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88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
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Updated:  October 5, 2006


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  It's the perfect time to be thankful - although I'm a firm believer in trying to remain in a thankful state. 

I'm so honoured to have a personal endorsement by
Petal Baptiste at MuchMusic.  Thanks so much, Petal.  Check it out HERE.  And check some more MuchMusic news below!





Jully Black at The Drake Hotel – October 6, 2006

Jully Black is coming out of hiding and hitting the stage on Friday October 6th, 2006 at The Drake Hotel. The show will be taped as part of a 30 minute Jully Black special to air on MuchMusic and in schools across Canada. 

So, let’s get a packed house on Friday and a Thanksgiving weekend to remember.  Hope to see you at the Drake on Friday!**

And while her songs sound phenomenal when others sing them, when they come out of Jully's mouth directly, it'll send chills up and down your spine. "My absolute favourite thing to do is perform. I don't drink or smoke, so performing gives me a rush like no other." she says. "It doesn't matter if there are two people in the audience, I just love to do it." She's already opened for Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Usher, and looks forward to sharing a stage with her favourites: Etta James, Anita Baker, James Brown, Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill. In the tradition of her influences, Jully's is a no-holds-barred approach. When she's up on that stage, either acoustically or with a full band behind her, you know she's drawing on every emotion, embracing her audience and throwing herself into every note.

Live Acoustic Show with special guest Justin Nozuka
1150 Queen Street West
9:00 pm
$15 in advance at Soundscapes and Rotate This

**Note:  Jully is fresh from being on assignment in New York for eTalk, and covered the launch of Oprah Winfrey's "Oprah & Friends" XM Satellite Radio Channel launch!  eTalk got the Canadian Exclusive, the only Canadian Entertainment Magazine Show invited to the festivities.  It was an inspiring sit down breakfast with Oprah & Friends - literally!


Monica’s ‘The Makings of Me’

Source:  Sony/BMG

Monica returns with “The Makings of Me,” a cutting edge, career defining album showcasing her growth while taking an intimate look into her personal life.  With production from Jermaine Dupri, Missy Elliot, Damon and Harvey and Sean Garret, “The Makings of Me” is the album her fan base has been waiting for! 

Monica’s new CD features the single, “Everytime Tha Beat Drops” featuring Dem Franchize Boyz & the new single “Dozen Roses” which is produced by & features
Missy Elliott. “Dozen Roses” features samples of the Curtis Mayfield classic “The Makings of You.”

Monica’s career defining CD, “The Makings of Me” is in stores October 10th!

::top stories::

Craig “Big C” Mannix Joins Offshoot Communications

It was announced September 15th that
Craig “Big C” Mannix will be leaving his position as National Director of Urban Artist & Label Development with EMI Music Canada as of Friday September 22nd to pursue opportunities with Offshoot Communications.  Craig’s career in the music industry has spanned close to 15 years and has seen him work in marketing and promotions for record labels both in Canada and the U.S.  It was his tenure at EMI in which he saw the most growth. 

Deane Cameron comments, “Over his years at EMI Music Canada, Craig has been a guiding force in the development of a strong urban division. He has particularly been instrumental in our success with local urban music.  His pop, rock and urban sensibilities coupled with strong marketing prowess have seen him extend his role within the company from marketing into A&R. It is this constant growth that has led Craig to this amazing opportunity with Offshoot Communications.  We feel fortunate to be able to continue to work with Craig in both his international consultant role with EMI and in his new position at Offshoot Communications.”   Offshoot Communications is a full service sales and marketing agency whose past clients have included Triple Five Soul, Reebok and Nike. Currently, Offshoot boasts clients such as G-Unit Clothing, Luxurie, Artful Dodger, RWD, Edwin Jeans, 10 Deep, Crooks and Castles, iSkin, TBG/Too Black Guys and LRG.

Craig will continue to work closely with the team at EMI as an international consultant on the k-os album project Atlantis: Hymns for Disco set for release October 10th.  Says Craig: “I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with k-os on an international level. He is an exceptional artist and I look forward to being part of the team that will introduce him to the rest of the world and to the pure talent we’ve all been privileged to witness”   As he embarks on this new chapter in his career Craig reflects on his past and is excited about his future. “All my years at EMI have been amazing and I have been given great opportunities to learn and grow. The most exciting part of this new endeavor is that I will still be working as an integral part of the EMI family which is very important to me.”

Craig’s contact information as of Monday September 25th will be as follows:

Offshoot Communications
Tel: 416-703-8225

Jazz Newcomer Kellylee Evans Tapped As Opening Act For Tony Bennett

Just four months after releasing the indie release of her debut CD, “Fight or Flight?” jazz singer and songwriter Kellylee Evans has been asked to open for music icon and legend Tony Bennett at the Montreal stop of his tour. The sold out performance is a part of the Montreal Jazz Festival Jazz All Year Round Series and will take place Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 8pm in the Salle Wilfred Pelletier.  After a career spanning 50 years and millions of albums sold, Tony Bennett ranks among the great interpreters of the American songbook. Frank Sinatra himself dubbed Bennett the greatest singer.  Bennett is currently celebrating his 80th birthday and the release of his new album, “Duets” which includes duets with top artists including Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, the Dixie Chicks and Elton John.  Kellylee Evans has been earning rave reviews for her soulful music and charismatic performances since her second place win of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition in 2004. The judges for the competition included Quincy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Al Jarreau.  With the release of her debut album, "fight or flight?" this past May, her music has been reaching out across the world, garnering her praise, national radio play and strong sales.  The CD is comprised of 11 original songs from Evans, whose songwriting chops earned her comparison to Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello and Ron Sexsmith (Brian Lush,  The CD was also selected as a Barnes and Noble Discover New Artists release along with Corinne Bailey Rae and Gnarls Barkley.

On October 12th she will embark on her “From the Capital to the Capital” tour which begins the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and will end with a performance at the renowned Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  The event is part of their Discovery Jazz Series.

To arrange an interview with Kellylee Evans or for a review copy of “Fight or Flight?” please call Paula Danylevich (HYPE MUSIC) at 416-360-3775 or email  For more information about this artist, and to hear some of her music please visit the websites below.  


Menopause Out Loud! ™ Celebrates Its 100th Performance

: Laura Heidbuechel, dkpr public relations inc.

(September 27, 2006) TORONTO: Thirty Thousand people in Toronto and over 6.6 million world-wide have vicariously experienced hot flashes, mood swings and even some memory loss remembering the hit tunes from the 60's, 70's and 80's stylized with new lyrics at the forever popular musical Menopause Out Loud! ™.  The cast will celebrate its 100th performance, since previews began June 21, on Saturday, September 30 at 2 p.m. The show stars
Alana Bridgewater (Power Woman), Jayne Lewis (Soap Star), Nicole Robert (Earth Mother), and Rose Ryan (Iowa Housewife). Alana Bridgewater is known as the voice for the 2008 Olympic Bid Song and highlights include Smokey Joe’s Café, Little Shop of Horrors, Peter Gzowski’s Celebrity Golf Tournament and CBC TV’s In a Jam. Jayne Lewis recently performed the role of Meredith in Bat Boy at the Bathurst Street Theatre in Toronto. Toronto audiences will remember Nicole Robert as Tanya in Mama Mia, a role she performed for nearly three years at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Rose Ryan’s stage credits include Things We Do for Love at Stage West and The Glass Menagerie with Tribal Productions.  Menopause Out Loud! ™ is more than a theatrical production: it’s a show that empowers women, leaving them singing, dancing in the aisles and laughing out loud from the first to final scene.

Here’s what audiences have to say:

"FABULOUS—HYSTERICAL—mascara running down my face—stomach ache from laughing so hard—trying not to miss all the words to the songs while everyone else is howling………what an evening!!!! I must say, with all the theatre I see, I got my money’s worth and THEN SOME last night---what a show."


MuchMusic.Com Launches Music Download Store

Source:  MuchMusic

(Toronto – October 4) Starting today at, users can preview, purchase, and download music to their PCs and portable MP3 players.  For the first time ever, a Canadian broadcaster is offering music lovers songs for download, the result of a groundbreaking partnership between – Canada’s premier destination for music content – and Puretracks Inc., a leading North American download service provider.  The selection of more than a million tunes – with more added every week – includes every major music label and a huge selection of content from independent labels.  In addition to a robust menu, the download store from the Nation’s Music Station stocks exclusive content, including songs as well as celebrity and MuchMusic playlists.  In addition to great usability and selection, sets itself apart with extras that only MuchMusic could provide.  Starting today, fans of bands such as Lillix, or of MuchMusic VJs Sarah Taylor and Tim Deegan, can purchase playlists created exclusively for customers, creating a unique and truly interactive music-buying experience.  Stay tuned for more celebrity playlists.  Fans can also purchase the track lists from their favourite genre-specific MuchMusic programmes such as Vibe, Loud, and The Wedge.  The download store is also completely integrated with other elements of, and allows users browsing the site to search for related ringtones and music videos.

To celebrate the launch of the store, MuchMusic and Windup Records are pleased to offer an exclusive acoustic version of Call Me When You’re Sober, bundled with the new album The Open Door, by multi-platinum selling band Evanescence.  Look for more exclusives in coming months.  “We’re evolving as our audience evolves,” says David Kines, Vice President, CHUM Television Music and Youth Services “and the time is right to enhance the multi-platform experience of MuchMusic to include the ability to discover, sample and purchase digital music.”  “Our audience has always turned to MuchMusic to find out about what’s new and cool in music,” says Maria Hale, Vice President, Content Business Development, CHUM Television.  “ takes this interaction to a whole new level.  Now, fans can access the playlists of their favourite tastemakers, including VJs like Sarah Taylor and Tim Deegan and famous musicians.”  The process for downloading high-quality, Windows Media files, high-speed to PCs is easy: users browse and sample music on, place their selections in a virtual shopping cart, and log-in with their MuchMusic membership to pay for their transaction and complete the download.  Once downloaded, these files can be played from PCs, burned to CD or transferred to portable MP3 players that support Windows Media files.  Prices range from $.79 to $1.29 per track, and payment is made by using any of the three major credit cards.

About MuchMusic: Recognized by Strategy magazine as the 'Brand of the Year' for 2005, MuchMusic is an integral part of today's pop culture landscape - delivering fans an unparalleled music television experience since August 31, 1984. Direct from our critically-acclaimed street-level studios in downtown Toronto, each and every program day not only hits the best in top musicvideo, but creates a destination where fans can stay connected to "The Nation's Music Station". Here's how... MuchMusic consistently delivers exclusive LIVE performance and interview with world-famous musical artists and celebrity guests, critically-acclaimed specialty programming, breaking entertainment news, innovative wireless content and Canada's favourite Web site for teens, Along with marquee franchises including MuchOnDemand, MuchNews and The MuchMusic Video Awards, top rated series including Live@Much and The NewMusic, are distributed to 120 countries internationally.

CHUM Interactive integrates CHUM Limited's well known media brands in music, entertainment, science fiction, lifestyle and local news with new media platforms including online, wireless and enhanced television.

About Puretracks Inc:  Puretracks ( is Canada’s first and only digital music download service. With a rapidly growing catalogue of songs from all five major record labels and a growing list of Canadian and international independents, Puretracks allows music fans nationwide to search and download high quality Windows Media-format digital music, from 99 cents a song. Puretracks was developed by Toronto-based Moontaxi Media (, a leading North American online music distributor dedicated to delivering high quality music content in both streaming and download formats.

Hip Hop Music Video: 'Tookie Williams Tribute'


To commemorate the upcoming one year anniversary of the
'Save Tookie' campaign, is pleased to premiere a new hip hop music video, paying tribute to late Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Stanley 'Tookie' Williams.  The music video is called "Criminal Mind", and is performed by Canadian hip-hop founder Wes 'Maestro' Williams. It is directed by well-known filmmaker Skin, who gives the video a "Law & Order" style, to show Maestro rapping in a courtroom about the educational messages of Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, and why they are of vital concern to youth who follow hip hop culture.  Maestro received national attention at home alongside fellow Canadian hip hop personality Raoul 'Deejay Ra' Juneja for their work as part of the 'Save Tookie Canada' campaign, as they appeared on local radio and TV stations in late 2005 trying to raise clemency support for Tookie, and awareness of his children's books amongst multi-cultural youth.  In 2003, Tookie's co-author Barbara Becnel arranged for Maestro to speak personally to Stanley 'Tookie' Williams when the "Redemption" movie starring Jamie Foxx as Tookie and Lynn Whitfield as Barbara was being filmed in Toronto. "It felt like angels were on the set while we filmed Tookie's movie in Toronto," explained Maestro in a Canadian CTV interview. "It was a beautiful thing to be involved, and I told Tookie I was proud to make my contribution to his legacy - he's saved thousands and thousands of lives."  The Tookie tribute music video also features a guest verse from well-known Toronto rap artist Infinite, and is actually a re-make of a 1985 Canadian rock song by legendary musician Gowan, who performs the new song's chorus.

Maestro, Infinite and Gowan are all JUNO Award Winners (the equivalent of the Grammy award in Canada). The blending of rap and rock, the important political messages, and the focus on the case of Stanley 'Tookie' Williams arguably makes this the most important hip-hop video to ever come out of Canada for the world to see.  "Criminal Mind" is being released by
Skin's Indever Films (photo above with Maestro) and Deejay Ra's Lyrical Knockout Entertainment entirely to raise donations for the 'Tookie' Redemption Fund. If you enjoy the video, please make a donation at:
View the video ‘Criminal Mind’ HERE is proud to sponsor the Tookie Tribute music video premiere. Video hosted courtesy of CRN Live:

To see more of filmmaker Skin's music videos, visit:


From Ziggy To The World With Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 30, 2006) At 37,
Ziggy Marley has lived a year longer than his reggae superstar father, who died of cancer in 1981. And that's just long enough for the eldest of Bob Marley's seven sons to fulfill his spiritual quest and realize dad's dream of making an independent record — thanks to his second solo record, Love is My Religion.  Through a deal with retail giant Target, the Kingston, Jamaica-born, California-based Marley retains the masters of the recently released album. Love Is My Religion contains socio-political themes similar to youngest brother Damian's 2005 Grammy winner Welcome to Jamrock, but with softer, subtler delivery.  The Star spoke with the married father of four during a recent Toronto visit.

Q What's the concept behind Love is My Religion?

A The song and the phrase came about during a conversation with someone. The person said she was Catholic and asked me and I said: "Love is my religion." I said it without thinking, but it was like a revelation. And then I wrote the song. I feel it's a phrase and a philosophy that was given to me to give to the world. It is an evolution of my way of thinking of God. Through the years I was always searching, always seeking the truth, seeking the light. I think I've reached the final conclusion of my life: that love is my religion.

Q Does that mean you're not a Rasta any more?

A Rastafari is the name that we use to identify the Creator. It doesn't matter to me what you want to call that energy, that force, that spirit that we would like to identify as the source of all life. Rastafari was never a religion. We never went around trying to force people to believe what we believe. We just live the way we live and many people took it on, because they liked the culture. Now love is my religion and the only reason I even use the word religion is so that people can understand the concept.

Q What impact do you hope this philosophy will have?

A My biggest dream is that people will now forget what they've been taught for thousands of years.

Q That's a heavy expectation for one guy singing some songs in these cynical times.

A It is, but, hey, I have the freedom to do that. And I have generations to do it, too. It's not like it has to happen today.

Q Didn't your father have a similar vision?

A He was a little bit more fundamentalist than I am. I've taken his (ideal) and kind of evolved it into a more open concept.

Q Stephen is seen as the Marley family's production guru, yet you didn't use him on this record.

A I'm the older brother, right (laughs). Steve and me first started going through, playing music and ... I'm just the older brother.

Q So ego prevented you from collaborating with him?

A We do (collaborate), for ideas, or "What you think about this? What you think about that?" But I'm the older brother, I have a little bit more experience. He has his style that he does.

Q How do you characterize the differences between your music and Damian's?

A He has a lot more hip hop, drum machines; it's more contemporary. My music comes from a more organic place. I want to do spiritual music. I like grooves, but I'm not too much into beats. I'm into affecting the inside of human beings more than the outside. I want to affect the spiritual movement. Damian's message is strong, but it's more to affect the physical.

Q How is the Target deal (as sole U.S. distributor of his new disc for one year) working out?

A It was an experiment, it was all right, but I don't think I would do it again. It's a little too limited. Since I've been in America touring, I've found a lot of people don't even know the record. I expected more publicity from Target to invite people into the stores to pick up the record.

Q Wasn't the point of the deal a low $9.99 (U.S.) price for consumers and increased profits for you?

A I still want my records to be at a fair price for consumers. As a musician, I can tell you that $14 to $16 for a CD is robbery.

Q How do you feel about the continual comparisons to your dad?

A My father's work is obviously the great work. He is the one who set the foundation for me, so I have to pay much respect to him and other musicians before me. I am his son and just like any other father and son ... he has to get that respect. He's my big brother.

Natalie Cole Is Back With First CD In Nearly 4 Years

Source: Jimmy Kwak, Snr. Manager, Online Promotions, llc,

(October 4, 2006) Eight-time Grammy R Award winner
Natalie Cole has released her 20th studio album, marking an impressive milestone that speaks to her musicianship, her critically acclaimed abilities as a vocalist and her connection to her fans.   Leavin' also marks her first album of new material in nearly four years, a recording that returns Natalie to her musical roots as one of our time's best r&b/pop vocalists.   The Verve Records release finds the acclaimed chanteuse, who has sold more than 30 million albums, working with Grammy R Award winning producer Dallas Austin, a combination which has produced one of Natalie's most dynamic recordings to date.   An eclectic mix of classic pop, r&b and rock tracks, the 12-song album mixes Natalie's stunning vocals with a list of classic songs from the likes of Fiona Apple, Aretha Franklin, Kate Bush, Sting, Shelby Lynne and others, as well as a new song, "5 Minutes Away," a writing collaboration between Cole, Austin and keyboardist Chanz Parkman. "Leavin' represents a musical freedom that has given me the opportunity to explore the greatness in the songs of some of our most talented and gifted songwriters," said Natalie.  "It was a lot of fun to be able to put our spin on these songs and I thoroughly enjoyed interpreting them.  Dallas was absolutely brilliant in the studio and together I think we were able to present a fresh new twist on some great music.  I can't wait for our fans to hear the album."

The launch of the CD will be led by a remake of the 1972 #1 Billboard R&B single, the Aretha Franklin smash "Day Dreaming."  Updated with a bit of hip-hop flavour, the song is the first single from the album and marks the release of Natalie's first urban/pop single in nearly 16 years.  Ironically, Natalie spent much of the early part of her career being compared to Franklin. Natalie took some unexpected creative turns on Leavin.' The title track is a soulful recast of the Shelby Lynne song from her Grammy winning 2000 release I Am Shelby Lynne.  She also tackles a rock standard by taking on Neil Young's "Old Man," an eloquent compliment to the original that shows the warmth and subtlety of Then there's the Fiona Apple hit "Criminal," which Natalie and Austin gave a bluesy feel, as well as "The More You Do It," a track that pays homage to her first husband and musical collaborator, the late producer Marvin Yancy. The track completes a trio of more soulful cuts including the Isley Brothers "Don't Say Goodnight" and the Etta James inspired "Lovin' Arms," each of which grants Natalie the opportunity to move back to her 70's roots with rich, shimmering vocals. Other highlights include remakes of songs written and made famous by Sting and Kate Bush.  The record is set to be launched with performances on a number of major morning and late night television programs and Natalie is expected to introduce the record via several intimate showcases.  These outings are expected to be followed by a theatre tour planned for late fall.

Governor - Born Ready

Excerpt from - Katy Kroll

(September 29, 2006) "I was born ready," says R&B singer
Governor about the release of his album "Son of Pain."  It has been a long time coming for the 30-something artist, who over the years has been signed to three different labels and recorded music with 50 Cent and Dr. Dre that was never officially released.  Now he's finally found a "home" on rapper T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint, through a joint venture with Atlantic.  The pairing has proven to be harmonious. Last week, "Son of Pain" debuted on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at No. 50.  But even though he has been running with the big dogs for years, there were times he didn't think it would happen.  "I'm human," Governor tells "Sometimes it was discouraging, but now is, oddly enough, a better time than any. I'm still here, and I'm gonna reach my goal."  His "goal" goes far beyond just bringing his music -- which he calls "soul folk" -- to the masses.  "My passion is reaching people and saying something positive, and knowing what I say is not for the benefit of money. It's not about that for me, it's about the purpose," he says. "It is [about] the ability to reach people, and to care enough to reach people. Y'know, some people just don't care. I care, and I want my audience to care about the people they're sitting next to at a show. I'm trying to create something positive.  "I'm not saying I'm the face of R&B, but I would like to be a catalyst to help bring that positive vibe back to music as a whole," he adds. "We know what it's like to hustle. We all know what drugs are -- even the average 10-year-old kid knows. We don't have to always glorify [those things]. Damn. Can we talk about somethin' different?"

Unlike most R&B and hip-hop artists these days, Governor does not aspire to branding his name via clothing or sneaker lines in order to become a mainstream artist.  "I want to sell my music, but I don't want to use anything to sell my music," he says. "I'd rather use the sales from my music to promote other positive things, like programs for inner-city kids or building athletic facilities that will be available for kids that have no outlet. To hell with the f*cking clothes. I like clothes -- I love clothes -- but I'm not out here dying to get a clothing line so I can sell $125 million worth of product in a year. That's not my thing."  On "Son of Pain," which was overseen by such renowned producers as Scott Storch, Wyclef Jean and Raphael Saadiq, Governor drew from his painful childhood -- his mother committed suicide when he was just an infant -- to write the songs.  "I always look at the past and hope that it doesn't repeat itself in the future," he says. "That's where my inspiration comes from -- helping somebody else get over something that I've already been through. Like it says, I'm the son of pain, so if I can tell you an experience that I went through and you can escape it then I've done my job. Then my life has not been in vain. My purpose is to carry a positive message to other people who want to live positive."  He then sums up his approach to life and music by adding, "When I die and leave this earth I want what I did to remain here longer than I would have ever hoped."



Moore Feels Validated By New CD, Itching For Another

Excerpt from - Gail Mitchell, L.A.

(September 29, 2006) Now that his new Rhino album, "Overnight Sensational," is gaining acclaim,
Sam Moore says he's finally gotten something out of the way. "I don't have to try to prove I can sing with other people or that I can't sing anything other than 'Soul Man' or 'Hold On! I'm Coming,'" he tells "That drives me up the wall."  Moore was in New York this week in New York for promotional appearances on behalf of "Overnight Sensational," which features Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Steve Winwood, Mariah Carey and Vince Gill, among others. Guest spots earlier this week on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and Don Imus' MSNBC show followed Moore's recent acceptance of a lifetime achievement award presented by Winwood at the MOBO awards in London.  "I was very happy to accept that honour," says Moore who, as a member of the R&B/pop duo Sam & Dave, scored several crossover hits in the '60s. "We played a part in bringing soul music to the U.K. That's something, you know?"  Having in his words "rounded the corner of every award that could come to a guy," Moore is hankering to get back into the studio to record a new solo project. "Wonderful writers have been approached already," says the singer, who turns 71 on Oct. 12.

"The hardest thing is finding songs that Sam can sing singularly. That's going to be the job."  What most folks may not know is that before he and Sam & Dave partner Dave Prater hooked up, the Miami-born Moore was honing his chops singing standards like "I'll Never Smile Again."  "People won't believe I can sing those songs, but that's what I was doing," says Moore with a hearty laugh. "I'd be sitting on a stool in my seersucker suit with a shirt and tie, topped off by a stingy-brimmed hat. You couldn't tell me I wasn't Frank Sinatra."  Still, "Overnight Sensational" gave him the opportunity to work with someone dear to his heart: Billy Preston. Before he died earlier this year, Preston contributed to two songs on the album, "I Can't Stand the Rain" and his own composition, "You Are So Beautiful."  "He was like my son," recalls Moore. "I'd known him since he was 10. He still had to do his dialysis so it was hard. But I was happy to have my boy there playing. To look out through the glass and see him that day [in the studio] ... wow. I'm happy to have on the record a piece of those fingers that he was known for."

Eve Drafts Top Producers For 'Here I Am'

Excerpt from - Clover Hope and Hillary Crosley, N.Y.

(September 29, 2006)
Eve is sifting through tracks for her upcoming fourth album, "Here I Am," a joint effort between Dr. Dre's Aftermath/Interscope imprint and Swizz Beatz' Full Surface. Eve will put the final touches on the disc by heading to the studio with Dr. Dre. Though no release date has been set, a single and music video are expected before the year is up.  Eve refers to the album's production lineup as "the hip-hop all-star team"; the list includes Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, Cool & Dre and up-and-coming producer Neo -- not to be confused with Def Jam singer/songwriter Ne-Yo. The Swizz Beatz-produced track "Tambourine" is being weighed as the potential lead single, which will follow the unofficial summer release "Cashflow" featuring T.I.  "It feels like a first album," Eve tells of her new offering. "I haven't been out in four years and I felt like I had to roll the dice. Why put out an album that sounds like [all the others]? I had to get out of the box -- for myself."  "Here I Am" will be Eve's first solo effort since 2002's "Eve-olution" (Ruff Ryders/Def Jam), which bowed at No. 6 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 630,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  Eve describes the sound of the album as more experimental and instrument-driven. "I didn't want it to be too serious," she says. "When I get up -- no matter what time -- if I turn on music I move a little faster. If I'm driving it clears my head, so I just wanted to make a feel-good album that people can listen to and rock out to." 

Eve describes the Timbaland tracks as "really out there" and along the lines of the producer's recent Hot 100 No. 1 hits, Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" and Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack." "All Night Long" was produced by Pharrell and finds Eve singing, something the rapper had previously been reluctant to undertake despite persuasion from her label.  "[Pharrell] made me sing a whole song. I finally got up the nerve [but] I feel like I was bullied into it," she jokes. "But it's one of my favourite songs on the album. I was really stressed about it but it was fun to do. I consider myself somebody who can maybe hold a note on a good day. I sang hooks before, which is super easy, but I had to get out of my comfort zones."  Reggae artist Sizzla is also featured on a song and Eve is currently lining up another reggae cameo. "I listen to reggae all the time. It's always been my favourite music because of the melodies," she says. "I also listen to a lot of Brazilian music [and] a little bit of rock, so I wanted to bring all those elements, along with hip-hop."  Not making a comeback this year is Eve's titular sitcom, which ran on UPN for three seasons. The rapper says she found it difficult trying to juggle both music and TV acting. "I was really excited about it but I needed to get away from it to do music 'cause there's no way you can do both," says Eve. "I'm sad on one hand 'cause I really fell in love with the cast but this is something that I really want to do. I missed music."  In addition to perusing movie scripts in search of the perfect role, Eve is also revamping her fashion line Fetish to better reflect her style, and she recently partnered with a friend to form the film production company Shape Shifters.

Singer Gary Taylor's Open Letter

Excerpt from

(September 28, 2006) Dear
Black Radio, it's Tuesday morning here in Los Angeles and I'm up doing what I do every morning--trying to figure out a way to get Black Radio (Urban AC specifically) to listen to what I believe is my most purposeful recording ever.  Getting up at 5:30 am everyday to reach out to East Coast Urban AC stations has been a major part of my life for the past eight CDs (14 years).  I figure I'm Black owned and Black operated; why wouldn't Black Radio want to play my music?  Hell, it's positive music.  What more does the Black Community need at this time?   It's sad, that closer to never than seldom, do I get a return phone call or email.  Sometimes I get lucky and a PD (program director0 or an MD (music director) comes to the phone, but I have yet to see results for my efforts.  Some PDs have been very honest with me.  "You're an Indie man," they'll say.  "I'm only playing the top 15 records."   My question is, how do you ever get to the top of anything if you never have a chance at letting the people--THE PEOPLE--tell you whether or not they like your music?  In this email/letter, I am asking you, Black Radio, for consideration of airplay.  Many of you played my single, "Women Of Color," and I humbly thank you for that.

I know that most of you won't respond to my request.  To you, I ask that you keep this in mind: Our women are more than a butt shaking in a video.  Our young men are more than removable gold teeth and rims on a car.  I'm sick of these being the predominant images representing the Black community.   There are those of you who will say, "This nigga ain't never gonna get played on my station." To that I say, you can't take away airplay that I never received.  Eight CDs and you never played a track from any of them.  Four stations (KJLH, Los Angeles, WGPR, Detroit, WHUR D.C. and KVMA, Shreveport) have given me their love and support on my new single, "Lovin' My People," a song about the love of a people and its culture.  These stations are getting a positive response, and I do whatever I can to support their efforts to bring back quality music to Black Radio.   Sincerely, I ask the rest of you to please consider playing more than Black music talking about sex, violence, drugs and love on the decline.  If any of you would like a second copy of my new CD, "Retro Blackness," I'd be happy to send it to you.  But please don't ask me to send it if you're not going to seriously consider playing it.  Let's not do that to one another.

 The single "Lovin' My People" is attached.  play it... you might find it worthy of airplay.  I want to get back to loving you Black Radio, with or without airplay of my material.


Respectfully Yours,

Gary A. Taylor
HEAR Gary perform "Lovin' my People" at his MySpace site/page:

Jane Siberry - Just A Knapsack And Her Manolos

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill

(Sept. 30, 2006) VANCOUVER —
Issa, the artist formerly known as Jane Siberry, carries herself far more stylishly than the typical vagabond. Mind you, there is nothing remotely typical about the iconoclastic Canadian musician who, in addition to shedding her birth name, has recently disposed of her house in Toronto, broken-down car, electric guitar, master recordings and almost all her worldly possessions. Oh, she has also stopped making CDs, transferred all her music into cyberspace and is now giving it away for free or for whatever price her fans think is fair. And no, she doesn't consider herself crazy. Looking blissfully relaxed yet radiantly refined, the wandering minstrel sits down to a light lunch at the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver. The bare essentials need not be grungy, she explains, toying with an exquisite choker of costume pearls twisted around her neck and pointing to the soft suede pair of Manolo Blahnik designer pumps on her feet. “I kept my most elegant clothes,” says Issa, who changed her name in June and has lived out of a single knapsack since January, staying in hotels wherever her tour schedule or whims might take her.

“But everything has to roll up,” she cautions. “And I only wear thong underwear now because it's super-light.” Although the decision to rid oneself of all material possessions might seem wildly eccentric to some, this carefree way of living is a comfortable fit for the enigmatic 50-year-old singer-songwriter, whose catalogue spans pop, jazz, electronica, traditional hymns, children's lullabies and experimental sound collages (including snippets from yoga classes, voicemail messages and cab rides). During a career that was launched with the release of Jane Siberry in 1981 and No Borders Here in 1984, but really took off in 1993 with her breakthrough album When I Was A Boy (featuring a duet with k.d. lang on Calling All Angels), the quirky artist now known as Issa has written about flying cows and squirrels crossing a highway, recorded a critically praised album with Bryan Ferry, collaborated with everyone from Peter Gabriel to Barney the Dinosaur, been featured on numerous film and television soundtracks (Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her and HBO's Six Feet Under among them) and founded her own label, SHEEBA Records. The only constant rhythm in her eclectic repertoire has been a fearless quest for independence and innovation. So in many respects, this bold plunge into a new phase of life actually looks more like a seamless transition. “It may not be right for everyone, but it feels good for me. It feels more in line with the planet,” says Issa, speaking in hushed tones and pausing frequently. “I do believe the consciousness of the planet is changing, the vibrations are rising a little bit,” she adds matter-of-factly. “Maybe it's because I'm in the public eye and talking about what I've done, but I see signs all around. People come forward and tell me they are getting rid of things and changing their careers or quitting their jobs without a safety net. Instead of going inch by inch, they've decided to take a big leap.”

In Issa's case, the choice to simplify life was a creative one. After nearly a decade of running her own label, she had found the day-to-day administrative duties were seriously getting in the way of making music. The mail-order end of the business was particularly burdensome. What with all the CDs, books and clothing items to be shipped, envelopes to be licked and customers whose credit cards had been declined to chase, she found herself with no time to write. By March of 2005, she had reached her wit's end and decided to shut the label down. Then at the last minute, she had a change of heart and chose to put her entire catalogue on-line so it wouldn't be lost forever. Although she has stopped releasing CDs, fans can now visit Log Cabin, her new all-electronic store at and download MP3s of her music and artworks. Last November, she went one step further with a new pricing policy that she calls “self-determined transactions.” Customers can choose to pay the standard rate of 99 cents per song or contribute whatever amount they deem fair. They can pay immediately, download and pay later, or accept “a gift from Jane” and rip off the entire collection for free. “Like many, I'm restless and impatient with living in a world where people are made to feel like shoplifters rather than intelligent people with a good sense of balance,” she writes in the site's Open Letter. Self-determined transactions, the letter continues, are not donations, pay-what-you-can, guilt trips or tests of your integrity. It's simply a way of treating others the way she would prefer to be treated herself. “This makes me feel like I'm completely in alignment with the energy of the music. It's pure and honest. The pricing thing is very wrong. It's so far removed from the nature of music as a sacred thing.

“I think there's been a blip,” she continues, digging into a humble cheese omelette with a side of French fries. “People receive way too much money for music. It's become a way to make money, but it wasn't always that way. I think a lot of people would pay to be a musician. It's such an honourable thing to do.” So far, her fans are also proving to be an honourable bunch. At last count, only 17 per cent of Log Cabin's customers were accepting the free gift (37 per cent paid on the spot, with the remaining 46 per cent returning to pay later). Of those handing over cash, the overwhelming majority, 79 per cent, were paying the suggested price (14 per cent paid more and only 8 paid less). Issa admits that the type of music she makes might attract more generous souls than most and that this goodwill system wouldn't work for everyone. But even if the pricing policy weren't working so well, she says she would never return to a more conventional way of running a business. “I'm so determined not to move into a policing mentality again,” she says firmly. “I'll never go backwards.” The next step forward in her personal sloughing off of possessions came last January, when the artist (still then known as Jane Siberry) sold her house and either auctioned or gave away all its contents, including most of her clothes, books, instruments, jewellery, letters, papers and hours of raw concert footage (the latter went straight into the trash). There were a few things she couldn't bear to part with — family Bibles, special books, photos, a collection of Miles Davis CDs. It's all packed into 10 cardboard boxes and stored in a rental locker in Toronto. “It was a relief,” says Issa, who promptly left for a European tour after ditching it all in a single weekend.

Home is now where the art is. She has no address, save for a post-office box in Vancouver. Her only bill is for a cellphone. She owns two pairs of shoes — the Manolos, plus a pair of sneakers — and carries everything in a knapsack. She rents guitars wherever she happens to be performing, usually solo, accompanied by a pre-recorded backing track. A new name seemed like a natural next step in her personal evolution. Issa (pronounced “eee sah”) came to her one day in June, while travelling on a train from London to Brussels. The name is a variation of Jesus in several cultures, including Tibetan, but the musician didn't realize it at the time. “I was working with Isaiah and trying to make it more soft and feminine. Issa just came to me. It was pretty and simple. Unfortunately, there's a cleaning company that owns the domain rights to,” she adds with a pout. After arriving in Brussels, she rented a studio and recorded 13 new songs. Just as she had hoped, her new pared-down existence seeped into the music. “I am always thinking what more can I let go of, even in the studio. I'm trying to get closer to what I hear in my head,” she explains “These days, I'm more efficient. I use fewer words and fewer restrictions. The goal for me is to get as close as I can to what I call ‘core' music.” In Brussels, for instance, she wrote one bar at a time, refusing to move on to the next bar until she had every horn line, piano, drumbeat and lyric down pat. “It's a different way of writing,” she says. “And it's definitely easier. You just sit there and don't do anything until you hear the next chord. There's no self-doubt, there's no second-guessing. It's just you, without the normal filters and clutter. It's pure, unless you screw up by letting your brain get in the way.” Or your shoes.

Kelly Rowland Recording New Material

Excerpt from

(September 28, 2006) *
Kelly Rowland has decided to shelve the songs recorded for her planned album “My Story” in lieu of more upbeat material for a new disc to be released in the spring.   In deciding to deep six the previous effort, Rowland tells MTV: "It was basically a list of songs that I put together about the past three years of my life, with love and relationships. And I remember listening to the record, and I was just like, 'I don't want this to be too deep to where, you know, [I] lose people.' I still wanna have my party records, and I still wanna make people get up and bob their heads and vibe a little bit. And the record was too full of midtempos and ballads, so I wanted to bring it up a little bit. I mean, I'm 25. I'm young!"   To underscore her youth, Rowland enlisted Snoop Dogg for the Tank-produced track "Ghetto," and spent last week with producer/songwriter Sean Garrett (Fergie's "London Bridge," the Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons").    "In general, I'm going in the urban, more R&B route," Rowland told MTV. "Of course, that's what I started with Destiny's Child, [but on] my first solo album I did more of a pop-sounding record. So I wanted to go back to my roots and dibble and dabble with some beats."

Rowland has recording sessions booked with Rich Harrison, Rockwilder and Solange, but is currently leaning toward one of the Garrett tracks, tentatively titled "Wooo!" or "Bump Like This," as the set’s first single.   "I'm so happy because you spend so many months recording and then you finally run into that song that definitely sticks out," Rowland said. "The song is very sassy. One thing I love about Sean is that he takes the time to know the artist and to know their personalities, and you know we'll sit and have conversations forever and he'll just start to write and you're like, 'How did you know that about me?' "  One track on the album, “I'm Still in Love With My Ex,” is sure to spark a lot of questions about her former fiancé Roy Williams, and whether or not he was the song’s inspiration.    "People are gonna ask all those kinda questions, but it's just a song," Rowland told MTV. "Sometimes you enhance!"

Her Debut Record Ridiculed, Vashti Bunyan Gave Up Music

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

(Sep. 29, 2006) 
Vashti Bunyan, the 61-year-old English folksinger, was gearing up recently for her first North American tour when she was overcome by the temptation to give herself a good, healthy pinch.  "I had a really amazing experience in the middle of one of the songs that was going very well," says Bunyan on the line from Seattle, where she and five accompanists gathered to rehearse at the beginning of September. "I had that sensation you have when you wake up from a really lovely dream. Only it wasn't a dream. It was real."  As musical careers go, Bunyan's is as unlikely as they come.  A decade ago, it would have taken something like quantum mathematics to calculate the improbability of her ever performing at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, where she makes her Toronto debut Tuesday.  This is the story of a young woman who, inspired by the early career of Bob Dylan, quit her studies at a London art school in the mid-'60s to take up music. In 1965, after being "discovered" by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, she recorded a song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind."  When nothing much came of that, Oldham moved on to other pursuits. And so did his protégée. In 1968, Bunyan and her boyfriend hitched up a horse-drawn wagon and moved to a commune established by the folk singer Donovan on the Isle of Skye, a fitting passage perhaps for a woman who is directly descended from John Bunyan, the 17th-century author of the allegorical text The Pilgrim's Progress.  During her time in the Hebrides, Bunyan returned to songwriting. In 1969, her tunes were recorded by Joe Boyd, who had worked with then obscure but now legendary English tunesmith Nick Drake.  At the end of 1970, 100 vinyl copies of Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day, featuring accompaniment by members of Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band, were pressed. The response ranged from indifference to ridicule.

"People thought it was songs for children," she recalls. "It was really hard for me because even if they were songs for children, why did that devalue them?"  Fast forward to 1996. In the intervening quarter-century, Bunyan had lived on various communal farms, raised three children and scratched together a living by buying and selling products made by local craftsmen. She hadn't played a lick of music during that time or even told her children of her brief, failed flirtation with the recording business.  Then, recently transplanted to Edinburgh, she purchased a computer, largely for the purposes of composing an informal memoir of that distant chapter in her life for her children to read. In the process, she succumbed to the inevitable temptation of typing her name into a search engine.  "Up came all these references to this music that I hadn't thought of for years and I thought was completely buried: people actually discussing the album that I'd made in a way that I had never heard it discussed, even among my friends and my family."  Bunyan, who didn't even own a copy of Just Another Diamond Day, was inspired to begin a two-year process of reacquiring rights to the original masters, which were collecting dust in a London warehouse. Eventually, the disc was remastered in a BBC studio.  "That was the most wonderful day because I had not heard it for 30 years," she says. "That was when I began to change my mind about it myself. I thought, `Oh, maybe it wasn't so bad after all.'"  This is no longer a minority viewpoint. In the six years since its reissue, Just Another Diamond Day has sold 50,000 copies. Bunyan suddenly found herself with a new generation of devotees, some of them musicians, including Animal Collective and singer/songwriter Devendra Banhart, who not only accepted Bunyan as a godmother of the re-emerging psychedelic folk movement but invited her to play on their albums.

The experience of recording with others persuaded Bunyan to try her hand at songwriting again. Lookaftering, released last year to further acclaim, was produced by the classically trained pianist and composer Max Richter, and features cameos by several of Bunyan's new friends, including Banhart and the esteemed San Francisco harpist and singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom (who, by coincidence, performs at the Mod Club Wednesday).  Her two albums are not that dissimilar, given the 35-year-interval between them. As a showcase for Bunyan's wispy singing and delicate acoustic guitar playing, both are understated and quietly lovely, although the arrangements on Lookaftering are more polished.  "With the first recording, I was just a young, shy girl who was in the little glass box in the studio," she says. "This time I was much more involved. Although I knew next to nothing at the time I started working with Max, he was a very patient guide and by the end of it I knew an awful lot more."

Savvy Takes On Barbra

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Sep. 30, 2006) "I'm the greatest star!" belted out
Barbra Streisand in her 1964 career-making role as Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl and since then, it's been hard to doubt her.  Even today, 52 years later, she can sell out the Air Canada Centre for two performances in the twinkling of an eye, despite a gulp-inducing top price of $1,500 for VIP seats.  Never mind that in the last 10 years, she's only made two films and devoted most of her public energy to political causes.  So why does she still exert such a grip on our imagination?  Some very good answers to that can be found in two books that came out late this summer, neatly foreshadowing her Toronto concerts on Oct. 17 and 20.  The first is called The Importance of Being Barbra, by Tom Santopietro (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press) and it's a refreshingly different look at Streisand and her ongoing appeal.  Over the years, there have been dozens of books that deal with Streisand's life and career. Some of them are good, some are cringe-inducing, but none really capture what makes her work as an entertainer stand out in people's memories.  That's where Santopietro's book has a decided edge.  He begins with a snappy prologue tied to Oscar night, 1969, when Streisand clutched a statuette for Funny Girland truly became Hollywood royalty. Then he offers his thesis: what makes this woman so fascinating is the series of contradictions that lie at the core of her being.  She wanted to be a star, yet now craves privacy. She still nurtures a massive insecurity about her physical appearance, but allows her face and form to be plastered on movie screens, album covers and billboards. She's known as an iron-fisted control freak in the world of business, yet the secret weapon of her art is the vulnerability she's willing to reveal in performance.

Santopietro doesn't try to explain these contradictions; he accepts them as part and parcel of a unique woman and that's what makes his book a refreshing read.  The other strength of his approach is that he avoids looking at her career in strict chronological order.  Instead there are separate chapters on Recordings, Film, Television, Concerts, Theatre and Politics.  In each, Santopietro writes with the verve of a true Streisand aficionado. He's not afraid to exult in her triumphs, or blow the whistle on her failures.  He's best at analyzing her recordings, getting as detailed as this observation about the way she sings the word "darling" in the version of "A House is Not a Home" she performed with herself on the Duets album.  "The listener knows the inflection has been minutely calculated," writes Santopietro, "but damn it if it doesn't still work. This woman sings of heartbreak, of emotional extravagance, from the very core of her being. I want. I need. Indeed."  He even has a detailed 14-page "Career Scorecard" where he lists every recording, TV show and movie, ranking her work on a scale of A to F. And I find I have to agree with him most of the time. (But when it comes to Yentl, Tom, can we talk?)  The book has only two slight deficiencies. The section on Streisand's Broadway shows is a bit perfunctory, and a more exhaustive account of the drama that went on behind the scenes in Funny Girl can be found in many other places.  Santopietro also doesn't explore her very beginnings in the tiny nightspots of New York as thoroughly as he might, but for that, you can turn to James Gavin's excellent book on the Manhattan cabaret scene, Intimate Nights, which has just been reissued in an updated version by Back Stage Books.  In his pages, you'll really find the lonely caterpillar who turned into a superstar butterfly, as she painfully learned how to hone early heartbreak into enduring art.  When Gavin describes the way she "sang as though her life depended on it, with a spine-tingling urgency behind each note," you can see what made Streisand become a star so many years ago and what keeps her at the top today.  Both books help unlock the mystery of a woman who still fascinates us after so many years.

Q&A: Fergie And Will.I.Am On "The Dutchess"

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(September 26, 2006)
Fergie has been preparing a lifetime for moments like these. Clad in booty-baring shorts and flanked by a brigade of costumed Brits, she marched down the red carpet during MTV's Video Music Awards preshow at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Exactly one week later in the same locale, the three other Black Eyed Peas cleared the stage for her show-stopping solo set at Fashion Rocks. Again all ears were attuned to her pandemic first single "London Bridge," which remains in the top five of The Billboard Hot 100 after crowning the chart for three straight weeks.  Now that Fergie has helped transform the Black Eyed Peas from ground-level hip-hoppers to globe-trotting pop wonders, the 31-year-old singer is refocusing on her dream deferred-solo success. Co-executive produced by Peas' frontman, her solo debut, "The Dutchess," is a mishmash of bubble-gum pop, hip-hop and R&B grooves derived from her performance-rich background.  The set arrived Sept. 19 via  Before she began strutting around stages, the Hacienda Heights, Calif., native (born Stacy Ann Ferguson) voiced the characters of Sally and Lucy in the cartoon series "Charlie Brown," which led to roles in "Kids Incorporated," the Fox Family series "The Great Pretender" and her first musical turn in the all-female pop trio Wild Orchid, which disbanded after releasing two moderately successful albums in the late '90s.  Wrought with the showbiz blues, Fergie battled addiction to crystal methamphetamine before finding solace in therapy-and music. Prior to becoming a full-time Pea on 2005's "Monkey Business" (A&M), she contributed background vocals on the group's multiplatinum 2003 set "Elephunk" and began setting the stage for "The Dutchess."  Fergie and Will took time away from their ongoing Black Eyed Peas tour to chat with Billboard about her upcoming release.

How long have you been planning this solo record?

Fergie: I always had this dream. I told my mom when I was 7 years old, but I just ended up being in bands. I'm a free spirit. I follow my heart, and it's led me to where I am now. I probably would've taken more time to finish it even though they're songs from a seven-year period, but [Interscope CEO] Jimmy Iovine heard some [tracks] and was like, "This is great, let's put it out."

Has being in Black Eyed Peas given you the creative license to experiment with rapping?

Fergie: Just being around it and living the lifestyle [with them], it felt more natural and comfortable-and not as taboo. But I've always been a fan of rappers like Roxanne Shante, Monie Love, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa-these were girls that I emulated growing up, but just more in private. BEP gave me that confidence to do it. I'm not trying to be a serious MC, that's not my goal. I'm just paying homage to everything I grew up listening to. If I didn't include that part of me, it wouldn't be a true representation of who I am.

Is the Fergie on this album different from the Fergie on the Black Eyed Peas albums?

Fergie: It is different because I'm a singer first and foremost. There are more ballads and more intimacy between me and the listener because sometimes when you're in a group you don't have space to air out your dirty laundry. This [album] is a complete thought. It's not just a verse or a sentence. It's my complete feeling and emotion. I think people will be surprised because they don't know that sensitive side of me yet. I also like to experiment with different tones in my voice, and I wanted to make the album really colourful.

Can you break down some of the tracks?

Fergie: In "Fergalicious," I emulated ['80s female rap trio] J.J. Fad, and we sampled the track from Afro-Rican's "Give It All You Got." "Voodoo Doll" is my take on dub music. It's about my struggle with crystal meth. There's a demon part that's a completely different voice than the singing part, and it's almost like two voices. It's me battling with myself. "Mary Jane Shoes" featuring I3 is a breezy reggae song, and at the end I go into a little bit of punk-rock mosh music because I love to do that if you've ever seen my stage shows.

"Finally" is the last song on the album. It's piano, strings and vocals, played by John Legend. He co-wrote that song. It's a timeless ballad that you can play 30 years from now, and it'll still be cool because it doesn't lend to any era. And it's really stripped down. I really had a chance to sing, although I didn't oversing anything. My taste is more to bring it out at certain moments.

Will, you produced much of the album. What were some of your favourite moments on "The Dutchess"?

Will: "Mary Jane." She goes from dub, doing her interpretation of roots, to some ska-punk and ends up with jazz. From a production standpoint that was fun, flipping all those different styles. Another song, "Big Girls Don't Cry," really pushed my production skills. I did an Edie Brickell type of production-"I'm not aware of too many things," on guitars. "Clumsy" is like the Shangri-Las "Leader of the Pack" with a ghetto-ass beat, but then here come the guitars and her singers. "Fergalicious"? It's like the sister of [Black Eyed Peas hit] "My Humps."

Why the title "The Dutchess"?

Fergie: "The Dutchess" is a play on words from the Duchess of York, but it's not to be taken literally [laughs]. If you notice, on the album cover it says "Fergie as the Dutchess" because I wanted each song to be a movie poster. But because "London Bridge" did so well so fast, we had to get everything done so only half the songs on the album have movie poster themes. For example, for "Fergalicious" I'm holding a lollipop; it's pretty campy and cute. The pictures were all shot by Ellen von Unwerth in Paris so a lot of them are very Brigitte Bardot-esque.

How did you find time to record in between touring with the Black Eyed Peas?

Fergie: A lot of it was recorded on the John Lennon studio bus. We'd go in a couple of hours before going on stage and that's how it got done. The songs span a seven-year period. Some were done before I was in the Black Eyed Peas-we just updated them, and some were done in this one-month span that we took off from touring, which is very rare for us.

Will and I moved into this studio house in Malibu called Morningview. It's like a ranch. It was very serene-complete opposite to the chaos of touring. I was alone a lot, which is something that doesn't happen to me on tour, so I got to find these emotions that are a little bit deeper than the surface. [For example], "The Makeup Song (All That I Got)" and "Velvet" are very intimate lyrically and feeling-wise. I wanted [the latter] to sound like velvet feels-very smooth-and I wanted it to be sensual.

In your earlier days, did you always want to be an entertainer?

Fergie: I was a complete ham as a child-always performing, taking whatever products were in my kitchen and doing commercials for my dad and the video camera. My parents took me to musicals at a very young age. There was a local community theatre and my mom would take me to see "West Side Story," "Oklahoma," "Peter Pan," "Annie."

They would also take me to concerts like Tina Turner, Pointer Sisters and Madonna, so that was buried in principle. They don't perform but they were always music fans and loved to see shows, which was great for me. But then, I didn't want to just sit there, I wanted to do it. [Laughs]

I went to public school, and in the summer instead of going swimming I would go to the set. We worked six days a week so I had to be a little adult. I definitely think that's why I rebelled later. Since I was a child actor, I liked to people-please a lot-it's called being professional when you're younger. And I didn't know how to say no. When I was in Wild Orchid, I should have left a long time prior to when I did, but I didn't know how to. We were doing music that I wasn't really into. It wasn't fun anymore, and it wasn't a creative outlet for me so I went to other places for that.

When and why did you decide to join the Black Eyed Peas?

Fergie: I had been a fan of theirs since 1998. They were amazing dancers and MCs with this sick style, and I had put it in my mental notes that I wanted to work with them someday. One of the last shows I did with Wild Orchid-this is after I knew that I was leaving, I was just fulfilling my commitment-BEP were on the bill. It wasn't like they were the No. 1 artists at the time or anything. I was finally doing my own album, and I knew that crossing paths with them must mean something.

I approached Will in the hallway, got my hustle on and exchanged numbers. We started playing phone tag and having conversations. They needed a singer for "Shut Up," and we started working together but we didn't plan to be a band. I was still working on my solo material with Will, becoming friends with the guys and doing background on their albums. When it came time for them to tour with "Elephunk," I was a background staple. Joining a band was another commitment, but I was such a huge fan of theirs, and I thought I'd be an even better solo artist if I learned from them.

Will: A lot of people don't realize, but I was producing her by mid-2002, writing songs with her and, at the same time, we were recording "Elephunk." We've been trying to figure out the release since. Should we put it out after "Elephunk"? No, we still need to work as the Black Eyed Peas. We set the anchor. No matter what happened with the individual projects, we committed to the Peas.

Is there any nervousness on your part about what Fergie's success could do to the group dynamic of the Black Eyed Peas?

Will: What we've accomplished as a group, it's so enormous, I'm not afraid of messing up what we do. We sell thousands of seats in every country on the planet. You can't get nervous. We're all succeeding in all different parts of our careers. Just because I produce Nas and John Legend and Justin Timberlake doesn't mean it will change the dynamic of the Peas.

We're really proud and supportive. We're going to tour together. It doesn't make sense for her to open up for other people when she's in one of the biggest groups in the world. So we'll tour together, still record together, we have a Black Eyed Peas album coming in 2007. But right now it's "Dutchess" time.

In hindsight, is it better that "The Dutchess" is coming out now instead of back when you originally planned to do a solo album?

Fergie: Definitely, I think everything happens for a reason and all of my choices have led me up to this moment and made me stronger, not only as an artist but as a person. I want to do more BEP albums and more of my [own] albums. I'm in this for the long run.

Jazz Man Victor Fields Back With New Project

Source: Rick Scott, Great Scott P.R.oductions,

(September 28, 2006)  “I try to make each song I record a musical event.  Every song counts.  There are no throwaways.  I like to pick challenging yet interesting songs then I bring my personality and some new energy to each one,” said soul-jazz vocalist
Victor Fields.    Thinking of You, his fourth album, was just given a new release date: October 17th.    On each successive album, Fields has explored a variety of dimensions of his musical muse.  As he’s evolved, he’s become more focused while balancing art and life.  Fields naturally gravitates towards love songs and Thinking Of You is indeed a collection of love songs.  It’s also the first album he made that will specifically appeal to smooth jazz listeners.  He’s evolved from being a jazz vocalist with overt urban tendencies into a smooth jazz vocalist, which feels like home to the Bay Area resident.  The album, produced by Chris Camozzi, contains eight covers and two originals, both of which were co-penned by Jeff Lorber.  Other noted guests on the album are Richard Elliot, Rick Braun and Nelson Braxton.  Fields gives new life to “Lovely Day,” the sunny Bill Withers classic that was the first single serviced to smooth jazz radio stations.

Some people pursue careers in music in search of riches and fame.  Not Fields.  He had achieved wealth through business and is now pursuing his true love.  He has invested his own money into producing his albums and releasing them independently on the Regina Records label.  Top recording artists and musicians work with him because they believe in his talent.  His previous albums have been critically acclaimed and Thinking Of You promises to take him to the next level.  Fields is quick to remind that he’s got a long career path in mind.    “This is only my fourth album and I’m still growing," says Fields.  "I’m not there yet, but I am fully committed to leaving a musical legacy that I can be proud of.”  In this era of disposable popular music and “flavour of the month” idols, there remain a few song stylists who truly study their craft, sing songs with meaning and substance, and strive to create a significant body of work that will stand the test of time.  Victor Fields is one such artist.  He’s a romantic dreamer, an optimistic believer who committed to and invested in himself.  He’s in it for the love: love of singing, love of song, and love of performing.  For MORE visit:

Vernon Neilly Takes Alternate Route To Radio Airplay

Excerpt from - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(September 29, 2006)  Just ask Smooth Jazz guitarist
Vernon Neilly, a 30-year-music vet who has worked with Motown’s Norman Whitfield, and toured extensively with the likes of Cuba Gooding, The Main Ingredient, Billy Paul and Teena Marie, if he thinks the music genre was created just for white boys and he’ll give you an eloquent answer on the way to “Yes.”  As a guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jonathan quickly witnessed the double standard in the Smooth Jazz genre, an area he chose because, even with his R&B roots, it felt comfortable. But it didn’t take long for him to learn that smooth jazz radio doesn’t appreciate the double-threat musician—one skilled on both instrument and vocals, and chooses to only give airtime to the artists’ instrumental work; leaving many of these musicians such as Norman Brown, Jonathan Butler and George Benson out in the cold.  Neilly is also quite sore with the lack of support from Black radio; which, as a former radio host, he knows first-hand. The lack of vision, flexibility and diversity in programming is frustrating.  But he is appreciative that his love of making music and the respect he holds for his colleagues continues despite the unfair practices that continue in the music industry. His latest project, G Fire II has garnered him another Smooth Jazz Award; as did his first CD, G Fire I. And because he took an alternate route to “Airwave Avenue” with his latest single “Unconditional Love” a song that reveals his vocal prowess, the song has been heard; peaked at #10 on the Billboard charts, and is currently enjoying success on Urban and Adult Contemporary radio. “The truth being the truth...[unfair practices] is not something that Black musicians, Black artists in this genre don’t understand. They understand that Kenny G., Boney James, Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Chris Botti and on and on... I can go down a very long list of white artists…are favoured in the Smooth Jazz genre. But, you know, when I think about the history of the music business I really, really see no difference as to what’s going on now than what used to happen in this country. You have the founders of…what used to be called Contemporary Jazz: Grover Washington, George Duke, these kind of people; Stanley Clarke, you know. And today, people like Gerald Albright…Everette Harp, Kirk Whalum, you know, all of these brilliant and fantastic musicians; Jonathan Butler--who has a heck of a track record, not only in the Contemporary Jazz business but in the Pop field as well...when you take the fact that these artists are having a difficult time getting their music played and getting the type of exposure, the type of opportunities from concert promoters...its just not there. And that’s the truth.”

Disappointed with the limitations imposed on Smooth Jazz radio, Neilly credits the good advice from a colleague who reshaped his perspective.  “I was at a Smooth Jazz event and was speaking with one of my colleagues; Larry Gittens who is the trumpet player with Kool and The Gang. He has gone through a similar situation where he couldn’t get some of his stuff played at some of the bigger commercial stations or bigger markets and so he…said ‘the next time I record a project I’m going to go Urban with it.’ So I thought about that and after deliberating and doing some research and contacting some people I decided to release this new single…to Urban A/C…[I] also released it to A/C and that’s when it actually took off; that’s what pushed the album up to the Billboard Adult Jazz charts… So I guess what I’m saying is the idea from Larry gave me the opportunity to look at something from a different viewpoint, from a different objective and say ‘OK, if I can’t get it done this way; maybe I can get it done this way. Just taking an alterative route to get back to where I wanted to go anyway.” When asked if things are being done to change the way these stations are run; if there is some kind of united effort underway, Neilly’s response sounds less than hopeful.  “Not really. But I liken it to major league sports where...all the talent is on the field, but in the upper management, the people that actually control major league sports...our white contemporaries are sitting in their offices... This side of the music business is pretty much the same...All of the big concert promoters for Smooth Jazz are Caucasian… They control everything, so they’re going to book the Boney James’ or the Gerald Albrights’. They’re going to book the Brian Culbertson instead of the George Duke. It’s just the way that the genre has come to be. Same old song...The same thing is happening that has happened through...history. Why our legendary artists like Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock [and] Dizzy Gillespie…went to Europe first; had their music heard there because it was appreciated and then…came back here to the United States after their stature grew.”  With the implosion of Hip Hop and contentment with the classics, a button is clearly pushed in exploring Neilly’s perspective on the role Black Radio has played in the treatment of African American Smooth Jazz artists.

“I was trying to evade that point…I’m glad that you brought it up...I believe that Black Radio has a lot to do with the current trend for musicians... who can not get their products played at Black Radio. Yes, I strongly believe that...I’m a former radio broadcaster myself. I used to work at WEDR-FM in Miami and WMBM on Miami Beach and during that time period you would hear all kinds of Black artists...a full spectrum of Black artists; whether they were Black solo artists or …bands like ConFunkShun or Earth, Wind and Fire. I always address this issue when I have an opportunity. What people don’t understand is that we have a 25-year gap now, where our children aren’t growing up to play instruments anymore, on a whole, like they used to. This is where the Earth Wind and Fire’s and ConFunkshun’s and all those other groups came from. You don’t have that anymore. The last holdout that was able to get radio airplay was Tony, Toni, Tone and Mint Condition. Mint Condition currently tours but they don’t have any support at Black Radio. So what are they supposed to do? They put out product, they record product. But they don’t get the support from Black Radio. What are they to do? If we don’t support it you know the other side’s not going to support it, so, where do you turn to?” Unfair practices in the music industry are nothing new. And they materialize in a variety of ways.  “…There’s a consultancy company called Broadcast Architecture which basically controls the radio play list of all the major stations of Smooth Jazz in the country, Neilly states. “So if Broadcast Architecture doesn’t like what you’ve picked for a single, they’re going to refuse it; they’re not going to play it. That’s basically the way that it is in smooth jazz. It’s pretty jacked up, but it’s the truth.” Just last year, urged by an investigation that was prompted by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, two major music labels, BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group came forward and agreed to abandon their unfair practices of supplying radio stations and their employees with lavish incentives in exchange for artists’ airplay.  But Neilly saw this action as nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

“We really need to do something about this…Congress needs to do something about it, because its anti-trust and they’re closing their eyes to it. They had a situation where the Attorney General of New York, Eliot Spitzer, recently came down on several major labels and slapped ‘em on the hand, but that’s not going to change anything...It’s still going on, that’s why Congress, legislation needs to step in now; but as you know that’s a whole ‘nother issue too because their palms are gettin’ greased. Jonathan Neilly joins many artists who share the same frustrations about limited airplay; dictated by unfair practices and practitioners. Artists’ are motivated by their creativity; honoured because of their skill, and appreciated for their love of producing great art. We, as consumers, have the power to cultivate change by directing our letters of downright indignation to radio Program Directors; and to our congressional leaders. This has been going on for too long.  Get more info about Vernon Neilly here: 

As a journalist the work of DeBorah B. Pryor continues to reach national and international audiences. She has interviewed some of the entertainment industry’s most prominent people and has traveled extensively throughout the world. She presides over The Art of Communication: Public speaking for private people, a 2-hour-workshop teaching self-empowerment and survival  in today’s workplace. She is a freelance speechwriter and copy editor. For information on upcoming workshops, to schedule a private public speaking consultation, or inquire about writing services call  Ms. Pryor at 818.247.2812 or email 

On And Off Blackies Get Busy

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Sep. 28, 2006) It started out as a sideline project, an unspecified sequence of occasional recordings and performances that would pay tribute to an unwitting mentor and songwriting genius, Canadian troubadour
Willie P. Bennett.  But with the release this week of Let's Frolic, their fourth album in eight years, and with a fifth, Let's Frolic Again, already in the can for release in the new year, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings are starting to look and sound like ... well, just like a real band.  "We agreed at the beginning that Blackie & the Rodeo Kings would never become a permanent thing, that it should never be allowed to intrude on our solo work," BARK songwriter and singer Tom Wilson said late last week over the phone from Sundre, Alta., where he was touring with his own band and promoting his solo CD, Dog Years.  "But the thing is, when we get together, it's like Lord of the Flies for middle-aged men," he added. "We can never say no. Things happen that are completely unexpected, probably because we have it in the back of our minds that it's not really a band, and there's nothing we can take for granted."  Come tomorrow, the unintended roots-rock band's three distinct components — Hamilton native Wilson, Toronto-raised and Nashville-based guitarist, songwriter and producer Colin Linden, and Guelph-based Irish expat, singer-songwriter and guitarist Stephen Fearing, who recently released his seventh solo CD Yellowjacket — will set aside other projects and hook up for the first time since recording the Let's Frolic albums in December for a string of performances. Blackie & the Rodeo Kings begin with two shows at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern, and end in Surrey, B.C. in late November.  During those eight weeks, the un-band will be the star attraction at two unusual and important musical events coinciding with their tour dates. The Roots on the Rails music fest travels Nov. 10-14 from Toronto to Vancouver; also aboard will be Fred Eaglesmith, Cowboy Junkies, Skydiggers and Over The Rhine (at $2,600 a ticket, it's already sold out).

And on Nov. 23, BARK will join "We Shall be Released," a celebration at Toronto's Glenn Gould Studio of the 30th anniversary of The Band's Last Waltz farewell concert in San Francisco, filmed by Martin Scorsese. The Toronto playbill has Kathleen Edwards, Jason Collett, Oh Susanna, Tony Dekker, Dione Taylor, Luke Doucet and Paul Reddick, with BARK, as the house band, performing music by (or inspired by) the legendary Canadian rock band. (Tickets are available at the Glenn Gould Studio box office, by phone at 416-205-5555, or at  "That's one gig that no other band in the country is better qualified for ... that's a Blackie & the Rodeo Kings gig if ever there was one," Wilson declared, citing the long affiliations between BARK principals and Band members Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson. The latter have performed on Linden's solo albums and the reconstituted Band after Richard Manuel's 1986 death recorded Linden's song "Remedy" on their Jericho album.  Toronto pianist and composer Richard Bell, currently recovering from a bout with cancer, was a member of The Band during its brief return in the early 1990s, and is also a BARK alumnus.  Links to The Band were further solidified when Blackie & The Rodeo Kings decided to record Let's Frolic in the Turtle Creek Barn in Bearsville, N.Y., on the outskirts of Woodstock in the Catskill Mountains.  The Bearsville music complex (now almost completely dismantled) and, in fact, much of Woodstock itself was owned by the late über-manager and impresario Albert Grossman, who in the 1960s and '70s ran his music empire — including clients Bob Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin, Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, John Lee Hooker, and Peter, Paul & Mary — from the idyllic upstate hamlet where all the members of The Band had settled.  "I hadn't been there for a couple of years, and I've always found it a wonderfully relaxing, creative little town," Linden said over the phone from his Nashville home.  "Richard Bell used to live in the Turtle Creek Barn, and suggested we book in there for a week to live, eat, sleep and play. That's how the Blackies like to record. We lock ourselves away from all other distractions, make breakfast together, play and record, make a huge sit-down meal at the end of the day, then play and record all night.  "I know Sally Grossman (Albert's widow) from way back, and she gave us the family rate."  After preparing 16 or 17 songs during four days of performances last December at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Que., the BARK trio high-tailed it with Bell, Toronto bassist John Dymond and drummer Gary Craig to Woodstock, where they were joined during the sessions by The Band's Hudson on keyboards, Canadian multi-instrumentalist and producer Malcolm Burn, and Memphis Horns saxophonist Wayne Jackson.  Twenty-nine songs were wrapped in a week, Linden said.  "The ones we recorded during the day are on Let's Frolic, and the rest are the songs that surprised us all, the things you stumble into late at night when you've had a good meal and a couple of bottles of red wine ... and your mind is a little more open.  "We've saved those for Let's Frolic Again."

Flavor Flav Says It All On Solo Debut

Excerpt from - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(September 28, 2006) After finishing up an overseas outing with Public Enemy, group member
Flavor Flav plans to go full steam ahead with his self-titled solo debut, which has been in the works for more than a year. The set will arrive on Halloween (Oct. 31) via his own label, Draytown Records, and Redeye Distribution.  "This is my first and only album ever because I want it to be a collector's item," Flav tells "I always wanted to do a solo album but coming up through the years there's been a lot of obstacles in my way that have stopped me from being able to do so."  The new disc features only one guest appearance; Smooth Bee of the '90s rap duo Nice & Smooth is featured on the bonus track "Baby Baby Baby." "This is the way I want people to perceive me so I don't have [any] collaborations," says Flav, who also experiments with R&B on the album. "It has music for all ages, from 10 up 'til senior citizens. I worked hard on it and everything is Flav."  The rapper says lead single "Flavor Man" is his favourite track. "It's because of the heart and soul that I put into it. I'm playing live instruments on there and doing all my lead vocals and background vocals," he says.

"I always pictured it being a big record."  Flav is currently relishing the third season of his VH1 reality series "Flavor of Love," in which he attempts to find a mate through a series of elimination rounds and dating contests. Despite its popularity, however, Flav says he plans to put the show to rest and explore other opportunities.  "If there's a connection [on this season] then there might not be a reason for 'Flavor of Love 3,'" he says. "I ain't scared to do it again but I ain't really trying to. I want to do a talk show or something. I've done enough dating on TV. I'm ready to spread my wings and go down other avenues. I don't want to just stay stuck on one page 'cause you don't make it to the end of the book [that way]."  Flav's other ambitions include a solo tour, a book and another Public Enemy album that would be helmed by him. He says, "Chuck D wants to release another Public Enemy album but I always wanted the next Public Enemy album to be done by me."

Dwight Does It On His Own

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill

(Oct. 1, 2006) As proof of just how earnestly American country music star
Dwight Yoakam has taken his career in hand, he's allowing 10 minutes of phone conversation to discuss his reasons for assuming complete creative control of his latest recording, Blame the Vain, a self-produced masterpiece of a dozen classy guitar-driven original songs.  He also wants to make sure we know he's on tour across Canada for the first time since 1991, and back in Toronto — at Massey Hall Thursday night — for the first time in a decade.  He's taking charge, leaving nothing to lackeys, sidekicks and third-party representatives.  Yoakam, a country music traditionalist who has stoically resisted the pop-rock demands of Nashville's New Country movement despite criticism from the industry, rarely speaks to the media.  He's too busy, he said from his home in Los Angeles, what with more than five months of touring behind him and still more to come, as well as a solid schedule of movie roles including Sling Blade, The Minus Man, Hollywood Homicide, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Wedding Crashers and Crank.  "I've had six days to myself in the last 4 1/2 months," he added, by way of apologizing for the brevity of the call. "In fact, I've been on the road almost constantly since 2003, except for making movies."  Indeed, during our conversation he begged off a couple of times, very politely, to discuss urgent scheduling details. "This is what my life is like these days. I'm taking care of everything."  But it's apparent this accomplished and resilient performer, with some 20 million albums sold — he almost single-handedly keeps the melodious, no-nonsense twang of the Bakersfield brand of California country rock alive in a country music market dominated by pop crossovers and rock wannabes — is uncomfortable with the media. He's cautious, self-deprecating and shy. He'd rather let the music do his talking.  Feeling like a retro-centric stranger to Nashville's new corporate moguls in 2002, with his Population Me album all but ignored by country radio, Yoakam explained his spirit was reinvigorated during a brief layover in L.A. by an underground resurgence of interest in his kind of music — "pre-Burritos country rock, Buck Owens, the music that first explored the bridges between country music and rock 'n' roll and R&B" — and a surprising number of young bands who were discovering those links for the first time.

In guitarist Keith Gattis, who was in one of those bands, Yoakam found a kindred soul.  "We decided to do two weeks of shows together, called Almost Alone ... and we ended up doing 42 cities. Now he's in my band.  "When I decided to make a new record of original songs, I asked Keith to produce it, but he refused. He told me the music was all in my head, and that I should do it myself.  "I've lived my life on the principle that you should never resist the urge to listen to yourself before you listen to others ... and, frankly, I didn't want to put anyone else through the tedium of producing me," Yoakam added, perhaps disingenuously.  Yoakam is finding alternative methods to market himself and his records, which are released not by a major Nashville label, but by a feisty, Austin-based independent, New West Records. His website,, is full of video clips, movie trailers and music, and takes full advantage of the Internet's potential for sales.  "All the paradigms in popular music — not just country — have been shattered in the past three to five years because of the shift from radio to iPods, from record sales to downloading," he said. "Like everyone else, I'm just trying to keep myself afloat ..."  "In some ways it's a blessing," Yoakam says of the new, independent music environment.  "It forces you to rely on your own instincts and intuition, and less on other people."

The Changing Face Of Gospel Music

Excerpt from

(October 2, 2006) There was a time that the definition of "Gospel" music went unchallenged.  Rather than being debated, it was simply understood: gospel music was church music, more specifically, Black church music indigenous to the South.   Unlike any other form of American music it was born out of the Black experience with themes that incorporated setting the captives and giving hope for the future. defines Gospel music as "a genre of a capella music originating with Black slaves in the United States and featuring call and response; influential on the development of other genres of popular music (especially soul)."   Some agree with this representation of gospel music and others claim that it is severely archaic.  Some ascertain that Webster's definition of gospel music is even more farfetched: "a style of folk singing originally associated with evangelistic revival meetings."  Neither definition catches up with the times.  The reality is that the Gospel music is multi-faceted and growing in its diversity with regularity.   Rather than join the debate, EUR Gospel has spoken to several gospel artists and gathered a melange of opinions that we will share with you in a series called 'The Changing faces of Gospel."  The opinions represented in this special feature will come from artists in the gospel community as well as other artist who have been influenced by gospel music. 

We begin with thoughts from
Kim Burrell:

"Gospel Music is a profound language that speaks to the soul and speaks to the heart. Speaks [sic] to the spirit of men and women to change their outlook on the choices in life that will be conducive to holy living.  They're other people/artists who sing other music, who sing gospel music, but proclaimed gospel artists have a devout duty to proclaim ... that it is the Good News of Jesus Christ and not necessarily our own ideas.  It's okay to give our own opinions at times, but when you are singing to the glory and honour of The Lord ... it is imperative that we sing what is necessary to make Gospel music stays Gospel music ... It's a personality. Gospel music is not just something to do.  It is a lifestyle and that's how I feel."

Meet Jeremiah, A New Voice In R&B

Source: Pam Workman, JLM PR,Inc., 

(October 2, 2006)
Jeremiah's debut album Chasing Forever is a classic in the making. A classically trained vocalist who, by the age of 10, was writing songs and by 21 had performed at Carnegie Hall, Jeremiah has already landed on VH1 Soul and BET J.  Upon moving to New York, he quickly graduated to headlining sold out shows at New York's hottest Jazz and R&B clubs, including The Blue Note, BB Kings and SOB's.  Blending the sounds of soul, R&B, jazz and a little gospel, this up and coming songwriter and vocalist has created a record of elegant love songs. Chasing Forever is set to be released on October 3rd on Siri Music Label. "The concept of the album came to me as I was listening to some of the first songs I had ever written. I wanted to recapture that innocence on this record," explains Jeremiah. "With the organic textures of strings and other acoustic instruments we were able to create the range of emotions that reflect this journey." Jeremiah's songwriting journey began as an insecure overweight child who was nicknamed "fat boy". Music and songwriter became his refuge. Choosing to overcome these obstacles, lose weight and dedicate himself to his dream, Chasing Forever reflects, his desire to connect on a real emotional level.

Artists such as John Legend, Rachelle Ferrell and Frank McComb have taken note of this impressive new talent. "Jeremiah's talent is endless. He touches my soul," says Rachelle Ferrell. The prolific singer-songwriter has already shared the stage with the likes of Yolanda Adams, Michael Bolton, George Michael, Amel Larrieux, and Rachelle Ferrell. From the infectious, mellow grooves of "Addicted To You" and "Love For A While", a duet with R&B artist, Shanice, to the emotional ballad of  "Home" and the soaring melodies of "Hope," Jeremiah's Chasing Forever indeed crosses a dramatic emotional landscape. Songwriter/producer Chauncy Jackson, (Tamia, Deborah Cox, Jessica Simpson) who discovered and signed him to his music label, Siri Music, collaborated and produced additional tracks for the record. Jeremiah's second single, "Love For a While", a duet with R&B artist Shanice, just delivered to radio, is already climbing the charts. The video shot by, Design Attic, will be delivered early October.     For MORE, visit:

John Coltrane - A Jazz Man Supreme

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

(Oct. 2, 2006) Too often, being a jazz giant means being a big fish in a fairly small pond. Jazz aficionados may love to wax eloquent about the unique genius of Charles Mingus or Thelonious Monk, but for average music fans, distinguishing between Mingus and Monk is as hard as remembering the difference between Manet and Monet. They may be famous names, but beyond that it's all academic. There are a handful of jazz stars whose names do cut through the clutter, however, and few loom as large as the late
John Coltrane. He didn't have the sort of decades-long prominence that made Louis Armstrong a fixture in popular culture. Although he would have turned 80 on Sept. 23, his career as a solo artist lasted only a dozen years, with his most important work recorded toward the end, between 1959 and 1967. And while he had his share of jazz "hits," including Blue Train, My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme, none of his albums have enjoyed the million-seller status of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew. Yet Coltrane's shadow extends well beyond the normal parameters of saxophone jazz. He was an inspiration to psychedelic rockers in the sixties (the Grateful Dead were huge fans), fusion stars in the seventies (Carlos Santana covered his A Love Supreme), post-punks in the eighties (Dream Syndicate paid homage with John Coltrane Stereo Blues), rappers in the nineties (he was name-checked by Public Enemy in Don't Believe the Hype) and jam bands in this decade (guitar phenom Derek Trucks is a huge fan). Naturally, jazz listeners and practitioners continue to worship him -- literally, if they happen to attend the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco.

Last year, two of the three bestselling titles on the Billboard jazz charts were previously-unreleased recordings featuring Coltrane: Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane -- at Carnegie Hall, recorded in 1957, and One Up, One Down, which derives from a 1965 radio broadcast. And his legacy was so central to the success of the legendary jazz label Impulse that its 45th-anniversary reissue program celebrated it as "The House That Trane Built." Specific reasons for Coltrane's enduring potency are hard to pin down, in part because they spring from an emotional, rather than an intellectual response to the music. Guitarist Roger McGuinn, whose guitar solo on the Byrds' Eight Miles High was an attempt to evoke Coltrane's sound, recalled first hearing Coltrane as an utterly visceral experience. "I felt an actual pain in my chest," he told author Ashley Karn. "It wasn't a heart attack or gas pain, it was like some emotional pain, like it was opening up a new emotional area. "It hurt at first, and then I liked it." It wasn't simply the power of a specific recording, either. As saxophonist Branford Marsalis points out, there's something intensely affecting about Coltrane's sound. Not his tone, which Marsalis calls "a bit bright for my taste," but "his ability to use sound to create emotion. "He sounds like he's crying," says Marsalis. "When he plays ballads, he sounds like he's weeping. I mean loud -- not sniffles. Wailing. "That's his weapon, and that's the thing that's least discussable. You talk to musicians now, and they're just paradigm-oriented. They study Coltrane, but they miss the whole thing. They miss the whole damn thing. It has nothing to do with harmonic analysis." Ah, yes -- harmonic analysis. That's the part of Coltrane's legacy jazz players and scholars love to go on about, no matter how much it makes the casual fans' eyes glaze over. Obviously, for those who play jazz, Coltrane's insights into harmony and improvisation -- his use of exotic scales, for instance, or his fondness for "stacking" chords to extend the harmonic potential of a tune -- is well deserving of study.

"Harmonically, he was in all keys, all the time," says saxophonist Joe Lovano, who pays tribute to Coltrane on his Streams of Expression album. "That's part of why he played so much. He had so much to say, because of how much he studied and was able to get around his horn. " Indeed, Coltrane would try to cram so many notes into each bar that the critic Ira Gitler dubbed his phrases "sheets of sound" in the liner notes to the 1958 album Soultrane (recently reissued as part of the box set Fearless Leader). It wasn't a universally popular approach in Coltrane's time. In the fifties, when he was part of Miles Davis's first great quintet, some critics carped about Coltrane's frequently prolix solos; a decade later, when his own quintet had moved firmly into the avant garde, Coltrane's penchant for lengthy, note-packed extrapolations on a single chord had traditionalists dismissing the result as not jazz, and possibly merely noise. But his initial work with Davis and later ventures in the avant garde are generally seen as mere bookends to his recordings in the late fifties for Atlantic Records. This period, which stretched from 1959 to 1961 and overlapped with the end of his tenure in Davis's group, was what cemented his popularity as a soloist and bandleader. In addition to his work on Davis's Kind of Blue, it produced such landmark recordings as My Favorite Things, which single-handedly lifted the soprano sax from obscurity into the mainstream, and Giant Steps, which has become, as Marsalis puts it, "the basis for jazz harmony that is taught in schools." Trouble is, "that does a disservice to Coltrane," he adds. "Songs like 26-2, Central Park West and Countdown were more like experiments than profound musical statements, which is supported by the fact that he never played that stuff live. "I'm pretty sure that when he was doing it, he never imagined that this would be his academic legacy, that that small body of work would be used to represent his entire existence." Indeed, the tune Giant Steps itself works best as a technical exercise, an opportunity for a soloist to deal with a very fast string of chord changes set along an unusual harmonic axis (the title refers to the large intervals of the bass line). But Coltrane had other, more pressing points to make, and seldom performed the tune -- unlike his more drone-oriented take on My Favorite Things, which was a concert staple for some time.

Still, it's fairly telling that jazz academia would enshrine the complex and technical aspects of Coltrane's playing, and overlook the immediate and emotional. "Coltrane had one experimental period in his life where the music that he played could actually be codified," says Marsalis. And because it can be codified, it can be taught, whereas the intensely human quality in his music "is impossible to put down on a piece of paper." It can be located, however. "Coltrane was totally into the blues," says Lovano. He doesn't mean simply that Coltrane's roots were there, as might be expected of a young man born in small town North Carolina, or that he was heavily influenced by the years he spent playing with Eddie (Cleanhead) Vinson and Earl Bostic. "He was in a lot of blues bands, yeah, " say Lovano. "But just that whole base, that whole foundation of the music was the blues. And with Coltrane, that sense of the blues and that feeling never left his playing. It was always about that cry and telling stories."

Tanya Tagaq  - Sounds From A Secluded World

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Robert Everett-Green

(Oct. 2, 2006) 'When you grow up in Cambridge Bay, you spend your life thinking it's a shitty little town and everything's so boring, and now all I want to do is go back because I realize it's one of the most secluded cultures left in the world." That's
Tanya Tagaq, Inuit throat-singer and painter, musing on the strange destiny that has propelled her away from the isolation of Nunavut into the clubs, concerts halls and galleries of the urban white south. We were sitting in a crowded coffee bar on Toronto's Bloor Street, and her awe-filled account of life and death in the north made her tiny polar community seem fantastically exotic, and intimately close. That's pretty much how it feels when you hear Tagaq sing. Her repertoire of grunts, screams and panting vocalizations is a world away from most kinds of singing in the Western world, and yet the basis of it seems as near as your own pulse. She seems to be dying, having sex, giving birth and enacting somebody's creation story all at once. It's intensely erotic, and unsettling too, like looking in the mirror and seeing the animal buried within us staring back. Probably a lot of people who have heard the 31-year-old singer perform with Bjork or the Kronos Quartet imagine that she's a traditional musician, giving us the raw goods from the far north. In fact, although Tagaq's music is based on the techniques of Inuit singing, she learned none of it in her home community. She had to go to an art school in the south to discover herself as a musician. She learned about throat-singing from tapes her mother included in parcels she sent to Halifax, where Tagaq studied at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design after two years at a high school in Yellowknife, which, compared to Cambridge Bay, had seemed to her like a huge place. "Throat-singing just automatically made sense to me," she said, remembering how desperately dislocated she felt after a year and a half in Halifax. It didn't matter that throat-singing really wasn't part of her home environment. She had never heard it before, nobody in her community did it, but she knew right away that it belonged to her.

In that sense, she was just like those white city musicians who discover the sea shanties and ballads of their ancestors, and realize that it's the music they've got to sing. The difference was that Tagaq had lived the life that gave birth to the music she heard on those tapes. She had killed caribou, and seen the narwhal rise a few metres from the prow of her family's boat, and heard dogs howl in the endless night of an Arctic winter. But you can't really do Inuit throat-singing on your own. It's a two-person thing, a game, the object of which is to be the last person to laugh or run out of breath. With no way of approaching the social side of it, Tagaq concentrated on figuring out how to make those guttural, polytonal sounds. It was her secret little sound-art project, or so she thought. "My roommates laughed at me, because every day in the shower they heard me doing this thing," she said. "I thought no one could hear me, right? For the better part of a year, I was just doing it in the shower. I had a very non-traditional way of learning, and I think that if I had been taught traditionally, I wouldn't be comfortable with what I'm doing now." Her shows and recordings have included live electronics and improvised encounters with musicians from very different traditions. Sinaa, her fiercely concentrated debut recording released by Jericho Beach Music last year, included a reworked piece written with Bjork, traditional Inuit songs, and other new pieces performed with txalaparta, a Basque drum (played by her then-partner Felipe Ugarte, with whom she has a three-year-old daughter). Last winter, she did a project with the Kronos Quartet that was supposed to involve a commissioned score, but which evolved into a largely improvised piece based on a colour sequence linked to the passage of the seasons in Nunavut. "David Harrington [Kronos first violinist] gave us all these little pieces of paper, with a block of colour in the middle of each one," Tagaq said. "And he said, 'Tanya, which colour do you think should come first?' And I said, 'I really want black first and red last.' And he arranged these colours, and we executed our piece based on the emotions attached to each colour."

Black for her meant the 24-hour night of winter in Cambridge Bay. Red stood for blood, which for her is a symbol of life, even when coursing from a newly killed carcass. "For me, there's so much beauty in seeing blood on the snow," she said. "Blood is so beautiful, it's the life juice, right? It keeps everything alive. . . . I always feel bad when I kill a caribou, but I also know that if I'm going to be a responsible meat-eater I should know what it's like to look in the eyes of an animal, a mammal, and kill it. A polar bear doesn't go to hell because it kills a seal, it's not doing an evil thing. It's involved in the rhythm of nature, and the balancing of everything, and that's beautiful. My aunt just shot a polar bear with a bow and arrow. Isn't that terrifying? I'm so proud of her." She deeply resents the international campaign against the seal-hunt, especially as promoted by celebrities such as Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson. They don't understand what the hunt means to the Inuit, she said, and confuse the commercial killing of seal pups (which she abhors) with the traditional ways of hunters. "We were doing very, very well, almost breaking away from dependence on the federal government when this [European] seal ban came out," she said. "And we're very upset about it, because we're not killing any more seals than we did before. The animal populations are stable. . . . It should be p.c. to wear seal, especially in Canada." The sounds of the northern environment will be a part of her next recording, which she'll complete during gaps in a touring schedule that takes her across western Canada (with Kinnie Starr) and to Austria (with the Kronos Quartet) before she begins The Night Project, a two-month winter art collaboration with several other transpolar visual artists. Vancouver musician Michael Red, who has provided live electronics for many of Tagaq's shows, went with her to Cambridge Bay recently to record such things as the crunch of snow underfoot, the Arctic wind and the howling of sled dogs.

"I really love the sound of dogs howling," she said. "It's such a beautiful sound, especially in the dead of winter with the wind screaming. I much prefer that to bird sounds." The next record, she said, will be more diverse and more fun than Sinaa. That first disc was her "diary," she said, her compendium of everything she had felt and thought about in her vocal medium. "Sinaa's pretty out-there," she said. "It took me so many years to put something down, and I finally just had to explode. I just had to make every noise I could and everything I dreamed and put it down. It was completely instinctual and recorded in two days. This one, I want to put more thought into it, and have other sounds in there, and have it come out of me more slowly, like syrup." That's a telling image. Like so much in Tagaq's music, it implies that life, art and the body are all joined in a single flux of energy, that takes different forms and knows no boundaries, except those we choose to build in our own minds. Tanya Tagaq performs with Kinnie Starr at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg tonight, at the Exchange in Regina tomorrow, at the Odeon Theatre in Saskatoon on Wednesday, at the Liberty Lounge in Calgary on Oct. 6, at the Myer Horowitz Theatre in Edmonton on Oct. 7, at Capilano College in Vancouver on Oct. 8 and at the Central Bar and Grill in Victoria on Oct. 9.

Gryner Keeps Evolving

By Amanda B. Haupt for Metro Toronto

(Oct. 2, 2006)
Emm Gryner has been quite busy over the last 10 years. The small-town Ontario-raised musician has launched an independent record label, released multiple albums of her own and worked with a bevy of international artists, including David Bowie, The Cardigans and Def Leppard. The Forest, Ont., indie darling’s new CD, The Summer Of High Hopes (released this week), presents a whimsical yet matured sound, although judging from her previous work it is hard to imagine that she was ever immature. The 11 new tracks showcase Gryner perfecting the art of pretty melodies, emotional vocals, and bittersweet lyrics. The music expresses an edgy sadness and heartache, yet embodies an eternal optimism. Commenting on the hopeful nature of her material, Gryner admits, “I’m always looking for the good in everything, sometimes to a fault.” Gryner explains the dichotomy of her songwriting by saying, “There’s always been that underlying sadness to the songs, even though they’re very uptempo. The album kind of goes more into that territory … not that I need to go more into that territory,” she adds with a laugh. Gryner’s songwriting process is fairly simple. She likes her songs to have very strong images and as a result picks her song titles first, then sits down to write the music and lyrics. “I try to communicate a setting ... like painting a picture,” she explains in discussing the nature imagery in her writing. Sunshine, the most personal new song, references specific experiences from her life including the release of her first album, The Original Leap Year. Ten years later, Gryner has discovered “when you turn 30 or whatever you sort of turn a new page … you have a little more experience and depth.”

Disheartened with major record labels, Gryner opted out of her Mercury record deal in 1998 and returned to her indie roots by founding Dead Daisy Records. She has never looked back. Today, her label is prospering with a roster of artists that includes In-Flight Safety and Royal Wood. "I really love developing my label … we’re kind of becoming this little community,” she says. Reworking older material, developing new artists for her label and playing bass in a new side project, Hot One, Gryner shows no signs of slowing down.

• Emm Gryner will play the Mod Club on Nov. 16.

Aiken Shows Adult Side

Matt Sayles/Associated Press

(Oct. 2, 2006) After a year and a half away from the spotlight,
Clay Aiken returns with an edgy new look, a far-from-edgy new album and a newly secure sense of self. “I know it’s a new chapter but it’s kind of like a whole new book — the sequel to my life before,” says a casually dressed and scruffy-faced Aiken, sitting in an office at RCA Records, his label. “It’s like we’re starting out on something brand new where I’m really getting to be myself.” But not everything is brand new. On A Thousand Different Ways, Aiken covers 10 classic love songs and introduces four original tracks. It was a “challenge” issued by music mogul Clive Davis, who oversaw the project — and one that Aiken says he was initially reluctant to accept. “I don’t feel that I had the credibility or the background or just the repertoire to go in and put the Clay Aiken sound on somebody else’s song,” says Aiken, one of American Idol’s most successful alums. “The examples that were given to me were Barry Manilow, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart and Barbra Streisand. I said, `Let’s look at those names and how huge their careers have been’ — Elton John was also one — `and Clay Aiken doesn’t fit in that category.’” But despite his misgivings, he and his team of producers rearranged and reinterpreted each track, from Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is to Dolly Parton’s Here You Come Again, to make them Aiken’s alone. A crooner’s collection of love ballads isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of pop music, says Rolling Stone associate editor Brian Hiatt. But for Aiken and his fans — known as the Claymates — it might not need to be. “His audience is outside the mainstream of hip, young pop culture,” Hiatt says. “By making an album that doesn’t even make an attempt not to be cheesy is acknowledging who his fan base is and what he is an artist.”

It’s an “odd move” to make a covers album so early in a career, says Craig Marks, editor-in-chief of Blender magazine. Marks describes Aiken’s fans as “parents and grandparents who think he’s wholesome and adorable and sings songs as though rock ‘n’ roll never existed.” Though he’s just 27, Aiken’s audience and appeal has always been more Barry Manilow than Justin Timberlake. From his first appearance on TV’s Idol to his improbable, second-place finish in 2003, Aiken had a geeky, boyish, sanitized charm that recalled a crooner from the 1950s. So perhaps a covers record, suggested by Davis, wasn’t so far fetched. When the album was completed, Aiken celebrated with a makeover. He’s sporting a new shaggy-haired, more stylish look, a marked departure from the college campus look he sported before. “We took so much time to make this album that we thought, 'Let’s come back with a bang and do something different,’ It’s really a drastic change ... but it’s kind of exciting.”

Barenaked Ladies Get Serious

By Ian Nathanson/Metro Toronto

(Oct. 2, 20060
Barenaked Ladies Are Me. Barenaked Ladies Are Men. Barenaked Ladies Are Meat. Barenaked Ladies Are Metal. Barenaked Ladies Are Mexican. Blame Retardant … “... Barenaked Ladies are meandering,” Steven Page says dryly as the Toronto quintet’s lead singer and drummer Tyler Stewart sink into silliness discussing suitable titles for the group’s eighth studio album released yesterday.
“It’s the most album titles we ever came up with on our board in the studio,” Stewart adds. “We really didn’t like any of them. But this went on for about two weeks.” The final verdict came down to two serious contenders: Barenaked Ladies Are Me and Barenaked Ladies Are Men. “I went for a walk with my wife in our neighbourhood talking about album titles and they just came up in conversation,” Page says. “What they mean is how we identify with the band and also our own sense of self-identity. “The irony of it is how much we’ve invested in the identity of the band and also how we’re learning as people with families to start to separate ourselves.” With each member now in their mid- to late 30s, Page, Stewart, Ed Robertson, Jim Creeggan and Kevin Hearn would be loathe to say the Ladies have hit a mid-life crisis. But the group that decades ago blended accessible pop and playful humour with the likes of If I Had $1,000,000, Brian Wilson, Be My Yoko Ono and later with Shoe Box and smash hit One Week now see their world view on a more serious level. “What we write about are the trials and tribulations about life and the issues we have to deal with,” Page says.

That’s not to say the Ladies have totally ditched their fun side. The new disc finds Robertson rocking out with his boyhood guitar idol Kim Mitchell on Wind It Up. That song also inspired the band to get their fans to videotape themselves playing air guitar, upload their results to website and hopefully watch themselves appear on the song’s video when it finally sees the light of day. It’s part of a more fan-friendly approach the Ladies have adopted since letting their contract with major label Warner expire and issuing the album on their own Desperation Records (which Warner distributes). And as for the album, Page says it’ll appear in several formats: The 13-track Barenaked Ladies Are Me (out yesterday), another 12-track disc called Barenaked Ladies Are Men (due in early 2007), a limited-edition double CD and several online options for fans to buy all 29 songs, including a USB flash memory stick. “At the end of the day, we feel it’s our responsibility to look at how people can access our music,” Page says.

CanWest pulls plug on Izzy Asper's Cool FM

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Grant Robertson, Media Reporter

(Oct. 3, 2006)
Izzy Asper's devotion to jazz led CanWest Global Communications Corp. to expand into Canadian radio three years ago. But a continuing struggle to enlarge those operations has prompted the company to pull the plug on domestic radio. CanWest MediaWorks Inc., a subsidiary of the Winnipeg-based television broadcaster and newspaper publisher, sold its two Canadian radio stations to Corus Entertainment Inc. yesterday. CanWest said it lacked the scale to compete in an industry that has mostly consolidated around six major players. The $15-million deal is small in dollar terms but involves the two stations CanWest was using as a beachhead into the Canadian market: Kitchener's pop station Dave FM and Winnipeg's Cool FM, a jazz format launched by CanWest's co-founder Izzy Asper, a jazz enthusiast. Mr. Asper, a Gershwin fan who died eight months after Cool FM was launched in February, 2003, often shrugged off naysayers who said the station would struggle to make money with a jazz format.  Three years later, the Kitchener station is close to breaking even, but Cool FM is still a year away from turning a profit, CanWest MediaWorks chief executive officer Peter Viner said yesterday. So when the company received an unsolicited offer from Corus to buy the two stations, it decided to sell.

"At the end of the day, [Izzy] was quite a commercial animal too," Mr. Viner said. "He had hobbies, but he didn't have pets. I think he would have agreed." The Canadian radio landscape is dominated by six companies: Corus, Astral Media Inc., Standard Broadcasting Corp. Ltd., Rogers Communications Inc., Newfoundland Capital Corp. Ltd., and CHUM Ltd. (which was bought this year by Bell Globemedia Inc., owner of The Globe and Mail). After Bell Globemedia's acquisition of CHUM, which has 33 stations, Corus has been looking to expand its recipe of Top 40, country and classic rock stations in urban markets.  However, Corus radio president John Hayes said the company isn't looking to abandon the jazz format Mr. Asper created in Winnipeg, which would require an appeal to the federal broadcast regulator. "We're very respectful of the jazz format," Mr. Hayes said. The sale comes as CanWest expands its radio operations abroad. It has invested in stations in Turkey, and won two licences in England. It also owns radio assets in New Zealand. CanWest won a licence for a new station in Halifax, but doesn't plan to pursue it. The chance of becoming a significant player in Canada looked unlikely unless CanWest swallowed a major competitor, Mr. Viner said. Expanding with startups proved no easier, as CanWest bid unsuccessfully for five new Canadian licences in Ottawa, Edmonton, Halifax, Kitchener and Winnipeg. "It just seemed to us that, with two stations, where are we going with this?" Mr. Viner said. When Mr. Asper launched Cool FM, the station was an anomaly. As radio increasingly becomes a game for large regional or national players, startups are rare. Even Mr. Asper once jokingly described the strategy as "a cunning and diabolically clever tax reduction plan, given the expected losses."

Monica Offers Herself Up

Excerpt from - By J.C. Brooks

(October 3, 2006) *She’s not Janet, but
Monica also has a milestone to celebrate.  Today, the once teen sensation, is now celebrating over a decade in the music business with the release of her new album “The Makings of Me.”  Monica made quite an entrance when she burst on the scene in 1995 with a couple of platinum Top Ten singles.    The 15-year old looked like she was all bubble gum and popsicles until she belted out "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of dem Days)" and "Before You Walk out of My Life." Monica, born Monica Denise Arnold, now 26, is a grown woman who has earned her stripes in the music industry.  Not that she’s old, actually she looks very good. In fact, with a new addition to her life, Miss Thang is looking great. She’s a new mother to a 16-month old son named Rodney, yet looking at her timeless face and figure, you’d never know she delivered a nearly eight-pound bundle of joy last year.  Maybe this is the reason why Miss Jones at Hot 97 recently expressed a bit of hateration toward the artist on her show.  “It’s almost comical now because a lot of people didn’t even know who she was until I addressed her issue,” the fiery Atlanta singer told EUR’s Lee Bailey.  “It originated with her just saying that she didn’t like my single, which was not a problem for me.”

But obviously, Miss Jones’ remarks didn’t stop there and Monica, needless to say, got a little upset.  “But, talkin’ about my weight and different stuff like that, I just thought it was really…it was in poor taste… But, she does a lot of things in poor taste.  Because anybody who would make a song about (the) Tsunami and find it funny just doesn’t have proper taste at all.  So, I think people kind of brushed it off, and so she therefore moved on as well.”  She continued saying, “She says we’re too thin, all these different things, but I’m the same that I’ve been the whole 12 years of my career.  If you look back, I don’t look any different …That’s why I say it was for ratings.  And when people do things like that for ratings, you really come out better not to respond, but that’s just not my nature…It bothers me when I see other black women constantly finding ways to tear us down.  It really agitated me.” It’s evident, by Monica’s response, that it’s definitely not in her nature not to respond when being attacked.  She even went so far as to address Miss Jones on her own turf regarding the ill will she was projecting toward her.  “I did what I wanted to do which was respond to her in her city where she would hear me directly and if she ever wanna get on my level and be full grown about it and talk face to face then I’m down with that.  Other than that, she should just keep my name, probably, out of her mouth… I think it was just something that she probably has gotten into for ratings talking about me, Beyonce, Ciara.  I find that young black women have been like the butt of many of her jokes.  And I guess that’s just a part of her game and I probably should have never even addressed it because a lot of people hadn’t heard her, don’t listen to her and never care to until they wanted to hear what she actually said.”    Monica now admits that the whole scenario was a waste of time and energy, but she couldn’t resist nailing the coffin shut on the issue.   “She’s on a morning show, so a lot of different morning shows, that’s how they get their ratings.  You know, just through creating some form of controversy.  But everybody knows I’m not to be played with and I don’t really pump fear, so I said what I had to say and that was the end of it,” she said. 

With that drama aside, she can now celebrate a soulful new album.  It’s full with classic Monica, but she invites her fans into her world this time around.   “The Makings of Me.  It’s basically saying, it’s a testament to the fact that this is a musical diary. It’s just simply about the last decade of my life.  We talk about a lot of different things on the album as far as things that I’ve been through; different situations.  And we just take a walk through the last 10 years of my life up until this point,” she explained.  One of her new singles from the album is “Everytime Tha Beat Drop.”  This particular selection hits with a heavier beat than we may be used to from Monica. It’s a departure from the other ballads and mid-tempo offerings on the album.  She takes you to an ATL party with her and her road dawgs, Dem Franchize Boyz and Jermaine Dupri, on this one.   “Yes, that’s the one that [Miss Jones] didn’t like.  She thinks it’s like Chicken Noodle Soup which is now a huge record,” said Monica about her nemesis.  “It’s for people to enjoy.  There was no particular message we were sending in that song.  That wasn’t our intention.  We wanted to make a record that was the representation of Atlanta.  It had three artists that are from Atlanta, Franchize, Jermaine and myself.  So the combination, we thought it would be cool to do a record that really represented where we were from.”  Another single, which takes you back to signature Monica is her ballad “A Dozen Roses.”  This track samples Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You” which resulted in influencing the title of the album.  “After we did the song.  [Missy] decided to use that sample on her own.  She already decided that would be the track that we would sing over and do the record around,” explained Monica.  “And once bringing it home, Clive listened to it over and over and he was like I have the answer, The Makings of Me.  And I think that hook is standing out a lot.”

This particular cut means a lot to her and explains a lot about her and the album she was trying to make.    “I hadn’t thought of me singing over it,” she said.  “It’s an incredible record and what he’s saying is extremely meaningful and then it was Clive Davis’s idea to name the album The Makings of Me.  He said because in essence if you go back and you listen to everything that I’m talking about…it boils down to those were the things that made me who I am; not as an artist, as a person… I even went to high school with one of [Curtis Mayfield’s] sons.”  The song is one of her favourites and she explained why Missy may have chosen this particular track to sample.  “It is the type of record that it feels good, it’s about being in love,” she explained.  “And the chemistry between Missy and I has always been good.  And I think that chemistry is generated by our friendship.  Our friendship means that she’s allowed into a lot of the personal space in my life.  So she knows a lot of things and she’s able to write about it and make everything make sense.”  As an artist, she gravitates to the track “Getaway” which was produced by Jermaine Dupri.  This song helps her really talk with her fans and help them understand her on the real side; behind the singer.  “And then there’s a record that I love that Jermaine did called “Getaway” that just kind of talks about how it feels to be an artist and then there never really being an on and off time no matter what the circumstances are,” she explained.  “Like you’re always at work to a certain degree, anytime you leave out of your house.  I’m a firm believer, I believe like more old school people that I look up to that have talked to me like Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight.  I believe that our fans make us, so me saying there’s never any off time, I’m not saying that as if it’s a downside.  I’m saying that sometimes it’s hard.  Because when you leave out, you never know who or what you may come in contact with, but you accept that as a part of the job.” As the still young, but all grown up singer embarks on the promotion of her new album, it may be a while before she sees that downtime to enjoy things she likes to do.  But, the promotion of her album is still secondary to her new favourite pastime.  “I’m just 100% focused right now on my son.  He’s only 16 months old, so he needs my undivided attention as much as possible, so I’m only kind of doing things he may enjoy.”  She also shared with us that Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, is the godfather of her son.  She states that little Rodney is no problem and is a big boy already helping his Mama.    “My son Rodney is 16 months old.  Really good baby, good travel baby, sleeps all night. Just doesn’t give me any trouble, so it makes my job 300% easier since he’s my absolute number one priority.”  At one time a couple years ago, we thought that Monica may have adopted some children, but she cleared up the confusion behind that.

“I didn’t ever do paperwork.  It basically is like if you come into contact with friends or family, if they were ever in need of anything or their kids needed someplace to be on a regular basis, that’s how it was.  There wasn’t any like legal paperwork or anything that was binding because they’re all with their mom’s now, so it’s just me and my son.”  Her son will probably learn rather quickly that his mother is a musical success.  Now that she’s had time in the industry and is a new mother, she’s had time to reflect on her journey.  “Well you know, I’ve enjoyed my career and I think that for some people coming in that young can be a horrible experience and for me it was the total opposite,” she remembered.  “I got a lot of good advice from a lot of good people and it’s kept me balanced the entire way through.  There’s been a couple rough spots, but not too extreme to the point where there was no coming back.  And when I say that I mean, me personally more so, than professionally.  But, it’s been a good journey for me.  And this many years later, I still enjoy it the same way because one thing I do believe in doing is stepping away to take a break every now and then.  And when I do that, it’s a good thing for me because you come back refreshed.  Will we be able to catch her in our town is the question now.  The touring season will be coming up soon as the weather breaks.  “We’re definitely doing a lot of promotional stuff over the next couple of months,” said Monica.  “It’s really different now than it was in 95.  There were constant tours and bills that you could just join on without even any thought to it.  But, right now there aren’t many tours even out.   There aren’t very many out there.  Hopefully, by the summer it would be a cool package for me to link up with somebody and stay out throughout the summer when kids are out of school and they can really come and enjoy the show.  So for right now we’re just doin' the promotional stuff.

Get ready to check out Monica's album, “The Makings of Me,” in stores today.  She can also be seen on BET’s The Blueprint, Wednesday at 7:30pm.  Get MORE info and check out Monica's new music HERE:

Usher Takes One Chance

Source: Amina Elshahawi , ThinkTank Marketing,,

 "As an artist, I know what it takes to be successful. I know what it takes to make a mark and have longevity. As a label owner, I want my artists to possess those same qualities. One Chance does. I have no doubt that these guys have what it takes to not only live up to the great R&B legends of the past, but to have the same kind of respect and longevity that many of those greats still enjoy today." – Usher

(October 3, 2006)  For Courtney, Jon, Michael and Rob,
One Chance is the perfect name for a foursome that has invested their heart and soul into their musical dreams and now stands on the verge of savouring the fruits of their labour.   "This name really suits us," says Jon Gordon, 20. "One Chance means we only have one life and this is our one dream and you've only got once chance to do it. We feel like all we need is one chance for people to hear us and they'll love us."   Bound by their love of music and their undeniable talent, these four Chicago natives came together three years ago and overcame all the obstacles that littered their road to success. After a few detours and more than a few roadblocks, the guys found themselves face to face with the biggest R&B superstar in the world and, much to their delight, he liked what he saw. "Two years ago we got the opportunity to showcase for Usher," Jon recalls. "He could tell that we were already polished. We had been working so hard for so long and it must have shown on stage because we were chosen by Usher over several other acts who showcased for him and his staff that day."   Usher signed One Chance to his label, US Records, and began the diligent task of developing them as only Usher can do. The multi-platinum, Grammy-winning artist said he saw reflections of himself in the group. "As an artist, I know what it takes to be successful," Usher says. "I know what it takes to make a mark and have longevity. As a label owner, I want my artists to possess those same qualities. One Chance does. I have no doubt that these guys have what it takes to not only live up to the great R&B legends of the past, but to have the same kind of respect and longevity that many of those greats still enjoy today."   There's no question that One Chance in next in a long lineage of great R&B male groups. "We got a mean swagger," says 21-year-old Courtney Vantrease, describing the group's uniqueness. "It's a Chicago swagger but it's real and we've got things that you will remember from previous groups, like little things you might remember from Jodeci and Boyz II Men."

Jon adds, "One thing that will set us apart from other groups is that most of them are missing something. Some of them can dance but aren't that strong vocally or maybe they can sing but they're not solid entertainers but with this group we cover the whole spectrum. We're not trying to be something we're not. We can sing. For real. Take away all the music, all the beats, you can even take away the microphones and you will hear natural voices blending in harmony."   Hearing them sing 'for real' is the treat listeners get when they lend an ear to any of the songs featured on the group's debut CD.  The lead single, "Look At Her," featuring D4L's Fabo, serves up a refreshing new style called Snap & B. "It's something new we're trying," explains Courtney. "I think we're probably the first guy group to do this. The snap movement is really strong right now so we just decided to incorporate some R&B into it. It's just all about giving people something fresh." Produced by Chocolate Star and Soundz, the song conjures up images of a club scene and a group of men eyeing a special lady who has captivated them with her sexy dance moves.   The guys covet a special lady yet again in the melodic midempo joint "Private," featuring Akon, and extol her virtues on vocally superior "Don't Stop."   Shondrae aka Bangladesh (Ludacris, 8Ball & MJG) takes production credits on "Emotional." Notes member Rob Brent, 19, "I think it's one of our hottest songs and it shows the versatility of the group." Adds Jon, "The song is about a guy whose girl is about to leave him and he doesn't know what to do so he runs after her and becomes very emotional."   The group's music creates various nuances. The songs are alternately bright and fun and dark and pensive. "We have some really bright voices. We have a couple of dark records but for the most part it's a young feel, youthful but not too young and not too old either. It's right down the middle."   Adds Jon's brother Michael, 22, "Some of the songs address situations that young people are going through in relationships and in life in general."   Just as their songs run the gamut of styles and emotions, the personalities of the group's members and the talent they possess covers all the bases.   "Rob is the young guy with the non-stop dancing, the popping and locking all over the stage," offers Jon. "He has the spunk and a voice that sounds like he's got auto tune on it. He's the guy that likes to riff and run you down the street."

"Jon's the spokesman of the group," says Courtney. "He's the gel that keeps everything together. He keeps our business tight, keeps us practicing and on stage he's the improviser and the one in the group who has the most hip hop flavour."   "Courtney is the quiet, smooth entertainer," chimes in Rob. "He's young but grown and sexy too. Out of all of us he has that in-between look that can go in either direction."   "And Mike is that sexy, fly dude," notes Courtney. "Mike is the one that'll take his shirt off on stage and go wild. He's like Jekyll and Hyde."   The mutual love and respect that the members of One Chance have for each other have sustained them through some very trying times over the years, times that often found them chasing down one elusive opportunity after another. "It's been a real rough grind," recalls Courtney. "We left home, sold CDs to rent a van to go to New York and went to different record labels to perform. We all stayed in one hotel room or when we didn't have enough money we all slept in the van." Undaunted, the group packed up the Gordon brothers' not-too-dependable van and hit the road to Atlanta for Usher's showcase. "Even after going through ups and downs we took it upon ourselves to drive down to Atlanta where we slept on the floor in a cold studio, going daily without eating. It's been a struggle but we've gotta say it's been a blessing and it allows us to appreciate everything that's going to come to us even more."

VIDEO: One Chance EPK featuring Usher:

Windows Media


Jason Moran -- An Artist in Residence

Excerpt from - By Deardra Shuler

(October 3, 2006)   *Although some folks say that
Jason Moran is a risk taker and seeker of new directions for jazz, Moran modestly states he is constantly referring back to music as it progressed throughout history and trying to find ways to modernize and bring change to it.  Moran finds inspiration through his association with diverse art forms.  He has been inspired by painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, Egon Schiele’s painting “Facing Left,” and Robert Rauschenberg’s “Black Stars,” which motivated Moran’s third album.  In fact, Moran was commissioned to compose music by 3 separate Art institutes: The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Dia Art Foundation, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.  As a result, Moran and his band, The Bandwagon, which consists of Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums, (which included guest appearances by Alicia Hall Moran, Abdou Mboup, Joan Jonas and Ralph Alessi, et al.), went into the studio to record these commissioned works for a broader audience on CD.  The result was his most current musical offering “Artist In Residence” in release by Blue Note Records.  “The Walker Museum is a museum, a gallery space, theatre space, performance space and even a venue for film.  They have captured the true artistic flavour in all the genres.  You can go see the best in dance, theatre, music and the very best in contemporary American art.  It’s much like the way it was during the Harlem Renaissance” noted Moran.  “The Walker Museum pulls together the painters, the artists, the composers in one venue.  They commissioned me to write music based on their permanent collections.  I chose a work by conceptual artist and philosopher Adrian Piper, The Mythic Being: I/You (her).” We did a single performance there.  We did one in Houston and expect to do one in New York” explained Moran.    “I was an Artist in Residence at the Museum for a year and thus the title of my CD.  I spent time with the curator and program directors trying to figure out a way to create music that was not only musical but captured the notion and cohesion of the artist and the audience.  I actually played music behind the varied artists and performers as they described their art. When one studies the space and the artwork, one can get caught up in motion and sound. Caught up in how the audience listens. I even noted sounds the audience made; dropping spoons and clicking glasses became musical noise. Yet it meshed and became a relationship that captured the give and take between artist and listener and the energy infused in both” said Moran who was awarded Pianist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association in 2005.

Moran played background to a piece entitled The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, which is included in the Artist In Residence CD.  It is a piece that Moran developed over a 12 week period while working with video/performance artist Joan Jonas at the Dia: Beacon, a 300,000 square-foot museum located in upstate, New York. Moran composed and performed a live sound 90-minute abstract landscape work.  Included in these works was “Arizona Landscape,” a solo piano piece inspired by historian Aby Warburg’s writing about the Pueblo Native American culture.  “Arizona Landscape,” was done in collaboration with Joan Jonas” remarked the melodic artist of fine art.  “She had a scene where she videotaped the Arizona landscape.  The Native American is actually absent in the piece because the Pueblo Indians were sceptical about getting their photos taken.   They believe to do so, might take away a part of their soul” so in a way the music is a reflection of them but has not incorporated them” said Moran.  A native of Houston, Texas, Moran started playing piano at 6 years old. Later, he attended the Manhattan School of Music.  “When I was young, my mother wanted to keep us busy during the summer so she put my brothers and me in music camp. Both my parents were very culturally involved.  They loved music and art, not only for its entertainment value but for its political aspect as well.  I came from a very close knit family.  In fact, most of my family lived in the same zip code.  I was lucky to have a family that introduced us as children to different art forms” recalled the talented musician who fell in love with Jazz after hearing Thelonious Monk.  Jason’s wife, soprano Alicia Hall Moran, is also involved in his music. She wrote the title song “Milestone” on his recent album and is featured on vocals. In fact, “Milestone” is a love story straight from the couple’s marriage.  “None of my work would be any good if Alicia weren’t around,” said Moran of his musical association with his wife.  In fact, the couple often collaborate on projects as a creative team; even performing together at Columbia University and the Romare Bearden Gallery.   Other pieces on Artist In Residence are entitled: “Lift Every Voice And Sing” (written by James Weldon Johnson in the 1900s), “Break Down,” “Cradle Song,” and “Rain” a sextet piece commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center.  A piece inspired by the “ring shout” from the slavery era.  At 31, Jason is still striving to put his stamp on his music.  “’I have only just begun’ says Moran who focuses on change in his music and life. “I think about change.  Everything changes eventually.  The one constant is change.”  To find out more about Jason Moran see:

Bobby Valentino: Ready for any ‘Occasion’

Excerpt from - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(October 4, 2006) *The summer of 2005 boomed the anthem “Slow Down” from newcomer
Bobby Valentino. The moderate tempo and easy vocals made the song a hit with both the young set and adult contemporary – a feat not easily accomplished in today’s music market. Singer Valentino is returning next month with his sophomore set, “Special Occasion,” and has every confidence that this disc is for every occasion and everyone, too.  “I have a song for every occasion – whether you’re by yourself or with that special someone or you’re about to go to the club,” Valentino said of the disc tracks and the disc title. “I got a song for whatever occasion it may be. Secondly, all the producers – Rodney Jerkins, Tim & Bob, Brian Cox, Shawn Garret, The Light – to put them all on one album is a special occasion. Thirdly, this is my second album and a lot of artists don’t get to their second album, so that’s a special occasion.” Valentino said that the new disc differs from his first solo set because he is stepping outside of his comfort zone. “Because I worked with a lot of different producers and I went outside and did some things outside the box – I let some people write for me and stepped outside the box and did some things different from the first album,” he said.

The singer’s comfort zone has been built from his days with the group Mista, which had a regional hit with the song “Blackberry Molasses” back in 1996. The stardom was short lived and the group dissolved soon after. This time around, Valentino says he’s learned from those mistakes and is very happy with the success of his solo career.  After graduating from college, the singer took a repertoire of songs – about four or five albums worth – to Poon Daddy. Poon Daddy happened to be the best friend of a very popular rapper by the name of Ludacris. His music got in the hands of Ludacris and the execs at his Disturbing Tha Peace label. They liked it, they liked Valentino’s work ethic, and the rest was history. Valentino wasn’t really surprised that the label wanted him to come aboard, however. He said, modestly, that the label was a good place for him and he felt they needed an “R&B backbone.” “It’s been a blessing,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted in my life and I’m just happy to be in this position. It’s everything I expected it to be and more. I got the chance to go overseas and travel to different countries and continents, it’s truly a blessing.” That blessing came in the form of the hit record “Slow Down,” which held the #1 spot for five weeks last summer. What was remarkable about the track was its mass appeal. Though Valentino said that the crossover of the song wasn’t in the plan, it was a part of his design. After all, his influences include adult soul crooners Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, and Babyface. “’Slow Down’ was just that kind of song – for the masses. It reached out to everybody. Truly I’m a young artist, but I try to do my music not just for young people. With my new single, ‘Turn the Page,’ I expect it to be the same.” Though the new album is full of songs Valentino penned, the roster of tracks he didn’t use will be put to good use.

“I’ll probably give them to other artists because they’re still really good songs,” he said and mentioned that he always has a library to pull from because he’s always writing and always recording. That work ethic, which got him signed to DTP, is what motivated him to continue to pursue a place in the music business. “I knew deep down it was going to happen, I just didn’t know when. It just happened to have happened when I graduated from college. I was definitely stressed out, but I took out my stress in making good music. I worked with a lot of producers in the meantime and I had about four of five albums of music. That’s what I tell people that are looking to get record deals: Don’t just come to people with three songs; come with three or four albums. They can’t deny all that,” he said. Furthermore, he reflected on the lessons he learned his first time around as a singing star. “When I was in the group Mister, we weren’t making any money and things were happening to us. That’s a part of the business if you don’t handle your business. We didn’t handle our business so things happened to us. I look at it as a good thing, because I was young it didn’t matter to me, but it did matter because it taught me the business. Now that I’m older, I know the rights from wrong.” “Special Occasion” hits stores November 14, according to the Disturbing Tha Peace website, after which Valentino plans to head out on a “grown and sexy type of tour,” he said.  “Something intimate where people can come out and hear some real good singing.” Right now, the young star is hitting up stations and stages in the Southeast prepping his new disc. For more info and the latest updates on the new disc, check out  


Miles Davis Inducted Into Rockwalk

Excerpt from

(October 3, 2006)   *Fifteen years after his death, jazz pioneer
Miles Davis has been inducted into Hollywood’s RockWalk, an honour established in 1985 to salute musicians who have made a significant contribution to the history of music.  Thursday’s ceremony took place outside of the Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd., where Davis’ son, Erin, and daughter, Cheryl were among the musicians and well-wishers on hand. A bronze bust of the trumpeter will be put on display outside the store.   Known for his innovative jazz techniques, Davis first began playing the trumpet at age 13 and made his recording debut in 1947. "Round About Midnight," "Birth of the Cool" and "Kind of Blue" are among his legendary albums.   Don Cheadle will portray Davis in an upcoming biopic and a new Davis CD, called "Evolution of the Groove," will be released this fall featuring guitarist Santana and rapper Nas.

Wu Tang Clan To Record Another Album?

Excerpt from

(September 29, 2006) *Will all nine surviving members of the Staten Island-based rap outfit
Wu-Tang Clan ever be able to share the same studio again and crank out another album? Group member Ghostface Killah says it depends on the maturity level of his fellow band mates. "Certain members is comfortable, and certain members is not comfortable" with the group dynamic, he told AP following a gig Wednesday night in Amsterdam. "If we can really come together and ... put aside all the differences that we had, then we could make a Wu-Tang album. We gotta square up a lot." A new studio album would mark the first from the group since 2001. Meanwhile, the members have kept busy by putting out solo albums. Ghostface, born Dennis Coles, is currently touring behind his latest effort “Fishscale.” Long gone are the days when the rapper would don a white mask on stage to go along with his Kung-Fu-inspired rap moniker. He explains: "The reason I quit the mask thing, is, it was like, when I was doing shows with the mask on, people couldn't really hear what I was saying, you know what I mean?"

Elton John On Whitney, Sex And Activism

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Sep. 28, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) — How wonderful celeb news is when
Elton John's in the world.  The ever-opinionated popster weighs in on a variety of subjects in a two-part "Access Hollywood" interview, including Whitney Houston and Clay Aiken.  On Houston, who recently filed for divorce from Bobby Brown after 14 years of marriage, John says, "Bobby's not good for her, and because of the addiction thing, she keeps going back. The writing was on the wall many, many years ago with that one."  John, a longtime gay activist, also shares his thoughts on the speculation over Aiken's sexuality and the "American Idol" star's recent run-in on the subject during an interview with Diane Sawyer.  He understands that Sawyer had to ask Aiken if he is gay, John says, but he's personally not interested in the answer.  "I don't even care if Clay Aiken is gay or not," John tells the show. "It's none of my business."  John also discusses his own dangerous past and how it inspired him to become an AIDS activist today.  "I've dodged so many bullets," he says. "Not just because of unsafe sex, but because of the amount of drugs I did, the amount of alcohol, the amount of work I was doing. I started the Elton John AIDS Foundation because I got so lucky."  John's foundation has distributed more than $60 million (U.S.) to global HIV/AIDS prevention efforts since it was established in 1992.  The interview is scheduled to begin airing Friday.

Pregnant Krall Glows At The Rose

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 30, 2006) So much for the sleepy suburbs.  The denouement of Canada's premiere jazz vocalist, who currently has the country's top album, took place last night — not at Massey Hall, Roy Thomson Hall or the Hummingbird Centre — but the Rose Theatre.  Never heard of it?  Welcome to Brampton, baby.  With black tie and big city prices — $400 per ticket —
Diana Krall delivered her swan song at the grand opening of Brampton's $55 million performing arts centre before heading off on maternity leave.  "I have my own audience," she said, taking her place at the piano bench, in reference to the twins she's expecting in December with singer-songwriter hubby Elvis Costello, who introduced her.  The Nanaimo, B.C., native was in fine form, clad in a clingy black dress and modest heels, delivering standards inspired by Peggy Lee, Irving Berlin and Nat King Cole. Performing in a quartet setting, with bassist Paul Keller, drummer Jeff Hamilton and guitarist Anthony Wilson, voice sexily husky, she favoured the piano playing side of her artistry — maybe because of the pregnancy-related breathlessness she displayed between songs or the presence of audience member and esteemed pianist Oscar Peterson, whom she described as her idol.  Krall has sold more than 14 million records since her 1993 recording debut and garnered seven Junos and two Grammys.  Organizers of the facility were thrilled at their good fortune — the 880-seat main theatre was almost full despite the steep price. "We had to charge that; it's the cost of the artist and the number of seats we had," explained the theatre's general manager, Steve Soloski. Regular prices for the centre's line-up of comedy, theatre, music and dance will range from $18.75 to $99, he said.  When the team booked Krall in February they knew they were getting the first show after the Sept. 19 release of From This Moment On.  "The rest was bonuses," Soloski added with a grin. The rest refers to landing her last show before giving birth as well as her only GTA performance all year.  On the downside, she only performed a couple of songs from From This Moment On. Oh, well, there's always spring — when Krall is expected to resume touring.

Madonna Tops Pay List Of Women Singers: Guinness

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept. 30, 2006) London -- Pop megastar
Madonna is the world's highest-earning female singer, knocking Britney Spears off the top spot for the first time in five years, according to the new Guinness Book of Records yesterday. Madonna earned an estimated $50-million dollars (U.S.), knocking fellow U.S. singer Spears off the perch she had held since 2001. In the world of books, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling remains the richest children's writer, racking up £34.2-million ($64-million U.S.) a year for her world-bestseller tales. At the cinema, director Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong smashed the box-office record for the most expensive movie ever made at $207-million, according to the 2007 edition of the records book. AFP

Raekwon Joins Dr. Dre’s Aftermath

Excerpt from

(October 3, 2006) *
Raekwon will finally release his long-gestating follow-up to “Only Built for Cuban Linx” thanks to a reported new deal with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment. is reporting that the rapper is rumoured to be working on new material for the album, “Only Built for Cuban Linx II,” with producers Dre, the Rza and guest appearances from his group, the Wu Tang Clan.  "Rae isn't taking this album lightly and it will be released on Aftermath Records, not on the Wu Music Group as originally scheduled," said a statement on the site. "It will be an instant classic!"  No release date has been set for the album.

Mary Mary's 'A Mary Mary Christmas' in Stores October 10

Source: Tynicka Battle, ThinkTank Marketing, ,

(October 4, 2006) Erica Campbell and Tina Campbell, the best-selling R&B/Gospel duo
Mary Mary, are giving their fans "A Mary Mary Christmas," a brand-new spirit-filled album celebrating the Christmas holidays. "A Mary Mary Christmas" will be in stores Tuesday, October 10.   Produced by Warryn "Baby Dubb" Campbell for My Block Records, "A Mary Mary Christmas" combines best-loved traditional carols with some swinging new original Mary Mary contemporary gospel sounds to help celebrate Christmases present and future.  Erica's husband, Warryn Campbell helmed the first two Mary Mary albums, the RIAA gold and platinum-certified Thankful and the RIAA gold-certified Incredible. Last year, Mary Mary took home the coveted American Music Awards trophy in the Contemporary Inspirational Music category, adding to a growing collection of critical and popular kudos that includes a Grammy and numerous other awards.  To hear the tracks, go HERE.



October 2, 2006

2Pac, Tupac Collector's Box, United States of Dist.
2Pac, Tupac vs Biggie: The Legacy Continues, MVD
50 Cent, God's Plan, BCD Music Group
69 Boyz, 199QUAD [Bonus DVD], Lil Joe
8Ball, Light Up the Bomb, 8 Ways
95 South, One Mo' Gen [Bonus CD], Lil Joe
Amy Winehouse, Rehab, Universal/Island
Barry White, Live in Europe 1975, Hudson Street
Black Eyed Peas, Bring in the Noise, Bring in the Phunk, MVD
Bobby Womack, Across 110th Street, Snapper UK
Busdriver, Kill Your Employer, Anti
Busta Rhymes, Get Down/How We Do It Over Here, Aftermath
Chuck Nutt, Doin' the Fool: Chuck Brown, SMC Recordings
Connie Fisher, Favourite Things, Universal/Polydor
Coolio, Gangsta Walk, All Around the World
Coolio, Return of the Gangsta, Grindin
Curtis Mayfield, Greatest Hits, Silver Star
Daedalus, Throw a Fit [EP],
Dezil, Welcome to the Paradise, BMG Germany
Diddy, Come to Me, WEA/Atlantic
Dido Brown, Talez of a Young Brown Male, SMC Recordings
DJ Nelson, The Flow, Vol. 1, Universal Latino
E-40, U and Dat [Single], WEA/Warner
Earth, Wind & Fire, Rio After Dark, Snapper
Elvis White, Promise: Live and Direct, Bungalo
Exile, Dirty Science, Sound In Color
George Clinton, Take It to the Stage, Music Avenue
Gladys Knight, Before Me, The Verve Music Group
Gold 2, Mi Sueno, Machete Music
Grandmaster Flash, The Message, Sanctuary Midline
Gregory Isaacs, Lifes Lonely Road, Snapper
Gucci Mane, My Chain, Big Cat
Ice-T, Gangsta Rap, Melee
Ike & Tina Turner, Mastercuts, Mastercuts
Ike & Tina Turner, Through the Years, Hudson Street
James Brown, And I Do Just What I Want, Universal/Spectrum
James Brown, Fine Old Foxy Self, Universal
John Holt, 1000 Volts of Holt, Sanctuary Midline
JRK, JRK, Wide Hive
Junie Ranks, Mi Primera Jugada, Universal Latino
Kelis, Kelis Was Here [Bonus Tracks], EMI
Kenny Latimore, Uncovered/Covered, La Face
Kev Samples, The Rush, Titan / Pyramid
Killer Mike, Gangsta Grillz, Vol. 6, BCD Music Group
, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, EMI/Virgin
Lil Jon, Crunk Rock, JVC Victor
Lloyd Banks, Hands Up [Single], Universal/Polydor
Lloyd Banks, Rotten Apple, Interscope
Lowdown, Antidote, Black Balloon
Luciano, The Best of Luciano, Penitentiary
Luther Vandross, Shine [Single], Sony BMG
Marley Marl, The Queensbridge Session, Ol' Skool Flava
Marvin Gaye, Soul Immortal, American Legend
MC Breed, The Best of Breed 1991-1997, DM Music
MC Eiht, Compton's Og, Thump
Mic Little, Put It in a Letter [Single], Def Jam
Mike Bloomfield, Celebrating the Blues, Music Avenue
Mos Def, Tru3 Magic, Geffen
Nathan Haines, Chillifunk Years, Debut
New Ridaz, New Ridaz, Upstairs
Pastor Troy, Down South Hood Hustlin, Cleopatra
Patti Austin, End of a Rainbow, King
Patti Austin, Havana Candy, King
Paul Wall, Get Ya Mind Correct: The Remix Album [Clean], Koch
Players, Clear the Decks, Castle
Rita Marley, Sunshine After Dark, Snapper
Sammie, Sammie, Rowdy Entertainment
Solomon Burke, Soul Lucky, Music Avenue
Spanky Wilson, I'm Thankful, Ubiquity
Stimulus, A Kings County Tale, Sugar Water
Subtitle, Terrain to Room,
Subtle, Mercury Craze, EMI/Lex
Talib Kweli, Listen!!!, WEA
Terence Trent D'Arby, Collections, Sony International
Tha Gift, Blood, Sweat and Triumph, SMC Recordings
The Viceroys, Ghetto Vibes, Kingston Sounds
TLC, Collections, Sony / BMG Import
Various Artists, #1 Smooth Love Hits, Madacy Special MKTS
Various Artists, Best of Rhythm & Blues: Hits, Epm
Various Artists, Cypress Thrill [Music Avenue], Music Avenue
Various Artists, Detroit G Code, Lightyear
Various Artists, El Coyote: The Show Mixtape, Machete Music
Various Artists, MTV My Block: Chicago, Asylum
Various Artists, Reggaestyle, ZYX
Various Artists, Ridin Dirty in the South: The Ultimate Southern Hip Hop Collection, Cleopatra
Various Artists, Thug Nation, IMN
W.S. Bugg, The Roach Motel [CD/DVD], Native
X:144, Lose Control,
Ying Yang Twins, 1st Booty on Duty, TVT
Ying Yang Twins, Dangerous, TVT
Yo Gotti, Back 2 Da Basics [Sliced & Screwed], TVT
Young Quon, Doin It... Movin',
Zion I, Zion I & The Grouch Are Heroes in the City of Dope, Om Hiphop

October 9, 2006

4 Tre, Southern Kaos, Dollyhood
9th Wonder, Brooklyn in My Mind (Crooklyn Dodgers II), 6 Hole
Acafool, Acafool, First String Entertainment
Akwid, E.S.L., Univision
Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor/The Diary of Alicia Keys, Sony
Aretha Franklin, Collections, Sony / BMG Import
Beyoncé, Ring the Alarm, Sony
Big Rich, Block Tested: Hood Approved, Koch
Black Eyed Peas, Monkey Business [Bonus Tracks], Universal
Bleu Da Vinci, BMF Presents Bleu Da Vinci, KOCH
Bob Marley, Babylon by Bus, Universal
Bob Marley, Burnin' [Japan Bonus Tracks], Universal
Bob Marley, Catch a Fire [DVD], Eagle Vision USA
Bob Marley, Confrontation [Bonus Track], Universal
Bob Marley, Exodus [Bonus Tracks], Universal
Bob Marley, Kaya [Japan Bonus Track], Universal
Bob Marley, Live [Bonus Track], Universal
Bob Marley, Natty Dread [Japan Bonus Track], Universal
Bob Marley, Rastaman Vibration [Bonus Track], Universal
Bob Marley, Survival [Bonus Track], Universal
Bob Marley, Uprising [Bonus Track], Universal
Brawdcast, The Suburban Spokesman, R.N.L.G. LLC
Cassie, Long Way 2 Go, WEA/Bad Boy
Christina Milian, So Amazin' [Bonus Tracks], Universal
Chuck Black, Life of a Hustler, Warlock
Connie Fisher, Favourite Things, Universal/Polydor
Coolio, Return of the Gangsta [Bonus Track], JVC Victor
Crunkaholics, Tha Kings of Denco, Mid-South
Dabrye, Two/Three [Instrumentals], Ghostly International
Dan the Automator, Don't Hate the Player, Decon
Darien Brockington, Somebody to Love, ABB
Dead Prez, Soldier 2 Soldier, Real Talk Ent
Desmond Dekker, This Is Desmond Dekker, Trojan
Diana Ross, I Love You, EMI
Diddy, Come to Me, WEA/Atlantic
DJ Yoda, Amazing Adventures of DJ Yoda, Antidote
Don Carlos, Live in San Francisco [DVD], 2B1
Don Cisko, Still Hustlin', Paid in Full
E-40, U and Dat [Single], WEA/Warner
Eminem, Curtain Call: The Hits [Bonus Track], Universal
Ese Villen/Lysto, Lakeside Stories, Thump
Esther Phillips, Atlantic Years, WEA International
Fatlip, Loneliest Punk [Bonus Track], Toys Factory
Footsoldiers, Footsoldiers, Antagonist
Gary Taylor, Retro Blackness, Morning Crew
Gladys Knight, A Christmas Celebration [Mormon Tabernacle], Many Roads
Heavyweights, The Beginning, Activated
Hellsent, Rainwater, Galapagos
Hollow Tip, Ghetto Famous, Real Talk Enter
Hustler E, Wacocaine, Vol. 2: God, Money and Gunz [Screwed], On My Hustle
India.Arie, There's Hope, Universal/Island
J. Rawls, Essence of Soul, HBD Label Group
James Brown, And I Do Just What I Want, Universal/Spectrum
James Brown, Fine Old Foxy Self, Universal
Janet Jackson, 20 Y.O. [Japan Bonus Track/DVD], EMI
Jay Dee, The Shining, Bbe
Jay Tee, How the Game Go, R.N.L.G. LLC
Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt, BMG Germany
Jimmy Castor, Hey Leroy, Universal
John Legend, Live at the House of Blues, Sony
Jurassic 5, Work It Out/In the House [Single], Universal
Kelis, Blindfold Me [US 12"], La Face
Kool & the Gang, Platinum Collection, Platinum
K-Os, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, EMI/Virgin
Layzie Bone, Cleveland,
Lionel Richie, Coming Home [Bonus Tracks], Universal
Loer Velocity, Ready for a Renaissance, Embedded Music
Loon, Wizard of Harlem,
Luni Coleone, Anger Management, Paid in Full
Luther Vandross, Shine [Single], Sony BMG
Mariah Carey, The Emancipation of Mimi [Japan Bonus Tracks], Universal
Mitchy Slick, Killafornia Handgunner,
Moka Only, Desired Effect, Green Streets Ent
Monica, The Makings of Me, J
Morgan Heritage, Live in San Francisco, 2B1
Mr. Shadow, Thug Connection, Paid in Full
N. Phect & Dizplay, Beautiful Bytes, Groove Attack
Nathan Haines, Chillifunk Years, Debut
Negativ, Anorectic, JVC Victor
Ne-Yo, In My Own Words [Bonus Tracks], Universal
Ne-Yo, Stay, Universal
Oddisee, Foot in the Door, Raptivism
Of Mexican Descent, Exitos y Mas Exitos [Deluxe Edition] [Bonus Tracks], Temporary Whatever
Patti Austin, End of a Rainbow, King
Patti Austin, Havana Candy, King
Percy Sledge, Platinum Collection [Platinum], Platinum
Pitbull, El Mariel [Clean], TVT
Poo Poo Man, Snot Logical, Activated
Promoe, White Man's Burden, David vs Goliath
Ray Charles, Ray Charles with the Voices of Jubilation, Medialink Enter
Ray Charles, Ray Sings, Basie Swings, Concord
Remo Conscious, Infiltration, Wax Orchard
Rep Yo Set, Rep Yo Set,
Reyes Brothers, Ghetto Therapy, Latin Thug
Rihanna, Girl Like Me [Bonus Tracks #2], Universal
Rihanna, Music of the Sun [Bonus Tracks], Universal
Ruben Studdard, The Return, J
Sadat X, Black October, HBD Label Group
Sean Paul, (When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me, WEA/Atlantic
Sleepy Brown, Margarita, Pt. 1, EMI/Virgin
Sleepy Brown, Margarita, Pt. 2, EMI/Virgin
Sleepy Brown, Mr. Brown, Virgin
Sly & the Family Stone, A Whole New Thing [Bonus Tracks], Sony
Sly & the Family Stone, Dance to the Music [Bonus Tracks], Sony
Sly & the Family Stone, Greatest Hits [Bonus Tracks], Sony
Sly & the Family Stone, Life [Bonus Tracks], Sony
South Park Mexican, When Devils Strike,
Spanky Wilson, I'm Thankful, Tru Thoughts
Squeak E. Clean, Yeah Right/Hot Chocolate, Toys Factory
Stevie Wonder, Hotter Than July, Universal, Soldier 2 Soldier, Real Talk Enter
STING Songs From the Labyrinth (Deutsche Grammophon)
Subtle, For Hero for Fool, Astralwerks
Suga Free, Suga Free's Congregation, Paid in Full
Talib Kweli, Listen!!!, WEA
Tego Calderón, Underdog/El Subestimado [Bonus Track], WEA/Atlantic
The Drifters, Greatest Hits [Dove], Dove
The New Rotary Connection, Hey Love, Universal
The Real Thing, Platinum Collection, Platinum
The Viceroys, Ghetto Vibes, Kingston Sounds
Thicke, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, Interscope
To Kool Chris, Absolute Dance [2006], Universal
To Kool Chris, The Absolute Dance [2004], Republic
Tom Burbank, Famous First Words, Planet Mu
Tre-8, Frightnight, Warlock
Unk, Beat'n Down Yo Block, KR Urban
Various Artists, Big Up Berlin: Best of German Hip Hop and Reggae,
Various Artists, Black Uhuru & Other Reggae Rebels, Immortal
Various Artists, Chrome Children [CD+DVD], Stones Throw
Various Artists, Eat to the Beat: The Dirtiest of the Dirty Blues, Bear Family
Various Artists, Long Beach City Limits, R.N.L.G. LLC
Various Artists, MTV My Block: Chicago [Clean], Asylum
Various Artists, Music 2 Kill by, Vol. 2, F.U.P.
Various Artists, Napoleon Presents Loyalty Over Money, Paid in Full
Various Artists, Power Structure, PR
Various Artists, Reggae for Romance Vol. 3, Rhythm Club
Various Artists, Sickmix DVD Magazine,
Various Artists, Smack: The Album, Vol. 1, Koch
Various Artists, The Hyphy Movement, R.N.L.G. LLC
Various Artists, Tres Presents Shipping and Handling, Wax Orchard
Various Artists, What It Is!: Funky Soul & Rare Grooves, Rhino
Visionaries, We Are the Ones (We've Been Waiting For), Up Above
VSOP, Lacs and Caprices,
Wade Waters, Darkwater, Raptivism
Willie Clayton, Gifted, Malaco
Willie Headen, Blame It on the Blues, Ace
Yummy Bingham, Come Get It, Universal/Motown
Z-Ro, 1 Deep, Presidentiall


Coming Of Age With Actor Wesley Jonathan

THE ROBERTSON TREATMENT (America ’s Premiere Lifestyle Column) Volume 9, Edition 11 - By Gil Robertson

(September 28, 2006) *Long careers are extremely rare in Hollywood . The rigors of competition, excess and complacency—not to mention fickled taste can leave the lifespan of most careers (especially actors) shorter than the time it takes to boil an egg. This leads us to
Wesley Jonathan. An actor since age 8, Jonathan has amassed a solid string of lead and supporting roles and at 27, shows no signs of slowing down. Seen for seasons on the show, Jonathan most recently co-starred in the film . Samantha Ofole for the Robertson Treatment recently spoke with the actor to find out how he plans to go the distance with his career in Hollywood .

Robertson Treatment: You have been in this industry for 20 years – am I correct in saying that?

Wesley Jonathan : Yes, I started when I was 8 and my first role was in “ 21 Jump Street ” I guest starred with Johnny Depp.

RT: So you have definitely come a long way and gone through some trials?

WJ: Oh yes! I have gone through a lot of jobs, a lot of bookings, movies, ups and downs and pressure and many disappointments. I have been through the whole thing. I have paid a lot of dues.

RT: How would you say you have evolved as an actor especially since you started in this business so young at 8 years old?

WJ: With each job that you do you take a lot with you. Whether it’s learning consistency, looking at shots etc… I have evolved because I respect the work a lot more and I want it much more. I don’t like to watch myself, but I do it so I can get better. I can look at myself and see what I didn’t like or what I would do again. I continue to look at my favourite actors Denzel , Johnny Depp as far as their rhythms and their beats and putting my own style to it. As a kid if you naturally take direction, but as grown man you kinda learn on a different level; moments, facial expressions.

RT: So right now in your career what would be that ‘IT’ role for you? That dream role?

WJ: Wow, you know,…..I just want to do films that are powerful. Films that move people. Whether I am playing an AIDS victim, me playing a cancer patient where I have to cut off my hair –doing dialects and accents, something that demands a lot of physical abuse, crashing a car, I love stunts. Jumping out of a plane whatever that is exciting and moves me. I am like a big kid so anytime I get to do something like that it’s fun. It’s not about that dream it role, it’s about part of a project that challenges me. Things like losing weight for a role, gaining weight for a role, things that cause transformation.

RT: There seems to be a lot less roles in Hollywood for African America actors/actors of color and as such competition is certainly fierce, do you sometimes feel pressured to take any role just to keep working?

WJ: You go through your ins and outs. Woman actually have to deal with the fact that you deal with the casting couch to get this role. Being that roles are scarce and it’s slim pickings  for African American or roles for us that have quality and good positive roles, you do tend to kinda get hungry, literally and you start questioning your morals, but if you hold out for those roles they will come. I try not to take anything, and I have been blessed as much as I have over the years where I have made financially a decent amount of money and I can wait out some things. There are some actors who are not so fortunate and don’t have it like that. You might end up doing anything just to keep your feet wet and get the power to call shots. I’ve gotten to a point where I am calling the shots. I am alright, and I try not to fall into that but it does cross my mind sometimes and I think ‘damn, it’s been six months or a year and rent’s got to be paid’ and I would take a project that’s not really great for me but I need to do it. You go through that, everyone does who is in a certain level of the game. Me, myself I try to hold out and usually when I do so something great comes along.

RT : What’s typical day for you when yr not working aside from basketball and shower singing what else do you like to do?

WJ: Unless you’re Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, believe it or not a lot of actors have a lot of time on their hands between auditions. I am typical guy, I lift weights and I work out and I spend time with friend and family, do movies, and read scripts consistently, work on [my] website. One minute you’re busy and the next you’re twiddling your thumbs. Very, very, very unsteady.

Please see full interview by Gil Robertson on - HERE.

Martin Lawrence Is Boog The Bear In New Animated Flick

Source: Roz Stevenson PR,

(September 28, 2006) *As the principal voices in
Open Season, Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher are perfect as an odd couple who embark on a hilarious journey. Along the way, they enlist the aid of other animals to put the forest back in nature's hands.   Open Season is Sony Pictures Animation's first highly anticipated family comedy action-adventure, scheduled for release tomorrow, Friday, September 29th. Lawrence is a perfect choice for the voice of Boog, a domesticated grizzly bear with no survival skills.  His perfect world turns upside down when he meets Elliot (Kutcher), a scrawny, fast-talking mule deer, who is tied to the hood of a hunter's truck. Alive but unconscious, Elliot wakes up and begs Boog to untie him. Boog agrees and soon lives to regret it. When Elliot convinces Boog to leave his cushy home in a park ranger's garage to try a taste of the great outdoors, things quickly spiral out of control. Relocated to the forest with open season only three days away, Boog and Elliot must acclimate in a hurry. They must unite the woodland creatures and take the forest back by joining forces with the denizens of the wild outdoors and turn the tables on the hunters, and once again make the forest safe for its four-legged inhabitants.

The filmmakers were particularly interested in finding two principal actors who would capture the contrast between Boog, the gigantic grizzly bear and Elliot, the scrawny, one-horned mule deer. Director Jill Culton said that they reviewed many different voices, and finally, when they paired Lawrence and Kutcher, lightning struck. "Martin brought this terrific smooth swagger and confidence to Boog, and Ashton's playful, manic energy was perfect for Elliot." Lawrence approached the development of his character pragmatically, he says.  "Boog is a 900-pound grizzly with no bear skills. He's never been in the woods. He's domesticated and living in the lap of luxury in Park Ranger Beth's garage. He's the star of the 'Wild Life Show' in town and he just loves it all.  He starts out as a cuddly, lovable bear, who one day realizes he has no real grizzly-bear skills." Similarly, Kutcher imbued his character with unique touches.  "I came into the project with a definite character in mind--a small deer that would be a balance against this big grizzly bear," recalls Kutcher. "I arrived with a bouncing-off-the-walls energy, like some kid who's had too much sugar. The directors really helped me to find the energy to keep the idea going. They just kept pushing me for more, and I usually needed a nap about halfway through each session!"    For more visit:  

Repetitive Pixel Injury

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

Open Season
(out of 4)
Featuring the voices of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Billy Connolly, Gary Sinise, Jon Favreau. Written by Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman. Directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi. 100 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(Sep. 29, 2006) I missed the passing of the international law requiring nine out of 10 computer-generated kids' cartoon movies to be about talking animals on an odyssey, but I can't wait for it to be challenged out of existence.  Especially since
Open Season, not only the seeming 16th of its kind (Chicken Run, Finding Nemo, Madagascar, Ice Age, The Wild, Ice Age 2, Over the Hedge, Barnyard ...) to be released in the past couple of years, is also one of the best.  But the very fact that it's witty, bright and entertaining — and featuring a smashing cameo by a "liberated" pet dachshund who cries "I've been living a lie!" — only makes it that much more puzzling. With all this technology, money and ingenuity being deployed, why can't we come up with another plot?  Open Season is the story of Boog (Martin Lawrence), a 900-lb. grizzly who has been raised, happily pampered but most unnaturally, in the garage of a park ranger, voiced by Debra Messing.  When Boog is released into the wild (wearing his teddy bear knapsack on his 900-lb. frame) just prior to hunting season, he must learn the ways of the wild in order to avoid winding up as a floor decoration for the redneck shotgun jockey voiced by Gary Sinise.  In keeping with the tenets of the international law previously cited, Boog is accompanied in his odyssey by a jittery, motormouth sidekick (a one-antlered deer voiced by Ashton Kutcher) and together the two face all manner of high-comic interludes on the road.  They meet a group of nut-flinging squirrels commandeered by a bagpipe-accompanied Billy Connolly, a chainsaw-wielding beaver voiced by Jon Favreau, and prickly blue porcupine who has a nasty tendency to stick like Velcro to whomever he finds himself flung at. (It's a good gag, and therefore he's flung a lot.)  The animation is as up to meticulous snuff as we've come to expect (Boog's fur ripples in the breeze like prairie wheat), the marquee voice characterizations are suitably exuberant, and the movie celebrates nature while having nothing natural about it and permitting no unseemly natural behaviour like one character eating another. But that only makes the following proposal that much more legitimate and urgent: now that we've made one of the best computer-generated talking-animal-on-an-odyssey movies in the brief but busy history of the genre, can we please, please move on?

7 Questions With Billy Bob Thornton

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

Born Aug. 4, 1955, in Hot Springs, Ark.  Played baseball, drums before moving to Hollywood to pursue movie and music careers. Won Academy Award for writing Sling Blade, which he also directed and starred in. Known for extreme changes in appearance, tattoos, eccentric phobias (antique furniture's a big one).  Married five times, including to actresses Angelina Jolie  and Cynda Williams. Five children (one adopted with ex Jolie); youngest, Bella, 2, with girlfriend Connie Angland)

(Sept. 29, 2006) LOS ANGELES -- The mutations of
Billy Bob Thornton have been fascinating. That good ol' Southern boy who wrote, sometimes directed and (often unrecognizably) appeared in such Gothicky regional dramas as One False Move and Sling Blade got himself into big-time mainstream entertainments (Armageddon, The Alamo, Friday Night Lights), at least one marriage that the tabloids found inexhaustibly fascinating and lately a career specialty as a real funny movie bastard. The newest one of those, Dr. P in School for Scoundrels, teaches nerds how to earn respect -- then royally screws them over. Thornton says he's a little too content to act like any of those characters in real life. But he admits that it's a great way to blow off steam, especially when you get paid for it.

A few quirks aside, you seem like a pretty cool, confident guy.  Do you ever feel like you need a Dr. P in your life?

It comes in spurts. I've had periods of time when I felt like a loser, but not for very long. I've always liked life, you know what I mean, even in hard times. No matter how weird life got for me, I always had a little wide-eyed innocence about it and looked at everything as an adventure. I've always been a worrier; I'm nervous all the time. But I'd say that's been more my problem than feeling like a loser.

Where do you find all the anger that we've been seeing lately in School for Scoundrels, The Ice Harvest, Bad News Bears and Bad Santa?

Would you ask me, "Well, you did Sling Blade and A Simple Plan, and you're not slow or mentally retarded, so where does that come from?" It's really just being an actor, sort of observing things in life. And we've all had times when we've felt like an asshole. For a period of time, you're just in a dark place, so I think it's something that's pretty easy. It's not an emotion that requires a lot of skill to play. And in real life, you don't get to boss people around like Dr. P does. It's fun.

Are you happy with where your career is at these days?

I don't have a real desire to be on the cover of Us magazine or whatever it is; to be the celebrity star. I'm okay just being an actor and making a decent enough living. I know I'm never going to make $25-million a movie, and if there was a window for that, it's probably closed now. No matter what happens -- I could win 10 Academy Awards and make a bunch of great movies, you never know -- but I'm 51 now. It's not like I'm suddenly going to become the new hot kid on the block. So I'm just really satisfied to keep doing good movies and getting roles that I like.

You've been working on music a lot in recent years, and even have an album coming out.  What kind of music are you into?

My stuff probably would fit in the Americana category, Steve Earle and people like that. That's where the songs that we've had that have been on the radio played, and as a result not a whole lot of people know my music because there aren't a lot of those stations. I don't know what the new album's gonna be called. I don't always like to name it after one of the songs, but in the end you kind of have to. There is a song on the new record called I Gotta Grow Up. I guess I'll name it that.

Have you met Angie's new baby yet?

No, I haven't. Ever since they did that, they've been gone, really, and when they got back here, I was gone. That's the problem; we really don't get to see each other very often. Y'know, she's all over the world, and the only time I get to see her is on the news, really.

How are things going with your own brood?

My boys are 12 and 13 now -- they're guys! I just bought 'em their new hockey gear for the season. Unfortunately, I didn't grow up with hockey so I don't know much about it. I have to watch the other parents cheer and then I cheer. Bella just turned 2. It's great. The only problem with it is that you feel, sometimes, a little bit like gosh, when she gets to be 14 or so, is she gonna think I'm like her grandfather? It's actually really exciting. It's given me a whole new lease on life, as they say. . . . To watch somebody have a new thing every day and discover what the world is all about is really great.

Any thoughts about taking another shot at marriage?

I don't even think of things in those terms so much. I'm just kind of, whatever happens, happens. But it's really good. We're close and we want to raise our daughter together. So, not gonna be getting married, but no plans to do anything other than that. I'll hang around.

Giving Lennon A Chance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

The U.S. vs. John Lennon
(out of 4)
A documentary on John Lennon's struggles for peace and against deportation from the U.S. Directed by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld. 91 minutes. At the Varsity. PG

(Sep. 29, 2006)  To headline writers and most of his fans,
John Lennon was the smart Beatle, the arch jester and the rock yin to Paul McCartney's pop yang.  To the paranoids of the Nixon Administration in the early 1970s, Lennon was a fomenter of civic unrest and a potentially dangerous revolutionary, and thus unwelcome in the U.S.  What both camps missed, and which The U.S. vs. John Lennon illustrates most pertinently to these conflicted times, is that Lennon was a far more pragmatic thinker and dedicated visionary than most of his boosters and all of his detractors realized.  It is the peculiar fate of public figures to be reduced to sound bites and snapshots. The more the fame, the greater the reduction. An impatient world rarely takes the time to look behind the image on the screen, billboard or newspaper page.  In Lennon's case, his post-Beatle career after 1969 boiled down in the civic mind to the pacifist anthems "Imagine" and "Give Peace A Chance," and a series of "bag-ins," "bed-ins" and other publicity stunts with Yoko Ono, his artist wife.  Documentarians David Leaf and John Scheinfeld go beyond the usual glibness, revealing a much fuller portrait of the man who proclaimed, often to deaf ears and perhaps not entirely believing it himself, "I'm an artist first and a politician second."  By focusing on the last 11 years of Lennon's life, from the break-up of the Beatles in 1969 to his assassination by a crazed fan in 1980, the filmmakers show how fame can be both a blessing and a curse. Using a wealth of archival material, some of it not seen for decades (if at all), they allow him to make his own case at length, through his own words and music.  Lennon knew that he commanded the world's attention, and that every utterance he made was likely to be scrutinized and debated. His public scapegoating in the summer of 1966, when the Beatles' final tour was nearly aborted by uproar over his intemperate (if arguably correct) remark that the Fab Four were "more popular than Jesus," taught him the danger of the loose quip.

But it didn't muzzle him. Rather than retreat in the face of criticism, Lennon went on the offensive, allying with such revolutionary figures as Black Panther leaders Bobby Seale and Angela Davis, and Yippie activist Jerry Rubin, in the fight against the Vietnam War and the jackboot activities of the ruling forces of then-U.S. President Richard Nixon.  Lennon made very few concert appearances after the demise of the Beatles. But one of them was at a Michigan rally in 1971, when he and Yoko performed their new anthem "John Sinclair" to successfully gain freedom for poet/activist Sinclair, who had been sentenced to 10 years in jail for selling two joints of marijuana to undercover narcotics officers.  It is almost impossible in this day and age to imagine that Sinclair's crime would have brought such a harsh sentence. It is equally difficult to imagine any of today's rock superstars risking an alliance with the likes of Seale, Davis and Rubin, because the many corporate sponsors who bankroll the entertainment industry would summarily drop them — as happened to the Dixie Chicks recently after lead singer Natalie Maines uttered what she thought was just a cheeky joke about U.S. President George W. Bush.  It is possible Lennon didn't fully appreciate what he was getting into, but that's not the same as being naïve, as many said of him at the time. He didn't know — nor could he imagine — that the Nixon Administration considered him a "revolutionary activist" (as FBI files show) and thus a major threat to public safety.

Lennon did have a penchant for tweaking the noses of authority figures: "Society is run by insane people for insane objectives," he once said. He also had a plan to follow Nixon around during the president's 1972 re-election campaign to raise a ruckus at campaign stops. (Lennon later abandoned the plan, no doubt realizing it could lead to self-defeating violent protests.)  Nixon was bent on deporting the British-born Lennon from America, and as we subsequently learned in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, nothing was beneath the ethical standards of the president and his stooges. Black-coated FBI agents were sent to Lennon's public appearances, to copy down song lyrics for clandestine scrutiny by White House operatives.  "Like most things, our wildest dreams did not begin to match watch they were doing to us," says Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, one of many of Lennon's admirers interviewed for the film.  Adds author Gore Vidal, who was also pro-Lennon and anti-Nixon: "Anybody who sings about love and harmony and life is dangerous to somebody who is singing about death."  The film also canvasses such like minds as deep-thinker Noam Chomsky, former presidential candidate George McGovern and regretful FBI agents. But it also gives voice to people who saw Lennon in a less positive light.  The latter group includes former Nixon henchman G. Gordon Liddy, who believes Lennon was used as a dupe by radical forces and was thus in need of close watching. No friend to the peace movement, then as now, Liddy tells of contemptuously lighting cigars off the candles of peaceniks. Listen to Liddy on the 1970 shooting death by National Guardsman of four unarmed students at Ohio's Kent State University: "What did you think was going to happen?" he snaps.  Then there's New York Times reporter Gloria Emerson, who is seen mocking Lennon during an interview in her office.

"My dear boy," she tells him, "you're living in a never-never land."  The Emerson clip has been seen before, in the 1988 biopic Imagine: John Lennon, which, like this film, was made with the cooperation of his widow Ono.  But placed within the context of The U.S. vs. John Lennon, the attack by Emerson really brings home the tenor of the times, especially to those born after Lennon's assassination in 1980, years that have elevated him to the unwanted status of latter-day saint.  Emerson's contempt for Lennon and his "Give Peace A Chance" message was very much in tune with the media moguls of the day, few of them Beatles fans. Emerson's cynicism was hard-won: she had reported from the trenches of Vietnam and the battlegrounds of the Middle East, and she wasn't inclined to swallow whole the musings of a limousine-riding rock star.  The fact that today Emerson now seems shockingly disrespectful is more a comment on today's journalism, where it is considered bad form to press celebrities too hard, especially on such no-go areas as their political beliefs. It is one of the film's few serious failings that a journalist of Emerson's stature should be reduced to a simple nattering nabob of negativism.  The U.S. vs. John Lennon is also short of commentary on Lennon's maddening contradictions. He was capable of holding mutually exclusive thoughts, and that included embracing both peace and war. Listen closely to these lines from the Beatles' 1968 peace anthem "Revolution": "When you talk about destruction / Don't you know that you can count me out." You'll hear Lennon whispering a conspiratorial "in!" as a shout-out to his radical supporters. He admitted that sometimes he really didn't know where he stood.  After his deportation battle with U.S. authorities was finally settled in 1975, he retreated into the domestic life of a househusband and father, making few public appearances and only the occasional public statement. He was beginning to come out of his shell in December 1980, when a deranged man's bullets ended his life, but not his continuing influence.  To the end, Lennon remained a believer in the essential goodness of mankind, an optimist in spite of everything.  "Okay, so flower power didn't work,' he once said. " So what? We'll start again."

Heder A Good Fit As Gawky Outsider

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - David Germain, Special To The Star

(Sep. 29, 2006) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—
Jon Heder is not über-geek Napoleon Dynamite. He does relate to that character's memorable triumph-over-your-own-inner-loser tenacity, though.  Heder so far has stuck closely to that theme in the handful of roles he's played since becoming an icon for outsiders in the title role of the low-budget sensation Napoleon Dynamite.  His latest: School for Scoundrels, with Heder as Roger, a pathetically meek parking meter man summoning the fortitude to battle a con man (Billy Bob Thornton) who teaches a guerrilla course in confidence building for nerds.  Though he does not share Napoleon's outrageously frizzy hair or Roger the meter man's submissive demeanour, Heder empathizes.  "I relate to most of the characters I play, because I do feel like an outsider," he said in an interview, noting that growing up a Mormon who has an identical twin brother automatically set him apart.  "And I wasn't into sports like all my friends were. I was into art and drawing and making movies. On top of that, I liked all the traditional geeky stuff. I was into Star Trek and Star Wars.  "At some point I would like to take on more dramatic roles. `Okay, here's a character I don't know or relate with at all. Here's this person doing something different from what I know.'''  It was less than three years ago when Heder, 28, trudged to the ski-resort town of Park City, Utah, for the premiere of Napoleon Dynamite, directed by his Brigham Young University film school classmate Jared Hess.

Amid bleak, sober dramas about adultery, drug abuse and pedophilia, the movie was a blast of sweet, giddy fun, a tale of misfits finding kinship and acceptance. Heder's Napoleon was a prince among geeks with his breathy, exasperated exclamations of "Gosh!" and quirky dialogue such as "Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner" and "I caught you a delicious bass.''  The movie became an independent-film sensation and agents and managers courted Heder. He followed with roles as a spacey occult bookstore clerk in Reese Witherspoon's Just Like Heaven and as a ballplayer in The Benchwarmers.  After School for Scoundrels, he'll be seen opposite Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory, as rival ice skaters who team up as the first competitive men's pair, and Diane Keaton in Mama's Boy, in which he plays a slacker threatened by his mother's new romance.  Heder still marvels over his progression of cast mates.  "I was like, ooh, Billy Bob. Then it was like, wow, Diane Keaton. Then I was like, Will Ferrell? Me and Will Ferrell?" Heder said. "No, no, no, no. You've got to pinch me. This is not fair. I'm going to be exposed at some point."  His co-stars say Heder's no fraud.  "He has this persona that comes through that's extremely likable," said Ferrell, "and it's really funny the different ways he observes the world through his characters."  Jacinda Barrett, the love object for Thornton and Heder in School for Scoundrels, said the two were an ideal match, Thornton the sly wolf, Heder a saint who doesn't drink or curse (and says "Gosh" in real life).  "He's got such a great moral code. It's very important for him to uphold those qualities in the parts he takes," Barrett said.  School for Scoundrels director Todd Phillips said the story hinged on the chemistry, or anti-chemistry, between the characters. Once Thornton signed on, Phillips went searching for his "180-degree opposite'' and said Heder was a natural choice.  "Jon comes with so much innocence, and he really is like that in every way. From the first frame of the movie, the audience is on this guy's side."

Heder and his brother grew up the middle children of a family of six siblings, the two developing an early interest in drawing, film and animation. At film school, Hess cast Heder in a short film playing a character who became the prototype for Napoleon Dynamite.  Animation remains a passion for Heder, among the voices in Monster House and the upcoming Surf's Up.  With Heder and his wife expecting their first child next spring, the actor is mindful of the types of characters he's willing to play.  He's already said no to some scripts because the content or raw language.  Heder said he's comfortable in upbeat stories where an unlikely hero makes good.  "That's what protagonists do. They work hard, they have a conflict, they overcome the obstacles. They get to the climax and they win."

Screenwriter Makes His Mark On Industry

By Michelle Novielli, for Metro Toronto

(Oct. 2, 2006)
Shane Weisfeld is doing his own dirty work. As a Toronto- based screenwriter, the 32-year-old is making his mark in the movie industry, and is doing it all without an agent. The decision to be a writer came naturally for Weisfeld. In his fourth year of studying screenwriting at York University he wrote his first feature script. “I was hooked, and I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he said.  Though university taught Weisfeld how to be a better writer, he said it didn’t prepare him for the business world. So after graduation, he took it upon himself to learn about the industry and continue his craft. “I was so hungry for it and there’s nothing else I wanted to do,” he said. Through independent study, Weisfeld learned how to approach producers and actors with professional letters. “If you don’t have an agent, it’s hard to get your script read because reputable people won’t take unsolicited material due to legal issues,” he said. But by contacting Canadian and American industry professionals using everything he learned, Weisfeld started to get noticed. If it weren’t for his own persistence, Weisfeld said he wouldn’t have been able to get this far.

“Everybody is looking for a great story and the next great writer,” he said, “and because I made an effort to learn about the business, people started responding.” So far, Weisfeld said the feedback has been great. “I’m learning from trial and error,” he said, “even if I get rejections.” Currently, Weisfeld said his scripts are being read by actors Michael Douglas, William H. Macy, and John Malkovich — to name a few — as well as New Line Cinema and independent production companies and directors. Even though Weisfeld made it this far without an agent, he is hoping to have one by next year. Currently he has eight feature scripts and one TV pilot, which he has been re-writing over the years based on feedback. For those following the same footwork, Weisfeld advises to keep writing and rewriting, and worry about the business aspect later. “When you do want to break into the industry, you need to ask yourself if you 100 per cent want this,” he said. “There are many ways to have a career as a writer,” he said, “and I hope to do whatever I can to get out there and have people respond to my writing.” Shane Weisfeld can be reached via e-mail at

John Cameron Mitchell's Bold And Sex-Filled New Movie, Shortbus, Courts Controversy

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 3, 2006) In his first film, he took an inch. This time, he's going a lot farther. 
John Cameron Mitchell shot to counter-culture fame in 2001 when the film of his off-Broadway hit, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, was released.  People marvelled at the protean talents of this actor-writer-director, while gasping at his out-there saga of a pop singer who was left with nothing more than an "angry inch" after a botched sex-change operation.  Five years later, Mitchell's new film, Shortbus, has just had a buzz-filled launch at the Toronto International Film Festival and is opening this week in Manhattan, L.A., San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto.  Set in what Mitchell calls "a post 9/11, Bush-exhausted New York City," Shortbus tells the story of a group of individuals trying to make personal connections at a time when the whole world seems to be falling apart.  But what has gotten the film so much attention is that the metaphor Mitchell uses to get his message across is sex.  It's safe to say that there have never been so many graphically depicted scenes of actual sexuality in a movie that was not intended for pornographic purposes.  "Sex is the most revealing thing you can show about people," said Cameron in an interview during TIFF. "It's not just about f--king, it's about looking into people's minds and hearts and souls. That's why some individuals are going to shut themselves off from this movie."  And that's exactly what has happened. While the general response so far has been favourable from both the media and the industry, there have been notable exceptions — like the Oscar-winning star who stormed out of the movie at one of its TIFF screenings.  "People are going to walk out," Mitchell admits, "and that means we're doing our job."  Virtually all the walkouts occur after what is proving to be the film's most controversial scene. Three men are having sex and one of them uses the rectum of another as a kazoo while he delivers a unique version of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The 43-year-old Mitchell's mischievous Peter Pan side comes forward as he ingenuously explains the scene's creation.  "We were improvising one day and we got to that part of the scene and all wondered what kind of song would work thematically. And then I thought, well, `The Star-Spangled Banner' is in public domain ..."  But rest assured, Mitchell had other reasons as well. After all, one of the earliest scenes in the film shows a pay-for-hire dominatrix reaching for a dildo as she looks out her window at Ground Zero. Nothing in this film is accidental.  "America now is getting to be all about stifling free speech and personal liberty," complains Mitchell, "and I had to say something about it. Sex doesn't disappear because the president has willed it so. Sometimes it goes into porn. Or onto the Internet or other kinds of compartmentalization. It comes out crushed and kind of separated. We want to put it back into the tapestry of our lives again."  It's one thing to have a vision, but it's something else to get a company of actors to agree to carry it out with such uninhibited fervour and honesty.  Sook-Yin Lee, host of CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera, carries the central role in the film as Sofia, a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm.  While searching for physical release in a bizarre variety of places, Sofia also digs deep into herself to find the answers to her problems.  Her performance is bold and unafraid, but she credits Mitchell with giving her the courage to bring it off.

"I would do anything for him," she says fervently. "He's compassionate and caring. He knows how to direct actors because he's an actor himself. He never treats you like a meat puppet. Not `hit your light, say your line, then go back to your trailer.'"  Interestingly enough, Lee found that "the non-sexual scenes in the movie were the most difficult to do, because that's when I went to places where I had to re-examine some difficult passages in my life.  "But John gives you the time and the support to free your head up and access those times. He creates this community of people and then finds a way to bring out the best in all of us."  Mitchell is optimistic about the reaction the film will receive.  "Wherever you go, there's cool people and they're going to be the ones that need and want this film the most. I don't think it will even be on the conservatives' radar, because they don't like to give attention to things they don't approve of.  "But I will tell you one thing," concludes Mitchell, "I sure expect an interesting ride."

The Big Screen Review: The Last King Of Scotland

Excerpt from - By Nicole Dorsett

(October 3, 2006)  This groundbreaking story is set in 1970s Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin, played by
Forest Whitaker, alongside Kerry Washington playing the role of one of Amin’s many wives, Kay Amin.    The controversy, scepticism and prejudice surrounding the release of this film withers easily in the profound, and complex nature of a story that has long needed to be relived.    Whitaker gives what is being called the performance of his life, and Washington’s natural evolution into character should surely secure her a long and successful tenure in Hollywood.  The story is based on fact, but is appropriately complimented with fiction to add clearer meaning to the relevance and influence of the dictator’s dark rule.  The film is charming, visually arresting, and entirely absorbing.  Prepare to be mortified, humoured, and aroused by the intimate look into the cleverly manipulated relationships and chaotic, two-sided life of a cunning, and murderous Amin.  It is hard to imagine in the wake of ruthless leaders such as Hitler, that the world again stood by, this time for eight years as Amin took a psychotic pleasure in a murderous rampage that instilled fear and submission into the hearts of a country.   Maybe it was his common appeal, coming from nothing, and working his way up the ranks in the Ugandan army that was initially so endearing to his people. Meanwhile, he charmed his way into Uganda's heart by assuring his followers that he was just like them, and that he shared the same hopes and dreams for his country.  A bat of the eye, and Amin has become hopelessly drunk with power as the duration of his rule becomes directly credited for the brutal tortures and horrific murders of nearly half million of his own countrymen.  This is a story that is key in remembering the history of countless world leaders – not just Amin – the classic tale of a country deceived, and betrayed, and the sacrifice of innocent lives.  Prepare to see Whitaker in a light you've never seen him in until now.  In fact, Whitaker was nowhere to be found in this film, because Whitaker is Idi Amin.  The Last King of Scotland is presently playing at select screens in New York and Los Angeles.   For MORE, go HERE.

More Movie-Lovers Heading Online To Rent

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Lee-Anne Goodman, Canadian Press

(Oct. 4, 2006) Trend-spotters have been forecasting for years the imminent extinction of the
video store.  With the advent of television pay-per-view channels and digital technology that enables films to be downloaded off the Internet and burned onto DVDs for home viewing, they say, there's really no need for the neighbourhood Blockbuster to exist.  The trouble is, movie studios aren't co-operating with the prognosticators and continue to release their films to video stores because, in short, they make more money that way. Downloading from the Internet, as well, can be a process that takes a couple of hours.  So for now, some Canadians fed up with trudging to the video store every Friday night have found another option: websites that allow movie-lovers, for a monthly fee, to order their flicks online, receive them in the mail, watch them at their leisure without due dates or late fees and then send them back.  There are a handful of such services in Canada, including, and While Blockbuster offers an online movie rental service in the United States, it hasn't yet expanded that operation north of the border.  Satisfied customers say it's yet another way that the Internet has simplified their lives.  Brett Tackaberry, 29, is a devotee. The Ottawa-based company, the biggest of its kind in Canada, recently celebrated its 10 millionth shipment with Canada Post and has a library of more than 52,000 movies and TV series, many times larger than what's available at a neighbourhood video store.  "I used to go to Blockbuster and Rogers a lot, but I've just found that it just makes more financial sense and saves me a lot of time to order my movies online, just like I bank online," says Tackaberry, who works at an Ottawa software company. "I haven't been to a bank branch in years, and I doubt I'll be at a video store anytime soon either." works like this: for a monthly fee — ranging from $10.95 to $49.95, depending on how many movies you want to rent at once — subscribers surf the website and choose what movies they want by creating a DVD wish list. The company mails them the flicks via first-class mail with a postage-paid return envelope, and customers can watch them when they feel like it — either that day, a month later or six months later.  When customers have watched their films, they send them back and order a new batch of movies.

"If you rent five or six movies a month, like I was doing, this makes a lot more financial sense and saves you the time of having to go to a video store and be greeted by a wall of movies in alphabetical order that you have to go sifting through," Tackaberry says.  Rick Anderson, president of, says that when he started the company — similar to in the U.S. — he assumed most customers would be rural Canadians who couldn't easily get to a video store, people who didn't drive or older people who didn't want to venture into the neighbourhood Blockbuster.  "But it hasn't turned out that way at all," Anderson says. "The majority of our members are urbanites in their late 30s, although we have members in every age group. And the No. 1 complaint they make (about video stores) is about having to return a movie that they never ended up watching. Sixty-five per cent of our members have complained that they've had the experience of having to return a movie that they've not watched."  An added benefit, Anderson says, is the company's pledge to find any movie that isn't in the library if a customer asks for it.  "Fifteen thousand of the movies in our library are there because a customer requested it," he says. "That means we have some really obscure and interesting titles in there that aren't easily found at a video store."  But Sarah Good, spokesperson for Rogers, says video stores still offer something that online rental operations cannot — the human touch.  "You want what you want when you want it, not in a few days' time after you order the video online," she says. "As well, we've got movie experts sitting in our stores ready to help you find what you need or give you the kind of hands-on customer service you can't get from a website."


Will And Jada Honoured By Screenwriters

Excerpt from

(October 2, 2006)  *The American Screenwriters Association (ASA) has honoured
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith with its David Angell Humanitarian Award, named in honour of the late Emmy-winning writer/producer who died with his wife Lynn in the September 11 attacks.    "Will and Jada exemplify the principles of the David Angell Humanitarian Award through their support of projects focusing on urban and inner city youth, family wellbeing, violence prevention and education," said John E. Johnson, Executive Director of the American Screenwriters Association. "Their philosophy of leading a positive lifestyle and sincere interest in helping people everywhere is inspirational."    The couple has established the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, and is involved in a variety of callings, such as assisting AIDS victims in South Africa, donating a library and computers to a children's homeless shelter, and supporting pilot projects to enable speech/language therapists to work with disabled children.    The award was to be presented on Saturday (9/30) in San Diego as part of the Actor's Ball and Screenwriting Hall of Fame Awards gala event sponsored by the San Diego Film Festival and ASA.    "We would like to thank the American Screenwriters Association for this award," said Will and Jada, "The ability to make a difference is in each and every one of us. You just have to decide to embrace it. We are honoured to be recognized by the American Screenwriters Association with this award in David Angell's memory."

EUR Film Review: Home

Excerpt from - By Kam Williams

(September 28, 2006) *Sheree Farmer is a single-mom raising a half-dozen, young children alone in the drug-infested, crime-ridden ghetto of Newark, New Jersey. Fearful that the gang-controlled streets are about to swallow up her family's future, Farmer has been in dire need of a miracle to enable her to relocate her family out of the projects. Her abusive ex-husband of 15 years, Larry, is no help, since the absentee father is an ex-con crackhead with a full plate of issues of his own he has to deal with.  The answer arrives in Mary Abernathy, a fashion exec-turned-community activist, who runs a non-profit, urban renewal program which builds new houses and offers them to poor folks at half the going market rate. Abernathy, a breast cancer survivor, found this second calling as an angel of mercy following her diagnosis. Looking for a more meaningful path in life, she left the corporate world behind with her husband's blessing, and decided to dedicate the rest of her life to alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate.  Please see full review by Kam Williams on - HERE.

Terrence Howard To Play Charley Pride

Excerpt from

(October 4, 2006) *
Terrence Howard and his “Hustle & Flow” director Craig Brewer will join forces one more time for a new biopic about country singer Charley Pride. Howard, whose performance in Brewer’s pimp-with-a-dream film earned an Oscar nomination, will star as the Sledge, Mississippi-born music legend who played baseball for the Memphis Red Socks of the Negro American League before beginning his singing career in Nashville in the 1960s. Brewer told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis that he and Howard had been talking about doing a biopic on Pride for several months. The actor is a guitar player and country music fan, and was the first to come up with the idea of putting Pride’s story on film, Brewer said. "Everybody's been speculating as to what my and Terrence's next project would be, and I'm ecstatic that this came out of Terrence's passion," Brewer said. "Charley Pride is a character, man."

Kutcher's One-Two Box Office Punch

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Oct. 2, 2006) LOS ANGELES—A cartoon bear and deer talked their way to the top of the box office as Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher's animated comedy
Open Season debuted with $23 million (all figures U.S.).  Kutcher also finished in second place with The Guardian, in which he co-stars with Kevin Costner as Coast Guard rescue swimmers. The action drama opened with $17.7 million.  The previous weekend's leading flick, Jackass: Number Two, fell to third place with $14 million, raising its 10-day total to $51.5 million.  The weekend's other new wide release, the comedy School for Scoundrels, opened at No. 4 with $9.1 million. The movie stars Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) as a wimpy meter maid caught up in a war of wills with a con man (Billy Bob Thornton) who teaches an extreme confidence-building class.  Hollywood snapped out of a box-office lull that had persisted most of September. The top 12 movies took in $85.1 million, up 13 per cent from the same weekend last year.  Open Season was the debut release from Sony Pictures Animation, a unit the studio hopes to establish as a regular producer of digital cartoons. 

Downey To Play Famed Marvel Hero

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Oct. 2, 2006) LOS ANGELES (AP) —
Robert Downey Jr. will star as the latest Marvel Comics superhero to hit the big screen.  Downey will play the title character in "Iron Man," a film directed by Jon Favreau. Filming is scheduled to begin in February, with the movie due in U.S. theatres May 2008.  It will be the first feature film produced independently by Marvel Entertainment.  "(Downey's) versatility sets him apart and makes him an ideal fit to play such a complex character as Iron Man," said Kevin Feige, president of production for Marvel Studios.  "Iron Man" is the story of billionaire industrialist and inventor Tony Stark, who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, he builds a high-tech suit of armour and escapes, vowing to protect the world as a superhero.  Downey most recently starred in Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly," and can be seen in "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints."  "Iron Man" will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.



Show's Birth A Natural For `Surgical Junkie'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Lola Ogunnaike, New York Times News Service

(Sep. 28, 2006) LOS ANGELES—It was probably inevitable that
Shonda Rhimes would create Grey's Anatomy, ABC's runaway hit about the romantic entanglements and complicated lives of surgeons and their overworked interns at a Seattle hospital. For two years during high school, she worked as a candy striper.  "I loved that job," she recalled the other day. "I'm perfectly comfortable in hospitals." She also admits to having a passion for shows about medical procedures: the blood, the scalpels, she finds it all intriguing.  "I love to watch all those surgeries on the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel," she said. "I'm a surgical junkie.''  Apparently Rhimes is not the only one. Her show's mixture of medicine, drama and sex has proved such a winning formula that more than 25 million viewers tuned in last week to watch its season premiere.  Since the show's debut in 2005 it has been one of television's top-rated series, and for this the network rewarded Rhimes with a two-year, $10 million (U.S.) deal. But the biggest sign of the show's success is ABC's decision to move it from Sunday nights following Desperate Housewives to Thursday nights, where it is now going head-to-head with CBS's popular crime series CSI, whose season premiere last week drew 3 million fewer viewers than Grey's Anatomy.  Her accomplishment is particularly noteworthy in a field that is still dominated by white males, said Ron Simon, a curator at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York.  "She's the only black woman show runner on a dramatic show at this point on the major networks," he said. "It's a tremendous achievement for a woman, African-American or otherwise.''

At her office in the residential Los Feliz neighbourhood, Rhimes, 36, sat in front of a computer tweaking a script for a future episode. Posters of some of the films she had written before coming to television hung on the walls: Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Crossroads and the television biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which won Halle Berry both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.  Rhimes admitted that she was a bit surprised by the show's popularity. "I knew that I really liked it, my friends liked it, my family liked it, but it never occurred to me that stuff I came up with at home in my pyjamas people would respond to," she said, adding that fans often approach her in the grocery quoting lines from the show. ``It's all still surreal to me.''

She May Be Ugly, But She Sure Is Popular

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - David Bauder, Associated Press

(Oct. 1, 2006) NEW YORK — America may be falling for
America Ferrera, the star of ABC's “Ugly Betty,” an underdog that has become the most-watched new series of the fall television season so far. The comedy, which stars Ferrera as a plain Queens girl who pushed her way into the fashion world, was seen by 16.1 million people in its ABC debut on Thursday night, according to Nielsen Media Research. All but about a half-dozen of the 24 new series the broadcast networks are introducing this fall have made it onto the air already, and so far “Ugly Betty” stands at No. 1. The show did it without the advantage of a strong program airing ahead of it. Shows like “Shark” and “Brothers & Sisters” that have had strong debuts were helped because they followed “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Desperate Housewives.” “Ugly Betty” opened the night at 8 p.m. ET. It was ABC's largest audience in the time period with a scripted show since “Matlock” in 1995, according to Nielsen Media Research. ABC, owned by The Walt Disney Co., had some inkling that “Ugly Betty,” an American version of a popular Spanish-language telenovela, was attracting attention even before the first episode aired. It had originally scheduled the show for Friday nights — one of the slowest nights on TV — before switching it to Thursday over the summer.

With “Grey's Anatomy” seen by 23.3 million at 9 p.m., ABC is suddenly a player on a night considered television's most valuable because advertisers are eager to be seen there, a night it has been off the ratings radar for years. CBS, which has dominated Thursday the past few years, had 23.5 million viewers for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and 16.6 million viewers for “Survivor: Cook Island.” The “Survivor” episode, only its third of the season, was notable for breaking up the segregated tribes that caused some hubbub weeks ago. This season began with separate “tribes” of black, white, Asian and Latinos on “Survivor.” The segregation drew criticism, with some New York City Council members accusing CBS Corp. of promoting divisiveness. But on Thursday the reality show producers merged those four tribes into two multi-race gangs. It wasn't in response to any of the criticism; the “Survivor” episodes were filmed before CBS had even announced the cast members. The show had begun the season missing a few advertisers that it had in past seasons, including General Motors, although the advertisers denied that they left because of the segregation experiment. The average viewership of the first two episodes was essentially the same as “Survivor” last year, even up slightly.

Viewership Jump Gives Networks A Morale Boost

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - David Bauder, Associated Press

(Sep. 28, 2006) NEW YORK — Although no instant hits emerged, the
U.S. television networks were encouraged by the willingness of viewers to at least sample some new shows during the eagerly awaited fall premiere week. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all had more viewers last week than they had during premiere week in 2005, with CBS emerging as the first week's most popular U.S. network for the fifth year in a row, according to Nielsen Media Research. "I think everyone's got a little something to root for and everybody has a few question marks," said Kelly Kahl, CBS's scheduling chief. The out-of-the-box success of Desperate Housewives and Lost two years ago set a standard that no network could duplicate this season. But at least 13 million Americans tried new shows such as Brothers & Sisters on ABC, Shark on CBS and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on NBC last week, Nielsen said. One red flag was that several programs, including those three, had an abnormally high number of viewers click away to a different channel as the show progressed.

It could mean that viewers have an itchier finger on their remote controls and networks need to get more action up front, said Mitch Metcalf, NBC's scheduling chief. Or it could mean they simply don't like the new shows; if that's the case, it will become evident over the next few weeks. Networks are becoming more cautious rolling out their new shows during opening week. Both ABC and NBC premiered only two of their nine new programs last week and Fox, because baseball playoffs will disrupt their schedule next month, brought several new shows on weeks ago. The biggest story was the emergence of Grey's Anatomy as television's most popular program last week despite changing nights and going against CBS powerhouse CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in the U.S. (In Canada, CTV airs Grey's Anatomy and CSI back to back.) "The move of Grey's to Thursday definitely changed the dynamics for us," said Jeff Bader, head of scheduling at ABC. Desperate Housewives premiered with lower ratings than last year but higher than when the serial broke off in May, and beat NBC's Sunday-night football. CBS can also be encouraged that its revamping of Sunday's schedule paid off: Without a Trace and Cold Case both finished in Nielsen's top 10. But on Thursday, with the challenge from ABC and the launch of the new Shark, CBS is weaker on a night it dominated the past few years. After two discouraging years, NBC was pleased with landing in second place behind ABC in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that advertisers covet. Its premiere of Heroes on Monday also showed signs of being a success. "It shows that we're back on the playing field," Metcalf said.

Fox's increase over last year indicated that viewers were eager to see their returning shows, noted Preston Beckman, its programming chief. Fox's problem is that with a few extra weeks of experience, it's becoming clear that none of their new shows are working particularly well. One, the comedy Happy Hour, has already been temporarily shelved. For premiere week, CBS averaged 13 million viewers (8.3 rating, 14 share), ABC had 12.3 million (8.0, 13), NBC had 11.1 million (7.1, 12), Fox had 7.5 million (4.7, 8), the new CW had 2.8 million (1.9, 3) and the i network had 630,000 (0.4, 1). NBC's Nightly News returned to first place in the evening-news ratings race, averaging 8.2 million viewers (5.7, 12). Katie Couric's CBS Evening News was second with 7.7 million (5.5, 11) and ABC's World News had 7.6 million (5.3, 11). A ratings point represents 1,102,000 households, or 1 per cent of the nation's estimated 110.2 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show. For the week of Sept. 18-24, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships are as follows: Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 25.41 million; Desperate Housewives, ABC, 24.09 million; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 22.58 million; Dancing with the Stars, ABC, 18.17 million; CSI: Miami, CBS, 17.62 million; Without a Trace, CBS, 17.56 million; Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC, 17.49 million; Survivor: Cook Islands, CBS, 17.43 million; Cold Case, CBS, 16.27 million; CSI: NY, CBS, 16.11 million.

‘Girlfriends’ Creator Laments Lack Of CW Support

Excerpt from

(October 2, 2006) *The new CW spent the last quarter of the summer promoting its fall programming under a slogan entitled, “Free to Be.”  But billboard and bus-placard campaign ads seemed to have left out “
Girlfriends,” leaving its creator, Mara Brock Akil,  a little peeved.  The sitcom premiered last night at 8, but without the same promotional push given other CW programs such as “Everybody Hates Chris,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Veronica Mars.”  "'Girlfriends' has never had a billboard, even though more times than not we've been the No. 1 show in black households," Akil told the LA Times' Greg Braxton. She continued: "That's not right. If I meet this challenge, even though our numbers may be small, I will consider them double what they are, because we would have done it without marketing support. I know it's the reality of the business, but I don't like it."   Responding to Akil's comments, a network spokesman said, "When you're launching a new network, there are countless marketing priorities, including an overall branding campaign, which featured every show on the CW. 'Girlfriends' is one of those shows, and we are very proud that it's anchoring our new Sunday night as the most-watched program on television by African Americans since it premiered in 2000."

Akil’s concerns for “Girlfriends” began when she first heard it "was moving from the Monday night slot where we've worked so hard to build an audience,” she told the newspaper. “I know [CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff's] financial purse is tight, but to move us without a billboard around town when we're going into our seventh season doesn't make me happy. Will our fans know we're on, or when?" Akil has also had to deal with the sudden departure of Jill Marie Jones, who played real estate agent Toni before deciding to exit the show following last season over reported contract issues.   At the end of last season, Toni had a falling out with best friend Joan, played by Tracee Ellis Ross. Jones’s departure, and her refusal to come back for a farewell appearance, has forced Akil to get creative with the storylines.   "I would love for her to come back, but Jill doesn't want to return,” says Akil. “I don't know 100% why she made this decision. She didn't tell me. All she said when we talked was that she felt it was time for her to move on. The door is not closed. We've asked her to come back and have offered different ways for her to return. But I completely wish her well. There's no drama involved."  "Girlfriends" will now deal with Toni's loss through Joan's struggles, said Akil. "We're going to show what it's like to lose a best friend and not have that last conversation to say goodbye."

Canadians Not Watching Home-Grown TV

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Lee-Anne Goodman, Canadian Press

(Oct. 1, 2006) There's little doubt Canada can produce quality television as creative as any in the world. There's just one problem: very few Canadians are watching it.  Only one Canadian-made show was in the Top 30 for the week of Sept. 18 to Sept. 24, according to BBM Canada — CTV News, at the No. 14 spot. The rest of the list was dominated by American shows like CSI, House and Desperate Housewives.  While compelling Canadians to tune into homegrown fare has always been a struggle, one Canadian TV producer says it's even more difficult now to compete against the tidal wave of American magazines, websites, advertising and so-called infotainment shows that celebrate U.S. television on both sides of the border.  "The Americans operate the best propaganda machine in the world," says Chris Haddock, the man behind "Da Vinci's Inquest" and the new CBC show, Intelligence, premiering Oct. 10 and already getting rave reviews from critics.  "Nobody understands the value of publicity and marketing better than the Americans. They will throw tens of millions of dollars at promoting not just a movie, but a new television show. It's not the quality we lack here — it's the money and the marketing machine."  Television blogger Diane Wild agrees.  "For Canadians to compete against the deep pockets of an American network is almost impossible," says Wild, whose blog, `TV, Eh? (, charts developments in Canadian television.

"We do have quality shows. We've got Degrassi and Corner Gas and Trailer Park Boys, to name just a few. Canadians will watch Canadian TV, but it has to be something that grabs their interest, and most importantly, something that they actually know about. Part of the problem is the publicity and the marketing of these shows. I started up my site because I just wasn't hearing about Canadian shows."  The CBC is currently in crisis mode over the low ratings for some of the productions the public broadcaster had high hopes for, most notably Hockey: A People's History.  Just slightly more than 500,000 viewers tuned in to watch the miniseries in mid-September. On the third night, when the show was up against the popular American reality show Amazing Race, it lost more than 200,000 viewers.  Kirstine Layfield, executive director of programming for CBC-TV, agrees that trying to get Canadians to choose made-in-Canada programming is a constant battle.  "There is certainly something very difficult about living next to the huge cultural icon that is the United States," Layfield concedes.  As well, says Layfield, the network is at a disadvantage because it doesn't have the huge American mega-hits like House, Grey's Anatomy and Lost that are also carried by rivals CTV and Global.  "CTV has three million viewers tuning in to watch Grey's Anatomy and they can use their own airwaves to promote their own shows to those millions of viewers in a way that we can't," she says.  "What we're doing now is finding the specific audiences for a show. With the limited money that we have, we're trying to be clever about targeting the right audiences."

But Haddock says the problem is much bigger than just marketing — stringent Canadian content rules have to be applied to television just as they are to music.  "It should be mandated that for every opportunity the private broadcasters give an American show, they have to be willing to kick a little bit back, for free, to Canadian productions," Haddock says. "They have to use the money they're making from these American shows and plow it back into Canadian content."  The Writers Guild of Canada made a submission last week to the CRTC, pointing out that spending by broadcasters on Canadian programming over the past five years has dropped from 27 per cent to 25 per cent of advertising revenue. During the same time period, spending on American shows increased from 27 per cent to 35 per cent.  "To make matters worse," the Writers Guild said, "this happened while advertising revenues rose more than 15 per cent over the same period. That means that during the past five years as over-the-air broadcasters were making more money, they were spending less on Canadian programming."  Wild agrees that a lack of marketing is playing a significant role in why Canadians are failing to tune into home-grown shows, but she adds that Canadian networks are still often missing the mark when it comes to creating shows that Canada wants to watch.  "There's still stuff out there that doesn't seem to be capturing the public's interest," she says. "There are a lot of shows that have been focus-grouped to death and then they spend forever tweaking the pilot."  Simply imitating American shows and setting them in Canadian cities "doesn't work for us," Wild says.

"We have a talented group of creators in Canada who have their own ideas and their own passion for the shows that they want to produce and we need to tap into that and see what actually inspires Canadians to watch those shows — I don't think it's going to be CSI knockoffs that people want to watch."  Scheduling, too, is something Canadian networks can do better, Wild says. She points to the CTV night-time soap Whistler, which aired in the summer — a period when very few people are watching television.  She also questions the CBC's wisdom in airing Intelligence opposite House on Tuesday nights. The network will re-run Intelligence on Friday nights at 11 p.m.  "Is that really the best place to put that?" Wild asks. ``Canadian shows have enough of a handicap in terms of being visible to the public. If you put them on against powerhouse shows ... I mean, that's part of the problem right there."

Designer’s Star Rises

Source:  Canadian Press

(Oct. 2, 2006) Anyone who watches home decor shows knows Candice Olson as the tall, blond-haired designing dame who can crack jokes — often at her own expense — while coming up with fabulously appointed spaces on television’s Divine Design. She’s definitely a celeb in certain Toronto circles. Whenever the 41-year-old mom takes one of her two kids in for a checkup, women at the doctor’s office are more than happy to let her hold court as she jokes about the craziness of raising children, having a husband and doing a television show. But Olson’s fame in her home town is nothing compared to her star power south of the border. “The show is much bigger in the States, which is actually kind of a treat because I can go to the liquor store in my hockey pyjamas and not have it reported here,” she said from her office. She tells the story of one of her crewmen, Chico Garcia, who was on a plane beside Evander Holyfield. A smiling flight attendant walks down the aisle to the pair with her autograph book in hand and Holyfield gets ready to sign. Sure enough she slaps the book in front of Garcia. “‘Oh Chico, I just love you on Divine Design!”’ In addition to taping the fifth season of the series, which airs on the W network as well as HGTV, and creating a line of furniture, fabric, carpet, lighting, wallpaper and linens, Olson has put together designing tips available on Proctor & Gamble products in Wal-Mart, which will contribute to a donation to breast cancer research. “I’m not just doing sort of the Charlie’s Angels endorsement. I’m actually, stupidly doing all the design work on this,” she said, adding that she often works 16-hour days. No small feat, as her youngest is eight months old.

“It’s a really, really, hectic, crazier-than-ever time,” she said. “The idea of a third child, when I mentioned it to my husband, he just said `Are you on crack?’ and then Googled self-vasectomy dot com.” It’s that off-the-cuff humour — comments by her and a crew of craftsmen — that causes a lot of the show to end up on the cutting room floor. Some of the off-colour remarks make it to W Network viewers, but HGTV patrons get a cleaned-up version of the show.


Andre 3000 Brings ‘Class’ To Cartoon Network

Excerpt from

(September 29, 2006)  *
Cartoon Network is using the old Teena Marie phrase “sophisticated funk” to describe the vibe of its latest offering, “Class of 3000,” the animated half-hour series created, voiced and scored by Andre “3000” Benjamin of OutKast.   The show centers on Sunny Bridges (Benjamin), a music superstar and Nobel Peace Prize winner who gives up his glamorous life to teach a group of gifted musical prodigies at his old Atlanta alma mater.     Before the show’s one-hour season premiere on Nov. 3 at 8 p.m., Cartoon Network will air the half-hour special “Sunny Bridges: From Bankhead to Buckhead” on Friday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. The “mockumentary” chronicles the life of the fictional superstar with interviews from the character's fans and celebrity friends.    As previously reported, “Class of 3000” will feature a new song every week from Benjamin within the context of a music video. Benjamin also wrote and performed the series' theme song.

‘Bobby Jones Gospel’ Launches New Season

Excerpt from

(October 2, 2006)  *Fred Hammond, Shirley Caesar, Kierra "KiKi" Sheard and Byron Cage are among the talent lined up to sing a joyful noise this fall on BET’s “
Bobby Jones Gospel,” which kicks off its 26th season on Oct. 8 with co-host, Lexi.  "I am very excited that “Bobby Jones Gospel” serves as an important platform to showcase both new talent and the many legends in Gospel music today," said Dr. Jones in a statement. "It's rewarding to be a part of the longest running program on BET which continues to inspire and encourage millions of viewers through this unique genre of music."    Taped at BET’s Washington D.C. studios, “Bobby Jones” will feature the genre’s brightest stars with its legendary pioneers in 13 new shows. Others tapped to perform during the fall run are Tye Tribbett, Karen Clark Sheard, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.   Richard Smallwood, Tony Terry and Take 6 will be featured on the season premiere at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Nick Cannon Lands Another MTV Series

Excerpt from

(October 3, 2006) *MTV just loves them some
Nick Cannon. The actor, who already has “Nick Cannon Presents Wild N’ Out’ on the music channel, has just added “Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz,” a half-hour series to feature topical sketches, impersonations, parodies and other comedic elements.  “Short Circuitz” falls under his first look deal with MTV signed last summer. Cannon is the creator/executive producer and will also appear in the series along with Affion Crockett, Eliza Coupe, Leonard Robinson, Taran Killam and Katt Williams.  "It is an honour that MTV and its executives have given me another opportunity to express my creativity," said Cannon, according to the Hollywood Reporter.  MTV has given the half-hour project an eight-episode order, with the show set to premiere in first-quarter 2007 as part of the network's "10 Spot" line-up.   In the meantime, Cannon has been linked romantically to socialite Kim Kardashian and will next appear on the big screen in the Robert F. Kennedy biopic "Bobby."



Putting Wicked Into Words

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Oct. 4, 2006) It’s not a yellow brick road; it’s more like a golden one.  As
Wicked prepares to start its second Toronto run this Friday, it’s time to look at the success of the show and get some insights from our readers as to what makes it so popular. Despite mixed reviews, Wicked continues to be the highest grossing show on Broadway, taking in over $1.4 million (all figures U.S.) week after week.  The national tour, which began here in March 2005, has broken box office records in nearly every city it’s played, including Toronto, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston.  Its advance sale on Broadway sits at a "staggering $35 million and growing, which is unheard of for a show approaching its third anniversary (Oct. 30).  A London production opened this month, a Los Angeles one is set for next February and, by 2008, there will be companies playing in Japan, Germany, Australia and Holland.  Why does this prequel to The Wizard of Oz cast such a spell on so many theatregoers? The conventional wisdom has always been that the show’s major support base lies with teenage girls, who identify with the characters of the outsider Elphaba and the perfect Glinda.  And while it’s true they make up some of Wicked’s most vociferous fans, the show’s marketing surveys reveal a wide range of enthusiasts from all walks of life.  That was certainly reinforced by the dozens of emails received from Star readers when we asked them to put their feelings about Wicked into words.

There were teenagers, sure, like Rachel Stephenson, who believes that “Elphaba is a really interesting role model because she’s a good person who stands up for what she believes in.” But there were also plenty of twenty and thirty-somethings, as well as parents, grandparents and solo types who found the show touched something deep inside.  Legendary director Harold Prince once said, “If you want to have a hit, then tell the audience something they need to hear.”  He’s right. Fiddler on the Roof tells us that family and religion will survive political upheaval; My Fair Lady’s message is that every lonely caterpillar can become a well-loved butterfly; and A Chorus Line helps us believe we each have the chance for individual greatness if we only have the courage to bring it out.  So what, then is Wicked’s message? For many people, it speaks of how being “different” need not be a lifetime burden.  Marcia Cummings from Toronto wrote: “I cried through the entire musical the first time I saw it. I empathized with Elphaba as I have always been seen as different — guess the fact that my eyes don’t work makes everyone see me as if I’m some kind of oddball! Anyway, I’ve never felt quite `normal’ in the eyes of the world — hopeful, I’ve managed not to turn wicked because of it, though I have my days when the gropers and grabbers get the best of me and I snap. Maybe I should adopt her name for a third name!”  Others find it a way of passing something special down between the generations.  Jane Komar of Toronto shared the news that “my daughter decided that for her upcoming 16th birthday she would like to take her two closest friends to see it with her. Of all the things she could have done to celebrate her birthday, she chose to see Wicked. I hope she finds it as entertaining and uplifting as I did.”  And Howard Hurwitz of Toronto feels much the same. “I can’t get enough of this fantastic musical. After first seeing it in New York, my wife and I had to take our two teenage sons to see it in Toronto. Wicked has so much to say about human behaviour, racism, sexism, being different vs. fitting in. I like the messages, values and optimism of the story.”

Bonnie Craig of Toronto found that not only did the show act as a bonding tool for her and her children, it inspired some of her friends to heights of new artistic activity.  “This is one of those shows that really affected me, my life and my children’s lives. There is nothing more gratifying to me than seeing kids get totally jazzed by a live theatrical experience.... My friend Leslie and her husband saw it too and they have now constructed a 77,000-cu.-ft. hot air balloon they call Wicked because it too believes in `Defying Gravity.’”  Further breaking the stereotype that all Wicked fans are teenage girls comes this note from Raj Pabari in Sarnia.  “I sometimes wonder if I’m the only 20-something South Asian man who’s a fan of Wicked! And though I don’t quite have the same outlook on life as Fiyero, I certainly do try to take his advice to `stop studying strife’ and maybe someday I’ll meet my Elphaba!”  If a show can mean that many things to that many people, no wonder it’s a hit — and a Wicked big one at that.   Wicked starts Friday, Oct. 6, at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St. For tickets go to or call 416-872-1212.

Who Killed Blue Man Group?

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Sep. 29, 2006) Two things led to the decision to close the Toronto production of
Blue Man Group after a disappointing 18-month run, but they were not the aftermath of 9/11 and SARS, according to theatre experts from the U.S. and Canada.  The backlash from the show's union difficulties and the sheer age of the property itself are the more likely culprits — and not the same general audience malaise blamed for the early departure of The Lord of the Rings.  In other markets, Blue Man had been allowed to function in a non-union situation. But Canadian Actors' Equity wanted it to abide by local agreements and use performers who were members of the union.  The organizers of Blue Man refused and Equity launched a powerful boycott which enlisted the support of The Ontario Teachers Federation and effectively killed all performances for school children.  "The teachers' boycott had a crippling effect on them," said Susan Wallace, executive director of Canadian Actors Equity, adding that it eliminated the thousands of students who pack matinee performances for Blue Man in other cities.  "You go by the theatre when the show is letting out," says Chris Jones, theatre critic for the Chicago Tribune (Blue Man has been running in Chicago since 1999) "and a lot of the time the audience seems to be totally made up of high school kids."  The second problem was that the antics of the toilet-paper-hurling percussionists were no longer as fresh in 2005 as they had been when they first opened in New York back in 1991.  "If they had opened (in Chicago) last year, I doubt they would have had the same impact," Jones said. "It's a little late in the day for Blue Man."

With shows running in New York for 14 years, Boston for 11, Chicago for seven and Las Vegas for six, most American tourists would have had sufficient opportunity to catch up with Blue Man in other cities, minimizing the potential appeal of the Toronto run.  Laura Camien, the organization's publicist, admitted the union situation in Toronto "didn't help matters any, but no one can say how much for sure." She shrugged off questions of the show's dated appeal, saying, "We try to update it all the time."  She preferred to put the blame on Toronto's supposed inability in recent years to attract substantial audiences.  "It's disheartening that Toronto hasn't rebounded yet and has lately been unable to support long-run shows," she told the Star Wednesday.  Wallace was infuriated by her comments. "Placing the blame for the show's failure on our city, instead of squarely where it belongs, with the show's deliberate inability to make itself part of our community, continues a pattern of disrespect for Toronto evidenced by Blue Man from Day 1."  Labour problems have dogged Blue Man in other cities. When their Las Vegas production moved from the Luxor Hotel to the Venetian this year, their technical employees sought to become unionized and Blue Man resisted. On Sept. 14, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board cited Blue Man Group for unfair labour practices.  Camien did not feel that the Toronto situation had any impact on the organization's actions in Las Vegas.  "I don't think it's changed the way we look at anything," she said. "We do a case-by-case situation and examine the needs of each market."  So where does this leave Toronto?  As of Jan. 8, the $12 million Panasonic Theatre owned by Live Nation will be empty. Independent producer Jeffrey Latimer calls it "a beautiful commercial facility, a much-needed 700-seat venue."  There is speculation that Mirvish Productions might assume control of the space, the way it did with Live Nation's Canon Theatre, but John Karastamatis, director of communications for Mirvish, categorically denied any such scenario.  While producers are anxiously eyeing the Panasonic as the possible home of smaller shows like Avenue Q and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a more likely scenario is that Live Nation will convert the space into a venue for music performances, not unlike The Opera House on Queen St. E.  In the end, Blue Man Group's failure to produce a lengthy run in Toronto says more about the show and its management than the cultural climate in this city.

Cookin' Serves Up Light Yet Tasty Fare

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Harris, Special to The Globe and Mail

 Cookin' at the Cookery
Directed and written by Marion J. Caffey
Starring Jackie Richardson and Janice Lorraine

(Sept. 29, 2006) We get the sweaty, squint-eyed blues; we get the racy jazz that makes white folk shout "Amen!" (as they did on opening night). Happily, we also get Canadian music legend
Jackie Richardson, whose stage presence -- all jogging arms and jigging hips when she sings -- is a revelation. What we don't get from the Arts Club's latest production is theatre. As a document of blues singer Alberta Hunter's life and times, Cookin' at the Cookery is woefully lacking. The loaded history of black singers working in the United States is blithely brushed over, as are Hunter's lesbian leanings. Instead, writer-director Marion J. Caffey tries to hang Hunter's motley life experiences on a strained relationship with "Mama." It comes off as pat, a mere excuse for whatever song comes next. Once we dismiss the idea that Cookin' is a play, things cheer up. About 30 songs pepper the evening, including a knockout rendition of Hunter's Down Hearted Blues (made famous by Bessie Smith) and a wickedly nuanced performance of Handy Man (in which the double entendres of "He creams my wheat" and "He chops my meat" are joyously revealed by Richardson's dancing eyes). In the unenviable role of playing opposite Richardson, Janice Lorraine (who serves as a kind of narrator) is electric. Her caricature of Louis Armstrong singing When the Saints Go Marchin' In is comic gold. Backing up the singers is Bill Sample's tuxedoed quartet, a highly competent group that seems oblivious to all but the music. It's a stellar lounge act, but the pretence of theatre leaves the guys looking stranded onstage. Similarly, Richardson and Lorraine are rigged with spacey headset mics that make them look like cast members from Rent. Doesn't Hunter, an icon whose career began in a pre-microphone world, deserve to be portrayed in a historical context? Some day, someone will write a proper play about her -- someone like Whitney Balliett. One rainy afternoon in 1977, Balliett went down to New York's Cookery nightclub looking for the 82-year-old blues singer he'd heard so much about. In the New Yorker profile he later published, Balliett didn't refer to his subject by surname the way journalists tend to do. His references to Hunter were full-throated, careful and respectful: Alberta Hunter this. Alberta Hunter that. I wish Cookin' delivered that level of reverence.

Cookin' at the Cookery runs to October 15. Tickets are $27 to $51. Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville St., 604-687-1644.

Spacey Earns Stars For Moon

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - D'arcy Doran, Associated Press

(Sep. 28, 2006) LONDON — Criticized for his odd choices in plays and too few starring roles,
Kevin Spacey has responded to those who question his stewardship at The Old Vic by taking centre stage in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten.  Swaggering and swaying, the Academy Award-winning Spacey has captivated reviewers with his portrayal of Jim Tyrone, an alcoholic, failed actor who flees Broadway for the country but cannot escape his sins. O'Neill tells the story of an Irish immigrant tenant farmer, played by Colm Meaney, who fears that his home may be sold out from under him and persuades daughter, Josie (Eve Best), to seduce their landlord, Tyrone. The characters forget their schemes, however, as defences slip away. The play reunites Spacey with director Howard Davies for the first time since 1997, when their production of another O'Neill play, The Iceman Cometh, dazzled the British theatre community -- and later Broadway -- and led to Spacey signing a 10-year contract in 2004 to be The Old Vic's artistic director.

Spacey's first two seasons were uneven. The productions in which he starred were box-office hits, but critics questioned his choice of plays. The Old Vic's last production, Resurrection Blues, directed by Robert Altman, was savaged by critics and ended its run early -- leaving the theatre dark for five months. With the opening of Moon, kicking off The Old Vic's third season, British reviewers said fortunes may be changing for the theatre. The Independent's Paul Taylor, describing himself as one of the harshest critics of Spacey's tenure, called the play "beautiful, funny and cathartic." "This marvellous evening gives one the sense they have learned by past mistakes and may go on to a thrilling future," Taylor wrote. The Guardian's Michael Billington gave the play four stars, saying Moon appeared to mark the start of an ambitious new phase. "With the exception of Richard II, this theatre has lately roamed the foothills of drama; now at last it seems to be aiming for the peaks," he said. "Spacey grasps each glass of bourbon like a drowning man and even flinches when offered water," Billington wrote.

Calling Spacey and Best's performances "superb" in another four-star review, Benedict Nightingale of The Times called the production "a major triumph, and, inevitably, a bit of a failure." He blamed O'Neill's script and writing. "It proves impossible to disguise that the play is an awkward mix of rustic laugh-in and searing confessional, but it's equally impossible to miss the force of the long dénouement that only O'Neill had the passion and power to create." The Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh said he was irritated by "O'Neill's self-analyzing, long-winded characters who take extravagantly to suffering." Giving the play three stars, he wondered if it will draw crowds despite Spacey's "electrifying displays of rage and sly shafts of comedy." A Moon for the Misbegotten is at The Old Vic until Dec. 23.

Eric McCormack Keeps Busy With Non-Sitcom Projects After 'Will & Grace'

Source:  Metro News- By Victoria Ahearn

(Oct. 2, 2006) TORONTO (CP) -
Eric McCormack doesn't rest on his laurels - or rest much at all these days, for that matter.  The Toronto-born actor, who played gay lawyer Will Truman on the Emmy-winning "Will & Grace," says he's been taking breaks "on planes" lately as he seeks non-sitcom related work now that the popular series has wrapped up.  "Now is the time to get while the gettin's good," he said during a recent interview in Toronto, where he'll co-host a variety show for the Gilda's Club cancer support centre next month.  McCormack, 43, and his "Will & Grace" co-stars, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally gave their final bows in May after eight seasons.  But while most of his cast mates took time off to reflect on the adventure, McCormack, a veteran stage actor, was already packing his bags for a summertime role in the Neil LaBute off-Broadway play "Some Girls."  "I literally left the Will & Grace wrap party to go home and get sleep because I flew the next day to New York to start working," he said.  "I think in retrospect, I wish I hadn't. It was just too much all at once. But it was a such a 180 degrees from Will and I just wanted the chance, and I love Neil LaBute's writing."  It's a welcome change of pace for McCormack, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, studied theatre at Ryerson University and spent five years at the Stratford Festival.

Working three hours a day on set in front of a live audience filled with "rabid" fans was becoming too comfortable and "seductive" a routine, he says, and he was starting to feel the need to shake things up.  So when the show ended, he made the decision to not actively pursue sitcom roles anymore.  "There's the old saying about, you know, why go out for hamburger if you can have steak at home? I think it's supposed to be about your wife, but the point is, I had steak for eight years," says McCormack, who has a four-year-old son, Finnigan, with his wife Janet Holden.  McCormack, who has appeared in musicals and recorded a song with Barry Manilow, is also worried about being typecast.  "I can't blame anybody for looking at me and thinking about Will, you know, it's on all the time and it was on for eight years," he says in a suit jacket and jeans combo that could easily pass for a Will outfit.  "I just have to go out and find the roles that are going to change those minds."

That shouldn't be a hard job, given McCormack's jam-packed agenda.  He recently co-starred in the independent film "The Sisters," for which he received a best actor award at Atlanta's Dixie Film Festival, and he's running a production company Big Cattle Productions, with partner Michael Forman.  The two have already sold a half-hour, improvisational comedy series, called "Lovespring International," to Lifetime Television in the U.S., and are shopping around several other projects.  Next month, McCormack will share the stage with Eugene Levy as co-host of the Gilda's Club Greater Toronto's fifth annual "It's Always Something" variety show, also starring the Radio City Rockettes, Sandra Shamas and the 2006 Canadian Idol, Eva Avila.  Gilda's Club is named for Gilda Radner of "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live" fame. She died of cancer in 1989.  McCormack, who is participating in the Nov. 20 show for the fourth time, says the issue strikes close to home.  "There's way too much cancer in my family," he says.  In the New Year, McCormack is hoping to direct his feature film "What You Wish For," which he wrote four years ago.  He also expects to make an appearance on Mullally's new syndicated daytime talk program, "The Megan Mullally Show," and make a possible return to Stratford in 2008.  And somehow, amid all these events, McCormack plans to move from L.A. to Vancouver with his family, which is building a second, bigger home in the city where they hope to settle down.  "It's really only if you're shooting a series in L.A. that you're working every day that you have to live there," says McCormack.  "But if you're just pursuing movie roles, if you're writing, it's not crucial that you're there every day."


Simba And Nala Tie The Knot Offstage

Excerpt from The Toronto Star- Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 2, 2006) Six years after they met and became mates (onstage, at least),
Steven Allerick and Saskia Garel are proving true love is king.  Allerick was playing Simba, the young lead in The Lion King and Garel was playing his love interest, Nala, when the blockbuster play premiered at the Princess of Wales Theatre in April 2000.  Fast forward to the present and the two Los Angeles residents have come home to Toronto to tie the knot.  "When we started the show, she was with somebody, I was with somebody. But there was chemistry; I don't think either of us really acknowledged it, but everybody else saw it. When we finally told people we were together, everybody was like, `Well, it's about time,'" said Allerick.  The couple are of Jamaican descent and their families had, as Allerick puts it, "crossed paths."  "Her mother is good friends with my aunt. But I never met (Garel) until after we started doing the show," he said.  Allerick went on to Broadway for a few months before moving west to head the Los Angeles production and Garel arrived to reprise her role there. Nature took its course, thereafter.  Garel and Allerick were raised in Scarborough and were happy to return home for their nuptials yesterday.  "Every time I come home, I find more little things I miss about it. There is such an air of peace in Toronto that you don't get in L.A.," he said.  Allerick has also written a song called In Love, which the couple have jointly recorded, and it was the first song they danced to as a married couple yesterday.  So are there cubs in the offing? "It's going to happen pretty quickly," Allerick predicted.



Harrington Returns To National Ballet

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 29, 2006) Call it the return of the king.  More than two years after his retirement in May 2004 as principal dancer at the
National Ballet of Canada, Rex (Latin for "king") Harrington returns as artist-in-residence, starting Monday. He'll also perform — ankle and calf willing — the role of King Florestan in Sleeping Beauty, which opens the company's 2006-2007 season on Nov. 9, marking its first full-length performance at the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.  "I'm really excited about going back. I think it's going to be interesting to be on the other side of the boards," Harrington said yesterday.  "I just think that the Kain-Harrington partnership hopefully will do for the company ... what it did when we were onstage. I look forward to working with her," Harrington said of Karen Kain, former prima ballerina turned National Ballet artistic director.  "Rex has a great deal to offer our current generation of dancers," Kain said in a statement. 

Harrington said his duties will include teaching classes and coaching some of the young male dancers.  "I was really known as a partner and sort of had a stage presence, and I would really like to impart that to some of the younger people. Artist-in-residence ... is a loose term that gives me the freedom to be creative in the company," he said.  Harrington acknowledged retirement was initially difficult.  "The sadness really happened when the curtain first came down and I did go through the period of `Who am I, what am I if I'm not onstage?' That's why I'm very excited to go back."  Since then, Harrington has taken acting lessons, performed in a musical in Vancouver and was set to lead a production of Song & Dance at the Danforth Music Hall in May before he snapped his Achilles tendon on opening night. He's still in physiotherapy to strengthen his calf muscle for the upcoming part, which he noted, includes a couple of jumps.

Body, Voice Intertwine

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

Ever Thus
(out of 4)
Choreography by Claudia Moore
Until Oct. 13 at the Young Centre, 55 Mill St., Bldg. 49

(Oct. 4, 2006) Running on alternate nights with Soulpepper's production of King Lear, MOonhORsE Dance Theatre's
Ever Thus is an entertaining piece of physical theatre that incorporates some fine dancing and acting without compromising both.  The characters are Shakespeare's: Prince Hamlet, Ophelia, Catherine of Aragon from Henry VIII, King Lear and Lady Macbeth. The performers are four dancers — Claudia Moore, Jennifer Dick, Heidi Strauss, Miko Sobreira — and a classically trained actor, William Webster.  The dancers' speaking abilities might well have been put to shame by Webster's fulsome Shakespearean technique; likewise Webster's rudimentary dance skills against four such proficient dancers. One has to credit Mark Christmann, accomplished physical actor and dramaturge for the show, with smoothing out the transitions between acting, dancing and acting like actors.  The framing story is a troupe of thespians arriving at the theatre for yet another evening of performances they've done many times. Upstage we see them in their dressing room. Through some clever stagecraft, each one in turn slides into character. In a couple of instances they go back to their actors' roles, coaching or preening or interrupting each other.

At the start, the dancers' warm-up spins into a silent quartet, with ritualized movement akin to an overture. The music sounds like Zap Mama. The soundscape, composed by Laurel MacDonald, is full of surprises like this.  Frequently the performers all chant lines together, or exchange lines plucked from Shakespeare on a single theme, such as "desire." These interludes serve to separate the soliloquies/solos. Sobreira is a Spanish-speaking Hamlet, wielding a sword and demonstrating his agony of indecision. Strauss is a moving Queen Catherine: "We know what we are but know not what we may be." Dick does a credible Ophelia, not as subtle as Peggy Baker's solo based on this character, but stirring. Webster is Lear, a role he is also playing in the Soulpepper production.  He sits on a chair and opens a suitcase, pulling out a ventriloquist's dummy to mouth the lines Lear speaks on the heath. This innovation is highly risky, as it tends to undercut his credibility, especially when Sobreira has to move in behind to become Lear's second hand. But Webster pulls it off.  Moore casts herself and Sobreira in a duet that says everything about the complex relationship of Macbeth to his wife. Then she dons a tweed jacket over her black nylon slip to give her speech. The lines are almost superfluous in this case, the choreography having dramatically captured the character.  There are moments in the show that get too cute, as the actors move in and out of character and the performance begins to resemble a staged version of "Ring Around the Rosey." Yet the overall effect is illuminating.


Picture Perfect Politics?

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

(Sep. 30, 2006) On a warm late-summer evening this month, novelist Howard Akler lingered in the Toronto Archives, flanked by a small group of literary confreres. Akler, along with Jason McBride and Alana Wilcox, among others, had just lost the Toronto Book Awards (Dionne Brand, not present, was the winner), and a consoling drink was in order.  Then someone had an idea.
Mayor David Miller was milling in the aftermath, much like them. Why not invite him along? "It was suggested as a joke, but I did it anyway," Akler recalls.  "He said, `No one ever asks me out,' and that he'd be delighted." A few minutes later, the mayor was sharing a table, and a pint, with Akler and friends at the Pour House on Dupont St. ("They invited me," Miller says. "Why would I say no to the chance to talk to some of the best young writers in the city?")  Akler was charmed. "There were no political overtones, no agenda. He bought me a couple of bourbons, which was nice," Akler says. (For the record, the mayor had a Guinness). "He seemed really genuine, really interested."  It was a classic Miller moment: A mayor who trades on his image as a heartfelt everyman who rides the subway to work, Miller has built a vault of political capital on being frank, authentic and accessible. "The fact that we were comfortable asking says a lot about the persona he projects," Wilcox says.  But it was also telling of both a favourite Miller agenda, and his attitude towards it. In 2003, Miller heavily courted the city's cultural communities, casting himself as their champion. And in a Clintonian moment three years ago, he captured their vote almost exclusively.  Three years later, as he braces for a run at a second term, the reviews have come in. Finding a bad one is a tough chore.

"The fact is, he's out there. He's a public, visible supporter of arts and culture," says David Baile, the general manager of Opera Atelier, a theatre company in the city's east end. "I think he really has a genuine interest. Speaking to colleagues in other cities, I think we're very lucky to have him."  Over his term, the mayor has been both bureaucratically effective and breezily au courant. (He appeared on the cover of Fab, a gay magazine, for its 2004 Pride issue; the mayor also has his own site on, a wildly popular global online home to the mostly young and pop culture-afflicted.)  The short list of accomplishments over Miller's term is not so short: Tonight's Nuit Blanche event, an all-night adventure through 130 art projects scattered throughout downtown, is only the most visible.  In the midst of an era of city budget shortfalls and money crunches, the Miller regime has increased cultural grants for both the Toronto Arts Council and major institutions like the National Ballet and the AGO by $2 million, up to $15.2 million a year. This year, culture was one of only three major departments to have its funding increased, alongside the TTC and the police service.  It is, to say the least, a marked difference from the previous regime.  "When you look at it in contrast to the circus we went through in the (Mel) Lastman era, there's just no comparison," says Tim Jones, the CEO of Artscape, a non-profit arts incubator.  "The mood and the tone are hugely improved. It's been a refreshing change not to have to go to battle stations every year around budget time. There's a palpable sense of optimism about the future of culture here, and David's played a big part in that."  Shortly after he was elected, he created the mayor's roundtable on arts and culture, a cross-section of arts professions from all disciplines, in order, he says, to "help guide the city's policies."

More than two-dozen strong, it includes people like film festival chair Piers Handling, dub poet Clifton Joseph, actor Sonja Smits, former Tarragon Theatre head Mallory Gilbert, ROM CEO William Thorsell and Baile. One city insider described it as "catalytic" in the city's culture programs. "It's been really impressive how willing he's been to bring people in and engage the arts community one-on-one," Baile says.  Then, faced with a crippling decline in the city's vital film industry, Miller created the Toronto Film Board in February of 2005, a collection of industry professionals that he chaired himself. The idea was to revive the city's flagging film fortunes and streamline the industry's interactions with the city.  "In the years after amalgamation, film fell off the city's radar," says Jack Blum, a local producer and a member of the board. "Now it's clear to all departments of City Hall how important film is to the city."  Then, earlier this year, he hired a dedicated film commissioner, Karen Thorne-Stone, who stumps for the business here to everyone from Hollywood to the federal government. Just this week, Miller signed a film board submission to the CRTC — the city's first such appeal to the federal broadcast regulator, lobbying to solidify the city as the Canadian production hub.  The past year has even made believers of some who were less than enthused with the film board's early performance. "He attends more meetings of the film board than I do, so I think that's a positive sign of his commitment," says Don Carmody, a board member and veteran Hollywood producer from Toronto who won an Oscar in 2002 with Chicago.  "He listened to us when we demanded the city stop pussy-footing around and hire a `film czar' to represent the industry inside and outside of City Hall. At the same time, he has aggressively challenged the industry members of the board to consider some of his pet topics, like hiring more minorities on our crews, especially young people. He's brought in citizen groups to gripe to us about what they perceive as our misuse of locations, and asked for our expertise in coming up with advertising and marketing pitches to promote the city, not only for filming, but for tourism and industry as a whole.

"I'm not a huge fan of some of the other politicians on the board, but not David Miller. I like the guy. Hard to believe in this age of cynicism, but he may be the real deal."  In interviews with countless members of the arts community here, it is a constant thread: Miller is genuine. Honest. Interested. "I take a lot of pleasure from (the arts), but I always find I learn as well," Miller says. "I think it's an essential part of living."  On days when his schedule — recently, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. — allows, he likes to go to Soulpepper Theatre, maybe catch the occasional jazz or blues show. His office is brimming with work from local artists that he buys with his own money, not city coffers.  Miller's interest and contributions are not always highly visible, but they're substantive, Blum says.  "He's more content oriented," he says. "It's one thing to put moose all over the city" — mayor Lastman's hallmark cultural campaign — "but it's another to have enduring initiatives that filter down and affect people's lives in a real way."  And Miller is open to being affected by culture himself. Blum recalled attending Russell Hill, a play at the Tarragon Theatre about the 1995 subway disaster here, with the mayor in 2003. "He loved it," Blum says. "For hours after, he couldn't talk about anything else."  His personal schedule this week is telling: On Thursday, he spoke at Mercer Union, an artist centre in the Queen West art and design district (a designation for the neighbourhood achieved on his watch), on the launch of Artstage, a massive public art exhibition alongside the 401 near Dixie.  From there, he moved on the same night to the Gladstone Hotel for the launch of the winter issue of Spacing magazine, the grassroots journal about public space and urban life and culture.  Then the mayor had to brace for the long road this evening: The Nuit Blanche all-night cultural extravaganza that some see as his administration's crowning cultural achievement.  From 7 tonight to 7 tomorrow morning, the mayor's agenda will be packed — though not quite to the closing hour. "I have to sleep at some point. I'm in the middle of a campaign," he laughed. He did promise to make it to "art in the car wash," an installation at a working car wash on Queen St. West. "What a great thing to sum up what we're doing."

And if you think Nuit Blanche is big, wait until next June, when the city launches the Luminato festival, a 10-day international smorgasbord across all cultural disciplines.  Yet Miller's work is not all in the grand gestures. Rita Davies, the city's executive director of culture, points to small-scale interventions that her department has been able to implement on the street level: the Humanitas Festival last spring, a collection of forums, exhibitions and performances about the city's cultural history. Or HIPTix, which gives discounted tickets to arts events to young people, or Remix, a program to teach at-risk youth radio and recording skills.  Davies cites a favourite, Art in the Hood, a program that took established artists to 16 neighbourhoods to work with young people at a grassroots level. "It wasn't high profile, but was really important to what we do," Davies says.  Davies has worked with the city's culture department for 20 years. She eschewed comparing the current administration with others, but did say that "the creative agenda has become very important in the city's priorities."  It's not all roses, however. In 2003, prior to Miller's election, Davies drew up a Culture Plan for the city that plainly revealed Toronto's cultural spending severely lagged behind other comparable cities in North America. At the time, Toronto spent $13.81 per person; Vancouver $17.71, Chicago $21.95, Montreal $26.62 and San Francisco $86.01. The report targeted an increase to Montreal's level within five years.  Last fall, Davies produced a progress report on the plan, showing the chase to match Montreal was flagging (by last year, Toronto had reached $15.71 per person).  "When you look at how much money this city spends, compared with others in North America, it's shameful — it's shameful in terms of who we say we are, and our potential," says Claire Hopkinson, the executive director of the Toronto Arts Council, the granting organization that doled out $9.2 million to city artists and organizations this year. The mayor has lent his name to the TAC's annual awards luncheon this week, for which Hopkinson is truly grateful. "He's been incredibly encouraging, and I really want to lay some credit at the mayor's door," Hopkinson says. "Don't get me wrong — we're happy for our increases. But I have to say culture really needs to be more of a priority. And the mayor knows this."  Meanwhile, the city's cultural promotion centrepiece — the $4 million, two-year long T.O. Live With Culture campaign and its accompanying website, a clearinghouse of arts events in the city — is seen by some as little more than window dressing.  "It's Toronto's attempt to show itself as an alpha city," Heather Haynes, the director of the non-profit Toronto Free Gallery in the city's east end, says in an email.

"Toronto might be encouraging its residents to `live with culture' but in a few years culture will not be able to afford to live in Toronto. Artists and cultural workers need more than slick advertising campaigns. They need a secured living wage and secure housing situations," she wrote.  "If the city really wants to do something for culture they will secure that the culture can afford to stay in their neighbourhoods.... It would be interesting to see the amount of money spent on this campaign. Could that money have been better used? We all know that culture is an investment, so why not invest more directly in it?"  Still, in his first term, Miller has done what few previous regimes could: gain the arts community's confidence. "Cities around the world know that creativity is important to their future. David understands that," Artscape's Jones says. "There's a growing sense of what that future can be."  But now he needs to deliver. "I think Toronto is poised to be on the ascent," Hopkinson says. "It's crucial that our mayor is a champion of the arts every time he engages in it."  Miller has earned the right to ask for a little patience. Before he was mayor, his ward as a councillor included Parkdale, a downtrodden district with a large dose of artists in need of large, cheap space. "I knew a lot of artists that were extremely talented, but struggling financially," Miller says. "People don't always realize the contribution that artists make, and how difficult it is for them to make ends meet."  While the money's not always there, the will is, says Baile. "Not all support can, or has to be, financial," he says. "It's as important to send the message: Culture is a priority here."  For Miller, it's not hard to explain why. "It's about who we are. And in a city of newcomers, public space and cultural activities are how we learn who we are as Torontonians. It allows us to tell our stories to each other," he says. "We all win that way."

Douglas Coupland - Birdman of B.C.

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Leah Mclaren

(Sep. 28, 2006)
Douglas Coupland is an inspiration machine. The Vancouver-based novelist, essayist, painter, installation artist, screenwriter, furniture designer and amateur beachcomber has more going on this week than most people could hope for in a lifetime. On Tuesday, Souvenir of Canada, a documentary about Coupland's creative process, directed by Robin Neinstein, was released nationally on DVD. A feature film based on his first dramatic screenplay, Everything's Gone Green, has its West Coast premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival on Friday. And JPod, Coupland's latest novel, was recently long-listed for the Giller Prize. What more could a multimedia pop artist want?

In Souvenir of Canada, you talk about not being particularly recognized as a Canadian — that your Canadianness has been called into question.

I know. It's nuts, but you know what it was? Gen X was set in the U.S. (published 15 years ago) and some people up here just never got over that, like they keep a secret little tally sheet in their pocket. They also conveniently forget that it was to have been published by a Canadian publisher who rejected the book once it was submitted. People remember the weirdest shit and conveniently forget the rest. We are a wretched species.

Do you still feel that way today?

It was weird being excommunicated by my country for well over a decade — in spite of the number of books I wrote both set here and about the country itself — but if that hadn't happened, I don't think I would have been able to look at the country with the unfogged lenses I gained as a result.

Is it true you went beachcombing in Haida Gwaii last weekend?


How come?

Aside from the beauty of beaches and the ocean and all of that, I especially love finding things that have been battered about by the sea. Almost always it's plastic items like floats or toys or maybe some shampoo bottles tossed overboard by Philippine sailors three years back with the caps still on — they're very common — or Suntory whisky bottles the Japanese sailors love tossing overboard with the cap on, too. The thing is, once they've been hammered about, they take on that worn look that reminds me of early pop art, the early Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns works ... they become art. And it's a good exercise in context. Some people think this stuff is trash. I look at it as treasure. So it's all point of view.

Were you once a Beachcombers fan, by any chance?

No! I just never got it. But there used to be a punk band in Vancouver called Bruno Gerussi's Medallion and I was a fan of them.

You seem to have a bottomless fascination with the world around you. Where does that come from?

I can't imagine not being fascinated. As human beings, we have the give of free will and the perception of time's passage. That's what makes us different from every other thing in the universe. So what you do with time and free will is the expression of your aliveness, your humanity. I hope that came out right. Basically, it's a joy to be alive.

Describe a typical day in your life. What's your routine like? Do you even have a routine?

I think everybody over 35 has an inflexible morning routine. Me? Turn on coffee maker, teeth, replenish bird feeder, read paper. The comics I read in the papers are For Better of For Worse (Lynn Johnston is a national treasure) and Betty, which is almost always smart and/or funny. Once I finish the comics, I'm ready to work. In the larger picture, 15 years ago I made the decision that if I'm going to forgo a steady job and paycheque and live an artist's life, then one bonus I'm going to give myself is that I never want to be woken up by an alarm clock or a telephone. I hate hotel rooms because there's a phone beside the bed.

You seem to be a person who is galvanized by projects. What's captured your imagination at the moment?

Right now, I'm in love with paint ... the gooey messiness of it. And certain kinds of resins and how they work atop vinyls and canvas. Could this answer have been any more boring? I'm also in love with the fun and informality of script writing. It's so different from writing novels. On a word-per-word basis, as much work, but obviously as projects they're, well, shorter.

In Souvenir, you talk about diligence — your mantra that some things just need to be done. I think you say, ‘It's got to get done so I might as well do it or it'll never get done.' Do you still use that mantra?

Every day of my life. It makes me sound like a workaholic, and I'm not. But honestly, if you don't do something, it never happens — so I simply do it. I think that for whatever reason I don't talk myself out of things very easily. If I do 10 projects, one is going to be a dog, and one is going to suck brutally ... but it doesn't stop me from doing the other eight.

The last time I interviewed you I remember your car smelled like a ballpark because you were taking a case of peanuts home to feed the blue jays. Do you still do that? If so, how are they?

Thank you for remembering! They're terrific this year. There were about 10 babies in the yard and now they're all very sleek and ready for fall. God knows, I feed them enough.

My favourite jay didn't come back this year — Jay Handsworth — who would land on my hand for minutes at a time. He got old, and I miss him.

He was my little friend.

Kenneth Roy Thomson - Remembering A Modest Billionaire

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman

(Sep. 30, 2006) When
Kenneth Roy Thomson died suddenly on June 12, he and his wife, Marilyn, were preparing to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary the next day.  And Canada's famously eccentric billionaire was not the kind of guy who waited until the last minute to do his shopping.  Indeed, as one of his granddaughters revealed yesterday morning at a heavily attended memorial tribute at Roy Thomson Hall (named after his father), he had purchased the gift seven years ago, in 1999, and saved it for this occasion.  It was her grandfather's habit, she said, to include with every gift the details of when he bought it, where, and how much he paid for it.  This gift was a silver music box with a key. Winding the key prompts a pretty bird to pop out and sing a song.  How much did he pay for the music box? That part of the story was discreetly left out.  But in a film clip, Ken Thomson himself explained his philosophy of buying the kind of beautiful things that brought him great happiness.  He had learned from his father, the legendary press baron, that there's a price for everything, and it's important not to overpay.  "Sometimes you have to stretch," Ken allowed, when there's a special object you have a keen urge to possess.  "But there has to be a cut-off point," he went on.

"Even Bill Gates has to have a point at which he says, `That's enough.'"  That's a classic case of Ken Thomson modesty — using Bill Gates (one of the few people in the world even wealthier than Thomson) rather than himself as an example of the super-rich.  The last time I saw him, in a mob scene in front of the Music Hall on an opening night in May, the most powerful man in Canada was patiently waiting his turn in a box-office line-up.  He playfully accused me of jumping the queue, though I was trying to get to the media desk.  Yesterday, the recipient of the silver music box, Marilyn Thomson, wearing an elegant black jacket and black shoes with gold heels, chatted with old friends at a post-ceremony reception in the lobby but did not appear on stage. And cameras were not allowed.  Organized by Thomson's son, David, and his longtime business lieutenant Geoff Beattie, the event was tastefully understated, starting with a Mozart clarinet concerto played by members of the TSO conducted by Peter Oundjian.  Then came a film tribute — produced by David Thomson — featuring interviews with old friends — emphasizing not business triumphs but human touches and humorous anecdotes about his dogs.  "It was uncanny how Ken found ways to let me know he knew me," observed Frank Gehry, the great architect who worked closely with Thomson on remaking the Art Gallery of Ontario, to which Thomson has donated his $300 million art collection.  "It was even more uncanny how he let me know him. I miss him."  Although the 77-year-old Gehry did not appear on stage during the ceremony, he and Berta (his wife and business partner) flew to Toronto from Los Angeles for the day to attend this event.  "How could I not be here?" Gehry asked when I told him I was surprised to see him.  Many others felt the same way. Among the faces in the crowd: former lieutenant governor Hilary Weston, museum bosses William Thorsell and Matthew Teitelbaum, media czars Ivan Fecan and Rob Prichard, Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae and art collectors Murray Frum and Nancy Lockhart.

Ed and Anne Mirvish zipped around the lobby in his-and-her wheelchairs.  "Ken was a wonderful friend," said Anne Mirvish. "You could talk to him about anything."  Rita MacNeil and the helmeted Men of the Deeps brought the ceremony to a rousing conclusion with a stirring rendition of "We Rise Again."  And then David Thomson, seeming near tears, said: "My father was a special human being ... I thank you all for being his friends. Today we are with him, and he is with us. It's a special moment."  As indeed it was.

Good Nuit

Excerpt from The Toronto Star- Jen Gerson, Entertainment Reporter

(Oct. 2, 2006) It's 7 p.m., dark and two months too cold for September.  There's a 20-minute line-up. People are shivering and chatting under their black umbrellas.  We're waiting for corn.  Free roasted corn, dressed with butter, lime and chilli powder by volunteers wearing clear plastic ponchos.  Black-and-white photographs of corn roasters are plastered about the stand. "Corn" is printed on flags in dozens of languages. Ostensibly this act of edible art will enlighten us about the universal agricultural staple.  In actuality, corn is tasty. And it's hot and thus the perfect
Nuit Blanche warm-up.  Despite the weather, thousands turned out to wander the streets of Yorkville, and along McCaul St. and West Queen St. W. for what organizers deemed a "free all-night contemporary art thing." Some even stayed out all night.  It was like Halloween for über-chic twenty-somethings. More than 130 art projects sprang from the streets.  From sidewalk performances to fog sculptures, random acts of art turned the city absurd. Some of it had a message: memorializing the dead, praying for peace or giving a glimpse into the Hungarian Revolution. Other art was just too weird to classify: travelling beds, makeshift sandboxes and lyrics spelled out in neon.  "There was an energy to the city that was different," said Shaun Dacey, as he sat waiting for his 7 a.m. breakfast of greasy toast and beans at the Gladstone Hotel. "This mass of pedestrians just took over the city."  They wandered across three zones in the city, arguably the most engaging of which was Yorkville.  It held Fog In Toronto #71624, described as the art of bonsai atmosphere. Fog-making machines and high-beam lights in purple and yellow were set up along Philosopher's Walk on the University of Toronto campus.  Two minutes into the walk and the mist was so dense that you couldn't see objects only a few feet ahead. Ghostly silhouettes wandered between sapling trees. People called out to friends, laughed and whistled the X-Files theme. The combination of fog, drizzle and wayward feet soon turned the mini-ravine into a mud pit.

A quick jaunt north along the same path revealed the One Garden One Night One Wish installation: a white wishing tree reminiscent of Lothlorien in Lord of the Rings.  Wanderers could pick a favourite wish from a bucket, pull shiny silver party-favour string from the tree and tie a wish to the branches.  Then there were sheep. Big sheep. Eating grass and frolicking, the sheep — on film — were projected on the dome of the planetarium next to the Royal Ontario Museum.  The ROM hosted a documentary about prostitutes and transvestites shot on a handheld recorder in Cuba.  Many other museums and galleries opened their doors free of charge. The Gardiner Museum matched its collection of ceramics with pounds of clay and offered a return to childhood. In the basement, dozens took grey earth and modelled it on a wooden board. They formed twisty inukshuks, abstract boxes, sitting Buddhas, hands holding clay Earths.  In the smattering of exhibitions centered around the Ontario College of Art and Design at Queen St. W. and McCaul St., the line-ups stretched across Grange Park to get into the Ballroom Dancing exhibit. Meanwhile, at University Settlement House on Grange Rd., 10-year-old deejays mixed it new school as the adults crashed in nap areas. The room was filled with hundreds of multi-coloured rubber balls.  "Isn't that child labour?" one passerby asked.  "Have you ever filled a child with candy? It's no problem."  "Besides," replied another. "It's all for art. Dance, child, dance! Daddy needs a grant. Daddy needs a grant."

OCAD itself became a haven of pillows and candlelight as over-sized chess, dominos and too-many-players Twister were played under the table-like Will Alsop addition.  Queen W. West is where the rest of the wanderers came to pop in and out of art exhibits.  The public sleeping performance entranced its audience. Artist Nichola Feldman-Kiss encased herself in glass and slept in white linens in full view of passersby.  "It actually looked like she was dead," said Margan Zalvskiy.  Meanwhile, artist Istvan Kantor set up a Mad-Maxian reality in the parking lot of the Bohemian Embassy. A makeshift file cabinet fire pit glowed blue from a fuel of audio cassette tape and books. Video clips exploring authority and rebellion in the context of the 1956 Hungarian rebellion were shown on a large screen hung from a crane.  And the pool at the Trinity Community Recreation Centre at Trinity-Bellwoods park was transformed into a Roman bath and nightclub as it stayed open for a late-night swim, with DJs.  The Drake was dressed in a light show straight from the hippest '60s retro chic club. It served brunch for post-Nuit partiers.  The streets were packed until about 5:30 a.m. But even as the sky lightened, nomadic art connoisseurs wandered into crumbling coin car washes-cum-art installations. One was a memorial to Neil Stonechild, a native teen left outside too long in winter, allegedly by the Saskatoon police. His name was carved out of melting blocks of ice.  By 6 a.m., about a dozen people could still manage muted flailing motions on the dance floor at the Drake.  "For Toronto, this is a big step. It shows how open-minded Toronto is to allow people to wander the streets at night and celebrate art. It's really cool," said Samina Khokhar.  How did she stay awake?  "Just Red Bull and willpower."

Heritage Goes On The Block

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Milroy, With a report from Val Ross.

(Oct. 4, 2006) Thursday morning in New York, Sotheby's auction halls will be the stage for a historic struggle, the final chapter in one of the more fascinating and tortuous negotiations between a private collector and his courting museums. The
Dundas Collection of Northwest Coast American Indian Art is up for grabs, a cache that Sotheby's head of American Indian art, David Roche, describes as "the last important field collection of Northwest Coast art in private hands." The academics can't refute his claim.  The 80 objects were acquired by Rev. Robert J. Dundas, a Scottish chaplain, and they were obtained on the morning of Oct. 26, 1863, from one of the most famous missionaries on the coast: William Duncan. The setting was Old Metlakatla, near present-day Prince Rupert, high on the mainland coast of British Columbia. Adding immeasurably to the collection's appeal is the fact that it is supported by Dundas's 250,000-word-long diaries, which describe in detail the communities on the coast as he encountered them and the particulars of how this collection was amassed.  Thus, the Dundas collection is a kind of historic document, a time capsule that reveals an aboriginal culture at a precise moment in time, and Canadian museums -- from the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria and Prince Rupert's Museum of Northern B.C. -- are understandably anxious to see some or all of it come home.

Unfortunately for us, they're not alone in their interest.  "Typically, I know who all the bidders are," Roche says of his predominantly U.S. buyers, "but this is a whole new set of people. There are new players here from Canada, Spain, France, England." For the aboriginal community in northern B.C., and for scholars and interested Canadians, the prospect of the collection being scattered to the four winds is deeply troubling, just one more example of our indifference to aboriginal people and Canadian heritage. "These things need to come back to the people that made them in the first place," says James Bryant, a spokesman for the Allied Tribes of Laxkwalaams and Metlakatla. "They hold the history of the tribe that these objects belonged to."  For scholars, too, there is a loss. As the Canadian Museum of Civilization's director of ethnology and cultural studies, Andrea Laforet, puts it: "With each transactional event, there is greater and greater likelihood that some or all of the information will be lost." Expressing a frustration typical of many watching this story unfold, veteran Canadian tribal art dealer Don Ellis fulminates at the prospect of the collection bypassing Canada. "The crazy thing is," Ellis says, "everyone has known that this collection is coming to sale at Sotheby's for a year or more. Hell, George MacDonald was trying to buy this for the Canadian Museum of Civilization 20 years ago. It's an abomination."

How did we get here? The answer is complicated. Since 1960, the collection has been the property of Professor Simon Carey, a London-based clinical psychologist and the great-grandson of Dundas. In 1970, he inherited Dundas's diaries, and since then, he has preoccupied himself with researching the collection and attempting, without success, to resolve its future. Over the intervening decades, Carey has fallen out of bed with such diverse suitors as the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Seattle Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, not to mention Canada's Royal Ontario Museum, the Royal BC Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. To add a sad twist to the drama, Carey was diagnosed last week with inoperable cancer and given just months to live. In all likelihood, the collection that has been his life's obsession will dissolve along with him. One can well imagine how such a collection could take hold of the imagination. Three lots are of particular historical and artistic significance: a "slave killer" club of carved elk antler, a wooden clan hat with a carved frog motif and a magnificent Tsimshian mask, which will undoubtedly be the star of tomorrow's sale. Estimated at $700,000 (U.S.) to $1-million, the price of the mask will probably go through the roof. Other highlights include a superb carved and painted wooden chest, exquisite ladles and spoons (many carved with small totemic figures), some doll-sized carved shaman figures, wooden clappers and a spectacular globular rattle, likely used in shamanic rituals. Benjamin Carey, the 37-year-old son of Simon Carey, points out that the collection includes rare and highly charged ceremonial objects as well as more quotidian things (such as a feast dish topped with an American eagle and a bowl that features the likeness of a white sailor) that were clearly made for trade with white visitors. As such, the Dundas collection represents the full range of cultural production by Northwest Coast artists at that time. Presale estimates in the catalogue place the total value of the collection at $4-million to $5-million, but the achieved prices could come in far higher.

So why have Simon Carey's previous efforts to sell the collection run aground? Notwithstanding the family's protestations to the contrary, it seems that price has been a point of contention. For example, James McDonald -- now teaching at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince Rupert but formerly a curator of ethnology at the ROM -- remembers money as the principal sticking point in the museum's negotiations in 1991. Benjamin Carey insists, however, that money has not been the key issue. More intractable, he says, has been his father's desire to see the objects on permanent display in perpetuity as a stand-alone collection, the kind of donor-centred arrangement that is increasingly unpopular in museums seeking to retain maximum flexibility in the display of their holdings. The winning museum, he says, would have also needed to promise a scholarly catalogue on the collection and to have made the commitment to publish Dundas's diaries. According to one insider, the Dundas collection was for sale as a whole by private treaty (a private sale through the auction house) until May 30 of this year for about $5-million, but no one was able to get Simon Carey to the altar. As the years have gone by, tempers on all sides of these negotiations have become frayed. In the British press, Carey has been a colourful commentator on Canadian museums. (Sample quote: "The Canadians are awful about their heritage. The bureaucracy is very mean.") For all his barbs, he has in turn taken his fair share of abuse. George MacDonald, the former director of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, was particularly piquant in his public criticisms of Carey, accusing him in the press of game playing and avarice. One native leader who requested anonymity recounts: "In the end, Carey would have nothing to do with anyone in Canada. He got beat up by the museums, and then he got beat up by the Tsimshian Tribal Council. They had two shots at the collection and they blew it. They called the poor guy a thief. I think in the end he just decided, 'To hell with it.' "

Will Canadian museums make a final run at this collection? Aboriginal leaders in northern B.C. certainly feel that the federal and provincial governments, and their respective museums, have a moral obligation to try. "The sale of these artefacts is ugly and deceitful," Allied Tribes' Bryant says. "They were taken for nothing, and now they will be sold in a high-priced auction so that the missionary's great-grandson can get rich." Historically, the Department of Canadian Heritage has played a significant role in assisting Canadian museums in such moments of duress, through its Movable Cultural Property grants program. But as Len Westerberg, a media-relations spokesman at Canadian Heritage, confirms, the $1.2-million (Canadian) annual MCP program has been severely depleted by a year of unusual opportunity in the auction world.  In May, for example, the Royal Alberta Museum successfully engineered the $1.1-million acquisition of the bulk of the Southesk collection of Plains aboriginal art, another outstanding field collection that came up for auction in New York. Roughly half of the funds came from Canadian Heritage. "Only $60,000 remains [in the MCP program] for the rest of the 2006-07 fiscal year," Westerberg says. The Royal BC Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Northern British Columbia have made a joint request for an MCP grant in support of a Dundas acquisition, he says, but it's clear that they will need a big cheque from the province to have any success. The Canadian Museum of Civilization is also rumoured to be poised to enter the bidding, though Westerberg says it has made no application for assistance from the MCP program. For economic reasons alone, the B.C. government may have good cause to help the western bidders. The collection could anchor tourism in Prince Rupert -- which is undergoing a major port expansion to better accommodate cruise ships. As well, the Tsimshian people are moving forward in their treaty negotiations with the B.C. government. Such objects, if owned by the province (and its provincially funded museums), could turn out to be important bargaining chips. Of course, it's not just the Canadian museums that are interested. There's the list of international jilted lovers from the past 30 years cited above, any of whom might make another pass at this collection, or parts of it. The new Musée du quai Branly in Paris is also rumoured to be in active pursuit. Finally, and possibly most importantly, there are the private dealers, and the private collectors, such as the de Menil family in the United States, who have collected extensively in this area for decades. Newspaper reports in past years have cited two prominent Canadian families -- the Thomsons and the Westons -- as would-be buyers, and tomorrow they may get back in the ring. Such patrons could arguably save the day, buying part or all of the collection as a promised gift for a Canadian institution.  But Don Ellis isn't counting on such largesse any time soon. "I'm a proud but tired Canadian," Ellis says. "I'm tired of how we behave up here about our own cultural patrimony. We have the expectation in this country that the government should fund this entirely. In the U.S., the museums would be going to the private buyer for a donation. That's how you get things done these days. This is just head-in-the-sand stuff."


Dionne Brand Wins $10,000 Harbourfront Prize

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept. 29, 2006) Toronto — Toronto writer
Dionne Brand has won the 2006 Harbourfront Festival Prize, awarded by the International Readings series organization that sponsors the annual International Festival of Authors in Toronto.  The $10,000 prize has been given each fall since 2003 to an individual "who has made a substantial contribution to literature through his or her writing and/or work on behalf of other authors." Previous winners include Guy Vanderhaeghe and Jane Urquhart. A three-member jury made the selection, and Brand, who recently won the Toronto Book Award for her novel What We All Long For, will be honoured Oct. 28 in Toronto. Staff

‘Oprah & Friends’ Attract Advertisers

Excerpt from

(October 2, 2006)  *The absence of commercials used to be a perk of subscribing to Satellite Radio. But thanks to the arrival of
Oprah Winfrey and her “Friends” on XM, more and more advertisers are lining up to get in business with the enterprise.   According to Media Week, ads still comprise only about 2 percent of XM’s total revenue, but since the “Oprah & Friends” launch last month, XM has secured advertising from Acuvue, Crown Publishing, Dove, GE, Iams, JC Penney, Jenny Craig, SlimFast, Roserum, Snapple, Splenda, Target and Warners TrueFit.  “In terms of sales, [Oprah & Friends] is XM’s most successful channel launch ever,” said D. Scott Karnedy, senior VP of sales and marketing solutions for XM, according to Media Week. He added that clients are investing “millions of dollars.”  XM had roughly $20 million in ad sales in 2005, more than double the $8.4 million it generated in 2004, according to Media Week. So far this year, XM has amassed $15.5 million in ad sales.  Howard Stern had a similar effect with advertisers after arriving to Sirius Satellite Radio in January, as $15.4 million in revenue was generated in the first half of the year, compared to $1.5 million in the first half of last year.

Gehry To Design New Paris Museum

Source: Canadian Press

PARIS — Plans were unveiled Monday to build an ethereal, fully transparent museum designed by architect
Frank Gehry that will house a contemporary art collection in Paris. Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of French luxury goods empire LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, described the museum as “more of a cloud than a building.” The 4,200-square-metre museum, made mostly of glass and shaped with numerous sharp angles, is expected to go up in the vast Bois de Boulogne park on Paris's western edge between next year and 2010, at a cost of US$126 million. Arnault and Gehry were joined by Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe at LVMH headquarters to unveil a mock-up of the future Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation building, aimed to house 20th- and 21st-century art.  “The idea of building a solid, strong and formal object appeared inappropriate to me in this green,” Gehry said. He said the structure features rooftop terraces that offer views of the park, uniting indoors with outdoors and the city with the sky. He praised the site — whose use still requires approval from the city council — and called the project a “heavenly assignment” because Paris is his “favourite city.” On show will be works by Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Damien Hirst, Jean Dubuffet and others, but the building itself will likely attract admirers of Gehry, designer of Spain's Guggenheim Bilbao museum, considered by many to be his masterwork and one of the world's great modern buildings. “My intuition tells me ... that this will be your masterpiece,” said Delanoe, clearly hoping to fan speculation that the Paris building will eclipse his achievement in Bilboa, Spain. Delanoe said he planned to present the project to the city before year-end, and expected full approval in time for a groundbreaking next year. A redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario by the Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based architect is currently under construction.

Siegfried And Roy Honoured In Vegas

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Oct. 4, 2006) LAS VEGAS — Three years to the day after being critically injured on stage by a tiger,
Roy Horn was inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars along with his longtime showbiz partner Siegfried Fischbacher.  The ceremony took place Tuesday in front of The Mirage hotel, home of the duo's act from 1990 until Oct. 3, 2003, when Horn was attacked.  Horn was in critical condition for several weeks after the attack, and was said to have suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. He was walking a bit slower Tuesday, and his speech was sluggish at times.  The German-born performers were given police escorts to the Walk of Stars ceremony, waving to fans through a sunroof. Dozens of fans cheered when Horn approached a podium.  "Good afternoon, everybody, my name is Roy," Horn said to applause.  Fischbacher thanked fans for sticking by the pair. "And now I realize what love is and life is all about," he said.  After the ceremony, Horn, who also turned 62 on Tuesday, told AP Television that the event was "a deeply emotional experience." When asked about the state of his rehabilitation, Horn said: "We'll go horseback riding and I'm driving my new car, yes. I've got a new sports car. So, it's my birthday gift.



Tie Domi: The Tough Guy Who Wanted To Be A Player

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Stephen Brunt

(Sept. 30, 2006) On the night he played his 1,000th game in the National Hockey League last March, the friends of
Tie Domi gathered at Centro, a stylish, expensive Toronto restaurant, to celebrate the achievement. Already, there had been an elaborate, on-ice ceremony at the Air Canada Centre before the game, one beamed across the country to a partly incredulous public. Those who hadn't fallen under the spell of the Toronto Maple Leafs found it tough to understand how a third- or fourth-line player, a tough guy who didn't even fight much any more, could be feted like a superstar for a half-hour on national television.  In Montreal, it especially stuck in people's craws, since Hockey Night in Canada, which beamed every minute of the Domi-fest to the nation, would give short shrift to the ceremony in which Hall of Famer Bernie Geoffrion's number was retired — as it turned out, on the day he died. Even the folks at the NHL head office in New York thought the Domi night was over the top. But that's Torontocentricity for you, that's the Leafs and especially that's Tie Domi, whose local-hero status had long ago outstripped his achievements on the ice, not to mention those of a franchise still searching for its first Stanley Cup since 1967.

By circumstance and, as becomes more and more clear, very much by design, Mr. Domi became the most popular athlete in the country's biggest city. Only the two other members of the Leafs' post-glory-years holy trinity — Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour, both retired — were in the same orbit by the time Mr. Domi announced his retirement last week. He was late arriving at his party. His wife, Leanne, and his kids were already there, and so were some familiar faces from the business and media world. It wasn't really a hockey crowd (though Don Cherry and some Leafs would eventually turn up) because, in a way, Mr. Domi had already left that world behind. He was a businessman now, a guy who hung out with the rich and powerful. There was the mansion. The Ferrari. The trappings of a life not hockey-star rich, but more in line with his seriously moneyed pals, Larry Tanenbaum, Gerry Schwartz, Alex Shnaider. Anyone who ducked out a little early would have crossed paths with a late-arriving guest. Given the context, it wasn't really so surprising to see Belinda Stronach walk through the door. So what thrust a 36-year-old hockey goon into the company of billionaires and into the arms of Ms. Stronach? The last part, the part that titillated the nation this past week as the long-rumoured affair became the centrepiece of a very public marital breakdown, will forever remain their own secret. But the rest of the story is a bit easier to unravel, the combination of a particular place, time and team, and of an athlete who came to understand how another game is played. To a point, it begins with the simple appeal of the underdog, the striver. Mr. Domi, the son of Albanian émigrés, born in Windsor, Ont., raised in Belle River, made the most of his hockey talents. Not that he was the complete long shot that is sometimes suggested — after a tremendous final year of junior hockey with the Peterborough Petes, where he didn't just play the tough guy but scored, he was drafted in the second round by the Leafs, the 27th player selected in 1988.  But he wasn't skilled enough to be a front-line offensive threat in the NHL, and he shouldn't really have been big enough to play the enforcer. Still, in a career that took him to Winnipeg, to New York and finally back to Toronto, he thrived in the policeman's role, protecting the stars, fearlessly standing up to other team's tough guys, only occasionally getting to line up and play with the stars. Mr. Domi, especially in the early years, loved to fight. When Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated wrote a piece about hockey goons, only one failed to express second thoughts about his job description: Tie Domi.

While carving out a role on the ice that would provide both job security and excellent compensation, Mr. Domi also developed a talent for playing the politics of the locker room. It has been well noted in hockey circles that in each stop, he managed to bond with the most significant player on the team: Teemu Selanne in Winnipeg; Mark Messier in New York; Clark, and later Mats Sundin, in Toronto. Like offices or classrooms, hockey dressing rooms establish their own hierarchy, and Mr. Domi always placed himself at the right hand of power. It was during his second stint in Toronto, a city where the Leafs now seem bigger, more omnipresent, more important than they have ever been, the obsession of an ever-growing captive media, that he began to build his own franchise.  Hockey fans, to a point, do gravitate toward fighters. They also love the idea of the plucky, fearless worker who overachieves relative to his talents. And in Toronto, without champions for which to cheer, role players with the right character traits could be easily embraced as stars (even Mr. Clark, an extremely skilled player and a first overall draft pick, was beloved in large part because he battled through injuries and the indignities of the Harold Ballard years, and Gilmour, though an elite player, was all the more appealing because of his relatively small stature.) In some way, the Leafs fans and the machinery that fed them needed someone like Mr. Domi › far more than they needed someone like Mr. Sundin, the team's cool, elegant, Swedish captain, one of the most talented players to ever wear the blue and white, who was never able to fully satisfy expectations.  And Mr. Domi, not book-smart, but with an instinctive intellect, understood how to exploit that need. He took time to learn how the local media operated, to understand who was who, and to always, always be aware when the red light was on.  To some of his confreres, that set him out as a phony, a guy who was one thing when the cameras were turned his way, another entirely when they were off. There were cruel whispers that his many charitable endeavours had more to do with image-buffing than with any true, humanitarian spirit. But while many of those players came and went, Mr. Domi played on, became the biggest frog in a very big pond. He also figured out something else — the power of the uniform, the allure of the professional athlete, the fact that even those who were a lot richer, a lot more powerful, a lot more worldly, a lot smarter, could be reduced to nervous little boys and little girls in the presence of a real live Toronto Maple Leaf. An autographed picture here, a jersey for someone's kid there, a bit of the old buddy-buddy could go an awful long way. There's no denying Mr. Domi's enormous ability to charm.

He had ambitions beyond sports, he aspired to be an entrepreneur, to be a player, not just a hockey player, to use the game as a launch pad for something more grand. His celebrity, the doors it could open, the contacts it could inspire, helped him skip so many rungs of the ladder. His pals weren't just the captains of hockey teams any more but the captains of industry, including one of those who signed his paycheque. There were a couple of whiffs of scandal, when an extramarital affair with an actress was rumoured, and when his brother Dash was implicated for allegedly handing over a bribe to a Toronto city councillor as part of the larger computer acquisition scandal. Tie testified on Dash's behalf at the inquiry — he confirmed what his brother had said, that the 25 grand was his birthday present. None of that seemed to dim his celebrity, or stall his rise in the business community. Still, in that quest to get ahead, he left some angry, hurt, disappointed people behind. This week, after Leanne, the aggrieved, abandoned wife and mother of his children, launched a couple of withering shots across his bow while beginning divorce proceedings — labelling him in court documents as a debt-ridden, serial adulterer, a neglectful parent, as Ms. Stronach's "shopping sherpa" — they've been dancing on his tabloid grave. The hockey crowd is normally quick to close ranks, to circle the wagons even around the least appealing of their peers. To be of the game, at least in Canada, grants you a certain immunity, means that you have all kinds of people watching your back. There's an instinct to protect the sport, to protect the business and, by extension, to stand up for those on the inside. What has been remarkable this week, talking to hockey people of many different stripes, is how few are rising to Mr. Domi's defence, how many think he had this coming, how some who at one time would have been counted among his closest confidants are willing to rail against his character (although always off the record). A pro hockey player who cheats on his wife is hardly unique. There are way too many glass houses for that simple fact to bring down judgment. But it's like they don't think he's one of them any more, that they were discarded when he moved on, that he forgot the life lesson about how to treat those on the way up, because you'll see them again on the way down.

Stephen Brunt is a sports columnist at The Globe and Mail

Money-Strapped Tyson To Fight Exhibitions

Excerpt from

(October 4, 2006) *The sad downward spiral of
Mike Tyson continues on with the recent announcement of “Mike Tyson’s World Tour,” a series of boxing exhibitions in which the former heavyweight champ will go four rounds against various opponents.  "I think I'm useless to society. I don't think I'm worthy of the people who come out to see me, but they do," said Tyson, 40, at a press conference to announce the event. “The money I make here is not going to help any of my bills really from a tremendous standpoint," he added. "But I'm going to feel better about myself. I'm not going to be depressed." Not only is Tyson in bad financial shape, but his physical shape isn’t exactly what it used to be. He tells reporters that he can only box about three or four rounds now.  Tyson’s first match-up will take place Oct. 20 at the Chevrolet Centre in Youngstown, Ohio against his former sparring partner, Corey “T-Rex” Sanders.   "Hopefully, he's gentle and kind to me," Tyson said. "If he starts winging, I'm going to start winging."

Tyson has ruled out any notion of a comeback, but admitted that his broke status may force him to one day to step back into he ring against his will.  "If I don't get out of these financial quagmires, there's a possibility I may have to be a punching bag for somebody," he said. After the news conference, he told AP: "I don't want to do that anymore. Everybody's saying, 'Mike, make a comeback.' I'm not going to do that. "The best decision I ever made was to retire from boxing. Because I don't have any stress. I'm pretty simple. I like the person I am now more than I did. I don't like 'Iron Mike' — I like Mike Tyson."



Running The Road To Wellville

Eston Dunn, Special For eDiets

(October 1, 2006) Unfortunately every runner eventually gets hurt. It’s inevitable. If you're one of the few who are smart enough not to get injured by making a running mistake, you probably aren’t lucky enough to avoid all the accidents that can interrupt your running.  Ever run too far, too fast, too soon, too often? These injuries are self-inflicted and therefore largely preventable. But missteps happen to even the smartest runners: trip over a dog and crack a rib, stumble over a bump in the sidewalk and smash a knee, slip off an icy curb and twist an ankle, run head-on into a cyclist going into traffic instead of with it and bruise your thigh. Sounds dire, but there is good news about running injuries.  Seldom do injuries interfere with the non-running hours of your life, or require a doctor’s help or extensive, expensive care. Usually they respond quickly to simple treatments, rest and adjustments in training type, length, and pace. Sometimes you simply have to reduce running; other times you can do other types of exercise.

If an injury has knocked you off your feet, your doctor is the one to diagnose the problem and suggest what to do about it. But you are responsible for your rehab. You have to monitor your own pain, which will let you know what you can and can’t do while recovering.  Whatever the specifics are of the injury, there is a path back to running health that lets you heal and stay active, fit and sane. Choose your level of activity according to the severity of symptoms, then follow these simple steps of rehab.

1. Do something aerobic: When running is impossible and walking is painful, bike, swim or use an elliptical trainer in the gym for the same amount of time you usually run. These activities take nearly all pressure off the most commonly injured muscles and tendons, while still allowing steady cardiovascular effort.

2. Walk when you can: Start to walk as soon as you can move ahead without limping or increasing the pain. But if there is any discomfort, back off.

3. Progress gradually: When walking is pain-free, try adding a few intervals of slow running -- as little as one minute at first. Gradually build up the amount of running until you are running five minutes and walking only one. Many injuries respond better to intermittent running than the steady type.

4. Be cautious: Once all pain and tenderness is gone, run steadily again. But approach it cautiously as you regain lost fitness. Run a little slower than normal, with no long or fast efforts until you can handle the short, slow runs without any discomfort.

5. Opt for soft surfaces: Some people advise running on soft surfaces when recovering from an injury, but grass and dirt aren’t always as soothing to sore legs as they may seem. Uneven ground causes twisting that can cancel the benefits of softness, so choose a smooth, flat running surface during recovery. Some runners prefer a treadmill when returning from an injury for the soft, smooth belt surface. Plus, if your injury acts up, it’s easy to stop.

6. Run laps: If you’re running outside, it’s a good idea to run short laps instead of a single big loop. That way you can stop a run early if you’re hurting without being miles from home. A smart runner coming back from an injury knows when to stop. Cutting short a run during rehab isn’t a sign of weakness, but of wisdom.


Motivational Note - Do it…Just Do It!!

By Willie Jolley, Host of the “Willie Jolley Motivational Minute” syndicated radio show,  

Most people “have not” because they “ask not, seek not and knock not” and then they wonder “why not!” Most people have the abilities but have such negative thinking that they never try and therefore never achieve that which is possible for their lives. Simply put, most people suffer from “stinking thinking!” They don’t think they can and therefore they do not try. In life you may not hit all your targets you aim for, but you are 100% sure not to hit the ones you never attempt. You must get rid of “stinking thinking” and just take action! If you really want to be a millionaire then you must start by getting a new attitude, making a commitment to really go after your goals, and then moving on those goals, take action… So let’s get busy and DO IT NOW!!