where things stand. I asked if they were to declare bankruptcy that my clients be put down as a secured creditor."  According to Carrie Sager, president of FLIP Publicity, her firm is owed the equivalent of one staff salary in unpaid fees by a number of producers whose shows failed to bring in anticipated revenues.  The problem, she notes in her monthly newsletter, is that funds to pay artists, production and service staff are not in hand before the shows go on. Producers reneging on fees are in a spot because they planned to pay them out of box office receipts that failed to come in.  Apparently such was the case with the Toronto International Dance Festival.



Michael J. Fox Backs Stem Cell Candidates

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jake Coyle, Associated Press

(Oct. 25, 2006) NEW YORK — The campaign ad opens with a familiar boyish face, now atop a body that sways uncontrollably.
Michael J. Fox, wearing a shirt and suit jacket, talks directly to the camera.  "They say all politics is local, but it's not always the case," Fox says in the 30-second commercial backing Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in Missouri, a Democrat. "What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans — Americans like me.''  Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and supports research on embryonic stem cell for a potential cure, also has lent his celebrity to Democrats Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, running for the Senate in Maryland, and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who is seeking re-election. Both politicians also back stem cell research.  The ads have triggered a backlash, with some criticizing them as exploitive. Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has claimed Fox was "either off his medication or acting.''  Dr. John Boockvar, a neurosurgeon and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical Center at New York's Presbyterian Hospital, called Limbaugh's claim "ludicrous." Boockvar said those with Parkinson's have "on" and "off" spells.  "If there is one single disease that has the highest potential for benefit from stem cell research," Boockvar said Tuesday, ``it's Parkinson's.''  Celebrities have a long history of supporting political candidates. But there's no question that Fox, who campaigned for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race, is uniquely suited as a spokesman for stem cell research.

Fox, 45, who starred on TV's "Family Ties" and "Spin City'' plus the "Back to the Future" films, shakes and rocks as he directly addresses the camera, the effects of his disease clearly apparent.  "The reason that he's powerful is that he's comparatively young," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director for the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center. "As a result, a lot of people in that age range can look at him and say, `If that can happen to him, it can happen to me.'''  Jamieson notes that the stem cell issue has the potential to be an advantage to Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections since polls have shown the majority of Americans favour some form of stem cell research. Critics say it requires the destruction of a human embryo.  The risk, Jamieson adds, is that the ads could appear as using Fox's hopes for a cure for political gain, as some claimed was the case when the paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve lobbied for stem cell research before his death in 2004.  Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive disorder of the central nervous system that leaves patients increasingly unable to control their movements.  Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and revealed his condition publicly in 1998. In 2000, he quit full-time acting because of his symptoms and founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which has raised millions of dollars.  He has since acted sporadically in smaller roles, such as in a several-episode guest appearance earlier this year on ABC's ``Boston Legal," playing a business tycoon with cancer.  For that role and others, Fox generally has sought to control his movements, though his illness was evident. He told The Associated Press in January that one long scene was physically taxing and that because of Parkinson's disease, he "can't show up with a game plan.''

Minister Byron Cage Harmonizes With National Health Initiative

Excerpt from

(Oct. 16, 2006) Knowledge can be life-saving when it comes to matters of health.  Minister Byron Cage is leading a new public awareness program, Strength in Harmony, to raise awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease (CDK), an emerging silent killer among African Americans.  Yet, the incidence of kidney failure can decrease significantly if people could identify the warning signs, leading to early detection and better health. Through health education, Ortho Biotech Products, L.P., in partnership with the COSHAR Foundation, Inc. (non- profit) intend to debilitate the disease through providing health education workshops at faith-based organizations and encouragement through concerts given by Minister Cage.  The kick-off for the initiative took place on March 28 at New Life Cathedral in Atlanta where Bishop Eddie Long is the Pastor and Cage is the Minister of Music.  Minister Cage is yoked to the cause. "I hope to help bring the African-American community together to take action against chronic kidney disease" he said.  Many people do not know they have kidney disease and the mortality rate among those who have it is disproportionately higher for African Americans.

While only 13 percent of the US population, African Americans represent 33 percent of patients treated for kidney failure in the United States. Often the condition is in its advanced stages before it is recognized.  According to the National Kidney Foundation's (NKF) Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) screenings results from 37,000 individuals participating revealed that half of the participants, most of whom had risk factors, had chronic kidney disease, but only two percent were aware of it.  Those with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or a hereditary link to kidney disease possess the greatest risk factors. Anemia is also a key warning sign of CPK. In fact, the KEEP screenings showed that 21 percent of African American participants with CKD had anemia, a disproportionately higher rate than other races.  To learn more about chronic kidney disease, anemia and Strength in Harmony visit them online.

PEN Gala Honours Murdered Journalist

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Oct. 20, 2006) Toronto author Ann-Marie MacDonald felt ``sick" when she heard of the recent murder of crusading Russian journalist and author
Anna Politkovskaya.  Sick because it reminded her of Montreal-based photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in custody in Tehran after being interrogated and accused of spying in July 2003.  Sick because a woman seemingly died for expressing her views.  And sick because it made MacDonald, a mother of two toddlers, feel as if the world is becoming a more dangerous place for writers like herself who are critical of their own government.  "I think we're starting a new era of self-censorship of which we have to be very vigilant," MacDonald said in a telephone interview ahead of her hosting duties at tonight's PEN Canada benefit at University of Toronto's Convocation Hall.  PEN Canada, a non-profit group of writers that defends freedom of expression, decided to honour Politkovskaya at its annual gala benefit after hearing of her death Oct. 7.  The writer, known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya and of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot to death in her Moscow apartment building.  In a previously unpublished article in Britain's Guardian newspaper last weekend, Politkovskaya called herself "a pariah."  She described the risks she faced and the clandestine ways she obtained information, saying, "You don't get used to this, but you learn to live with it."

MacDonald called Politkovskaya's actions "heroic."  "I just can't imagine being in that position," said MacDonald, who is an actor, playwright and Giller Prize nominee for her books Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies.  "I'm in one of the very blessed and peaceful corners of this very troubled world."  MacDonald did express concern at the Conservative government's foreign policy and wondered if her criticism of Canada's military role in Afghanistan might one day get her into trouble.  "I've participated in benefits for people who have been detained by our government on security certificates," said MacDonald.  "We pick out the CSIS people and RCMP people in the audience, and you know you're being photographed and taped and it's been made note of ... And even (to make) me question what I'm doing has a chilling effect."  PEN Canada said Politkovskaya was the 13th journalist who had been gunned down in Russia since Putin took power in 2000.  "Several of us in the PEN community knew her personally, so it was a shock," said David Cozac, programs co-ordinator for PEN Canada.  Tonight's event will display an empty chair representing Politkovskaya's absence.


YouTube Deletes 30,000 Unapproved Videos

Source: Associated Press

(Oct. 20, 2006) TOKYO — The popular U.S.-based video-sharing website
YouTube has deleted nearly 30,000 files over copyright concerns after being asked by a group representing Japan's entertainment industry.  The Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, found 29,549 files such as video clips from TV programs, music videos and movies posted on YouTube's site without permission, said Fumiyuki Asakura, an official from the organization, on Friday.  The group found the files posted by users without authorization from Japanese copyright holders during research done earlier this month, Asaskura said.  Acting on behalf of 23 Japanese TV stations and movie and music companies, the group asked YouTube to remove the copyrighted materials, he said.  San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube quickly removed all the files requested, he said.  Most videos posted on YouTube are homemade, but the site also features volumes of copyrighted material — a problem that has caused some critics to predict the start-up eventually would be sued.  Asakura said the entertainment industry group is considering asking YouTube to introduce a preliminary screening process to prevent illegal video clips from being posted.  Since YouTube started in February 2005, the company has blossomed, now showing more than 100 million video clips per day.  YouTube's worldwide audience was 72.1 million by August, up 2.8 million from a year earlier, according to comScore Media Metrix.

BC Author Wins TD Literature Prize

Source: Canadian Press

(Oct. 19, 2006) Poet and novelist
Pamela Porter of Sidney, B.C., won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for her book The Crazy Man, about life on a prairie wheat farm.  Porter beat out three other finalists to receive the $20,000 prize — the largest of its kind in Canada — in a ceremony Thursday at the Design Exchange.  The other three finalists will share a $10,000 award.  The Crazy Man, which was awarded the Governor General's award for children's literature last year, tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who is disabled in a farm accident in southern Saskatchewan.  It was inspired by Porter's husband's family, which owns a farm near Weyburn, Sask. Porter was born in Albuquerque, N.M.  Author Francois Gravel and illustrator Pierre Pratt, who produced the book David et le salon funeraire, shared the $20,000 prize for the TD Canadian Children's French-language Literature Award earlier this week in a ceremony in Montreal.  Jurors based their decisions on quality of text and illustrations, as well as the books' overall contribution to children's literature.  The award is part of a program of the Canadian Children's Book Centre, a national not-for-profit organization that promotes Canadian books for children and teens.



NFL Coming To Canada?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Oct. 25, 2006) NEW ORLEANS — The
NFL will play as many as two regular-season games per year outside the United States starting in 2007, with Mexico, Canada, England and Germany as possible sites for starters.  The plan, first announced last month, was approved Tuesday at the recommendation of new commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the benefits of reaching an international audience outweighed the loss of some teams' home games.  "We are talking about a limited number of games that we think will have a tremendous impact," Goodell said. "It's in response to the growing fan interest in our game overseas. There are more and more fans on a global basis.''  Mark Waller, senior vice president of NFL International, said the league expected to schedule only one overseas game in 2007.  No specific sites were given for the games. However, Waller said the league hoped to announce the first site by this coming Super Bowl, while the teams would be selected later.  "Germany has a large number of sites as it's just done the World Cup. U.K. has a significant number of great sites," Waller said. "We know the sites in Mexico and Canada, so there's no shortage of venues that are interested in these games.''  The plan would be set up so that teams would rotate over a 16-year period, with each team playing outside the country twice over that span, once as a visitor, the other as a home team. That means a team would lose one home team during that span.  "Obviously the league's going to work out the economics and if we lose a home game, we'll get compensated," said Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos. "We're comfortable with it. Obviously we'd like to play in Mexico or Canada and not have to travel to Europe and that's probably the way it would be set up because of our location. But as far as the league's concerned, I think it's a great idea.''

In 2005, the NFL staged its first regular-season game outside the United States when the Arizona Cardinals hosted the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. A crowd of 103,467 flocked to Azteca Stadium, the largest crowd for a regular-season game in NFL history.  The league also has played numerous exhibition games overseas for the past two decades. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will play a preseason game next August in Beijing.  Waller said the international popularity of certain teams would not necessarily determine who goes abroad. He said people in foreign markets were more concerned with simply hosting a regular season game, rather than exhibitions in which the best players tend see little action.  "The overwhelming preference is the game itself," Waller said.  NFL games regularly have been televised live in Mexico and Canada and more recently in Europe, notably Britain.  The owners also voted to take the league's website,, in-house after allowing CBS SportsLine to operate it for the past five years. The league plans to relaunch the site next spring with the help of other league-owned media such as NFL Films and the NFL Network.  The visit to New Orleans was a short one as most owners arrived either Monday night or Tuesday morning and left Tuesday evening.  Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, before he officially left the job over the summer, had called for the regularly scheduled October meetings to be held in New Orleans as part of the league's show of support for the city as it rebuilds from Hurricane Katrina.  Owners and the commissioner said they have marvelled at the repairs made to the Louisiana Superdome in less than a year and praised area fans for selling out the Saints' home stadium for the whole season.  However, Saints owner Tom Benson, while pleased with the progress, said the Saints still have nearly 30 of 137 suites in the Superdome unsold and added that his team lagged behind others in corporate sponsorships.

"Our hospitality industry especially needs to come forward,'' he said. "I don't want to finger-point or anything, but we have to work together in order to make this thing successful.  "The long-term market, nobody can tell right now," Benson continued. "But a year ago, before Katrina, we weren't quite sure and look what we've done. There's no telling what could happen.''  As for when New Orleans, which has hosted nine Super Bowls, might get its first since 2002, team owners were optimistic but noncommittal.  "I don't know about the next Super Bowl in line, but obviously New Orleans has always been a great place to host Super Bowls,'' Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said. "I'd expect you'd see more.''  Goodell said the bidding process for the 2011 Super Bowl will begin soon with a decision hopefully made by the next owners' meeting, slated for March in Scottsdale, Ariz.  The Saints' lease in the Superdome ends that same season. So without an extension, the league would risk the awkward situation of placing a Super Bowl in a city that is in the process of losing its NFL franchise.  Proposals for a stadium in Los Angeles, often cited as a possible future home for the Saints or another small-market team, was discussed, but there was no substantial progress made.  One increasing concern is projected construction costs now escalating in the range of $1 billion. That makes the project less attractive to the league unless public funding or a possible outside investor materializes, owners said.  "At this meeting, I don't think (NFL owners) were prepared to pay that for Los Angeles' stadium," Benson said.


Former Jay Wins Clemente Award

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Oct. 24, 2006) ST. LOUIS — When
Carlos Delgado was growing up in Puerto Rico, he learned all about the legacy of Roberto Clemente and idolized the late Hall of Fame outfielder.  That's why it meant so much to Delgado to win the 2006 Roberto Clemente Award, given to the major league player who best combines community service with excellence on the field.  "This is a great honour for me," the New York Mets' first baseman said Tuesday before Game 3 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. "This is something really special, just because I'm Puerto Rican — 34 years after Roberto has passed, his legacy is still very much alive.''  Delgado, who wears No. 21 as a tribute to Clemente, was chosen from 30 nominees, one from each big league team. He joins a list of previous winners that includes 11 Hall of Famers, such as the late Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield.  Clemente, of course, grew up in Puerto Rico and became an All-Star right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while trying to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits.  "He's an icon," Delgado said. "I'm a fan before anything. When they talk about Clemente, I'm a fan. I (said), `When I grow up I want to be like that.'''  Delgado joined former Seattle star Edgar Martinez (2004) as the only players from Puerto Rico to win the Clemente Award. Players are eligible to win only once.

Mike Tyson Begins Boxing Tour With A ‘Win’

Excerpt from

(October 23, 2006) *On day one of "
The Mike Tyson World Tour" in Youngstown Ohio, about 4,000 fans filled the 6,000-seat Chevrolet Centre to watch the former heavyweight champion of the world beat his former sparring partner Corey "T-Rex" Sanders. "It was fun, that's my first time boxing since my last fight," said Tyson, who retired last year after losing to Kevin McBride. "I didn't know how tough it would be." Tyson dropped Sanders to the canvas early in the first round. Critics described both fighters as being overweight, with Tyson having to support Sanders from falling down several more times more during the four-round match. Tyson, whom Sanders outweighed by 50 pounds, was reportedly gasping for air during each of the 2 ½ minute rounds.  The Associated Press wrote the following account of the match: “Tyson made his way to the ring. But not long after Tyson knocked down Sanders, the warm buzz quickly faded. With Tyson and Sanders locked up like two ballroom dancers, the crowd, which paid up to $200 for a ticket, first began a vulgar chant directed at Tyson and soon began to boo at what looked more like a pillow fight than a boxing match. “Tyson responded with a right-left combination that buckled Sanders. But instead of finishing off his opponent the way he almost always did, Tyson wrapped his arms around Sanders to prevent him from hitting the canvas.” "I don't know what people were looking for," said promoter Sterling McPherson, who said Tyson will choose among eight locations for his next fight. "We weren't trying to fool anyone or pull the wool over anyone's eyes. This was an exhibition. People boo at real fights. ... This isn't about him beating anybody up." This fight was available for $29.95 on pay-per-view and McPherson may be waiting to see the size of the worldwide TV audience before planning the next date. The tour has the specific purpose of helping Tyson raise money for his out-of-control debt.



Make a New Start this Fall

By Leslie Salmon Jones,

I don't know about you, but fall often seems more like the start of a new year to me than January does. Kids are back in school, activities re-start after a summer break, traffic picks up and even work takes on a more frenzied pace. The warm relaxed days of summer already seem so far behind us as we dive headfirst into a new season. With that in mind, fall seems like the perfect time to re-solidify commitments to health and fitness. In September kids went back to school with a backpack full of new supplies to help them navigate the next grade. Why not take a page out of their notebook and take a similar approach to your health this fall? Commit to stepping up to your next grade in health and fitness and make that goal a reality with a new journal. Start by recording your nutrition intake and daily activities on a regular basis. After just a few journal entries, you'll notice whether or not you're making the grade. If not, note what changes need to be made and take it from there.

If the coming of fall has turned you into a whirling dervish, remember to take time to stop and smell the roses. Although many roses aren't in season right now, you can still stop and enjoy the beautiful fall colours. Take time to admire the stunning colour pallet nature has put before us, as the trees slowly turn from green to yellow, orange and red.  While you're at it, make the most of the fun fall activities that are available in your community. Check out local pumpkin patches, apple farms or corn mazes. There's also still time to enjoy lovely fall hikes with friends and family. With all this talk of fall, it's hard to forget that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Instead of letting holiday stress get to you, use this time to take inventory of what you have and give thanks everyday for those things in your life that you are truly grateful for. After all, gratitude is life's fertilizer.


Motivational Note - The Talking Bird

Excerpt from - By Willie Jolley,

There is a tale of a rare talking bird that could speak five languages. A gentleman heard of this rare talking bird and started a worldwide search. He had a desire to add this bird to his museum-like collection. After an exhausting search of many months, he stopped in an exotic pet store to ask for more information. And there, in that shop, he found the rare bird! He told the owner of the shop that he had additional travel, but to please send the bird to his home in two days. The shop keeper agreed, and the gentleman excitedly paid for the very expensive bird and left for the next part of his journey, looking forward to seeing the rare bird upon his return home! Upon arriving home, he asked his wife if the bird had arrived, and she replied, "Yes!" He said, "Where is it?" And she said, "In the oven." "What?!!! That was a one-of-a-kind bird that could speak five languages!" And his wife said, "Well, why didn't it speak up?!!" Most of us are like that bird. We have skills, talents and abilities that could change our lives, but we won't speak up and show the world what we've got to offer! Folks, you are unique. Let others know of your skills, talents and abilities. There is no one exactly like you. Speak up!