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April 26, 2007

Is it really the end of April already!?  Before you know it, we'll be talking about the May long weekend!  Get those warm weather clothes out - just to help ensure that we have great weather on our first long weekend of the summer!

Don't forget to check out
Look Good Feel Wonderful if you've ever been curious about a career, image or personal makeover.  And it's been a fun week in basketball for Toronto.  Have a peek!  Go Raptors!

Look Good, Feel Wonderful – Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring is a season of rejuvenation. It's a time when many of us clear out the clutter in our physical spaces and prepare for the joyful feeling that the warm weather and sunshine brings. So what better time is there than now to tidy up your life and eliminate the mental and emotional clutter that is keeping you from living up to your highest potential? If you have dreams of doing more with your life, but always seem to get deterred and if you want to freshen up your wardrobe and get in style without going in debt, then this is your season of change! Register today for 
Look Good, Feel Wonderful, a personal development and fashion consulting seminar sponsored by The Stepping Stone Image Consulting. Come discover what's really holding you back and why aligning your attire with your aspirations is an important step toward personal and professional success. If your home is worthy of renewal, then why aren't you?

Since sharing blesses the giver and the receiver, please join us on April 28th and bring everyone who you know wants to feel, be and do their best.

"One of the greatest feelings in life is the conviction that you have lived the life you wanted to live - with the rough and the smooth, the good and the bad - but yours, shaped by your own choices, and not someone else's"

- Michael Ignatieff, author, politician

Verity Centre For Better Living
28 Milford Ave. (closest major intersections are Keele & Lawrence)
12:00 NOON
$20  in advance; $30 day of

Refreshments will be served
To register call (416) 534-1069 
Tickets are also available at: A Different Booklist - 746 Bathurst Ave (south of Bloor in Toronto)  and  Knowledge Bookstore - 177 Queen Street W. (east of McLaughlin in Brampton)


Sam Mitchell Named 2006-07 Coach of the Year

Source:  www.nba.com

(April 24, 2007)  Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell has been named the winner of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the NBA Coach of the Year for the 2006-07 season, the NBA announced today.   In his third season as the Raptors’ head coach, Mitchell totalled 389 points, including 49 first-place votes, from a panel of 128 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan was second with 301 points (39 first-place votes) and the Dallas Mavericks’ Avery Johnson was third with 268 points (28 first-place votes). Coaches were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote received.   Mitchell, the first coach in Raptors history to receive the honour, led the Raptors to their first Atlantic Division title, a franchise-record-tying 47 wins, and home court advantage in the playoffs for the first time in team history. The sixth head coach in franchise history, Mitchell guided the team to an NBA-best 20-game improvement (27-55) over the 2005-06 season. The Raptors were 30-7 this season when they scored 100 or more points and 38-4 when they had a better (or same) field goal percentage than their opponents.

In January, Mitchell became only the second coach in Raptors history to earn Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honours after leading the team to a 10-5 record. During the month, Toronto recorded a 7-3 mark at home and was 8-2 versus Eastern Conference opponents. January was the Raptors’ first 10-win month since January 2002 (11-5) and the fifth double-digit win month in franchise history. The Raptors finished January leading the Atlantic Division by one game with a 23-23 record and then compiled a 24-12 record to close out the rest of the season.   During his 13-year playing career, Mitchell was held in high regard around the league as a student of the game and when he finally hung up his sneakers in 2002, he went from student to teacher in his new role as an NBA coach. Following two seasons as an assistant coach, Mitchell was named the Raptors’ sixth head coach on June 29, 2004. Although the Raptors finished 33-49 in Mitchell’s first season, the campaign under his direction was highlighted by the implementation of a more up-tempo style of play that saw the team’s points per game average increase by 14.3 over the previous season, the third-highest jump in NBA history.   The Coach of the Year Award is named after legendary coach and Hall of Famer Red Auerbach who guided the Celtics to nine NBA Championships. In 1996, Auerbach was honoured as one of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA History as the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Following are the balloting results for the 2006-07 NBA Coach of the Year award and the all-time list of winners:

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes: Gone, But Not Forgotten

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 20, 07) The short life and fast times of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes will be on display when with"VH1 Rock Docs: Last Days Of Left Eye" premiering May 19 at 9 PM ET/PT. VH1 goes behind the scenes and digs deep in paying homage to the hip-pop artist who fronted the 1990s supergroup TLC before her untimely death five years ago in a tragic car accident. According to a network spokesperson, the Lauren Lazin-directed documentary is filled with exclusive and never before seen footage captures the final month of her life. "She documented her final days in journals and private home movies shot at her spiritual retreat deep in the jungle of Honduras," the rep confirmed. "During this month Lisa reflected on her triumphs and mistakes with an eye towards the spiritual transformation she so desperately sought." At the time of her death, Lopes, 31, was estranged from group members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas. She was embarking on a fledgling solo career and was professionally linked to the beleaguered Death Row Records empire, helmed by Suge Knight.

TLC, formed in 1991 in Atlanta was signed to LaFace Records and produced by super-hit-maker Dallas Austin. With hit singles such as 'What About Your Friends,' 'Baby -Baby- Baby,' 'Creep,' 'Red Light Special,' and 'Waterfalls,' the trio became the biggest selling girl group of all times. Lopes's personal life was just as much of the TLC story as their success.  From the torching of her football star boyfriend Andre Rison's mansion and her substance abuse to her very public challenge to fellow group members to compete with solo projects, there was never a dull moment with her liverly and sometimes bawdy spirit.

Nas Puts Rap Through Rehab

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(April 19, 2007) As time goes on, it seems no musical genre is as chronically prone to negative assessment of itself as hip hop. For a large, vocal number of MCs, both veteran and ascendant, moaning about the state of rap music on record and in the press has become an almost de rigueur part of hip-hop culture – and not without reason, given the preponderance of mush-mouthed poseurs with nothing to say who've come to dominate the North American pop landscape.  Queens, N.Y., native
Nas is one of an increasingly rare breed of rapper who combines commercial potency and mainstream recognition with the limber wordplay and storytelling skills so venerated by his peers and more thoughtful hip-hop heads. So when he rather boldly titled his latest album Hip Hop is Dead last year as a public lament for the creative stagnation imposed by the corporate control of the rap industry, the soul-searching common to the hip-hop underground cracked wider than ever. Nas – a.k.a. 33-year-old Queensbridge escapist Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones – hasn't given up on the genre he's been enriching with his informed, ever-evolving and increasingly, self-consciously mature microphone skills since he got his first break dropping verses with Toronto outfit Main Source 16 years ago. And he did his part to rehabilitate rap in ripping style at Kool Haus on Tuesday night, laying down a no-frills set of catalogue standards and fightin'-trim new material for 2,200 worshipful fans (including Toronto rapper/songwriter k-os and Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff) that proved beats, rhymes and style, not bullet-riddled biographies and easy club hooks, are still the keys to hip-hop transcendence.

Performing solo on a white-lit stage bare but for a truncated "Hip Hop is Dead" banner, a lone bouquet of funeral-home flowers and a DJ set-up that resembled a casket, Nas had the room frothing in similar, boisterous appreciation for newer cuts like "Carry On Tradition," "Hustlers" and "Black Republican" (during which the crowd enthusiastically subbed in for sparring partner Jay-Z) and such never-die classics from the Illmatic era as "Represent" and "It Ain't Hard to Tell."  Scene-stealers like the massive "Made You Look," "Hate Me Now" and the wistful "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" were deftly folded into a set list that arced thoughtfully between the guns-blazin' cockiness of youth and more contemplative, stock-taking material like "One Mic," which keyed up from-the-stage wishes for racial unity and a reminder to consider that you only get one ride through life before you commit to the "ready to die" gangsta fantasies of commercial hip hop.  It was heartening to see an MC of Nas's stature singing the virtues of growing up while still embracing his past and delving into it with uncommon passion. The point was made: to survive as a creative force, hip hop cannot be one-dimensional, just as a human being must exist in a constant state of self-examination to reach his or her full potential. Stillmatic, indeed.

A Vancouverite Illuminates Our Continual Struggles With Life Choices And Identity

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Jessica Warner

U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life?
by Bruce Grierson
Raincoast, 352 pages, $24.95

(April 22, 2007) We can all name someone who has changed horses in mid-stream. The most famous is Paul of Tarsus. One day he was persecuting Christians; the next day he was one of them. Malcolm X surprised everyone when he converted to Islam. Stephen Harper would like us to believe that he has pulled a U-turn of his own, finally seeing the light on global warming – while the one U-turn you can count on is the one he will pull if he ever gets a majority.  These about-faces, most of them occurring at midlife, are the subject of
Bruce Grierson's newest book. The book's jacket promises a virtuoso performance, that the phenomenon will be examined "from all angles." Grierson, a Vancouver-based journalist, more than delivers. Indeed, this is quite possibly the most ecumenical book I have ever read, for it draws on an almost bewildering range of sources – literature, psychology, philosophy, religion, neuroscience, good movies, bad movies and an unspecified number of interviews with people who have chucked one thing for another.

The millions of baby boomers who find themselves in the throes of a midlife crisis will find ready succour in this book. For make no mistake: Grierson thinks that logic is overrated, and that the people who defy it by pulling a U-turn are to be admired. They are more spiritual and more in touch with themselves than the rest of us. They are braver and smarter. They are, in short, "extravagantly alive, and often wise and deeply attuned to the ground shifting beneath the feet of all of us." Could you or someone you know be one of these extraordinary people? You could be if you are male, middle-aged and have enough money and smarts to cushion your fall. One, a former stockbroker, cashed in his chips and moved his family to Tenerife, where, as Grierson rhapsodizes, "they found a little farmhouse with a view of the mountains and the sea, and the kids would learn Spanish, and every vestige of the tension-flush of trader's sunburn would leave his place." Nice work if you can get it. But don't bother applying if you're a woman. My hopes of chucking it all were dashed when I read that I don't have the right temperament (not extreme enough), that "men are yang, after all, to women's yin," and that biology has already foreordained my U-turns, from "woman to mother, achiever to caregiver."

What begins as a book about midlife crises ends as something much grander: a call for each of us to undertake a spiritual renewal and let the chips fall where they may. How sad that "No great geniuses have emerged to shepherd the benighted masses to a new understanding of how to be in the world." A certain defensiveness can be detected in Grierson's lament that this enterprise is "considered just so much screwing around on the margins," the "refuge of the ethereal, the eccentric, and the damaged." The reader is to be forgiven for wondering whether this really is a job for the "best and the brightest" when the "world, ideologically speaking, is a vast, multivalent freeway system, people urgently driven toward what they're urgently driven toward." Or when it all boils down to a few simple rules: The way to some measure of peace and happiness is not so mysterious. Consider the interests of others as equivalent to your own, and act accordingly. The notion is that, in the end, it's not what you acquire, or what you learn, or even what you believe: It's how you live your life that will save you. These pearls come after the reader has been taken on a long and often meandering journey, meeting William James, Nietzsche, Albert Schweitzer, Aristotle and the Buddha along the way. The list is actually much longer than that, but the names and sequence hardly matter, for the centuries, cultures and philosophies that separate them are simply willed away, lost in a New Age haze of good will and universalism.

It is perhaps just as well that the U-turns Grierson thinks so highly of are much more common south of the border than they are here. Many have made the world a better place. Julia Hill, the businesswoman who gave up everything to become a radical environmentalist, is one example. Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, is another. But let's assume, on a hunch, that to follow one's inner voice at all times and regardless of the cost is folly. George W. Bush, whose own U-turn came upon turning 40, does that to this day, and our world is a far more dangerous place for it. Now if you will excuse me, I have an urgent need to reread Candide.

Jessica Warner is the author of The Incendiary: the Misadventures of John the Painter and Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason.


Third Time Out, It's Feist In Charge

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Arts & Craft

(April 24, 2007) The indie-girl urchin gets cleaned up and classy, her hair in an updo on the cover of her new album,
The Reminder. The shadowed portrait presents (Leslie) Feist as a remote chanteuse with a hint of aloofness. Is this where she's at? Has she upped the Euro lounge of 2004's luminous Let it Die? After all, that hit album, like this follow-up, was recorded in Paris, chic's head office. Turns out Feist, maturing into a deft songwriter and sublimely breathy vocalist, has made a record that is deceptively earthy, deliberate and surprising in its arrangements. The Reminder, out May 1, has haunting piano ballads, rock tunes, geography as metaphor, one killer guitar solo, tweeting birds, unexpected horns and one harp. And Feist? She's not as aloof as she is poised, calmly dissecting the ways of relationships. "I'm sorry, two words I always think after you're gone/ when I realize I was acting all wrong." That's her, as the bossa nova Brenda Lee on the opening So Sorry. It's a gorgeous track -- it would be the least awkward mingling among the cosmopolitan crowd of Let it Die. A wiser woman knows more than she knew before on I Feel it All, which rocks, but not all out (Chrissie Hynde trying not to wake the neighbours). First single My Moon My Man uses the head-bopping piano rhythm of Soft Cell's Tainted Love to get to a catchy, soft-voiced chorus where restraint is advised: "Take it slow, take it easy on me."

A subtle obsession with geography and natural elements (oceans divide on So Sorry; clouds part on the Dinah Ross-ready The Limit to Your Love) is full blown on The Water. A mountain is majestic, but with rocky sides; an ocean is a terror by its sheer size alone. Poetic and slightly lit by vibraphone, Feist is at her nuanced emotive best on this track. For her worst, hear the final song, How My Heart Behaves, a maudlin duet with Eirik Glambek Boe of Kings of Convenience. We call this her third solo album, but Feist's a happy collaborator. For The Reminder, she gathered her road-tested band together with beat-boxing soulster Jamie Lidell, somebody named "Mocky" and pianist/producer/long-time chum Chilly Gonzalez. It may have been nicely communal, recording in that French manor house, but if you've seen her perform live, you know Feist is the captain. You know she's in charge of the rousing traditional chant Sea Lion Woman (although I'm not sure who gets credit for the wild blues riff). And you know that she's the one setting up the vocal loops for Honey Honey. As good as it sounds on the living-room speakers or the iPod, The Reminder is bound to be better live. Feist plays Victoria, May 15; Vancouver, May 16; Edmonton, May 18; Calgary, May 19; Regina, May 22; Winnipeg, May 23; Toronto, May 25 and 26; Ottawa, May 31; Montreal, June 1; Quebec City, June 2.

Avril Lavigne's In A Much Happier Place Than The Lyrics On Her New Album

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Karen Bliss, Special To The Star

(April 20, 2007) You might not know it from the light, pop-punk sound of her smash hit single "Girlfriend," but
Avril Lavigne thinks she has a more mature sound these days.  "I think now because I'm older and I've been singing longer, I have more control over my voice and I think I'm a better singer," says Lavigne, the 22-year-old Napanee native, who now lives in Los Angeles with husband Deryck Whibley of Canadian rock band Sum 41. She's just released her third album, The Best Damn Thing, and says her singing has grown up since she hit the big time with "Complicated" before she hit her 18th birthday. "When I listen back to my first record, my voice is a little bit more weak, and now it's stronger.  "But if I get off a tour and go directly into the studio my voice is so strong, but I notice taking time off and then going into the studio, at first I was like, `Ahhh. How do I ...?' It was weird. But I'm really good with not having to warm up. I don't cool down. I've never taken voice lessons. I do all the bad things – I'll be hung over and I can sing great, whereas some people can't," she says with a laugh. Whibley, whose band has just completed its fourth full-length album, Underclass Hero (due July 24), is the opposite, she says playfully.  "Yeah, he won't eat dairy and he won't have an air-conditioner on. He won't do all this stuff and I do everything. I don't think about anything. I'll wake up and sing early in the morning and he can't."

Lavigne, whose first two albums, 2001's Let Go and 2004's Under My Skin, have sold a combined 23 million copies worldwide, got married last July and then went into the studio in August for the next five months, working separately with four different producers, Dr. Luke, Butch Walker, Rob Cavallo and Whibley. "I started off with Butch," begins Lavigne. "We did `The Best Damn Thing' and `When You're Gone' and a couple of other ones.  "I'd written a bunch of songs with Evan (Taubenfeld, her former guitarist), but because Evan doesn't produce, I gave two of them to Deryck to do and I gave one of them to Rob Cavallo, and then Luke and I wrote songs together and he produced the songs we did." The result is a mix of clear, sing-out ballads and nuanced, faster, fun attitude-laden rock. It displays her more mature vocal range on the power ballad, "When You're Gone" and ability to play a character as the pissed off angry lie detector in "Everything Back But You."  On the title track, Lavigne borders not necessarily on a rap vocal, but a rhythmical spoken style. And even in "Girlfriend," the way she says "whatever" has a snarky tone, not that the rest of the lyric, about trying to steal another girl's man, isn't bratty enough. And in "I Can Do Better" she spits, "I'm sick of this shit don't Deny/You're a waste of time."  "You mean the different characters and things? Yeah, that happens because I get so into it when I sing," says Lavigne. "I sing really quickly. I only ever do a couple of takes and then I'm done. All my producers are like, `Oh my God, you don't understand, this is so crazy. I've never worked with anyone like that.' Everyone tells me that it's very rare, which is cool. "A lot of it is that I'm so prepared because I actually write the song and I create the song, so when I do go in the studio, when I do sing it, I know exactly what I'm doing. It's not like I have to learn the song and figure it out." Lavigne dealt with a break-up during the making of Under My Skin and also mourned the death of her grandfather on the song "Slipped Away," but now she's in a much happier place, so the sometimes crazy lyrics of hurt, betrayal and arrogance are just made-up stories for the fun of it. "A lot of the stuff on this record's not literal," says Lavigne. "That's kind of what I like about this record, too. It's not like a diary, like my last records, especially my last one had all these feelings and emotions I was going through. This one mostly is just stuff. It's just fun topics. It's not serious at all."

A PhD in DJing

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(April 19, 2007) Mix ivory tower and speaker tower and you might get
DJ Amita, a.k.a. Amita Handa. That's Doctor Amita Handa. Drop the typical DJ image as little more than hard-partying, groove-generating butt busters. Handa has a PhD in sociology, and she is not shy about linking cultural insight and a dance-floor high. Handa is one of the city's musical pioneers. She and DJ Zara – a lawyer by day – breathed fresh beats into Toronto's predictable gay club scene when they launched their Funkasia nights a few years ago. It was out with Madonna and in with a Bollywood, bhangra, calypso, house and techno blend.  England long ago discovered the pleasures of hearing Indian-fusion music on the dance floor. Toronto, with nearly half a million people with cultural roots in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, is catching on. Handa was bitten by the bug in the early '90s, when a family friend from England introduced her to South Asian dance music. "She took me to Gerrard St. (Little India) and bought me four tapes of the `in' music."

The budding DJ then went to alternative FM radio station CKLN to pitch a monthly show on which to showcase these sounds. "They gave me two hours every Saturday (Masala Mixx, from 4 to 6 p.m.), and I only had four tapes to start," says Handa. "People started coming out of the woodwork after that." Handa says her main influences included Birmingham, England's Apache Indian, who mixed reggae and dancehall with bhangra and Bollywood. The DJ mainly uses other people's remixes. "But I do throw in traditional songs, upbeat ones. I do it more than other DJs." Handa, who published the book Of Silk Saris and Mini-Skirts: South Asian Girls Walk the Tightrope of Culture in 2003, based on her doctoral thesis, is happy to see Indian fusion making the mainstream. She plays a lot of Indian weddings. In the beginning, there was a gap between younger people and their parents, who were reluctant to accept the new music. "Now, everyone will dance on the dance floor." Handa says much of the acceptance come from movies: "It's mostly due to Bollywood mixing in dance/techno beats." The DJ is part of an all-dance night to close the South Asian Music Festival on May 18 at Dragonfly on Queen St. W. The headline spinner is Karsh Kale, from New York City. Handa had a chance to interview him for Masala Mixx when he visited Harbourfront a couple of years ago. "We talked a lot about sense of identity and how that plays out in music," she says. That doesn't sound like your run-of-the-mill DJ dialogue.

Out Of The Rock Arena And Into The Jazz Bar

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(April 25, 2007) Look over the nominees for the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, and a couple names are likely to ring bells with an unlikely audience: rock fans. Up for best female vocalist, album of the year and best composition is Molly Johnson, the Toronto-based singer who originally made her name singing with the rock bands Alta Moda and Infidels. The other rock-friendly name is guitarist and singer Rik Emmett, who, although best remembered as one third of Triumph, is vying Friday for honours in the categories guitarist of the year and album of the year (he shares the latter nod with guitarist Dave Dunlop for their collaboration Strung-Out Troubadours). Nor are Emmett and Johnson the only former rockers who have taken up a new career in jazz. Guitarist Randy Bachman, of Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive fame, just released his second jazz album, Jazz Thing II, while slide guitar prodigy Jeff Healey left rock for trad jazz years ago, releasing three jazz albums and broadening his instrumental arsenal to include trumpet and clarinet. What's curious about this move from rock to jazz is that it seems a largely Canadian trend. Singers ranging from Linda Ronstadt to Rod Stewart have recorded albums of pre-rock standards. But such efforts have no more marked a change in career than Michael Bolton's opera album did. But the Canadian rockers who have taken the jazz tack really seem committed to the change, which raises the question: Why?

"Well, there are guys that are players, and I've been lucky in my life that I've had the sort of reputation that allowed me to be in that camp," Emmett says over the phone from his Toronto-area studio. "But by the same token, I've always thought of myself as a singer/songwriter, and that may be more of a Canadian kind of thing. "We're the culture that have the Joni Mitchells and the Bruce Cockburns and the Gordie Lightfoots and the Neil Youngs. And no matter what style it ends up being, at core it's a singer/songwriter kind of culture. Maybe Americans don't even get that as much, which may be why some things don't export as well as they should." He cites Bachman as an example of "one of the first role-model kind of guys from the Canadian rock scene," and points out that even in his pop material, there was enough in the way of "jazz chords" to make a change of genre seem more natural. "This is way over-generalizing, but as you get older you do tend to gravitate toward jazz, because it is a more sophisticated form," he adds. "So from the artist's point of view - and I think that artists are the kind of people who are constantly kicking their own ass and saying, I have to push myself to do something fresh and to challenge myself - they're bound to end up moving into different styles." For Emmett, the trick hasn't been moving into a different style so much as maintaining parallel careers in several kinds of music. A gifted and versatile guitarist, he's as at home playing jazz chords on acoustic guitar as he is blasting rock with an electric (indeed, he's probably the only smooth jazz guitarist in the world with his own signature model Dean Flying V guitar). "I'm still active, with one foot in one camp, another foot in another, my elbow in another, my ear in another." He laughs. "I'm playing Twister here."

But as Emmett points out, he's hardly alone in following the path from stadium rock to smooth jazz, for a number of his old fans have done the same thing. "People that were smoking dope and having fun and being young - now they've got kids and mortgages and are driving Volvos," he says. "They want a soundtrack for their own life, and what suits that life? So [smooth jazz] is lifestyle music, as opposed to the music that you worship when you're a kid and you join whatever club it is that you're joining by the shoes that you buy and the haircut you get. "What's funny to see is, as the boomers get older now and their kids are moving out, this whole thing of lifestyle and culture does become important to them again," he adds. "It's like they do come back to the music in a real, strong, branding kind of way, and this smooth jazz stuff really suits that to a huge extent. It's like, we're going to go out, we'll have a really nice dinner, a couple of bottles of wine, and then we're going to go to the show. And we're going to see this kind of music, because this is the kind of music that makes us feel good. "It kind of makes me chuckle that there are all these things like the Smooth Jazz Cruise. But it's about lifestyle - about taking cruises and wearing nice clothes and drinking nice booze." The 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards take place Friday in Hammerson Hall at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga (905-306-6000).

Fresh Face For Jazz Fest

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 25, 2007)  The
TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival is sporting a fresh new face for its 21st season.  Organizers of the event, which runs June 22 to July 1, unveiled the full lineup yesterday, as well as the signature motif to appear on the cover of the festival's program, along with posters and T-shirts. The sleek, monochromatic image by 26-year-old, in-house designer Dragan Grubesic replaces the funky caricatures commissioned since the late '90s from veteran Toronto artist Barbara Klunder.  "We're always looking for a younger audience and we want to give the next generation an opportunity," explained executive producer Patrick Taylor, noting that the average age of attendees at the 10-day bash is now 38, down from 56 five years ago. That desire seems to be reflected in the schedule, which ranks up and comers such as 13-year-old Montreal sensation Nikki Yanofsky and critically acclaimed 31-year-old Sean Lennon (son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) alongside over-65 masters such as Mavis Staples, Dick Hyman, Freddy Cole and Jean-Luc Ponty.

(Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck also appear, performing in the previously announced piano series.) The festival is primarily comprised of relatively youthful, experienced players such as Chris Botti, Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Holly Cole, Mike Stern, Louise Pitre, Derek Trucks, Vijay Iyer, Don Byron and Delfeayo Marsalis. However, neither individual age nor name matters in the festival's exciting slate of ensembles. Among them, the kick-off of the reunion tour of jazz fusion band Manteca; the first Toronto appearances by Trio Beyond and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood; and the only Canadian date for the United Trombone Summit featuring Fred Wesley, Slide Hampton, Steve Turre and Wycliffe Gordon. In addition to a free outdoor stage at Nathan Phillips Square, the festival is utilizing several new venues: Opal Jazz Lounge, Live@Courthouse and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. It's returning to old favourite the Savoy (formerly the Top O' the Senator jazz club) for a cabaret series. It is also welcoming its first performer from China: Coco Zhao, dubbed a "male Billie Holiday." Tickets are available at 416-870-8000 or www.ticketmaster.com. For the full schedule visit www.torontojazz.com.

Russell Simmons And Hsan Issue Rap Guidelines

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 23, 2007) *EUR has received a statement from the Hip-
Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) that outlines its recommendations to the recording and broadcast industries in light of the recent discussion of derogatory words in rap lyrics.  The statement comes from Russell Simmons and Ben Chavis on behalf of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network: The theme of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) is "Taking Back Responsibility." We are consistent in our strong affirmation, defence, and protection of the First Amendment right of free speech and artistic expression. We have recently been involved in a process of dialogue with recording and broadcast industry executives about issues concerning corporate social responsibility.  It is important to re-emphasize that our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship. Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African Americans and other people of color, African American women and to all women in lyrics and images. HSAN reaffirms, therefore, that there should not be any government regulation or public policy that should ever violate the First Amendment. With freedom of expression, however, comes responsibility. With that said, HSAN is concerned about the growing public outrage concerning the use of the words "bitch," "ho," and "nigger." We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words "bitch" and "ho" and the racially offensive word "nigger."

Going forward, these three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as "extreme curse words." The words "bitch" and "ho" are utterly derogatory and disrespectful of the painful, hurtful, misogyny that, in particular, African American women have experienced in the United States as part of the history of oppression, inequality, and suffering of women. The word "nigger" is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression, and multiple forms of racism against African Americans and other people of color.  In addition, we recommend the formation of a music industry Coalition on Broadcast Standards, consisting of leading executives from music, radio and television industries. The Coalition would recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards within the industries.  We also recommend that the recording industry establish artist mentoring programs and forums to stimulate effective dialogue between artists, hip-hop fans, industry leaders and others to promote better understanding and positive change. HSAN will help to coordinate these forums. These issues are complex, but require creative voluntary actions exemplifying good corporate social responsibility.

Dr. Cornel West Is Black At It Again!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(April 25, 2007) *The phenomenon of Hip-Hop music has been the proverbial scapegoat for all things despicable within urban centers across the nation since at least the late 70s.  At the time, block parties were all the rage in cities up and down the east coast from New York City to Philadelphia to Baltimore and all stops in between. Even then community activists felt this form of music was detrimental because its only discernable attribute was the celebration of the party atmosphere.  But the foundation of Hip-Hop was more than just that. It was about peace, unity, love and having fun. Back then there was no talk of guns and drugs. No one can say for certain why, but perhaps it was because Hip-Hop is another form of poor people music like jazz and rock and roll before it.  Fast forward to the 21st century and we find Hip-Hop and R&B are under fire more so than ever.

To the uneducated outsider it appears to be only about celebrating our most deplorable and vial instincts. In communities where brotherhood should be celebrated, we have rappers telling the youth to get ahead by stepping on and destroying anyone in their way and R&B artists celebrating sex without consequence. When a rapper is cornered on the question of celebrating death, he whines and cops out with the 'oh, I'm just trying to make a living.' When the label is approached they speak of Constitutional Rights and not wanting to stifle creativity. The video music channels react in the very same manner. Thinking the consumer to be stupid and myopic, the two latter entities want us to believe there is no one out there that is both positive, creative and, dare we say it, dope enough to be played on the radio and video stations to even things out.  The sad truth is that sex sells and has sold since the time of guy whose work you may have read, William Shakespeare. Talk about violent! But unlike some record labels, Hidden Beach Recordings is always ahead of the curve. The label's top artist Jill Scott is successful and is plenty positive and creative in an R&B genre where "take off ya draws" is considered poetic. But can Hidden Beach's Steve McKeever inject the same amount of energy into Hip-Hop?

If Princeton University intellectual
Cornel West and his brother Clifton have anything to say about it, yes! The West brothers, along with Nas, Prince, dead prez, the late Gerald Levert, Krs-One, Talib Kweli and others, are trying to plant a seed. A seed of positive creativity that has long been choked by the weeds of big business. Titled "Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations," the work, scheduled to be released this June (Black Music Month), actually delves into R&B as well as Hip-Hop. Since one of the CD's major contributors named his recent album "Hip-Hop Is Dead," we asked Dr. West what he felt the state of the often maligned genre is.  "I believe he (Nas) wanted to spark a substantive discussion about which way Hip-Hop was going." said Dr. West. "It is such a complicated genre with so many tendencies and I think he was saying the dominant stream is betraying the origins of Hip-Hop. So, in a sense, it's dead, but he (Nas) is not part of the worst of Hip-Hop. In fact he represents the very best of Hip-Hop in his mind and in my mind. So, to the degree that he is still going and to the extent that KRS-One and many others are still going it is still alive. But there is a dulling and deadening that has set in and he's very much right about that. Because in the end it's not just about the music. It has always been a way of life for young folks. So if you're talking about Hip-Hop is dead then you're really talking about the dead souls of Black folks. Hopelessness, self-violation, self-destruction, self-flagellation. Is that what we're saying? That's a much stronger claim. Much more is at stake here." Unlike so many other Black intellectuals, Dr. West refuses to let lazy artists off the hook. He told EUR's Lee Bailey that he is doing this because Black music, the very salt and pepper of American culture, is too important. He feels this work may be just the elixir needed for Black music.  "It is a significant awakening with a number of Black voices across the generations coming together and saying that Black music is too important for us to allow it to be bastardized in this way. I hope that awakening will then generate a whole host of CDs. What I would like to see is like 50 CDs coming out in the next year that are wrestling with these same issues. Taking it to higher levels in their own way. I think this music has a chance of being quite historic." Within the halls of academia Dr. Cornel West is a somewhat of a polarizing figure. Either people like him, or they simply do not. But in the entertainment industry Dr. West has been getting love from some of the top artists in music for quite some time.

"Prince invited me out to Paisley Park about 4 years ago to give a lecture," said West. "and also he called me when he received a Lifetime Achievement Award (NAACP Image Awards) told me he wanted me to introduce him. I told him I didn't know him very well but I love and respect him, and he said 'no, you're a wonderful person and you have to introduce me'. So, I was in Germany with my little girl and had to fly out here (Los Angeles) and introduce him, then fly back to Princeton to teach my class the next day. Like so many of our great artists, he had a depth to him. He reminds me of Coltrane and Marsalis who were all shaped by not only suffering but creative response to that suffering." The importance of a musical note, tone or voice placed together to bring joy is what music can be. Dr. West says it can also be used to build bridges between cultures as was the case with Jazz so many years ago. But does modern Hip-Hop build bridges or feed in to predetermined stereotypes? "I think any time a people is honest enough to examine themselves and there by reaffirm their humanity it serves as a bridge between that group and other people. Brown, Red, Jewish and what have you. And if you're viewing yourself in a White supremacist way, then you're not a good candidate for coalition. But if you're affirming yourself in a deeper way then you're ready for substantive coalition. So I think that it is no accident that Talib Kweli, KRS-One and others are most open to building bridges with Brown on this album rather than taking a mainstream way which often engages in White supremacist stereotypes of Brown and others. We don't have any Brown voices (on this album), but a number of White brothers that have come forward," West added.

Dr. West continued by stating one must love oneself in order to love others fully. So, is that the true reason why the poorest people are often the most bigoted? Dr. West expanded on that idea by stating: "Part of it is about that old Christian view 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' You see, if you miss out on that part then you end up loving things about your neighbour that reflect your own self hatred. When you love yourself you are then a candidate for embracing another group of humanity on the deepest level."  Will "Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations" go platinum? You never know, but hopefully the offering with spark that ethereal flame that lies in wait deep inside some aspiring artist. Perhaps it can set in motion the idea that it is cool to love humanity or perhaps it can be a great addition to an expansive album collection. Popular Black music in general, Hip-Hop in particular, is not dead, but it is on life support. The West brothers and their incredible list of musical collaborators hope to begin the healing. How does one do that?  "The healing is all about remembering. When you're dismembered the body is broken apart and shattered. Remembering means simply to put it all back together to proceed. It is a very concrete aspect, people believe it is abstract but it's not," said Dr. West. "Never give up because you never know who is watching you. You never know where your purpose will lead you if you stay true to your purpose." You can listen to cuts from "Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations" at Dr. West's MySpace site: www.myspace.com/drcornelwest4bmwmb. Be sure and check out the sensational, funkafied cut  from the late Gerald Levert.

Ashford & Simpson: As 'Solid' As Ever

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 23, 2007)
Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson have still got "it." Seeing the dynamic duo shake their shimmy and serenade a captive audience to a string of hit songs they wrote, produced or sang in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was sheer joy. That was the scene at the world's famous Apollo Theater over the weekend as the Harlem landmark kicked off its eagerly anticipated Apollo Legends Series. Ashford & Simpson headlined the bill that also featured R&B diva Melba Moore as the opener. The crowd, as can be expected, was just as lively as the show -- and kept this chronicler in stitches during and in between a timeline of classic R&B songs. Moore, at 61, is looking better than ever and is a delight to watch on the stage.

The Tony Award winning star of hit Broadway shows such as 'Hair,' 'Timbuktu,' and 'Purlie,' ran through a string of her most beloved tunes including 'Loves Comin' at Ya,' 'You Stepped Into My Life,' and the R&B hit 'Falling.'

At one point -- in between her campy display of gut-busting octaves -- she reached down to drink an elixir (of some sort) out of a peculiarly packaged container. One orchestra section patron yelled out, "Put the beer can down, Melba," sending that section of the audience into a frenzy.  As she ran through the numbers, she offered up anecdotes of years of yore -- providing a nostalgic context to her musical legacy. She also let the audience in on a relatively unknown fact of how her and Ashford & Simpson met decades before -- all three sang jingles in New York City before making it big as music acts. Ashford & Simpson went on to write Ray Charles' chart topping hit 'Let's Get Stoned' and Moore went on to make her theatre debut. This show, their first performance together, represented a reunion of sorts. Before closing the show with her searing rendition of her 1970s ballad 'Lean on Me,' Moore -- whose life story reads like a soap opera script (living the high life, rising to fame, a messy divorce, destitution, etc.) -- paid homage to R&B hits of the early 80s, popularized by Evelyn "Champagne" King, Kashif, Me'Lisa Morgan, McFadden & Whitehead and Freddie Jackson. Back in the 1980's, Moore played a hand in the success of the aforementioned artists -- by either c0-managing them, or the producers/writers of their songs. It's a fact she shared with her audience.

And the main attraction was just that: The Main Attraction. Ashford & Simpson proved through and through that they've stood the test of time, just as their treasure trove of classic R&B staples suggest. From the dreamy 'It Seems to Hang On,' to a gutsy version of the Diana Ross 1979 hit 'The Boss,' the twosome kept their audience engaged throughout an hour-plus long, non-stop set. Ashford, who is reportedly turning 65 next month, wasn't in his best voice -- he fought a cold -- but he pulled out all the stops like a true pro.  The way he introduces songs and recall poignant memories makes for masterful storytelling.  Case in point: After shimmying through a few mid-tempo numbers with his better half, the Fairfield, South Carolina native stripped down into what looked like a criss-crossed layered tank-top, accentuated by gaucho/genie pants. He wanted to offer the fellas in the audience the secret to keeping a good woman like Simpson (they've been together for over 40 years). He broke out into a version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' signature track 'I Put A Spell On You,' that would resurrect Nina Simone.  Simpson, who possesses the vocal dexterity of Cissy Houston in her prime, is a marvel to watch in her own right. She not only matched her longtime partner in rhyme note- for-note, but also in costume: a frilly, two piece, with a slit that left little to the imagination (watch out Beyonce) and accentuating the hips. It was done up in three shades of green. She wore it well, too.  With legs of steel like Tina Turner, Simpson, at 61, put some of those other broads to shame.

The Bronx native, who took over the piano duties from musical conductor Nathaniel Adderly, Jr. for their Motown medley, also did a rousing version of 'I'm Every Woman' --written by Ashford for Chaka Khan.  'Send It,' 'Found A Cure,' 'Street Corner' and 'Is it Still Good to You' were some of their other favourites that had the near-capacity audience moving and grooving -- like if they were out at a free summer concert in Brooklyn. Their final number, 'Solid,' was a throw down tour-de-force with Ashford encouraging audience participation during the ad-libbed verses 'Brick by brick. We're gonna make it stick." The song is symbolic of their life-long legacy, and best sums up the show. Overall, the first night of Apollo Legends turned out to be a memorable evening of sophisticated R&B, done up by two of the most talented acts of their respective era.

The Clark Sisters: Back On Top

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 24, 07) Legendary gospel quarter The Clark Sisters have a reason to be happy this week:  They're not only sitting atop of the 'Billboard' gospel chart with their new reunion project, but they have also been announced as recipients of a prestigious industry honour. Recorded at Houston's eminent George Brown Convention Center last year, 'Live ... One Last Time' features production by gospel visionary Donald Lawrence. Released on the EMI Gospel label, the critically acclaimed opus debuted in the No. 1 spot on the "Top Gospel Albums" chart. And to add to the glory, the well-known Detroit siblings -- comprised of Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark Terrell, Jacky Clark Chisholm, Dorinda Clark Cole and Karen Clark Sheard-- will receive the President's Merit Award at the 2007 GRAMMY Salute To Gospel event on June 8 in that nation's capital.

In keeping with its tradition of honouring artistic excellence, The Recording Academy will spotlight the genre by celebrating the most respected members of the gospel community during the event to be held at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C.  Grammy Award winning artists Dr. Bobby Jones and Michael W. Smith will join the Gospel Music Hall of Fame members (who helped crossover the genre to the mainstream with their 1983 char-topper 'You Brought the Sunshine') as this year's honourees. According to a rep, the event will include performances from gospel, contemporary Christian and contemporary artists under the leadership of Lawrence. The GRAMMY Salute To Gospel Music event began in 2004 to honour those who have made significant contributions to gospel music, while supporting the history and importance of the genre.  Past honourees include Shirley Caesar, Andraé Crouch, Richard Smallwood and Albertina Walker.

Understated, Mayer Not Bad After All

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

John Mayer
At the Air Canada Centre
In Toronto on Tuesday

(Apr. 19, 07) 'This isn't as bad as I thought it would be." The seats were full at the Air Canada Centre, but not everyone in the arena was a fan of
John Mayer. He's a performer who dabbles in blues guitar and majors in adorability, and his charisma is noticed more by young women than the ball cap-wearing coat-holders who accompany them. One such gentleman, who came prepared to roll his eyes upward at the first precious singer-songwriter moment, seemed won over halfway through the show. The chagrined chap, sitting directly behind a reporter who shared his reservations, let his lady friend know that the pretty man on stage wasn't so bad after all, and that something like the graceful falsetto funk of Vultures was okay by him.

Young Mayer, who earned the first of five Grammy awards in 2004 for the single Your Body is a Wonderland, has always courted skepticism, mostly for his unoriginality. Making his debut as a boy next door (to the house of Dave Matthews), Mayer has crafted images along the way. He rather unabashedly sponges off his influences -- in his songwriting, singing and guitar playing. If he borrows politely from Daryl Hall or Sting, he picks the pocket of Journeyman-era Eric Clapton and outright grave-robs the late-career soul blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan (particularly the scrunched-face vocals). It would be a nice thing to say that Mayer incorporates the heroes to develop his own style.  Appearing with a five-piece band and occasional horns, the New Yorker was greeted by a concert of screams and camera flashes. The first thing noticeable was good bone structure; he is prettier than Jessica Simpson, the blond singer and reality-television star who currently runs her fingers through Mayer's healthy mop of brown hair. Simpson, who accompanied Mayer on his recent tour of Australia, reportedly did not arrive with him at Pearson International on Monday.

The spotlight was literally on Mayer as he introduced himself with a bluesy electric solo before sliding into Belief, a soulful pop number from last year's Continuum that discourages the idea that any one group's devotion would defeat another's -- "We're never gonna win the world . . . if belief is what we're fighting for." The hit song Waiting on the World to Change was in the same vein. The set list stuck to melodic rock and a few cuddle-croon tunes. The riffy and optimistic Good Love is on the Way, with its catchy chorus and psychedelic guitar break, was one of the best of the former. On the calm arena-rock of This Will All Make Perfect Sense Someday and others, the young, female portion of the audience sang right along with Mayer, who more than once praised the amateur choir for its work. Mayer displayed little of his notorious ego. Prior to the slow-soul restraint of Gravity, he thanked the crowd, noting that being able to make music for a career was "amazing in the first place," but to have such fans was "just getting silly." For a performer who is known to be a bit much, Mayer was understated. The encore version of Your Body is a Wonderland was undersized, and his Vaughan-aping shenanigans over all were missing. Last song I'm Gonna Find Another You ended in a scene-sharing guitar jam. Dude in the stands was right -- it wasn't that bad at all. John Mayer plays Ottawa tonight; London, Ont., on Saturday; Winnipeg, April 26, Edmonton, April 28; Calgary, April 29; and Vancouver, May 1.

Meet Laura Izibor: Soulful Sister Hails From Ireland

Source: edison@vibemusicmanagement.com | lucy@elemental-consulting.com 

(April 20, 2007) 19-year-old
Laura Izibor is already making waves that extend far beyond her native city Dublin, Ireland.  Only two years after taking up the piano at age 13, she entered Ireland's prestigious 2FM Song Contest, where she stunned observers by walking away with the main prize.  She's the winner of the 2006 Irish Meteor Awards (Ireland's Grammy Awards) "New Hope" category, making her the first unreleased artist to ever win or be nominated.  The songstress has drawn ecstatic comparisons from Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys to Sade. The acclaim has led to her being invited to share the stage with a variety of artists including Angie Stone, Jamie Cullum, The Roots and the late, great James Brown.  STREAMING AUDIO: Promo track "From My Heart To Yours" available and is already No.1 on the UK Urban Chart Galaxy FM -  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Now known as "The Soul of Ireland," Izibor is readying the release of her first Atlantic Records USA album, Let The Truth Be Told, which she also co-produced. Recorded in Dublin, New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia, the eagerly anticipated album is set for a 2007 release.  Izibor will perform her first industry showcase post-signing in N. America at MUSEXPO on Monday 30, April at 9:10PM at The Viper Room in West Hollywood.  Learn more here: www.myspace.com/lauraizibor

Jazz-Funksters Back After Two Years And Yes, They'll Play Spadina Bus

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 19, 2007) Count on the
Shuffle Demons to keep it interesting. When the quirky jazz-funk quintet play their first Toronto gig in two years at Lula Lounge next Tuesday they'll be amassing footage for a DVD about their 20-year journey from street musicians to purveyors of popular offbeat anthems such as "Spadina Bus" and "Cheese on Bread" to Guinness world record holders.  The band is setting up a Shuffle Demons speaker's corner onsite for fans to tell their personal stories of the group, which has spent the last couple of years touring China, India and Europe.  In that spirit we lobbed a few questions at members of the current ensemble, made up of saxists Richard Underhill, Kelly Jefferson and Perry White, drummer Stitch Wynston and bassist George Koller.

Q:        What was your most memorable Shuffle Demons show?

A:            Koller: I can think of three among so many great gigs: the (1992) Havana Jazz fest ... the joy of being around my musical heroes in a tropical setting, jamming all night long; breaking the Guinness world record in 2004 for the most saxes together at one time; all of the many European dates, especially the soft-seater tour of Holland with jugglers and comedians.

Q:        How can you spot a Demons groupie?

A:            Underhill: They often wear outlandish sunglasses, a beret or a crazy flowery shirt and dance at the front of the stage for the whole show. They'll have a made-up name: Demon CrazyLegs, Demon ShuffleDog, Demon Squigglebottom. They love the "Spadina Bus," walk around and leap out of their seats to follow us out of the door of the club into the streets where we play and dance, block traffic and create a ruckus. Most of them are 20-year card-carrying members of the Society of Streetniks. Long before the Internet, I used to put forms on tables and collect addresses to send info and membership cards to fans.

Q:        What is the most challenging SD song to play?

A:            Jefferson: "Spadina Bus," because we usually walk out into the audience, playing the entire time. Depending on the size of the crowd, it can take quite a long time to make it back to the stage. The highlight is Stitch doing his Demon Dance in the middle of a circle of audience members. It's usually quite festive and full of surprises. The challenge comes from laughing and playing saxophone at the same time!"

Wynston: "Gabi's Gimi Suit." It is very challenging rhythmically with its 6/8 groove and cross rhythms that are inherent in the groove as well as in the melody. It is also always a challenge to stretch out in the solos on the tune.

Q:        What do you remember about your first SD gig?

A:            Wynston: We started out as a street band entertaining passers-by at the corners of Yonge-Bloor and Yonge-Dundas Sts. One night (in 1984) we were busking in front of the Eaton Centre when a club owner in the crowd heard us and dug the band so much that he invited us to play at his venue, which was called Earl's Tin Palace, a now-defunct (thank heavens) pickup joint in the Eglinton/Mt. Pleasant corridor. Because of the nature of its clientele we not-so-affectionately referred to it as Earl's Skin Palace.

Needless to say, this turned out to be the mismatch of the century as the cougars did not find our atonal melodies, harmonies and rhythmic concepts to be conducive to their mating practices.

Q:        Who could play you in an SD biopic?

A:            Wynston: I have had some people tell me that I have a slight resemblance to Nicolas Cage.

Jefferson: A tie between John Cusack and Barney Rubble.

Koller: Jack Nicholson.

Underhill: William Shatner! Our Bill fits the bill perfectly: he's Canadian, devilishly handsome, has a great sense of humour, is accustomed to commanding a ragtag bunch of individuals that go on great adventures and always make it out alive, sings (sort of, see sense of humour) and even raps (see the movie Free Enterprise).  The main thing about Bill is that he's serious about not taking himself too seriously, and that sums me up perfectly.

Who: The Shuffle Demons
Where: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W.
When: Tuesday @ 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10 @ the door

Meet Sterling Simms: A New R&B Artist Worth Listening To

Source: Amina Elshahawi, ThinkTank Marketing, amina@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(April 23, 2007) Choosing classic soul auteurs Teddy Riley, New Edition and Brian McKnight as musical inspiration could have been imposing for some, but in the case of newcomer
Sterling Simms the truth is in the grooves.  Like the missing link between new jack swing and the current R&B scene, Sterling's debut disc is a welcome detour from the usual scenarios laid down by his contemporaries.  "My main goal while constructing my album was to create a different kind of soul album," the Philadelphia native explains. "I wanted to capture diverse sounds that I once jammed to on the radio when I was a kid."  The first single, "Jump Off" is the perfect introduction to Sterling's skills.  Be it the bedroom or the club, "Jump Off" can provide the soundtrack.  "Me and one of my writing partners Steve-O were in the studio one night, and "Jump Off" just flowed out of our pens," Sterling explains. "After he had penned the hook, all it took was forty-five minutes for us to complete the song." On songwriting, Sterling commented, "I think the best songs are those many people can relate. In all of my songs, whether written by me or others, I want to convey truthful experiences that will connect with the public." Perhaps the most stellar club track on Sterling's debut is the addictive "Worth Your While." Produced by the Cornerboys, the song became a Sterling favourite on first listen. "We had been in the studio for two days, but when I heard that beat, I knew I had to make it mine." Like the best of new jack swing, "Worth Your While" balances soul and hip-hop. "As soon as I heard it, I knew that record was the one."

Growing-up in Philadelphia, Sterling reflects, "There were times when I felt a little rebellious and just wanted to run away from it all."  "Between my mom and grandfather, who also wrote and composed music, I realized that this was to be my life."    After his grand-pa took a six-year-old Sterling to a recording studio for the first time, his future was sealed.  "To this day, whenever I write a song I dedicate it to my grand-pa. I feel like I'm living his dream." In addition to his childhood lessons, Sterling also performed in local theatre productions as well as scribbling song lyrics in his notebook. Moving from the city of brotherly love to Atlanta when he was fifteen proved to be a culture shock in more ways than one.  "I went from hanging in front of the corner store to eating chicken cheese steaks to eating fish and grits," Sterling jokes. "But, living in Atlanta was one of the best things for my music. I always tell people, Philly made me into a man, but Atlanta made me into an artist." The diversity of Sterling's artistry can be heard on track "Single." Opening with supple simplicity of an acoustic guitar before layering on keyboards and vocals, "Single" is the perfect anthem for those who feel those who feel tied down in a relationship. Reminding one of the balladry of Babyface, "Single" is not a break-up joint, but it's still far from a love song.  Produced and written with his creative team known as The Knightwritaz ("Because some of our best work is done after dark"), Sterling says, "The idea for that song came to me when I was dating a girl who just stressed me out. I would be in the studio working a session and she would be on the phone working my nerves. We're no longer together, so I suppose that song had something to do with it."

Back when Sterling was nineteen, before he had made any real contacts in the music business, Sterling was trying to perfect his craft as a singer/songwriter while slaving the day away at an ATL carwash. "There were these producers who worked at the shop named Mr. Fist and Diggie Don who were working with Lil Zane," Sterling says. "They were the first guys who took me seriously as an artist and gave me my first break."  Sterling penned a deal with Sony Records that later fell through. "Personally, I got tired of the ups and downs of trying to be an artist and decided to concentrate on just songwriting. For me, writing is the greatest therapy in the world. If I'm feeling tense, I can always sit down and pen a song. I know that'll make me feel better."  Forming the creative clique The Knightwritaz with six other writers, Sterling wrote songs for Mario and Tyrese. Sounding like an R&B version of the X-Men, Sterling explains, "With the Nightwriters, we feed off of each others energy as well as help each other out. We're all friends, but we also get the job done."  As luck would have it, one of Sterling's demos fell into the ears of another production company,” One Recordings."  Coincidentally, Ray Romulous, an up and coming Island Def Jam A&R executive, heard of Sterling and delivered his demo to "Antonio "L.A." Reid, Chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group.  "After all those years, the hard work had finally paid off," he laughs. After presenting Mr. Reid with fourteen songs, Sterling was signed to the label. "Working with "L.A." was a dream come true," says Sterling. "His track record as both an artist and executive speaks for itself." Laying it down hard with a voice soft as silk, Sterling's debut definitely shines.

If you're wondering what Sterling Simms sounds like, check out "Nasty Girl":

WM Hi:

Hear MORE of Sterling Simms' music at his MySpace page 

Drummer/Composer Harris Eisenstadt's 10-Year Immersion In Music Is Nothing If Not Eclectic

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(April 24, 2007) When Toronto's
Harris Eisenstadt went off to Maine's Colby College to start university in 1994, his focus was hockey and baseball, sports at which he had excelled. "Those were my passions," the 31-year-old drummer, percussionist, composer and educator recalled in a recent interview. "But when I got there, I did a total about-face. I realized these were not the kind of guys I could spend four years with."  Eager to pursue more intellectual challenges, Eisenstadt quit both teams in his first year, studied music and world literature, and picked up an old hobby, drums, which he had learned to play in various high-school bands and teenage rock groups. It was the start of an intense, 10-year immersion in music that has taken him from New York and Los Angeles, to London and Amsterdam, to Gambia and Senegal. In a mere decade, he has released five albums of his own and played sideman on 35 others, working with such artists as trombonist Connie Bauer, saxophonist John Butcher, guitarist Nels Cline, saxophonist Lol Coxhill, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and the late jazz musician Elton Dean (famous, among other things, for giving his first name to Reginald Dwight, the keyboardist in John Baldry's Bluesology band, now better known as Elton John).

Eisenstadt's work is nothing if not eclectic. He has written pieces for African horn and drum ensembles, medium and large-size chamber orchestras, Javanese dance troupes, experimental animation and theatre (he provided musical accompaniment for Tony
award winner Stephen Dillane's touring production of a one-man Macbeth). He also played drums in the film Wedding Crashers and contributed to its score and several others. He has appeared on albums with guitarist Noah Phillips and clarinettist David Rothbaum and on several records with Adam Rudolph's Organic Orchestra, a world-music group with a dozen percussionists and a dozen woodwinds. This year alone, he'll be part of four new albums, including The Convergence Quartet, with Alex Hawkins, Taylor Ho Bynum and Dominic Lash; Build An Ark, with Big Black, Adam Rudolph, Nate Morgan and Dwight Tribble; Tin/Bag Quartet with Kris Tiner, Mike Baggetta and Brian Walsh; and his own composition, Harris Eisenstadt: The All Seeing Eye + Octets, with Chris Dingman, Marc Lowenstein, Andrew Pask, Daniel Rosenboom and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, who is Eisenstadt's wife. Reviewing one of Eisenstadt's early CDs, Last Minute of Play in This Period -- a title inspired by his memories of Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens -- Cadence Magazine's Michael Rosenstein wrote: "The drummer knows how to propel the music while keeping a flexible sense of time that floats across the pulse. Eisenstadt is worth keeping an eye out for." A graduate of Upper Canada College, Eisenstadt played his first drum there at the age of 10, in the school basement. Later, he took private lessons, but was not, by his own confession, "the greatest student. I didn't really take it seriously."

Until college, his musical tastes were largely mainstream, but when he re-encountered Elvin Jones, John Coltrane and Tony Williams, he told one interviewer, "It just completely floored me ... there seemed to be this kind of transcendence going on there that went beyond what I knew. The power of Elvin Jones, man, just completely overtook me." Eisenstadt had heard their music before, but until then, "it hadn't made much of an impression. All of a sudden, I found myself devouring their records. It turned me on more than any rock record, John Bonham or Led Zeppelin, ever had." One summer in Toronto, he studied improv with Toronto composer and saxophonist David Mott. "He impressed me a lot," Mott recalls. "There's a unique and delicate beauty to his way of playing, although he can certainly play forcefully too. This allowed for lots of detail and nuance, which I really appreciate in a musician. I'm reminded of both Gerry Hemingway and Jesse Stewart, although Harris has his own sound ... He's immensely talented ... His potential will only be limited by the vagaries of life." After college, Eisenstadt moved to New York, studied with percussionist Barry Altschul and started playing gigs. A friend referred him to a new program at the California Institute of Fine Arts and he spent two years there, on scholarship, studying everything from West African music to the works of John Cage. "I remember walking through the hall the first day at CalArts and hearing a Ghanaian ensemble and the drumming is reverberating and it completely blew me away. It changed my life."

Indeed, Eisenstadt later spent several months living in a small village in Gambia, studying with a local drum master. "The whole idea of putting music on stage is such a Western concept," he says. "Over there, it's more integrated into communal life -- it's recreational or ceremonial or it's part of the ritual of secret societies, in those countries that have them." His teacher spoke no English and Eisenstadt at first spoke no Mandinka. "but it was amazing how much communication we were able to get." He credits Wadada Leo Smith with teaching him the importance of 20th-century composers and of seeing music as part of an art tradition, "part of a larger continuum." After graduating, Eisenstadt stayed in Los Angeles for five more years, working with the likes of Smith, Adam Rudolph, Vinny Golia and Steuart Liebig. Because the city's jazz community is small, there were, he says, many opportunities to write music and have it played. At the same time, Eisenstadt felt the need to travel, both to continue to learn and to earn money. Last fall, he moved back to the East Coast. He lives in Jersey City across the Hudson from New York.  "There is a jazz scene in L.A., but for new, more adventurous jazz, it wasn't the place. For better or worse, New York is still thought of as the centre of the jazz universe and with that comes increased exposure for Europe." His parents, who run a boutique public-relations agency in Toronto, welcomed his unusual career decision, but asked, "How are you going to make a living?" That, Eisenstadt concedes, is still "a work in progress. Things are month to month. I have great months and so-so months. But each year is better and I find more opportunities." The challenge, he recognizes, is to reach the next level. It requires "a combination of aggressiveness and patience. I hope I'm not a hustler in the worst sense of the word, but I'm always looking for work. So I think you have to be beating on the door and be receptive when your own door is being beaten down."

Playing with the Bill Horvitz band, Eisenstadt appears in Toronto May 1 at the Now Lounge, and in Buffalo May 3 at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Centre.

Yahoo Launches Online Lyric Library

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Michael Liedtke, Associated Press

(April 24, 2007) SAN FRANCISCO –
Yahoo Inc. is expanding its online music section to include the lyrics of 400,000 songs, hoping to strike a chord with Web surfers looking for a more reliable alternative to Internet sites that publish the words without the permission of the copyright owners. The Sunnyvale-based company is touting the free service to be unveiled Tuesday as the Web's largest legally licensed database of lyrics. "It fills a huge, gaping hole out there," said Ian Rogers, general manager of Yahoo music. Song lyrics have been available through scores of other Web sites for years, but most of those destinations are technically breaking the law by posting the words without the approval of the publishers and writers that own the rights. What's more, many of these unauthorized lyric sites rely on contributions from outsiders, a communal approach that increases the chances for inaccuracies.

Yahoo's song lyrics, in contrast, are supposed to be the official versions. Under the licensing agreement, Yahoo will share with copyright holders the revenue from the ads that will be displayed alongside the lyrics. The database and licensing deals were cobbled together over the past two years by Gracenote, a digital media management specialist. The Emeryville-based company, formerly known as CDDB, is best known for developing technology that automatically recognizes the tracks on compact discs – a feature that is included in Apple Inc.'s widely used iTunes software. The 400,000 song lyrics included in Yahoo's database span about 9,000 different artists, ranging from old standbys such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan to more recent stars like Radiohead and Beyonce. Nearly 100 music publishers are contributing song lyrics, including industry heavyweights BMG Music Publishing, EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group and Warner/Chappell Music.

Other lyrics sites boast that they have even more songs than Yahoo's database. But Yahoo believes its lyrics library is destined to become a hit because it won't be bogged down with the pop-up ads and other intrusive "spyware" that clutters many of the sites that share lyrics without permission. "Those sites generally aren't healthy places for your computer to be," said music analyst Phil Leigh of Inside Digital Media. Leigh trumpeted Yahoo's lyric database as a "long overdue'' breakthrough that will boost the music industry by creating a new revenue stream for artists and song publishers by making it easier for people to identify a tune they might hear on the radio or on the Web. "I also suspect this might cause the music industry to step up its efforts to take legal action against these unauthorized (lyric) sites with Yahoo cheering them on in the background," Leigh said. The National Music Publishers Association, a trade group, didn't respond to requests for an interview about Yahoo's database. Yahoo is hoping its database stimulates even more traffic on its music service, which is already the most popular on the Web. Yahoo music attracted 22 million U.S. visitors last month to rank it ahead of AOL music (17.5 million visitors) and MySpace music (14.8 million visitors), according to comScore Media Metrix.

EUR Concert Review: Jamie Foxx Is 'Unpredictable'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Mala La Ville

(April 25, 2007)
Jamie Foxx is a quintessential man and his current concert tour is a confirmation of that! Comedy, Acting, Singing, Music, throw in  DJing/hip-hop mixing skills and let's not forget he was voted one of     People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People " (2005).  Is there anything that Jamie Foxx cannot do?   That is the question I asked myself as I sat in awe at Foxx's "Unpredictable" Concert Tour in Los Angeles.  Jamie Foxx has an amazing gift of fusing comedy, melodies, impersonations and playing the piano in one show.  Any person will freeze at the sight of this Oscar winner's incredible talents. Its Not hard too imagine this former cast member of  "In Living Color"   has had  hit TV shows, makes  blockbuster movies and can navigate in out of  Hollywood "It" circles with comfort and ease.   Jamie is on his first concert tour promoting his new CD titled "Unpredictable."  The CD features A-List R&B artists like Mary J Blige, Common, Snoop Dog and Fantasia.

So let’s talk about the concert.  Jamie has always had a "no holds bar" stand-up routine. Foxx's comedic delivery in concert was just that, powerfully humorous.  His in your face jokes are about the usual-Celebs and things black folks say and do.   This concert tour is clearly for Adults Only.   From the controversial usage of the N- Word (he supports it); right down to the nasty yet hilarious impression of Brittany Spear's "private part," you fans are fixated on what Foxx will spill out next. You might wonder how Foxx transitions from comedy to singing in his “all in one” concert, quite well I must add.   While tears were still in many fans eyes from laughing so hard, the lights quickly faded to black, and a huge screen dominated the stage with Foxx's superimposed artist talent reel.  It revealed pics of his childhood, clips of his career in TV, and movies. You couldn’t help but think soon, the soulful and soothing voice of this quintessential actor will permeate the stage.  And with the sound of a big bang, bestowed upon his screaming audience enters, 5'8" tall, Jamie Foxx. His hair lined and goatee, impeccably trimmed, triple shined shoes, and designer white suit fresh with the Hollywood dark sunglasses and with mic in hand –“Unpredictable” began.

Taking songs from his new CD, Foxx wooed the females.   The men watched as Foxx’s sexy background dancer transformed from a corporate woman to a gyrating sex kitten.  That scene almost put Victoria secrets to shame. Foxx's background singers gave him a boost now and then, (he was fighting a bad cold) but not a cover up by any means.  Jamie held it down and kept his words and notes clear and in key fused with each song.  Of course he is magnificently creative and travels with a team of professionals that had every thing together from the sound, lighting to the phenomenal voices of his LA and Chi-town backup singers.  The “Unpredictable” band was awesome as the bass guitar solo was fierce.  Foxx's performance is energized, almost too sexy for his own good and still manages to throw in a joke n between his crooning the women and talking crap with his male audience. Everyone was surprised when Foxx glided out on a mini-stage sitting at the piano in his Ray Charles 60's style tuxedo and sang "Georgia".

Let's not forget the surprise guest appearance by his boy, Snoop Dog who took fans way back to the old school rap. Foxx loves the spot light and to tease the ladies but surely he comes across as a caring, kind-hearted "I’m ghetto with an Oscar" man.  His concert tour is certainly the talk of Hollywood and I would not put it past Jamie to surprise us with something else.  For more info about Jamie Foxx's, "Unpredictable" Concert Tour, go to www.jamiefoxx.com.

Teddy Pendergrass Prepares For ‘Teddy 25’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 25, 2007) *After a near fatal car accident changed his life dramatically nearly 25 years ago,
Teddy Pendergrass, is using his voice to help improve the quality of life for survivors of spinal cord injuries (SCI).  The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA), a non-profit organization which helps people with SCI rebuild their lives, has announced an elaborate star-studded extravaganza - the premiere Black Music Month event, "Teddy 25 - A Celebration Of Life, Hope, and Possibilities" - to be held 4 p.m. June 10 in Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center for The Performing Arts (260 South Broad Street on Avenue of the Arts). Hosted by actress/comedienne, Mo'Nique, "Teddy 25" celebrates his life, music, and legacy honouring celebrities, industry executives, medical personnel, organizations, and personal friends & family who have contributed over the 25 years to his well-being. Patti La Belle, Ruben Studdard and Stephanie Mills are among the performers confirmed along with Teddy himself who will premiere a new song, written specifically for Teddy 25. 

The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance will honour Whitney Houston, Arsenio Hall, Regis Philbin, Ashford & Simpson, Cathy Hughes (CEO & founder of TV One/Radio One), Mark P. May (CEO, Clear Channel), Donald Trump, Daniel Markus & Shep Gordon (managers), Bob Krasnow (CEO of Elektra/Asylum Records), and his long-time publicist Lisa Barbaris for their friendship and assistance through the years.   Along with the honourees, invited celebrity guests include Stevie Wonder, Eddie LeVert, Kindred, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jill Scott, Musiq, Vivian Green, and Jaheim. Proceeds from the black tie gala will be donated to The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance.  Tickets for The Teddy 25 event are available for sale at www.kimmelcenter.com.  Pendergrass will make a special guest appearance this week on Tavis Smiley’s syndicated radio show “Tavis Talks” to promote the event.

Sanjaya's Idol Run Ends

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(April 19, 2007) NEW YORK – In his improbable run on "American Idol,''
Sanjaya Malakar was the one to watch. The stringbean teen with the megawatt smile worked his strange magic on the show's stage week after week, captivating millions and horrifying Simon Cowell, his loudest critic. Did Malakar lack talent? For sure. Was he boring? Not by a long shot. His reign of goofy charm finally ended Wednesday night, when he was voted off the top-rated Fox sing-off. When the result was announced, Malakar wiped away tears and got a big hug from LaKisha Jones, the next lowest vote-getter. "I'm fine," he told Ryan Seacrest. "It was an amazing experience.'' "I can promise you: We won't soon forget you," Seacrest replied.  Malakar then performed one last song, "Something To Talk About." Putting his own twist on the song, the 17-year-old known for his pretty looks and ever-changing hairstyles ad-libbed: ``Let's give them something to talk about ... other than hair.''

On Tuesday night's show, Cowell had slammed his performance as ``utterly horrendous." And for once, the notoriously mean judge was vindicated. "I'm beginning to sense something here," a grinning Cowell said when Malakar wound up in the bottom three. Six contestants are now left: Jones, Blake Lewis, Jordin Sparks, Chris Richardson, Melinda Doolittle and Phil Stacey. Malakar was routinely savaged by Cowell as he developed into one of the weakest, most awkward "Idol" finalists ever. Still, the gangly teen managed to outlast better singers by cultivating an unlikely fan base that helped him survive round after round of viewer elimination. Though his breathy, childlike singing voice paled in comparison with other finalists, his ability to stand out kept him in the competition. He consistently delivered the season's most talked-about performances, even daring to sport a ponytail mohawk that added pizazz to an otherwise tepid rendition of No Doubt's ``Bathwater.'' That, of course, wound up fodder for watercooler discussion on G-rated morning programs and smart-alecky Web sites, stoking suspicion that Malakar was self-consciously manipulating the media to carve a place in "American Idol" history. Many had predicted that he would make it all the way to May finale. Among Malakar's supporters: radio shock jock Howard Stern and the Web site VotefortheWorst.com, which has long promoted the show's tone-deaf candidates. (Previous targets include surly Scott Savol and sweet-natured Kevin Covais. Cult superstar William Hung never even made it to Hollywood.) Malakar also had the backing of friends and family in his home state of Washington. "He's very handsome. That's most of it,'' marveled his friend Pat Wright, a gospel choir director in Seattle. ``He's a teenager, and young girls and guys really like him.''

Malakar seemed buoyed by his widespread fame. "Welcome to the universe of Sanjaya!" he proudly proclaimed on a recent telecast, following a backhanded compliment from an exasperated Cowell. Indeed, after panning another of Malakar's performances, Cowell threw up his arms and said there was nothing he could say to prevent people from voting for the oddball-turned-national phenomenon. But, in the end, Malakar could not win enough votes to join the ranks of Taylor Hicks, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. He will, however, live forever on YouTube.


Joe Embarks On National Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2007) New York, NY - Jive recording artist
Joe will hit the road on a North American tour in support of his forthcoming album Ain't Nothing Like Me DUE IN STORES APRIL 24.  Joe will be joined by Brian McKnight and Sunshine Anderson. The 22 city tour will kick off on April 27 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, CA.  Joe's current single "If I Was Your Man" is Top 10 at Urban AC radio in most major markets, including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. The video is playing on BET and is getting heavy rotation on BETJ.   The album is a collection of great lyrics and Joe's unique vocals over productions by an array of producers that include Jermaine Dupri, Sean Garrett, Dre and Vidal, Tim and Bob, Cool and Dre and more. Guest artists include Nas, Papoose and Young Joc. 

Melinda Doolittle Finds Favor On 'Idol'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2007) Intrade.com has christened Tennessean,
Melinda Doolittle as this year's predicted winner of American Idol.   Each week the former gospel background singer inches closer to a win.   She has already secured her place for the American Idol tour and continues to outshine the other contenders each week as she humbly receives consistent praise from the judges.  "For so many years, that's been her focus," Munizzi said. "It's not that you think that you're not good enough. You just get in that mind-set and think that's what you are." An AP report indicates that stellar award winning singer Martha Munnizzi, for whom Doolittle sang background, is in the singer's corner.       "I think she's surprised she's better on her own . . . I absolutely see her winning this. There are a lot of great females this year, but as far as the whole package goes and her ability to make the hair stand up on your arms, she's got it. Her heart just shines through when she sings."    Doolittle, 29, has sung in the shadows of numerous gospel singers, such as CeCe Winans and Aaron Neville, but has inched further into the foreground of the competition with each soulful rendition of a classic she sings. "For so many years, that's been her focus," Munizzi said. "It's not that you think that you're not good enough. You just get in that mind-set and think that's what you are." But the competition is stiff.  Sparks flew last night as another known Christian contestant, Jordan Sparks performed.  Simon uttered the words she wanted to hear: "I think you could win American Idol."'

Shirley Murdock's New Album Rising On The Charts

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 16, 2007) She's known for the urban radio classics "As We Lay" and "Husband." However, R&B veteran
Shirley Murdock is singing a new tune entitled "I Love Me Better Than That" which is meant to encourage and inspire people to self-improvement and self-love.  The dramatic video of the song has already been selected for video rotation on VH1 and BET. For the last few weeks, Murdock has been performing the song at stores such as Circuit City and even at a Tom Joyner Sky Show in Baltimore.  In each case, "Women go wild," says Leslie Lewis, who appears in the music video. "The song really reaches the heart of women and gets them thinking about their lives." Those women have run out and given Murdock her highest charting gospel CD ever.    The new project "Soul Food" has debuted at #7 on Billboard magazine's gospel album sales chart. The album is the highest Billboard gospel chart debut in the 30-year history of Tyscot Records. It's also a sweet success for Murdock who has survived a whole lot of heartache and pain. "I Love Me Better Than That" is a personal testimony that permeates her new Soulfood CD (Tyscot Records). Through it all, she's traded her tears for laughter, and in her own words, "I've gotten beauty for ashes."

Stephen Marley's Mind Control Is Serious Work Not To Be Ignored

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(April 19, 2007) *
Stephen Marley gets down to serious business on his very own solo debut Mind Control. Not that he wasn’t a serious musician before his spanking new debut. He had already proven his mettle with albums such as brother Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock and the various artistes compilation Chant Down Babylon. Mind Control is now available locally through distributor Tuff Gong. Marley is without a doubt the most talented of the clan and his vulnerability is evident on this eleven track opus.  With torch burners including the number one hit The Traffic Jam, Hey Baby, Iron Bars, You’re Gonna Leave and Chase Dem, Mind Control is a total breeze and warrants multiple listening. The real icing on the cake is the poignant track Fed Up, my personal favourite.  A bonus video for the song The Traffic Jam is added incentive for the curious fan.  Mind Control debuted at number one on the Billboard reggae album chart three weeks ago. It sold over 20,000 copies in its first week of release in the US.

U2 Scores Spider-Man Musical

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(April 20, 2007) NEW YORK – A Broadway musical based on the web-slinging superhero
Spider-Man is in the works, Marvel Studios said Friday.  It will be directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor with new music and lyrics by U2 frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge. The musical will be the first time a Marvel Comics character has been the subject of a show on Broadway, the company said.  No opening date was announced, but Marvel said a reading would take place this summer. "We are certain this project will delight fans of Spider-Man and new audiences alike," said David Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios, in a statement. Spider-Man 3, starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, will be released May 4 by Columbia Pictures. "Marvel continues to look to every entertainment medium to support the enduring popularity of our Super Heroes, and we are thrilled with the talent on board," Maisel said. "The all-star creative team – led by Julie Taymor, Bono and The Edge – is second to none.'' Taymor won Tony Awards for her roles as director and costume designer of the Broadway hit The Lion King.

Bob Dylan To Headline 2007 Ottawa Bluesfest

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Toronto — The blues gets tangled up in
Bob Dylan, when the tour-hardened troubadour headlines Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest this summer. Dylan appears on the opening night of an 11-day annual festival (July 5 to 15) that promises an eclectic, star-studded performance bill. Among the artists scheduled to appear at the event's new site near the Canadian War Museum are the White Stripes, Steve Miller, Blue Rodeo, Metric and Femi Kuti. Blues acts include Watermelon Slim, Henry Butler and legendary Chicago guitarist Buddy Guy. Last week, it was announced that Dylan would appear at Casino Rama, in Orillia, Ont., for concerts on July 7 and 8.

Chris Brown Grows Up On ‘Exclusive’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 20, 2007) *
Chris Brown says he’s not trying to be too grown with his forthcoming sophomore album, “Exclusive,” but the September release from Jive will reflect the singer’s steady journey toward adulthood.  "I'll be 18, but I'm not trying to go overboard and lose my fans,” the superstar told Billboard in December. “I'm trying to have a bit more mature songs, about sexuality and stuff like that. I'm not trying to go deep into it."  The album will include production by Bryan-Michael Cox, the Underdogs, Sean Garrett, Scott Storch and will.i.am.   The sound will build upon his established swirl of R&B, hip hop and pop. Brown said “Exclusive” will also contain elements of rock and Washington D.C.’s go-go.  "Being from Virginia, I've got to go back to my go-go roots," he explains to Billboard.

Divas Of Gospel’ Tour Features Adams, Mary

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 20, 2007) *Grammy-winning gospel artists Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary will headline "
Chrysler Presents the Divas of Gospel," an eight-city nationwide tour affiliated with African American churches, April 26-June 3.  At selected venues along the tour, other gospel greats such as Tye Tribbett, G.A. and Dottie Peoples will perform. During the tour, Chrysler is offering the chance to win a two-year lease on a 2007 Chrysler Aspen. Individuals can sign up for the drawing at one of the concert stops or by registering at www.divasofgospel.com. A winner will be selected at the end of the tour.  Performances will take place in non-church venues, with the exception of the May 26 concert in Lakeland, FL. Tickets are available through the venues' box office or through Ticketmaster.

Smokie Norful: Making 'Magic'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 20, 07) Gospel music sensation
Smokie Norful is truly a family man. This week, the Grammy Award winning took his wife and sons (l-r Carla, Ashton and Tre) to Disney World for a quick spring break from his hectic touring schedule. "Disney is truly a dreamland!," Norful told The BV Newswire this morning from the Lake Buena Vista, Florida compound -- where he and his family are still vacationing.  "Be sure you wear your 'comfortable' walking wear cause there's a whole lot of magic to cover," he advised. "My family and I have enjoyed every minute of our visit to Disney...we have created some phenomenal memories."  The Magic Kingdom excursion served a dual-purposed too. Norful, who is nominated for a 2007 GMA Dove Award, has been confirmed as one of the headliners for this fall's 'Night of Joy,' a 25-year old tradition at Walt Disney World Resort where Christian music is the main attraction. This year's 'Night,' takes place Sept. 7 and Sept. 8 and will feature Christian and gospel music faves such as Third Daym Jessie Daniels, Brian Littrell, Jaci Velasquez, Curtis Chapman and Mary Mary.


Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

We'll Never Turn Back
Mavis Staples

(April 24, 2007) Those who welcomed the stirring comebacks of Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette will now lead the cheers for
Mavis Staples, a golden singer of gospel and soul-folk who has astonished the likes of Prince, Bob Dylan and so many others. With urgency, and the funky help of guitarist-producer Ry Cooder, the former Staple Singers centrepiece revisits Civil Rights-era freedom songs. Post-Katrina adlibs and a bleepy, new beat update 99 and ½, while the sly-riffed My Own Eyes sees things seen before. Staples, backed by the Freedom Singers, roars herself raw by the end of the album. And yet there's the sense that she's just getting started.

Mya’s ‘Liberation’ To Finally Come In June

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 24, 2007) *Motown has set a release date of June 26 for
Mya’s new album, “Liberation.” The tone of the project reflects the issues she’s had to deal with since leaving Interscope records after 2003’s “Moodring.”   “Liberation” was supposed to drop last fall, but it was pushed back several times for various reasons.   "Litigations, court, transitioning from label to label, teaching kids and building a studio, that takes a while," the 27-year-old Washington D.C. native tells Billboard.com. "That's why this album is a lot more aggressive, very honest, in your face and cut and dry." The CD’s 12 tracks feature production from Scott Storch, Bryan-Michael Cox, Tricky Stuart and Kwame; while guests on the disc include Lil Wayne and Snoop.  The first single, "Lock U Down" featuring Wayne, is described by Mya as "very grown and sexy, very spring time, just an all-around feel-good record." The JR Rotem-produced "Walka Not a Talka," slated to be the second single, is more of a reflective song. "It's basically a conversation with myself reminding me of all the things I have to get rid of in order to get what I want in life," she tells the trade.  Other tracks include the Cox-produced midtempo "Life's Too Short," and the Kwame-blessed "Nothing At All." Mya, who teaches dance and sound engineering via the Mya Art & Tech Foundation in her spare time, is on the road with the Seagram's Live Tour alongside Virginia rappers the Clipse and soul singer Jovan Dais. She also just wrapped up a Fox film titled "Cover," based on the AIDS epidemic among African Americans. The movie is due in theatres by the end of this year.

Natalie Cole: Really Feeling 'Gray'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 24, 07)
Natalie Cole is showing much love to Macy Gray. The eight-time Grammy Award winning diva didn't only sing on the opening track to Gray's latest opus 'BIG,' but is also popping up at shows and joining on the fun. Cole, who released the daring covers album 'Leavin' last fall, is confirmed to perform 'Finally Made Me Happy,' with the avant garde new school soul artist on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' April 26. "Working with Macy was very cool," Cole relayed to The BV Newswire via email. "The spirit of her music is just what we need right now." The will.iam-produced track, a retro-inspired soul infused tour-de-force about a woman happy to let her lover go, has become a favourite of sorts -- Gray performed the track on 'The View' and 'Late Show with David Letterman' last month, solo.  For the coveted 'Tonight Show' slot, the 40-year-old Cleveland native (born Natalie McIntyre) is pulling out all the stops with the 'Unforgettable' diva. Their kinship isn't an overnight deal either -- they've been pals for a few years now. "Macy and I have known each other since we met on a blues project named 'Lightening in a Bottle", filmed at Radio City in NY, which was produced by Martin Scorsese in 2001," she added. Though Cole is happy to pick up some of the limelight associated with Gray's critically acclaimed project, she revealed that there are no plans for the two to tour together in the near future.

Bertelsmann To Pay Warner $110-Million Over Napster

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com

(April 25, 2007) Bertelsmann AG, Europe's largest media company, will pay $110-million to settle claims by Warner Music Group Corp. arising from Bertelsmann's investment in the original Napster free music-downloading service. Warner, EMI Group and other music companies accused Bertelsmann of contributing to Napster's copyright infringement as an original investor. Napster Inc. started as a free music-swapping service in 1999 and is now a paid download service. Bertelsmann, based in Guetersloh, Germany, didn't admit any wrongdoing, Warner said yesterday. The settlement amount was disclosed in a Warner filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


Actors Boo Province's Performance

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Robert Benzie, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

(April 20, 2007) Some of Canada's best-known actors are accusing
Premier Dalton McGuinty of breaking yet another campaign promise by tabling "vacuous" legislation to protect artists.  Four of the nation's most familiar faces descended upon Queen's Park yesterday to urge the Liberal government to increase protections for Ontario artists who live in poverty. Buried deep inside the phonebook-sized budget bill tabled last month was a 3-page Status of the Artist Act that does little to help performers other than a weekend celebration in June. "They said they would produce meaningful legislation on status of the artist and they have not done that," said Karl Pruner, Toronto president of ACTRA, the performers' union. "If this is what they proposed, this is a failure to keep that promise," said Pruner, known to television viewers for his roles on E.N.G., Wind At My Back, and Road to Avonlea. Wendy Crewson, who starred on 24, ReGenesis, and is in the film Who Loves The Sun which opened last week, noted performers earn on average 24 per cent less than other workers in Ontario and often need career transition programs, housing supports and tax breaks.

"All artists in this province have been duped. (We're) angry that a government in its haste to check something off their to-do list felt that it could be done with such a vacuous piece of legislation," said Crewson. "Well, I am sorry, Mr. McGuinty, you'll need to erase that checkmark because that job is not done," she said. Sonja Smits, star of some of Canadian television's biggest dramatic hits like Street Legal, Traders and The Eleventh Hour, expressed disappointment in the Liberals. Smits, who met with government officials about getting better rights and benefits for artists – including more rights for child actors who are not adequately protected – last May, said her "high hopes" for something positive have been dashed. Tonya Lee Williams, founder and executive director of the ReelWorld Film Festival in Toronto and best known for playing Dr. Olivia B. Winters on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, warned that artists will continue to hound McGuinty through to the Oct. 10 election. "The parties need to recognize that artists are a huge community, they're a voting community," said Williams. But Culture Minister Caroline Di Cocco said the actors only speak for ACTRA – not all artists. "There's many, many groups in this province of artists. Many of the artists' groups that have spoken to me have had some incredible positive responses to the fact that there's a recognition (of artists in legislation)," said Di Cocco. "We promised that we were going to create a better environment ... to ameliorate the lives of artists and that's what we're doing," she said. NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park), who is pushing her own private members' legislation to improve work standards for artists, scoffed at that. "This is a slap in the face," said DiNovo.

Selling High-End Condos, One Cinephile At A Time

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist

(April 23, 2007) Today represents a milestone for the
Toronto International Film Festival, with the official groundbreaking for its long dreamed-of year-round home (known for now as Bell Festival Centre) on a parking lot at the corner of King and John Sts. More than a thousand guests have been invited to a bubbly celebration at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, featuring speeches by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, federal Heritage Minister Bev Oda, architect Bruce Kuwabara, festival CEO Piers Handling, and movie tycoon Ivan Reitman (whose family owned the site). But perhaps what is most significant for the future of downtown Toronto is the phenomenon this project epitomizes: the glittery alliance of culture and showbiz with the lifestyle of high-end condominium buyers. Two other soon-to-be-built luxury towers – one by architect Daniel Libeskind adjacent to the Hummingbird Centre, the other named Museum House because it is directly across the street from Libeskind's new Crystal expansion of the Royal Ontario Museum – have also been conceived to satisfy the appetite of high rollers who want a major cultural connection in their everyday life. Consider the pitch to potential buyers of the 378 apartments in Festival Tower, Kuwabara's sleek, slender residential building joined at the hip with the festival's five-storey podium and rising 42 storeys alongside it: "One part condo, one part film festival – a world first."

It's a marriage that works for both sides. The condo tower, a joint venture of Daniels Corp. and the Reitmans, is being sold by its link to one of the city's most loved cultural institutions. "Live the glamorous life atop Festival Centre," prospective buyers are urged. "Residents will enjoy all the amenities of an exclusive club." Membership privileges include being first in line for coveted tickets to the festival. But once it moves into its new home in 2010, the TIFF group will be more than ever a year-round presence, featuring Cinematheque screenings and special events in its five auditoriums, plus a museum-like space designed to house major film-related exhibitions. Without the driving engine of the condo tower, it's doubtful the festival would have been able to secure the land and money needed for its dream home. Because of the strong interest from prospective buyers, Daniels Corp. did not feel it necessary to take the precaution of selling half the units (with price tags ranging from $300,000 to $2 million) before starting construction, beginning with a five-level underground parking garage. In fact, not a single unit has been sold, and it will be months before buyers can sign on. As Daniels Corp. vice-president Tom Dutton explains, the apartments could not be sold until it became clear the festival would be able to pay its $129 million share of the costs. With confirmation of $25 million from the federal government, $25 million from the Ontario government and $30 million from Bell (for naming rights), the festival has raised $104 million for its building – enough to get a green light from its bank. It's slated for completion in 2010. Given the strong response of buyers, the developer decided not to wait. "We're extremely confident based on the response we've had," says Dutton. "We're taking advantage of a tremendous opportunity, bringing to market something you can't get anywhere else. There is only one Toronto International Film Festival, and it's here." Arts-minded condo buyers with deep pockets will have to choose between Festival Tower and two other projects in the works that seek to fulfill the wishes of those who want major cultural institutions as part of their environment.  Still to be answered is this question: Is there a limit to the willingness of Torontonians to pay a hefty premium for the privilege of waking up every morning smack in the midst of the city's cultural renaissance?

Chinese Director's Film To Open Cannes

Source: Reuters

(Apr. 19, 07) PARIS — U.S. director Quentin Tarantino takes his movie Death Proof to the Cannes Film Festival this year, where it will be up against compatriots the Coen Brothers and Gus Van Sant in the main competition lineup. Organizers unveiling the selection for the 60th edition of the world's biggest film festival on Thursday also announced that Michael Moore, controversial winner of the Palme d'Or prize in 2004, will be back on the Croisette. His documentary Sicko, about the U.S. health-care system, is not in the main competition but Moore's presence in Cannes, where he won the top prize in 2004 for his anti-Bush polemic Fahrenheit 9/11, will generate valuable publicity. Death Proof is a special adaptation of Tarantino's section of a thriller double-bill already in theatres under the name of Grindhouse. The other part was directed by Robert Rodriguez.

The opening film in Cannes will be Chinese film maker Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights, starring Jude Law, Ed Harris, Natalie Portman and jazz singer Norah Jones in a story about a woman travelling across America. In the main competition, he will be up against U.S. directors, including the Coen Brothers ( No Country for Old Men), David Fincher ( Zodiac) and Van Sant ( Paranoid Park) as well as Sarajevo-born Emir Kusturica ( Promise Me This). Out of competition but launching in Cannes will be Ocean's 13, the third in the heist series starring George Clooney, and A Mighty Heart, a movie based on the 2002 kidnap and murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan starring Angelina Jolie. On the jury, which is headed this year by British director Stephen Frears, will be Turkish Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk.

Provocative, Quirky Look At Judaism

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(April 20, 2007) With his provocative new film
Kike Like Me, Jamie Kastner has at the very least earned a place in the Toronto showbiz record book. He's the only director ever to get his movie into Hot Docs and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival – and in the same year. I predict the audience response at these events could be very different, even if next week's two Hot Docs screenings take place just a couple of weeks before the TJFF event in the same part of town. It may be illuminating to compare and contrast the Q&A sessions where Kastner could be asked questions even more irritating than he gets from the characters he meets on screen. In the film, he hops around the world with his crew, playing a character sort of but not exactly like himself, getting into trouble in many different countries just by asking people to express their attitudes about Jews. Like Michael Moore, Kastner puts himself at the centre of his movie, and like Moore, he turns himself into a slightly comical pest by confronting startled subjects, making them nervous and putting them on the spot.  But unlike Moore, Kastner – a talented, entertaining 35-year-old veteran of the media trenches – is not basically an attack journalist. And his agenda is not really political. The film was prompted by his irritation when people asked a certain question: "Are you Jewish?" Why do they want to know? What difference does it make? What attitudes toward Jews lie behind such questions?

Going around the world to explore those matters, Kastner casts himself as an updated version of Candide, the hilariously naïve 18th-century traveller/student created by the philosopher Voltaire. But this Candide of the 21st century is a cool guy with an ironic, detached attitude. He seems terribly eager to please and get along with strangers, but keeps creating situations where they expose themselves as fools or bigots. How would you characterize such a film? Kastner knows what genre he's working in. He calls this "a faux personal journey (PJ)." By that he means you could be sucked into thinking this is a conventional doc in which an earnest hero sets out on a quest to find the big answer to a major philosophical issue: just what does Jewish identity add up to? "Who needed another film exposing anti-Semitism, in which Jews tell the same old stories and pat themselves on the back?" he asks. Kike Like Me may look like a PJ movie, but Kastner keeps the audience constantly off balance by moving from one unpredictable situation to another. Clearly he seeks quirky revelations. Kastner opens with a clip of Gregory Peck as the righteous gentile going undercover as a Jewish magazine writer in Gentleman's Agreement – the ultra-square '40s Hollywood message movie about anti-Semitism in mainstream American life. Take it as a signal that Kastner appreciates the irony and even absurdity of his quest. He visits right-wing Republican Pat Buchanan on the delicate matter of whether this ultra-Christian politician blames Jewish pressure groups for what he sees as the blunders of U.S. foreign policy. He befriends an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn who creates a belated bar mitzvah for Jamie. In Amsterdam – where more Jews per capita perished in the Holocaust than in any other city – Kastner unmasks the young athletes who playfully call themselves Jewish (as some sort of inside joke) but are not actually in any way Jewish.

In a Paris suburb he finds himself in the middle of an ugly debate when a young Arab leads a diatribe against Jews and announces that if Kastner is one of them, then he is an enemy who must be stopped. In Berlin, he reveals that actual living Jews are in such short supply that fake Jews have to be invented to tap into certain cultural traditions. Finally, visiting the Auschwitz museum, Kastner loses control, outraged at the tacky way the ultimate Nazi death factory has been turned into a tacky tourist attraction. When he walks out in disgust, suggesting the place should be blown up, you know we've moved way beyond the satiric, slightly bemused attitude Kastner had in other situations. Still, he never knows what kind of response he is going to get. One person he considered a friend wondered aloud whether his aloof persona might suggest he's really anti-Semitic, which came as quite a shock. Some are bound to be put off by the title. In fact CHUM, which plans to telecast it next season, insists on changing the title to Jew Like Me. Whatever. By the way, if you want to grill Kastner about his family's ethnic and religious past, watch out. He thinks it's none of our business. Jamie Kastner's Kike Like Me plays as part of Hot Docs at Bloor Cinema on Tuesday at 9:15 p.m. and next Saturday at 9 p.m.

EUR Film Review: Hot Fuzz

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(April 23, 2007) *With an arrest rate four times that of anyone else on the force, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is London's most highly-decorated cop. But instead of appreciating the efforts of their department's star, his colleagues are upset that all those commendations for bravery are only making them look bad. His superiors' solution is to reward the overzealous officer with a promotion to sergeant while simultaneously transferring him to a precinct far away from the city. Nick's new beat is in quaint little Sandford, a picturesque village which looks like a relic of a bygone era. The idyllic oasis has remained crime-free by virtue of the tireless efforts of its Neighborhood Watch Association (NWA). This self-appointed committee of nitpicking town elders micro-manages every aspect of their fellow citizens' daily life, mandating compliance with regulations which have turned most into Stepford Wives-level zombies.

With the NWA already regulating behaviour so successfully, it's no surprise that the only person to greet Nicholas' arrival with any enthusiasm is his new partner, Danny (Nick Frost), the wide-eyed son of the chief of police (Jim Broadbent). Danny only daydreams of participating in spectacular gunfights and car chases like the heroes of his favourite action flicks, because a crime hasn't been committed in sleepy Sandford in ages.

For full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Controversial Filmmaker Michael Moore Has Spawned A New Style Of Documentary

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere

(April 22, 2007) In
Manufacturing Dissent, Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine's documentary about the controversial filmmaking practice of Michael Moore, documentarist Kevin Rafferty (Atomic Café) sits in his dingy basement production office and takes the rap for having created the monster. Shooting the film Blood in the Face in the late 1980s about the American neo-Nazi movement, Rafferty recorded his friend Moore engaged in a bizarrely entertaining exchange with an attractive female white supremacist. Moore was so witty, and the interviewee so unlikely and oblivious, Rafferty decided to leave both questioner and the questioned onscreen. "That I think was the first time Michael saw himself being funny on film," Rafferty dryly surmises. "And, I don't know, could have had some influence on his future stuff." A few years on, Rafferty returned the favour by helping Moore out with his first documentary, which would eventually become the modestly phenomenal Roger and Me. In Manufacturing Dissent, Rafferty remembers his reaction when Moore told him how he planned to structure the movie.

Rafferty was aghast. "I told him, `You don't want to put yourself in your own movie,'" Rafferty tells Melnyk.  "If he'd taken my advice he'd still be in an office like this looking for $5,000 grants." And what a profoundly different landscape the world of contemporary documentary would be. By putting himself front and centre in the picture, and by putting `Me' at the forefront of his hugely popular (and massively contentious) documentary style, Moore not only made himself the biggest celebrity in the history of non-fiction film, he unleashed a tidal wave of what has come to be called `first-person' documentaries. At this year's Hot Docs documentary festival – which tonight at the Bloor Cinema will provide the Canadian premiere showcase for Manufacturing Dissent – the first-person doc is everywhere. In Kike Like Me, filmmaker Jamie Kastner considers the meaning of Judaism in the 21st century from a resolutely personal perspective: talking directly to camera, showing old family photos, offering sly and occasionally snide off-screen voiceover commentary. In Chichester's Choice, Simonee Chichester looks for the father who walked out of her life more than 20 years ago, a camera following her from Toronto to São Paulo, Brazil, recording not just the journey but all the myriad feelings and observations it generates. In Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse, Swiss filmmaker Thomas Haemmerli spends weeks excavating the astoundingly cluttered apartment of his dead mother, in the process illuminating a story of familial intrigue that's almost as crammed as the flat itself.  Bryan Friedman's The Bodybuilder and I is about the relationship between the filmmaker and his iron-pumping 59-year-old father Bill, a man whom the filmmaker – at the outset anyway – openly admits to not liking very much. Lovable is Alan Zweig's documentary about single women and the role of love in their lives, but it's also about Zweig and role of love – never quite as central as he'd have wished – in his life. Then there's Manufacturing Dissent. It's kind of an "and Me" documentary as well, as it chronicles the often outrageously obstacle-ridden path filmmakers Melnyk and Caine follow in order to get an interview with a man who proves just as inaccessible as General Motors CEO Roger Smith once was (or, as Manufacturing Dissent alleges, only seemed to be) for Michael Moore himself. But if the thwarted quest depicted in Dissent ironically echoes Moore's own movie, Melnyk insists the coincidence was born less of inspiration than desperation. Unlike many post-Moore documentarists who begin their movies with home movies, personal voice-over and family snapshots, she had no intention of being her movie's subject when she and Caine began.

We thought that Moore would actually give us an interview at one point," says Melnyk, who had originally planned to make a rather straight-ahead profile of a filmmaker she admired using interviews with his acquaintances and colleagues. "And that we'd kind of use his voice to do a lot of the narration for the film."  The plot changed about four months into production. "I would set up interviews on the phone," Melnyk recalls, "then the day before I'd go for an interview – and this happened a number of times – people would call and say `Well I'm not going to do the interview so don't come.' Slam." Their movie was in the process of becoming something else: a movie about trying to make a movie about Michael Moore. "I started to realize," Melnyk says, "we may have to start putting this in the film about how no one wants to talk." While the focus of Manufacturing Dissent is Moore's sometimes hair-raisingly casual relationship with the truth – among other eye-openers, the movie reveals that the filmmaker actually did interview Roger Smith but left the footage out – there's another aspect of Moore's legacy it questions: the issue of reconciling the first-person narrative and traditional documentary values like objectivity, truth and the integrity of the subject. When you're onscreen, can your movie be about anything but you? And when it's about you, what story isn't it telling? Which introduces more questions: can the use of the first person compromise one's commitment to capturing the truth – or at least the pursuit of it? When Moore cast himself as the driving narrative sensibility in Roger and Me, how did that influence his decision not to use interviews with Roger Smith that Manufacturing Dissent claims he had but omitted? If not getting the interview made for a more entertaining, if less than truthful, story, then what are we to make of the implication that the material was dropped because it didn't suit the plot? Is this an instance where the first person and the commitment to telling it like it was are at odds? Does – and should – subjectivity cancel out objectivity?

While Moore certainly didn't invent the first-person documentary style, with movies like Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 he made it into a pop cultural phenomenon. In framing leftist social issues within a personality-hosted, TV-friendly format, he created an immensely approachable form of popular agitprop. Unlike such filmmakers as Marcel Ophuls (The Sorrow and the Pity), Michael Rubbo (Waiting for Fidel), Claude Lanzmann (Shoah), Ross McElwee (Sherman's March) and Nick Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney), all of whom worked in the first-person form long before him, Flint, Mich.'s most famous son played to the popcorn crowd: the kind of people who probably rarely watched documentaries, and certainly not of the kind that tended to predominate before he brought them to the multiplex.  Zweig, whose films (Vinyl, I, Curmudgeon and Lovable) alternate long interviews with people on specific subjects with baldly confessional sequences of the filmmaker shooting himself talking into a mirror, recalls that distinctively different time. "When I first started making films," he recalls, "there was, especially in documentary, a huge taboo against – forget about appearing in your film – in any way acknowledging in the film that you as a director exist at all. Even leaving the odd off-camera interview question in the film was considered kind of bad form. You had to hide your presence and your point of view."  "That is over," he adds. While Zweig defends his personal practice and differentiates it from what has become the standard use of the documentary first person – for one thing, Zweig's movies are really only tangentially about him – he has misgivings about the rampant proliferation of the me-first non-fiction mode.  "I would say, just as an observer of filmmaking, that I wish some people were more aware that there ever was a taboo (against appearing in your film)," says Zweig. "Because it seems to me now that putting yourself in your film just seems like another choice, a stylistic choice, that some people take when even really there's no reason for it."

While filmmaker Kevin McMahon – whose work (The Falls, Intelligence, McLuhan's Wake) is being honoured in a Hot Docs retrospective this year – doesn't do first-person, he certainly understands why it's become such a common documentary trope in the post-Moore era. In the current issue of the Canadian documentary journal POV, McMahon writes at length on the use of first person and why it doesn't figure in his own practice.  "I admire Michael Moore," says McMahon. "To me he's a guy who's trying to deal with things that are complex and complicated. Seemingly not connected but actually are connected. That's the job, and always has been the job, of the social critic."  "In film that's a very hard thing to do," McMahon adds, noting first person is just one means of articulating complex matters in an accessible, narrative-driven fashion. "I see the value of the first person as a structural conceit," he says. "But I think it also gets in the way. If you're Michael Moore or you're Morgan (Super Size Me) Spurlock, and your real motivation is to be a social critic, but the only device you can come up with to do that is your own persona, it becomes like the line in that Laurie Anderson song: `Everybody was saying, Look at me! Look at me!  "That's sort of what it becomes," McMahon adds: "`Look at me.' And that totally overwhelms the social/critical function."  While McMahon worries about the impact on documentary's sociological potential as a result of all the look-at-me moviemaking going on, he's equally concerned about seeing it imposed for commercial reasons. The fact is, as Moore is also the most financially successful American documentary filmmaker ever, it isn't just filmmakers whom he inspires.  "I have to blame Michael Moore for this," McMahon says. "For years now I've seen broadcasters pushing and encouraging people to do first person. Because it's easy to say `This is my story. This is what my mother was like.' The broadcasters encourage it because they understand that's the language of cinema. Even more so, they understand that confessional is the language of television." "Faced with any kind of complexity," McMahon adds, "it's the default of both the broadcasters and the filmmakers. The easiest way to do it."

Zweig noticed the same thing. "A friend of mine worked on a film," he says. "And I saw it and asked him just point blank, `Why was that guy in the film?' It made no sense. He told me that the producers, who were in this case the National Film Board, had pushed it on the guy. Thought it would sort of the save the film, which wasn't working in their minds." Zweig says the first person should be strictly conditional, and only used when the following question can be answered: "In what way it is helping the film that you're in it?" In her pursuit of Moore, Melnyk found herself cast in a role that, while made inevitable by the evolving nature of the film, felt distinctly unnatural to the filmmaker. "It's been quite an eye-opening experience," she says of making Manufacturing Dissent. "And not one that I've really enjoyed. One question at one of the first screenings was `Do you want to be a star?'  "Know what? I don't want to be a star, actually. I'm not interested in that. I'm very uncomfortable being in front of the camera. I don't like it. I get nervous. I get butterflies in my stomach. I just hate every second of it." The last straw came when yet again she found herself being bullied off the premises where Moore was to appear. Once again, the camera was on her. "I don't want to do this," she told herself. "I'm sick of this. I just want to go home and edit."

(Tomorrow at 1 p.m., Star critic Geoff Pevere moderates a panel discussion with filmmakers Debbie Melnyk, Jamie Kastner, Bryan Friedman and Alan Zweig called Hot Docs Talks: First Person at Innis Town Hall at U of T.)

Tobey Maguire Is Finally Relaxing About Interviews

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

(April 23, 2007) LOS ANGELES–It used to be that one of the most difficult jobs for an interviewer in Hollywood was extracting any interesting quotes or information from
Tobey Maguire.  Although he owned the richest superhero role in Hollywood history, the Spider-Man actor resented the fact that giving interviews was part of the job, and consequently he was unfailingly uncommunicative and reticent when having to talk about himself. But with Spider-Man 3, which opens May 4 and features a darker, vengeance-seeking web-slinger – the troubled superhero even sports a black Spider-Man suit at one point – comes a brighter, smiling Tobey Maguire, who actually seems to be enjoying himself.  It has taken him a decade or so but, he admits with a rueful smile, he is finally becoming more relaxed about his fame.  "After the first Spider-Man came out the attention I was getting made me uncomfortable and I retreated from being out very much in public," he says.  "It's kind of weird because I knew going into things that there was the potential of being famous, but I wasn't dreaming about it. I don't feel I was striving for that or reaching for it.

"When it happened, a lot of it was shocking to me. When I did The Ice Storm ( in 1997) and they asked me to do interviews I didn't realize that part of the job was going out there and selling films. I wanted to be like Dustin Hoffman or Robert De Niro or Al Pacino, and that didn't include being a spectacle or being on display in public."  The fame question is still one that occasionally perplexes and confuses him, but it does not affect his life the way it did. "I've just got used to it and got more relaxed about it and I'm not as worried about it now," he says. Dressed in a stiff grey suit and white open-necked shirt with his dark hair slicked back, he looks more like the classroom nerd than the king of the Spider-Man franchise, which has so far grossed more than $1.6 billion (all figures U.S.) worldwide.  Taking a deep breath, Maguire attempts to explain the evolution of Peter Parker and his alter ego. "In this film, Peter Parker feels he's got a real handle on things, so much that he's got a certain kind of arrogance and self-importance to his behaviour, which starts to get him in trouble. Then he learns that Sandman is responsible for his uncle's death, so he has feelings of real anger and betrayal, and he has a desire for revenge and that, coupled with the effect the black suit has on him, which enhanced those feelings, lead him down a different path. "All the Spider-Man movies are coming-of-age stories and he's growing up in each film. It's all under the umbrella of `with great power comes great responsibility' and this movie has that along with all kinds of sub-themes to it, and one of the big ones is forgiveness."

The actor was paid $17 million for Spider-Man 3, but his career could so easily have taken a different path when he was briefly replaced after the first movie. There were reports he was being "difficult" and demanded that the shooting schedule for Spider-Man 2 be arranged to allow him to deal with a recurring back problem, stemming from an injury he incurred while filming Seabiscuit.  Sony lost patience with him and replaced him with Jake Gyllenhaal, who, ironically, had also just become romantically involved with Maguire's ex-girlfriend and Spider-Man co-star Kirsten Dunst.  It was Ron Meyer, president and chief operations officer of Universal Studios and the father of Maguire's then-new girlfriend Jennifer Meyer, who convinced Maguire he was making the mistake of a lifetime to let the role go without a fight and lobbied on Maguire's behalf, using his contacts to help him win back the role.  Maguire and Jennifer Meyer are still together and have a 5-month-old daughter Ruby, a combination which has led to Maguire taking more time off between movies and spending more time at home.  The party-loving Maguire, who, a few years ago, was a leading member of Leonardo DiCaprio's so-called "Pussy Posse," has disappeared. In his place is a home-loving vegetarian who is considering moving away from Los Angeles for the sake of his daughter.

"Being a dad is great, it's fantastic and it's changed my life in so many ways," he says. "I'm going through transitions in friendships and in lifestyle, in when I go to bed and what I do with my days. I don't have as much time to do things I used to do, which is okay because I get to spend time with my baby." He has no definite film projects lined up, although Spider-Man 4 – and a $20 million salary – is already in the offing, even though he only signed for three Spider-Mans.  "They'll definitely develop a fourth movie and write a screenplay and I would consider it if there's a good script, a good story that I felt was worth telling and (director) Sam Raimi was involved and the right cast came together for it," he says.  If his fame and stardom seem to weigh heavier on Maguire than on most of his contemporaries, it could be because his mother lived on welfare handouts when he was a child while his financially desperate dad turned to bank robbery to make ends meet.  His mother was only 18 when he was born and Maguire's father, Vincent Maguire, divorced her when Tobey was only 2. But the father attempted to provide for them as well as looking after his sister's two children after she died of cancer.

He was 38 when he went into the bank opposite his home in Reseda, Calif., in 1993, with a note demanding money and a claim of a weapon in his pocket. He ran out of the bank with a bag full of money and was arrested shortly afterwards at his home. He later pleaded guilty and served prison time.  The young Maguire spent his childhood moving up and down America's West Coast, bouncing between parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. He changed schools so many times that he remembers he went through a period where he would vomit in the morning because of the anxiety of meeting new classmates. He was, he says, "a survivalist." He initially intended to be a cook, like his father, but his mother, who had acting ambitions of her own, steered him into taking acting lessons by offering him $100 if he did so.  He appeared in television commercials and made episodic guest appearances on several TV shows. While making the rounds of the audition circuit he continually found himself competing for roles with DiCaprio. He made his feature film debut in This Boy's Life, which starred DiCaprio and De Niro, and then went on to star in The Ice Storm, Ride With The Devil and Cider House Rules. Raimi believed he was ideal for the Spider-Man role despite the objections of studio executives who deemed him not heroic-looking enough for the part.  Although another Spider-Man is almost certainly in his future, Maguire insists he is not confining himself to big-budget extravaganzas. "When I read a script it has nothing to do with the size of the budget or whether it has global appeal," he says. "I just want to tell stories and play different roles, so I'm excited to see the next chapter unfold. "I want to do everything ... I feel like it's all just beginning for me."

Webheads Awaiting Tribeca Film Festival

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Los Angeles Times-Washington Post

(April 25, 2007) NEW YORK–Six years into its existence, the
Tribeca Film Festival has gone from being a vehicle for a neighbourhood's psychic and economic recovery from 9/11 to an irradiated spring fling so vast in scope that it's spread out far enough from lower Manhattan to take in Queens. The bigger, brighter Tribeca festival, which opens its sixth edition today and continues through May 5, has magnified its presence and star power to such an extent that for New Yorkers, it's something of a springtime go-to ritual. The Tribeca festival offers 75 world premieres, 32 North American premieres and 18 U.S. premieres. Of these debuts, the one that glows the brightest is the so-anticipated-it-hurts-to-think-about-it unveiling of Spider-Man 3 Monday at the UA Kaufman theatre in Queens. (The borough of Queens, as "webheads" everywhere know, is home to the superhero's alter ego Peter Parker.)

The movie's leads, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, are among the stars scheduled to appear at what promises to be a classically gaudy opening night, complete with marching band and an anticipated 3,000 spectators, according to the event's planners. The film opens worldwide, including Toronto, on May 4. The Tribeca festival plans to keep stoking the Spidey hype with midnight screenings of both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 next week, along with panel discussions, "Does Whatever a Spider Can" with Spider-Man 3 producers Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin, Kevin Feige and Grant Curtis, and "Heroes for Hire," a May 3 symposium on superhero movies.


Fishburne Books Roles In ‘Surfer’ And ‘Wrath’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 20, 2007): *
Laurence Fishburne continues to pile on the work. After weeks of rumours, it was officially announced Thursday that the actor will voice the role of Silver Surfer in director Tim Story’s "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," which opens June 15. Also principal photography began in Los Angeles Wednesday on “Days of Wrath,” an urban gang thriller co-starring Fishburne as a teacher, mentor and voice of reason to the warring gang members. The Silver Surfer character, who rides his surfboard through space, is the herald for the planet-destroying Galactus in this sequel to Fox's 2005 adaptation of the long-running Marvel Comics series.  At the other end of the film spectrum, “Days of Wrath” revolves around a wide group of interconnected Los Angelenos who struggle to survive as a war between a Latino and black gang ravages the city. Wilmer Valderrama stars as Daniel, a thug who sets off the gang war after stealing a rapper's car and accidentally killing the mother of his own Latino gang's kingpin (Jesse Garcia). Rappers David Banner, Stavye "Slim Thug" Thomas, Rick Ross and Kurupt are also among the cast.   Directed by Celia Fox, "Days of Wrath" follows a ruthless TV producer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) romantically involved with his anchorwoman (Amber Valletta) who sends his correspondent (Ana Claudia Talancon) and her cameraman (Kurupt) into the crossfire. He seeks to exploit the turmoil for ratings even after discovering that the murdered woman is his ex-lover and the kingpin is his son.  Banner, Ross and Thomas play members of the black gang.

Anika Noni Rose To Play Disney’s ‘Frog Princess’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 23, 2007) *If 2007 was Jennifer Hudson’s year, her “Dreamgirls” co-star,
Anika Noni Rose has just laid claim to 2009 and beyond as the newest member of the lucrative Disney family of princess heroines. According to E! Online, the Tony Award winner has beaten out Alicia Keys and other contenders to land the lead role in Disney’s forthcoming animated feature, “The Frog Princess,” which is set for a 2009 release.   The character, a 19-year-old from 1920s New Orleans, will make history as Disney’s first-ever African American princess. The movie will also be the first to feature hand-drawn animation since 2004's "Home on the Range." The technique has fallen out of favour in recent years thanks to its computer-generated successor.    Featuring songs by Randy Newman, the animated musical film will be directed by co-writer Ron Clements.

Polley, Butt Take Home Screenwriting Awards

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(April 24, 2007) Toronto — The 2007
Canadian Screenwriting Awards were handed out Monday night in Toronto, with director/actor/writer Sarah Polley (Away from Her) and Corner Gas creator Brent Butt being recognized for producing outstanding scripts. Susan Coyne, Bob Martin and Mark McKinney also took home script-writing honours for their work on the acclaimed series Slings & Arrows.


John Salley and Company Bring The 'Ballers' To The Club To Chat

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Dennis J. Freeman

(April 23, 2007) *Black Entertainment Television (
BET), the first nationwide black television network has come to the conclusion that more is better.  Better programming and more variety of shows is now in the offering for BET followers. Among the shows the netlet will be featuring in its new line-up are variations of animation, comedy and reality television.  BET is also “ballin” with a new weekly show that network executives think could be a sure-fire hit with their core audience.  That said, “Ballers” a one hour sports talk show, devoted to the latest sports news as well as social issues, comes with a little bit of flavour and different perspective than most sports talk shows.  That’s because “Ballers,” which debuted last Friday, hosted by former NBA star and media personality John Salley, is looking into the world of sports from an unapologetically black point of view.  Of all the sports shows gracing television screens across the country, “Ballers” is the only one that has an entire cast made up entirely of African Americans. Salley, who co-hosts the "Best Damn Sports Show ... Period" on Fox Television, spoke to the fact that having an all-black cast on a television talk show discuss sports, is long overdue.   “For the past sixty years, we have been conquering and dominating in sports,” Salley said. “But we are always explained and represented in situations by people who are non-black, who coin themselves experts. The NBA is 85 percent black. The NFL is 85 percent black.

“This show gives the perspective that it’s different. You can hear somebody speak to you, but when somebody that looks like you speaks, you’re hearing it differently, especially in the black world. When a black man says it’s hard out here and he says it to another black guy-another black doesn’t have to ask. He understands what he means “out here.” Besides having the savvy and experienced Salley in the saddle as host of “Ballers,” BET decided to add a collection of sports television talk show novices next to the ex-hoopster. But they’re a lot better than people may expect and bring a strong chemistry mix to the set.  Former NFL star Hugh Douglas keeps it real by throwing down his fire and brimstone perspective. Actor and comedian Guy Torry adds sharp comedic sarcasm, and the lovely Claudia Jordan brings a flawless beauty and charming wit to the show. What makes the show work is the way the entertainers play off each other while keeping themselves in check at the same time. Both Salley and Torry are experts at delivering funny one-liners, but Douglas and Jordan, both bringing some edginess to the show, can bring it just as well.  Jordan, who is seen on the show “Deal or No Deal” and hosts a show on the Style Network, said she is enthusiastic about being part of this project. 

“I want to bring a sassy attitude-not what you would think that is typical from a girl on a sports show. I can’t wait,” Jordan said while on the set of the show’s first production at the Platinum Live nightclub in Studio City, CA. “I am hugely flattered to be here, and chosen to be here. I want people to be like, ‘I can’t believe she said that.’ I want to be clever. I want to be funny. I want to be like a clown, because I am among other clowns. What I lack in knowledge I will make it up in personality. This is going to be a big hit on BET.”   BET expects to add more than a dozen new television shows to its channel line-up this year and 2008. Because of its signature setting of being at a live club, “Ballers” is likely to appeal to sports and non-sports fans alike. That’s what the network’s executives are hoping for.  “This is really a show where you can get on the inside and understand what’s going on about the game,” said Robyn Lattaker-Johnson, an executive at BET. “It’s the game behind the game. It is real issues. It’s real talk. It’s hanging with the fellas. It’s about the locker room talk where you don’t normally become the fly on the wall-but now you can. I think the show will definitely resonate with them (men) because it’s real talk. It’s the way we talk. It’s for us, by us.”   “Ballers” isn’t like your average television sports talk shows in many ways. It’s hip. It’s lively and engaging. And its straight talk, minus the over-the-top sports verbiage that most sports talk shows tend to use in their wording vernacular.    It’s raw. It’s hard-hitting. It’s edgy. It’s funny. It’s informative. It’s also just the latest dimension of a new wave of programming that BET will be bringing to its television line-up to get more people to tune in to the nation’s first-black owned television network. 

If the first show is any indication, which featured former NBA player John Amaechi and San Diego Chargers football star Shawne Merriman, BET has a sure-fire hit on its hands with “Ballers.” Salley said “Ballers” gives guests the opportunity to feel at ease with its club and DJ setting atmosphere. He and the rest of the cast are hoping the conversations that take place are just as blunt.    “A lot of times you can’t say certain things because of the politics of advertisers,” Salley said. “The difference with “Ballers” is you’re going to hear it from guys who are really in that position. So when I have a conversation in a nightclub with a baller after I heard something on ESPN or saw it on the 'Best Damn Sports Show Period ...' he’s really going to tell me the real. Because there’s a television part and there’s a real part, we’re hoping they still have that feel because we’re in a club atmosphere and they can tell us the real.”   BET's "Ballers" can be seen Friday nights at 10 (E&P) / 9 (Central)

Dennis J Freeman is a Southern California based freelance journalist. Contact him via: denjam7_freeman@hotmail.com.

Tracey Edmonds: Something About Eddie

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 24, 07) The woman formerly known as Tracey McQuarn has been christened "Hollywood's Newest 'It' Girl" by 'Sister 2 Sister' magazine. I'm referring to entertainment executive
Tracey Edmonds -- the 40-year-old Los Angeles native who happens to be the ex-wife of music producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and is currently making the scene with box-office megastar Eddie Murphy. The Black Hollywood power couple graces the cover of the May edition of the black celebrity glossy. Although the eight-page feature focuses mostly on Edmonds and her professional life -- she's an award winning film and television producer with credits including 'Soul Food,' 'Hav Plent,' 'Josie & The Pussycats,' 'College Hill' and reality shows starring Lil' Kim, Keyshia Cole and DMX -- 'Sister 2 Sister' publisher Jamie Foster Brown got her to open up about Murphy some. "...he asked me out for tea, and I was like 'Really? Tea?' I'm like, 'Okay,' Edmonds revealed about Murphy's first proposition.  "It was sweet," she continued. "He has so many different unique, interesting qualities that you would never imagine Eddie Murphy to have. He's the most wonderful, kindest, most thoughtful, most romantic person. That's Eddie."

When the topic turned to Murphy's friendship with New Edition power vocalist Johnny Gill, Edmonds called the innuendo of them being lovers "BS." "I've known Johnny for years ... they've been friends for years," she stated, further clarifying, "The more you see what it's like being Eddie out in public, yeah you see why he's always felt comfortable having a best friend with him." Regarding her ex-hubby Babyface -- who ironically has a two-page feature preceding hers in the magazine -- they are still "close."  "I'm really blessed that I'm able to have him still so closely in my life and still be able to move on with my life but not lose a friend like that, because I still adore Kenny." The couple, who were married for 13 years, divorced last year. (Read story here.)

Throughout the lengthy chat session, no reason was given for the split. But the interview subject did chime on the Eddie Murphy/Scary Spice paternity drama that's been heating up the gossip scene. "The press went crazy and said Eddie Murphy says the baby's not mine. But he never said that. He just said, 'I want a paternity test." "He's an amazing father."

Crystal Buble Is Happy To Live In Her Brother Michael's Shadow

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Alexandra Gill

(Apr. 19, 07) Sibling rivalry in the showbiz world can be such a sensitive topic. Especially when one family member is a megastar and the other is relatively unknown. "It's okay,"
Crystal Buble says after I hesitantly broach the brother issue about halfway through an hour-long interview this week. "He's kind of famous," the actress says, joking dryly about her older brother, Michael. Michael Buble is, of course, the Grammy Award-winning crooner from Burnaby, B.C., whose velvety interpretations of popular jazz standards have sold more than 10 million albums. His new CD, Call Me Irresponsible, is being released to huge fanfare on May 1. Crystal Buble, 25, is a Vancouver-based actress who has been trudging along for 10 years, working mostly on television series, including a recurring role on Cold Squad and movies of the week. She now stars in Crossing, a small Canadian feature film being released tomorrow, as a reluctant call girl who blackmails, then falls for a cross-dressing mobster. The prestigious family tie has certainly boosted the film's publicity fortunes: When Michael and his girlfriend, actress Emily Blunt, turned up for the February VIP premieres in Toronto and Vancouver, the Canadian paparazzi came out in full force; there have been numerous hits on ET Canada, eTalk and Star Daily; and the current issue of Flare magazine features a flashy profile on the talented siblings.

The younger Buble, however, doesn't want anyone to think she's riding on the coattails of her brother's success. "Believe it or not, there actually was a time when I made more money than him," she says, her seductive saucer eyes nodding along emphatically. Indeed, when the film was cast in 2002, her brother wasn't exactly a household name. "Michael who?" director Roger Larry recalls thinking. "I can't commit to anything, but if you give me a demo, I'll take a listen," he told his actress. Michael eventually made the cut on the movie soundtrack. Released by Warner Music Canada, it also features Bif Naked, who plays a creepy drag king in the film, Swollen Members, Buck 65 and Sarah Slean. "[Crystal] is Michael Buble's sister," says Larry, who co-produced the $2-million film with his wife and screenplay writer Sandra Tomc. "That's why people are interested at first. Then they see her performance and they're smitten." Larry was so impressed with Buble's audition, he says he picked her over a well-known television actress, whom he declines to name, but who would have allegedly guaranteed a lucrative international presale. Larry and Tomc struggled for three years to finish the film. After being picked up by the Los Angeles-based distributor Cinemavault, it has since won a silver award for first feature at the Cinequest festival in San Jose, Calif., and has been sold to 21 countries.

"There's such electricity," he says of Buble's performance with co-star Sebastian Spence. "I think it's great that she's popping because of this." With her pouty lips and voluptuous curves paired with a chummy girl-next-door demeanour, Buble certainly does have a captivating presence that lights up the screen. The scene in which she fondles a strap-on dildo through baggy men's briefs may yet prove to be one of the most weirdly erotic acts of foreplay in Canadian cinema. In person, however, Buble is nothing like the gutsy Davina, her character in Crossing. She seems guarded, almost shy, initially answering questions with a curt "yes" or "no."  "Am I freaked out?" she says, gripping her coffee cup dramatically. "Absolutely!" Having watched her brother stumble through his fair share of press pitfalls, Buble has good reason to be nervous. "It scares me," she says, referring to the most recent media brouhaha that ensued when he seemed to criticize the Grammy Awards for not televising the traditional-pop category in which he was nominated. "To be taken out of context like he was, I don't think it's fair. It's scary because we're not perfect. We can't always know the right or smart thing to say." Michael got his lucky break when former prime minister Brian Mulroney hired him to sing at his daughter's wedding. Crystal's was more of a misstep. When she was young, she dreamed of some day opening her own dance studio. When she was a teenager, she was studying jazz, tap and ballet seven days a week with a company called Darcelle's Dancers and competing on a cut-throat circuit, replete with fanatical dance moms who would routinely steal the other contestant's shoes.

"My mom wasn't anything like that," she hastily adds. At 15, she suffered a serious ankle injury and was forced to quit. "My mom said, 'Everything happens for a reason. Don't worry.' I was like 'No.' Then I started doing extra work on films, just to keep my mind busy. I was going crazy." Her agent suggested that she start auditioning for bigger roles, which led to her first part on the television series Madison, then her first film role a few years later in Scott Smith's 1999 movie Rollercoaster. Buble says she now revels in the emotional rush of being on camera. "I always get really, really nervous before we shoot, even if I don't have to say anything. I love it. I guess that's why I like playing gritty roles." Her character in Crossing, the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold and some peculiar fetishes, gave her plenty of potty-mouth dialogue and props to wrestle with. The strap-on, she says, was easy compared with the mustache. "It was creepy. I looked just like my dad with it on," she says, grimacing. "It wasn't a good look for me." As for audiences, she hopes they're not offended. "I know it's hard to watch, at parts. But it's not about cross-dressing. I think it's a really nice love story." The Buble clan has been strongly supportive, especially her brother, who has said the film is "dark, funny, interesting" and, of course, "well acted."

"We're a really close family," she says, explaining how they all -- her, her husband, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, their sister Brandee (a writer of children's books), her husband and their two kids -- hopped on Michael's tour bus last year and joined him from New Orleans to Nashville. Her parents, Amber and Lewis, are commercial fishers who sail around the tip of Vancouver Island each year. Her grandfather was a plumber. The Buble kids are the first generation of artists in the family, but she swears that they weren't pushed or fed anything funny to encourage their talents. "I don't know what happened there. They've always been so open to whatever we wanted to do. It was nice, growing up, knowing that I was never forced into doing anything. Whether it was dancing or acting, I wasn't doing it for them. I was doing it for me." Her parents did, however, introduce Buble to her husband, Lanny, a former fisherman who is now a mortgage broker. They have a puppy, Lola, and live in Coquitlam, B.C. Fame in the family has its benefits. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, her brother secured a backstage meet-and-greet with Celine Dion for her and her husband. His publicist, Liz Rosenberg, who also manages Madonna, is helping their sister find a publisher. But Buble says she is perfectly content with having her brother hog the limelight. "When I see his life I think, 'Wow, I'm glad you're doing it because I couldn't. It's crazy.' I'm very happy with the way my life is right now. If I can just work quietly and go home every night, I'd be very, very happy."

Jim Bawden Goes On Set At Shoot Of Céline Dion TV Movie

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Jim Bawden

(April 22, 2007) "I want to show how
Céline Dion did it all," chuckles veteran producer Laszlo Barna. "I mean how she went from childhood's bleak poverty to the kind of fame she enjoys today. She didn't do it alone – all the way she had her partner and future husband René Angélil. It's both their stories, really." And so Barna pitched and won CBC's backing for the new TV movie Céline, being filmed now in Toronto and Hamilton to air next season.  And why not? He had earlier delivered Shania: A Life In Eight Albums to huge ratings. Which prompts the question: who's next on Barna's list of great musical lives?  Anne Murray, whisper some crew members. Others go for Bryan Adams. Younger crew prefer Avril Lavigne or even Alanis Morissette. "Right now, only Céline is on my mind," Barna says as he winds through the maze of rooms that is the Scottish Rite Club in Hamilton.  "You know, I always loved those old musicals recounting a performer's life. And I think I've got most of the dramatic ingredients right here: from simply existing with 14 siblings to believing in herself when nobody else really did."

Barna airily dismisses the hornet's nest of controversy the movie has stirred up in Quebec. Radio-Canada took one look at the script and declined to be co-producers – the fact it concentrated on her English career was the main complaint.  "You want controversy?" asks Barna. "I'm the guy who did Milgaard – the first showing of that was blacked out in the west!" Barna figures he'll get another French-language producer on board sooner than later.  "I made this wonderful series October 1970 in Halifax. In English. Radio-Canada passed on it, too. But I'm pretty confident we'll get a French version going within a short time." On Céline, Barna says her great crossover success is part of the story. She fulfilled a dream denied to such other Québec superstars as Ginette Reno and René Simard, who did Vegas but never lasted there.  Barna laughs about shooting most of the TV movie in Hamilton instead of Quebec. Wasn't the Marilyn Bell TV movie filmed not in Toronto but Montreal? What about TV's The Great Gatsby, where Montreal stood in for New York in the Roaring '20s? "Hamilton has all the sites we need – and also the tax breaks," Barna says. We listen as Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars) and newcomer, Montreal's
Christine Ghawi, act out a scene as René and Céline. First impression: she looks a heck of a lot like Céline – perhaps not as tall, but when she sings and dances, look out. (The singing will be dubbed in later, a standard practice.)

During a break, Colantoni confides he's still waiting to see if CW's Veronica Mars gets picked up for another season – it depends on what happens to the lead-in show Gilmore Girls, which may or may not be coming back for another season.  Born in Toronto, Colantoni studied at U of T before departing for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He doesn't get home as much as he wants, especially since his parents retired and moved back to Italy. So why is he back making a Canadian TV movie?  "A new agent – he gets me great scripts like this," he says. "At first, I thought this might be cheesy. Then I read it and it's partly about how this guy fits into her life. They're a real couple. Alone, neither would have made it. Together, they're unbeatable." As the younger Céline, Barna chose Jodelle Ferland (Silent Hill, Terry Gilliam's Tideland ), who stopped to chat just before she had to return to school work by correspondence for the afternoon. Her reaction to co-starring in Céline? "It gets me out of horror movies." To ace the part of the older Céline, the 23-year-old Ghawi says she pored over tapes, CDs and images of Dion. "I did not want to do an imitation but to capture her style, her essence. With her, there's so much energy. But while I use some of the movements, this is a free translation. I just wanted to tap into her incredible strength."

Was Barna nervous about Ghawi's lack of experience? "Not after we started, she puts her all into every scene, takes direction and her musicality makes her a perfect Céline. Enrico is helping her in every scene, they make a great team." The day I was on set, Ghawi was in every scene. "I think I'm getting better, Enrico is so easy to work with. It's not an imitation of her, although I borrow some of her famous moves. I think, in a way, I've been preparing for this for a very long time." Barna says he was thrilled to entice Colantoni back to Toronto. Another returning Canadian is director Jeff Woolnough (CSI, Bones) who says he left in 1990 for a lucrative career making American TV.  "The challenge here is to stitch together the story with only 19 days of filming. We have to film fast, think on our feet – but that's what Canadian crews do best," says Woolnough, who sits on an apple crate instead of the traditional director's chair for better posture.  Because of the tight schedule, Barna is using the Scottish Rite club for several different venues, including a Vegas nightclub. He says Hamilton Place will stand in for several theatres, a house on the mountain will serve as several different hotel suites and there will be a day in Dundas for one of the early poverty scenes. CBC's Glenn Gould Theatre and several sites in Cambridge are also being used. Barna says, "Look, I wish I had $50 million to really make a big-screen musical. Our way is to emphasize the intimate moments. It's always a challenge to make any Canadian TV movie. I keep doing it because I think Canadians want to see themselves on TV, it's as simple as that."

Falcon Beach's Failure To Attract Older U.S. Viewers Partly To Blame

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press, With files from Jim Bawden

(April 24, 2007) WINNIPEG BEACH, Man.–A bit of television glamour is leaving Manitoba's Interlake, putting a dent in the pride and prosperity of Winnipeg Beach. The Lake Winnipeg shoreside town was stunned after learning this weekend that TV series
Falcon Beach, a drama about the goings-on of a sexy group of residents of a Manitoba resort community, has been cancelled after two seasons. Daryl Carry, the town's deputy mayor, said he was told by Kim Todd, an executive at Winnipeg production firm Original Pictures, that the plug was being pulled on the series due to a sharp drop in funding support from the networks that have carried it: ABC Family in the U.S. and Global TV in Canada. "We've had tourists here every summer, coming to see where Falcon Beach is shot," says Carry, who also runs a restaurant. "It was great exposure for my business and great exposure for the town."

ABC Family reportedly cut cash support to the show because of what it saw as a failure to attract a sufficient number of viewers in a demographic wider than teens, with whom the program is popular. And Global's financial assistance has decreased, making Falcon Beach's production no longer feasible. Todd said her company had asked ABC Family and Global for an early commitment for a third season so they could begin writing the scripts.  "After airing two new episodes from Season Two, ABC Family passed, saying the series was not reaching enough people 18 to 49, although it scored heavily with teens. I could have tried making a deal elsewhere if Global passed, but not with both networks passing.  "Working in Canadian TV, you have to get used to this. It was a hit for two full seasons and gives the company a solid reputation for our next series; we're in pre-production with several concepts." News of the show's demise came as a sudden blow to residents and entrepreneurs of the picturesque lakeside town of about 900, whose population in outlying cottage areas booms to 20,000 during summers. "Falcon Beach made it cool to go to the beach again and we have seen such an influx of young people coming here since Falcon Beach started filming," said Karen Bridgwater, owner of the Blue Rooster store in the town about 75 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Despite the cancellation, Carry pointed out the beach region's use as a location for movies such as K-19: The Widowmaker with Harrison Ford and Whiteout with Kate Beckinsale.

Rosie O'Donnell's To Exit The View

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(April 25, 2007) NEW YORKRosie O'Donnell's stormy tenure on The View will be a short one. The opinionated host was unable to agree on a contract with ABC, and she'll leave the show in June. “My needs for the future just didn't dovetail with what ABC was able to offer me,” O'Donnell said in a statement Wednesday. “This has been an amazing experience,” she said, “and one I wouldn't have traded for the world.” O'Donnell has helped raise the ratings for the daytime chat show invented by Barbara Walters. But her outspokenness has caused almost constant controversy, including a nasty name-calling feud with Donald Trump that placed Walters squarely in the middle.  “I induced Rosie to come back to television on The View even for just one year,” Walters said. “She has given the program new vigour, new excitement and wonderful hours of television. I can only be grateful to her for this year.”

Walters was frequently left to clean up the damage after O'Donnell. She did it most recently Monday, when O'Donnell was criticized for using bad language and attacking Rupert Murdoch from the dais of the annual New York Women in Communication awards luncheon. “I would like to point out that Rosie's view is not always mine,” Walters said. “I would like to say for the record that I am very fond of Rupert Murdoch.” In the Trump imbroglio, O'Donnell was reportedly mad that Walters did not come more swiftly to her defence, while Trump said Walters told him she didn't want O'Donnell on the show — a claim Walters denied. Statements by public figures are being watched more closely in the post-Don Imus era. The lobbying group Focus on the Family said it was preparing to contact advertisers on The View as part of a campaign against O'Donnell. The group is angry at O'Donnell for comments they feel were insulting to Catholics. Despite controversy — or maybe because of it — O'Donnell was good business for ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co. Ratings for The View during February sweeps were up 15 per cent in key women demographics over the same time in 2006.


Schaeffer Hired As Trump's Apprentice

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(April 23, 2007) NEW YORK –
Stefani Schaeffer is Donald Trump's newest Apprentice. Trump chose Schaeffer, a California-born attorney, over James Sun, 29, an Internet entrepreneur from Seattle. The season finale of The Apprentice: Los Angeles aired live Sunday from the Hollywood Bowl. "James, you're fired. Stefani, you're hired," Trump said. Schaeffer, 32, was cool under pressure as she made her final pitch to the real-estate mogul. "I was never under fire in the boardroom," she said. "Not once did you ever see me brought back by any team members, nor did you ever hear a negative word spoken about me from day one of this process.'' "That's largely true," Trump replied. Schaeffer had the choice of working on Trump's new resort development in the Caribbean or a condo project in Atlanta. She chose the Caribbean. The previous five seasons of The Apprentice were set in Manhattan.


Sizwe Banzi Is Dead - Still Relevant After All These Years

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Sizwe Banzi is Dead
(out of 4)
By Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona. Directed by Peter Brook. Until Sunday at Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(April 19, 2007) "A black man must stay out of trouble." "Impossible. Our skin is our trouble." The most powerful, yet frightening thing about
Sizwe Banzi Is Dead (which opened at the Enwave Theatre last night) is that those words are as relevant now as they were when they were first written, 35 years ago. The play that Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona created in 1972 may have owed its initial inspiration to the crushing world of apartheid that ruled South Africa in those years, but the passing of time and the collapse of one racist regime has not meant the elimination of all of them around the world. The scenes we saw enacted onstage could just have easily happened yesterday in the Middle East, or in Southeast Asia, or even parts of our own continent. Sizwe Banzi is Dead tells the story of what a man must do to survive in this world and it does it with equal portions of wit, compassion and heartbreak. The play begins with a long but delicious monologue from Styles, played with quicksilver charm by Habib Dembélé, He's a sly, shape-shifting demon who has set himself up as a photographer after years of hell on the Ford assembly line.  Throughout it all, you admire the gleam in Dembélé's eyes, the spring in his step, the hollow death-rattle laughter that sticks in his throat and rasps against our ears.

But all of this is just what Horatio in Hamlet calls "prologue to the omen coming on." For soon, a customer comes into Styles's ramshackle studio to have his picture taken. He's a big, lumbering bear of a man with a world of hurt in his eyes, and Womba Konga portrays him with power, yet sensitivity.  He tells Styles his name is Robert and he's here to have a picture taken to send home to his wife, but the pain he is holding inside soon breaks through and he keeps repeating "Sizwe Banzi is dead." To reveal more would be to give away the bitter ironies and razor-like turns of fate that drive the rest of this short (75 minutes) but powerful play. Let's just say that nothing is what it seems, and the human capacity to change lies at the heart of the play's theme. "We own nothing except ourselves," says one character and from that truth, everyone learns to build a new tomorrow. The actors are superb and the text remains magnificent, but the direction of Peter Brook is the real revelation. It may seem simple and unadorned to the point of invisibility, but you soon realize that every moment has been calibrated to deliver the maximum dose of truth. There's one unforgettable sequence when Dembélé leads Konga into a nightclub. Dembélé's cane suddenly becomes a piano keyboard that he plays with jazzy skill, and then – just as magically – he shifts his posture and becomes a sleazy chanteuse. Then he returns to his normal self and the action continues. But for a few seconds we have been made aware of the power of man and movement to create an ultimate reality far greater than any mere naturalism – something Brook has always strived for. The play is performed in French and there are discreet surtitles upstage, but I doubt you'll need them. Sizwe Banzi Is Dead makes its message perfectly clear and it's one you ought to hear.

Music Makes For A Merry, Magical Widow

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

The Merry Widow
(out of 4)
By Franz Lehár. Directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin. Until Sunday at Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. E. 416-366-7723

(April 25, 2007) They're called the
Toronto Operetta Theatre for good reason. Give this group a classic genre piece like The Merry Widow, which opened last night at the Jane Mallett Theatre, then watch them rise to the occasion beautifully. The voices ring out melodiously, the orchestra plays with bravura and the stage action is attractive and appropriate. Of course, it helps to have Frank Lehár's magical 1905 piece of delight offering everyone the kind of solid inspiration they need. Although "solid" is the wrong word for something as light and bubbly as this is. The champagne that is continuously being lifted in toasts provides a better indication of what kind of show this is. Unlike many other Viennese confections, which often seem ready to drown in an ocean of schlag, The Merry Widow is free of all theatrical trans fats, as digestible as it is disarming. Yes there's a plot, but I'm not going to waste valuable space describing its complexities. There's a widow who's merry and a count who's charming, and you just know they're going to get together. You go to Lehár for the music, which is sublime on its own terms. Besides the title waltz, there's also the rousing "Oh, the women,” the sprightly "Maxim's" and the ethereal "Vilja," to name just a few treasures.

Kevin Mallon conducts the orchestra with just the proper amount of flair, and the strings zing with passion while the woodwinds thrum with desire. And (except for a few vile topical jokes) Guillermo Silva-Marin has staged it all with a nice blend of romance and ribaldry, allowing every member of the cast their own moment to shine. And that cast are a pretty nifty lot themselves. Theodore Baerg brings such knowing wit and waiting-to-be-deflated male vanity to Count Danilo, he'll remind you of a turn of the century George Clooney. Stuart Howe (as de Rosillon) has a lovely smile and an even lovelier tenor voice, both of which he uses to advantage, and his vis-à-vis, Gisèle Fredette, plays Valencienne with just the right insouciance. Last, but definitely not least, is Die Lustige Witwe herself, Anna Glawari, portrayed with a lovely reality by Elizabeth Beeler.  Many women who take on this role enter in a cascade of giggles and wear out their welcome rapidly. Not Beeler.  At first, she actually seems like a young widow, still on the cusp of mourning, wondering what to do with her life. The presence of her old flame Danilo helps her make up her mind rapidly, and it's a joy to watch the way she blossoms.

Beeler's comic touch is deft and her singing a joy. The way she sings "Vilja," turning a folk tale into a saga of personal longing, is sheer magic. But then, so is this whole production of The Merry Widow. Go see it and smile.


Theatre Company Launched

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(April 24, 2007) There's been much gnashing of teeth about the
anaemic health of Toronto's theatre scene in the past five years, especially in the wake of the collapse of The Lord of the Rings in 2006. But there was nothing but generous applause and smiles yesterday at a glitzy party to mark the launch of a company determined to make Toronto a sort of Broadway North. Dancap Productions, brainchild of Toronto businessman/philanthropist Aubrey Dan, used a party at the 1,600-seat Elgin Theatre to preview scenes from the six musicals it plans to mount for its inaugural season.  Hosting the bash, which was attended by at least 15 producers flown in from New York, was 80-year-old actress Cloris Leachman, winner of the 1971 best supporting actress Oscar.  Dancap's 2007-2008 season starts Sept. 19 with an almost month-long run of the Tony-winning, Canadian-made The Drowsy Chaperone at the Elgin, followed by The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, (Jan. 29-Feb. 10, 2008, Elgin), 3 Mo' Divas (Mar. 4-18, Winter Garden Theatre), the National Theatre of Great Britain's production of My Fair Lady (Mar. 8-31, Toronto Centre for the Arts), Avenue Q (July 29-Aug. 31, Elgin) and Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (dates and location to be announced). Tickets go on sale Saturday.  "The whole secret is to find shows that either have a proven creative team [or] a proven track record," Mr. Dan said. Staff


Dancing Star Laila Ali Says Show Biz Not Her Goal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber, Associated Press

(April 23, 2007) LOS ANGELES – It's no surprise that
Laila Ali is floating like a butterfly on Dancing with the Stars. Ali, the daughter of boxing great Muhammad Ali, has cemented her own reputation in the ring with an unbeaten record since her professional debut in 1999. And her skills as a fighter translate nicely to the dance floor, she said. "I think the stereotype of female boxers is that you're not going to be ladylike. ... But if you do know boxing, and you have seen me box, then I think people would assume I would be graceful," she said. Her father, after all, famously advertised himself as floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee, and he did. "My dad had class. He was graceful," Laila Ali said of the now-frail Ali, 65, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. Laila Ali, 29, said she uses her athleticism and fitness to conquer dances including the mambo and rumba on Dancing with the Stars, which airs Monday and Tuesday on ABC. "It's also just being determined and focused. And my confidence is something that helps me along the way. It's really stressful and a lot of tension sometimes, trying to learn (a dance) and you've got this camera crew there."

But, she said, "I'm used to training under pressure so it works well for me." She's also able to stand up to the partner-teacher, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, with whom she's paired. He's brought past partners on the show to tears, Ali said. "I think they (producers) felt because I'm strong and confident we'd work well together – either that, or make good TV. I'm not going to let him get to me in any sort of way without saying something back," she said with a good-natured laugh. She and Chmerkovskiy have been garnering high marks from the ABC contest's judges and winning viewer approval. For her part, Ali is enjoying the custom-made outfits, bedecked with glitter and rhinestones, that she helps design. "I look at it as a new character every week. It's like playing dress-up," she said. But there's no grand plan to charge into entertainment for the photogenic, five-foot-10 Ali. "People have been asking me that since the beginning because they thought that's why I started boxing," she said. After having proven her devotion to the sport, and with her upcoming marriage to former pro football player Curtis Conway, she does plan to expand her horizons. A boxing-oriented workout DVD she shot with Sugar Ray Leonard was just released and Ali says it's the start of more fitness ventures, including a book. She'd like to set an example for young women and others about the importance of living a healthy life, she said. But she's not in search of boundless fame. "I grew up watching my father and I'm just not really into the whole superstar-celebrity thing," Ali said. "I'm kind of afraid of success in that area because I want to be able to live a regular life. ... I dealt with it growing up and for the second part of my life I don't really want to go to that."

Give Yourself A Belly Ache

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(April 19, 2007) Two years in the planning, the first International
Bellydance Conference of Canada is a sure sign of a Middle Eastern dance form flowering on northern soil.  Performance is the big draw for dancers and public alike at this five-day conference, organized by Yasmina Ramzy of Arabesque Dance Company. Ramzy has invited 150 performers, including Saturday's gala headliners Randa Kamel from Egypt, Sahra Saeeda from California and Amir Taleb from Argentina.  The conference, says Ramzy, is a talking session, too. In 2001, she attended a similar event in California. "Here were all these incredible artists I'd only ever heard about and you got to see them in discussion – sometimes very loud, fighting discussions."  In the three large rooms at the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre on St. Clair Ave. W., Ramzy has lined up workshops, two nights of performances, workshops, lectures and panel discussions.  The panels, she says, "are my favourite parts. They are often straddling sexual issues in belly dancing, the difference between Middle-Eastern and Western sensuality or commercial dancing versus women's empowerment." Ramzy herself will deliver a lecture titled "Looking for the Goddess in Vertical Drops and Shimmies."

She will tell how her teenage studies in ancient Egyptian mysticism and the worship of Isis eventually led her to belly dancing. In 1981, a Buddhist Lama encouraged her to keep up her dancing. He believed belly dancing was the route to expanding women's spirituality.  "This is the first time I've talked publicly about it," says Ramzy. She hopes to have her book To Dance in Her Name published later this year.  As a worldwide phenomenon, belly dancing has developed in myriad ways. Every dancer has a different story to tell. Toronto dancer Roula Said came here when she was just 5 after emigrating from Jordan with her Palestinian mother. This was in the 1970s.  At school, she recalls, "It was not groovy to be beige and eat round sandwiches." She and her friends would laugh at belly dancers. Then she had an epiphany when she heard the legendary Egyptian singer Om Kalsoum.  "She was a real pan-Arab phenomenon," Said says. In her early 20s, she plunged into dance, taking lessons from Ramzy and many other leading gurus, pondering Middle Eastern history and culture and finally performing and setting up her own school. Said is co-founder of the musical group Maza Meze, and has undertaken several projects with her musician husband David Buchbinder, including Feast of the East and the Shurum Burum Jazz Circus.

When Said says she is "looking for an authentic voice within belly dance," she may speak for a number of artists coming to the conference.  Belly dance has taken on many different guises in North America. There is a movement called tribal fusion or American Tribal that Ramzy describes "a way of women getting back to the spirit of belly dance in North America in the 1960s, when it was more about a feeling of what the Middle East would be like."  Bellyqueen, performing at the gala, is a troupe from New York City that puts a contemporary spin on Middle Eastern dance, with pop, hip-hop, modern, jazz, ballet, gypsy, flamenco, Chinese and Afro-Haitian flavours. Some sessions and all of the performances are open to the public. No doubt attendees will hear the sound of the music and the debating, long before they actually see the centre on St. Clair.

What: International Bellydance Conference of Canada



Malaria Common Thread As MP, Wife Save Sudanese Girl

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Delacourt, Ottawa Bureau Chief

(April 25, 2007) OTTAWA–For
Glen Pearson, the Liberal MP for London North Centre, the fight against malaria is in his blood – literally.  Pearson, 55, who became an MP in a November by-election, doesn't talk much about it, but he has a life-long case of malaria; a tropical, parasitic disease he contracted doing aid work in Bangladesh in 1970 and which still attacks him three or four times each year.  Malaria also affects his six-year-old daughter, Abuk, who wasn't expected to live when Pearson and his wife, Jane Roy, 40, adopted her as a baby in war-ravaged Sudan about five years ago.  And in the next couple of weeks, with luck, Abuk, 6, will be reunited in her London home with twin sister Achen and eight-year-old brother Ater in a remarkable survival story of family lost and found in Africa.  At this very moment, Achen and Ater are in a Nairobi hospital getting a medical all-clear to come to Canada after enduring their own bouts of malaria and other diseases. Abuk is rearranging the furniture in the London home to accommodate a brother and sister that she didn't know she had until a couple of years ago.

Abuk's siblings are lucky, not just to be coming to Canada and joining the Pearson family, but to be alive at all. According to United Nations estimates, malaria is the largest single cause of death for African children under five years of age and more than one million children die of the disease every year. There's no vaccine and, though it can be treated, it is a recurring disease."  Today, Pearson will be on hand at Toronto City Hall, along with Mayor David Miller, MP Belinda Stronach and comedian Rick Mercer to kick off Africa Malaria Day. Collectively, they are trying to raise money to send anti-malarial bed nets to Africa, a remarkably low-tech, low-cost measure that could reduce malaria transmission by up to 50 per cent and child mortality by 20 per cent.  Each bed net costs just $10. But as the MP, firefighter and food-bank founder explains: "Ten dollars, it's not an exaggeration to say, it saves a life. It literally does that. But it does more than (save) one life. These are the kind of bed nets ... that can be put around a tent or whatever it is, so a mother can take her children under and provide protection."  This is no far-off, remote cause for Pearson. Over and above his own concern about Africa's suffering and his own adopted, malaria-survivor children, he suffers from the most virulent form the disease, subject to delirium and acute nausea whenever it attacks. His is actually a worse strain than those of Abuk or her siblings and it has proved debilitating at times in his pre-political life as a firefighter.  Pearson's last bout of malaria was in November, just before his by-election victory. Pearson recalled yesterday that he realized he was coming in for another malaria attack just as he was trying to do an interview with the Star last November at one of his campaign stops at the University of Western Ontario's business school. He was knocked flat for a few days afterward, but didn't let on publicly.

And this isn't the only remarkable aspect of Pearson's life that has slipped under the radar of a political capital obsessed with election timing and minority-Parliament bickering.  Pearson, most noticed so far for his introduction speech of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion at the leadership convention last December, has been travelling back and forth from Sudan since 1998 – his most recent trip was in March, when he and his wife led a group of women from London to the area. Together with his wife, Jane, 40, they are the co-founders of Canadian Aid for southern Sudan (CASS), which is dedicated to building schools and businesses and "reintegrating" formers slaves and child soldiers from the region.  They first heard of Abuk when she was just four months old and her mother had died in militia violence in Sudan. Pearson and his wife conducted a year-long quest to find the tiny girl, always arriving in villages just after she had left with caregivers who were constantly on the move, fleeing the violence. Finally, they found her, just as they were leaving on a plane for Nairobi. Abuk was 15 months old and weighed just 12 pounds and no one gave her any hope of survival.  "But she responded to the care in the Nairobi hospital," Pearson said, and soon they were able to take her home and adopt her.  When Abuk was 4, the family decided she should see her homeland and they returned for a visit. To their shock and surprise, they were greeted at a Catholic mission by a young girl identical to Abuk – it was her twin sister, Achen. Then another surprise – a boy, two years older, also came forward. It was Ater, her half-brother. The two had been under the care of their grandmother, who graciously had decided that their best chance was to be reunited with Abuk and to be adopted by the Pearson family in Canada.  Now, nearly two years later, the paperwork and the health checks are nearly done and DNA tests have established that the children are indeed Abuk's siblings. (The father of the two girls was the slave owner who had abducted their mother and Ater at an early age. It's not known what happened to Ater's father.)  Pearson is a quiet man, who tells his amazing family stories with matter-of-fact declarations of passion. Malaria, he says, like his fervour to help the people of Sudan, will be coursing through his veins forever – or as he puts it: "Until I die."

Saul Williams: Wide 'Open'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 20, 07) One of the revered poets of the generation -- the hip-hop generation -- is the much heralded
Saul Williams. The author/actor/poet/recording artist and father issued an "Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey" this morning, that is worthy of sharing. Below, is the letter in its entirety. Please share your thoughts.

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

It is with the greatest respect and adoration of your loving spirit that I write you. As a young child, I would sit beside my mother everyday and watch your program. As a young adult, with children of my own, I spend much less time in front of the television, but I am ever thankful for the positive effect that you continue to have on our nation, history and culture. The example that you have set as someone unafraid to answer their calling, even when the reality of that calling insists that one self-actualize beyond the point of any given example, is humbling, and serves as the cornerstone of the greatest faith. You, love, are a pioneer. I am a poet. Growing up in Newburgh, NY, with a father as a minister and a mother as a schoolteacher, at a time when we fought for our heroes to be nationally recognized, I certainly was exposed to the great names and voices of our past. I took great pride in competing in my churches Black History Quiz Bowl and the countless events my mother organized in hopes of fostering a generation of youth well versed in the greatness as well as the horrors of our history. Yet, even in a household where I had the privilege of personally interacting with some of the most outspoken and courageous luminaries of our times, I must admit that the voices that resonated the most within me and made me want to speak up were those of my peers, and these peers were emcees. Rappers.
Yes, Ms. Winfrey, I am what my generation would call "a Hip Hop head." Hip Hop has served as one of the greatest aspects of my self-definition. Lucky for me, I grew up in the 80's when groups like Public Enemy, Rakim, The Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and many more realized the power of their voices within the artform and chose to create music aimed at the upliftment of our generation. As a student at Morehouse College where I studied Philosophy and Drama I was forced to venture across the street to Spelman College for all of my Drama classes, since Morehouse had no theatre department of its own. I had few complaints. The performing arts scholarship awarded me by Michael Jackson had promised me a practically free ride to my dream school, which now had opened the doors to another campus that could make even the most focused of young boys dreamy, Spelman. One of my first theatre professors, Pearle Cleage, shook me from my adolescent dream state. It was the year that Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" was released and our introduction to Snoop Dogg as he sang catchy hooks like "Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks..." Although, it was a playwriting class, what seemed to take precedence was Ms. Cleages political ideology, which had recently been pressed and bound in her 1st book, Mad at Miles. As, you know, in this book she spoke of how she could not listen to the music of Miles Davis and his muted trumpet without hearing the muted screams of the women that he was outspoken about "man-handling". It was my first exposure to the idea of an artist being held accountable for their actions outside of their art. It was the first time I had ever heard the word, "misogyny". And as Ms. Cleage would walk into the classroom fuming over the women she would pass on campus, blasting those Snoop lyrics from their cars and jeeps, we, her students, would be privy to many freestyle rants and raves on the dangers of nodding our heads to a music that could serve as our own demise.

Her words, coupled with the words of the young women I found myself interacting with forever changed how I listened to Hip Hop and quite frankly ruined what would have been a number of good songs for me. I had now been burdened with a level of awareness that made it impossible for me to enjoy what the growing masses were ushering into the mainstream. I was now becoming what many Hip Hop heads would call "a Backpacker", a person who chooses to associate themselves with the more "conscious" or politically astute artists of the Hip Hop community. What we termed as "conscious" Hip Hop became our preference for dance and booming systems. Groups like X-Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, Arrested Development, Gangstarr and others became the prevailing music of our circle. We also enjoyed the more playful Hip Hop of De La Soul, Heiroglyphics, Das FX, Organized Konfusion, Digable Planets, The Fugees, and more. We had more than enough positivity to fixate on. Hip Hop was diverse. I had not yet begun writing poetry. Most of my friends hardly knew that I had been an emcee in high school. I no longer cared to identify myself as an emcee and my love of oratory seemed misplaced at Morehouse where most orators were actually preachers in training, speaking with the Southern drawl of Dr. King although they were 19 and from the North. I spent my time doing countless plays and school performances. I was in line to become what I thought would be the next Robeson, Sidney, Ossie, Denzel, Snipes... It wasn't until I was in graduate school for acting at NYU that I was invited to a poetry reading in Manhattan where I heard Asha Bandele, Sapphire, Carl Hancock Rux, Reggie Gaines, Jessica Care Moore, and many others read poems that sometimes felt like monologues that my newly acquired journal started taking the form of a young poets'. Yet, I still noticed that I was a bit different from these poets who listed names like: Audrey Lourde, June Jordan, Sekou Sundiata etc, when asked why they began to write poetry. I knew that I had been inspired to write because of emcees like Rakim, Chuck D, LL, Run DMC... Hip Hop had informed my love of poetry as much or even more than my theatre background which had exposed me to Shakespeare, Baraka, Fugard, Genet, Hansberry and countless others. In those days, just a mere decade ago, I started writing to fill the void between what I was hearing and what I wished I was hearing. It was not enough for me to critique the voices I heard blasting through the walls of my Brooklyn brownstone. I needed to create examples of where Hip Hop, particularly its lyricism, could go. I ventured to poetry readings with my friends and neighbours, Dante Smith (now Mos Def), Talib Kwele, Erycka Badu, Jessica Care Moore, Mums the Schemer, Beau Sia, Suheir Hammad...all poets that frequented the open mics and poetry slams that we commonly saw as "the other direction" when Hip hop reached that fork in the road as you discussed on your show this past week. On your show you asked the question, "Are all rappers poets?" Nice. I wanted to take the opportunity to answer this question for you.

The genius, as far as the marketability, of Hip Hop is in its competitiveness. Its roots are as much in the dignified aspects of our oral tradition as it is in the tradition of "the dozens" or "signifying". In Hip Hop, every emcee is automatically pitted against every other emcee, sort of like characters with super powers in comic books. No one wants to listen to a rapper unless they claim to be the best or the greatest. This sort of braggadocio leads to all sorts of tirades, showdowns, battles, and sometimes even deaths. In all cases, confidence is the ruling card. Because of the competitive stance that all emcees are prone to take, they, like soldiers begin to believe that they can show no sign of vulnerability. Thus, the most popular emcees of our age are often those that claim to be heartless or show no feelings or signs of emotion. The poet, on the other hand, is the one who realizes that their vulnerability is their power. Like you, unafraid to shed tears on countless shows, the poet finds strength in exposing their humanity, their vulnerability, thus making it possible for us to find connection and strength through their work. Many emcees have been poets. But, no, Ms. Winfrey, not all emcees are poets. Many choose gangsterism and business over the emotional terrain through which true artistry will lead. But they are not to blame. I would now like to address your question of leadership.

You may recall that in immediate response to the attacks of September 11th, our president took the national stage to say to the American public and the world that we would "...show no sign of vulnerability". Here is the same word that distinguishes poets from rappers, but in its history, more accurately, women from men. To make such a statement is to align oneself with the ideology that instills in us a sense of vulnerability meaning "weakness". And these meanings all take their place under the heading of what we consciously or subconsciously characterize as traits of the feminine. The weapon of mass destruction is the one that asserts that a holy trinity would be a father, a male child, and a ghost when common sense tells us that the holiest of trinities would be a mother, a father, and a child: Family. The vulnerability that we see as weakness is the saving grace of the drunken driver who because of their drunken/vulnerable state survives the fatal accident that kills the passengers in the approaching vehicle who tighten their grip and show no physical vulnerability in the face of their fear. Vulnerability is also the saving grace of the skate boarder who attempts a trick and remembers to stay loose and not tense during their fall. Likewise, vulnerability has been the saving grace of the African American struggle as we have been whipped, jailed, spat upon, called names, and killed, yet continue to strive forward mostly non-violently towards our highest goals. But today we are at a crossroads, because the institutions that have sold us the crosses we wear around our necks are the most overt in the denigration of women and thus humanity. That is why I write you today, Ms. Winfrey. We cannot address the root of what plagues Hip Hop without addressing the root of what plagues today's society and the world.

You see, Ms. Winfrey, at it's worse; Hip Hop is simply a reflection of the society that birthed it. Our love affair with gangsterism and the denigration of women is not rooted in Hip Hop; rather it is rooted in the very core of our personal faith and religions. The gangsters that rule Hip Hop are the same gangsters that rule our nation. 50 Cent and George Bush have the same birthday (July 6th). For a Hip Hop artist to say "I do what I wanna do/Don't care if I get caught/The DA could play this mothaf@kin tape in court/I'll kill you/ I ain't playin'" epitomizes the confidence and braggadocio we expect an admire from a rapper who claims to represent the lowest denominator. When a world leader with the spirit of a cowboy (the true original gangster of the West: raping, stealing land, and pillaging, as we clapped and cheered.) takes the position of doing what he wants to do, regardless of whether the UN or American public would take him to court, then we have witnessed true gangsterism and violent negligence. Yet, there is nothing more negligent than attempting to address a problem one finds on a branch by censoring the leaves.  Name calling, racist generalizations, sexist perceptions, are all rooted in something much deeper than an uncensored music. Like the rest of the world, I watched footage on AOL of you dancing mindlessly to 50 Cent on your fiftieth birthday as he proclaimed, "I got the ex/if you're into taking drugs/ I'm into having sex/ I ain't into making love" and you looked like you were having a great time. No judgment. I like that song too. Just as I do, James Brown's Sex Machine or Grand Master Flash's "White Lines". Sex, drugs, and rock and roll is how the story goes. Censorship will never solve our problems. It will only foster the sub-cultures of the underground, which inevitably inhabit the mainstream. There is nothing more mainstream than the denigration of women as projected through religious doctrine. Please understand, I am by no means opposing the teachings of Jesus, by example (he wasn't Christian), but rather the men that have used his teachings to control and manipulate the masses. Hip Hop, like Rock and Roll, like the media, and the government, all reflect an idea of power that labels vulnerability as weakness. I can only imagine the non-emotive hardness that you have had to show in order to secure your empire from the grips of those that once stood in your way: the old guard. You reflect our changing times. As time progresses we sometimes outgrow what may have served us along the way. This time, what we have outgrown, is not hip hop, rather it is the festering remnants of a God depicted as an angry and jealous male, by men who were angry and jealous over the minute role that they played in the everyday story of creation. I am sure that you have covered ideas such as these on your show, but we must make a connection before our disconnect proves fatal.

We are a nation at war. What we fail to see is that we are fighting ourselves. There is no true hatred of women in Hip Hop. At the root of our nature we inherently worship the feminine. Our overall attention to the nurturing guidance of our mothers and grandmothers as well as our ideas of what is sexy and beautiful all support this. But when the idea of the feminine is taken out of the idea of what is divine or sacred then that worship becomes objectification. When our governed morality asserts that a woman is either a virgin or a whore, then our understanding of sexuality becomes warped. Note the dangling platinum crosses over the bare asses being smacked in the videos. The emcees of my generation are the ministers of my father's generation. They too had a warped perspective of the feminine. Censoring songs, sermons, or the tirades of radio personalities will change nothing except the format of our discussion. If we are to sincerely address the change we are praying for then we must first address to whom we are praying. Thank you, Ms. Winfrey, for your forum, your heart, and your vision. May you find the strength and support to bring about the changes you wish to see in ways that do more than perpetuate the myth of enmity.

In loving kindness,

Saul Williams

Sofa Company Uses N-Word To Describe Brown Colour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2007) *A black family living in Ontario, Canada had to do a double take at the label accompanying the arrival of their new chocolate-coloured furniture. Doris Moore and her husband, Douglas, had purchased a sofa, loveseat and chair in dark brown leather earlier this month from
Vanaik Furniture and Mattress store. Upon its delivery, the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Olivia read the label and asked: “Mommy, what is nig…ger brown?”  “I went over and just couldn't believe my eyes," Moore told the Toronto Star, stating each furniture piece had the description “nigger brown” attached to the woven protective covering wrapped around the furniture. "In this day and age, that's totally unacceptable."  After explaining the ugly history of the N-word to their daughter, the couple called the furniture store on three separate occasions, but never received a return call.  The Toronto Star contacted Romesh Kumar, Vanaik's assistant manager, but he passed the blame to his supplier, Cosmos Furniture in Scarborough. But Kumar did say he would check similar stock and make sure other labels were removed.  

"That's terrible, that's a racial ... something?" Kumar said. "This is entirely wrong, but it's not my fault. It's my job to sell good product to people."   Kumar gave Moore the telephone number of his supplier so that Moore could take her complaint directly to him. The owner of Cosmos Furniture, Paul Kumar, no relation to Romesh, said he was upset to learn packing labels on products he sold carried a racial epithet.  "I import my products from overseas. I've never noticed anything like that. This is something new to me,” he told the newspaper before passing the blame onto the furniture maker in Guangzhou, China. Paul Kumar apologized to the family and said he would contact the Chinese company with demands that they remove all similar labels.  Meanwhile, Moore has had second thoughts about leaving the sofa set in her home.  "Every time I sit on it, I'll think of that," she said.

Sofa Company Uses N-Word To Describe Brown Colour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2007) *A black family living in Ontario, Canada had to do a double take at the label accompanying the arrival of their new chocolate-coloured furniture. Doris Moore and her husband, Douglas, had purchased a sofa, loveseat and chair in dark brown leather earlier this month from
Vanaik Furniture and Mattress store. Upon its delivery, the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Olivia read the label and asked: “Mommy, what is nig…ger brown?”  “I went over and just couldn't believe my eyes," Moore told the Toronto Star, stating each furniture piece had the description “nigger brown” attached to the woven protective covering wrapped around the furniture. "In this day and age, that's totally unacceptable."  After explaining the ugly history of the N-word to their daughter, the couple called the furniture store on three separate occasions, but never received a return call.  The Toronto Star contacted Romesh Kumar, Vanaik's assistant manager, but he passed the blame to his supplier, Cosmos Furniture in Scarborough. But Kumar did say he would check similar stock and make sure other labels were removed.  

"That's terrible, that's a racial ... something?" Kumar said. "This is entirely wrong, but it's not my fault. It's my job to sell good product to people."   Kumar gave Moore the telephone number of his supplier so that Moore could take her complaint directly to him. The owner of Cosmos Furniture, Paul Kumar, no relation to Romesh, said he was upset to learn packing labels on products he sold carried a racial epithet.  "I import my products from overseas. I've never noticed anything like that. This is something new to me,” he told the newspaper before passing the blame onto the furniture maker in Guangzhou, China. Paul Kumar apologized to the family and said he would contact the Chinese company with demands that they remove all similar labels.  Meanwhile, Moore has had second thoughts about leaving the sofa set in her home.  "Every time I sit on it, I'll think of that," she said.

$33-Million Spent – And No One's Happy

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Val Ross

(April 25, 2007) You're invited to join in a round of high-stakes poker, but find yourself in a different game entirely - say, three-card monte - with the outcome determined by the dealer. That's a crude analogy for what many arts organizations, theatre companies, galleries and publishers say they experienced with a special multimillion-dollar funding program run by the Canada Council for the Arts. Across the country, websites and rumour mills are grinding out complaints about the Supplementary Operational Funding Initiative. "A fiasco," says a theatre board member's e-mail; "a debacle," says a visual artist. What's significant is that the complaints are not coming only from those who received no grants. "I got $20,000, so this is not sour grapes," says Marc Côté, publisher of Cormorant Books. "The key thing is, with SOFI, the Canada Council did not follow its own governance rules about clarity, transparency and consistency in the granting of money." Karl Siegler, publisher of Talonbooks, has not yet signed off on the $50,000 he received under SOFI. "I have serious questions about what's happened to the idea of artistic excellence as a criterion for funding. There are governance issues here," he says. "I need answers before I become complicit in this process." Few other voices will go on the record, because the federally funded, arm's-length agency - created 50 years ago this year - is so essential to their survival. Galleries and theatre companies are loath to complain lest it play into the hands of those legions of politicians who regard the arts as a frill. All the more so since the new Conservative government scaled back a Liberal election promise that the council's regular funding would double from $150-million a year to $300-million. Instead, the Tories' May, 2006, federal budget gave the council $50-million in new money as a one-time payment over two years.

In November, when the council's new director, Robert Sirman, spoke at the Canadian Art Museums' Directors' Organization annual meeting, one gallery director recalls hearing him say, in effect, here's a wonderful supplementary grants opportunity of $50-million. He says Sirman invited arts groups to "dream big" and go for broke with their applications. The arts groups didn't realize, or were not initially told, that they were eligible only for $33-million (the total SOFI pot); the remaining $17-million, outside SOFI, was to be divided between individual artists and initiatives related to public access to the arts. Sirman says it was always made clear that there was only $33-million in SOFI; the council's message was that all $50-million of new money would go to the arts, and none to council overhead. But the arts community also failed to grasp that this $33-million would be distributed according to new rules. Over the past winter, the council's exhortation to dream big earned it $95.5-million worth of go-for-broke applications, three times what it could handle. So the council came up with new language, and had special assessors pick about 60 "key institutions" for the lion's share of SOFI ($18-million of the $33-million pot). Who knew? Not the multidisciplinary juries that thought they were divvying up the $33-million according to the council's traditional principles of peer review.

Rumours are flying that when the theatre jury realized that it was not the sole arbiter of who would get SOFI money , some jurors threatened to resign. "We had always made it clear that only organizations that had already proved their worth and had operating grant status would be considered," Sirman says. "But 'key' was not part of our language at the beginning." "This process was not transparent, it was beyond opaque," theatre director Ken Gass says. Many arts groups fear that the arm's-length principle is gone, and that a strategy of rewarding "key institutions" rather than relying on peer-review juries to award grants according to artistic excellence will guide future allocations. Not so, insists Donna Balkan, the council's senior communications manager: "The 'key' designation was created specifically for this exercise, for this program. This is a one-off."  Sirman adds that in council parlance "key" just means organizations with big overheads (as key institutions, the Canadian Opera Company got $2.2-million, McClelland & Stewart $200,000). "This is not intended as an evaluation of their key role in a community," he says.

The council's very success may have created the SOFI problem: Since its inception, creativity has flourished, which means that each time there's new money, it has to be shared more widely. "When there's not much pie left, you favour certain key organizations," theatre director Layne Coleman says. "But we did get a double message." "Read our website," Balkan says with some exasperation. "It's all clear there."


World Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation

Source:  Sabatino Entertainment

(Apr. 25, 2007) Toronto, Ontario - Pro Bodybuilding sensation
Paul Dillett announces the inception of the WBFF (World Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation). www.wbffshows.com.  After decades of competing at an elite level, Paul Dillett continues his reign with the introduction of his highly anticipated fitness, bodybuilding and modeling organization which is set to launch with full force on September 15th, 2007 in Mississauga, Ontario.  This inaugural event will combine amateur athletics in the arenas of modeling, figure and natural bodybuilding to support and promote aspiring athletes and models throughout this growing industry.

In his vast experience as a competitive athlete, Paul saw the need to raise the bar on the calibre of current competitions by adding upscale venues, lavish prize purses and an unparalleled entertainment value. Celebrities set to appear include Donnie Wahlburg, radio & TV personality Mike Bullard, Juno-award winner Liberty Silver and a special appearance by Cirque Sublime.  By aligning with the top event producers and promoters in the Country, the WBFF is quickly expected to spread across North America and overseas; granting Pro status to eligible competitors so they may continue to compete for extraordinary compensation, prizes and exposure throughout the fitness and modeling community.  For athlete/sponsorship or ticket information, visit: www.wbffshows.com or Contact the WBFF at:  Tel: 647-341-0790; Email: info@wbffshows.com; www.myspace.com/wb_ff

Late Flurry Rescues Raptors

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(April 25, 2007) The series was slipping away and so was the season when the
Raptors did what they have done so many times this season. They dug down, made some stops, made enough shots and gave an emotionally charged audience a final jolt of electricity. In the final three minutes, with the spectre of going down two games in a best-of-seven series staring them in the face, the team known for its resiliency pulled out another one, beating the New Jersey Nets 89-83 before an over-subscribed audience of 20,239 at the Air Canada Centre. A T.J. Ford three-pointer and four clutch free throws, along with Anthony Parker's stifling defence that made Vince Carter invisible on two of the game's biggest possessions, were typical of the kind of grind-it-out effort the Raptors needed – and got – to square the series.

"I think we definitely turned the corner as a team tonight because we gutted it out and especially when things weren't going well," said Parker, whose delightful night included a game-high 26 points and defence that hounded Carter into an 8-for-24 shooting night. "It's the playoffs, nobody's shooting great, it's a defensive battle and I'm glad we won it that way." They won it in typical post-season fashion. They forced the Nets to try to rely on Richard Jefferson's jump shooting on a couple of key possessions – Carter looked like he was hiding in the corner under the blanket Parker had put over him – and made just enough offensive plays to make the difference. Playoff basketball is never going to be pretty or as free-flowing as a game in the regular season, but a good team is one that can win the ugliest of them. Somehow, on a night that a journeyman role player was honoured as the best coach in the league, it was somehow fitting Toronto should win with substance rather than style. "We know that these games are going to be hard to win and in order to win you have to grind it out," said Chris Bosh, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds. "You have to get the job done no matter what.

"Neither team shot the ball well, but we had to continue to play good defence." They did that when it mattered most. Up two with 90 seconds left, they got Jefferson to miss a three-pointer. Up one with 18 seconds left, they got another Jefferson miss – Carter didn't touch the ball on either possession – and they got a break when Bostjan Nachbar missed a three that would have tied the game with 15 seconds left. Ford answered two of those misses by making two free throws, and Parker, who was great at both ends, had three foul shots himself to seal the deal. "He was just great, defensively, offensively, getting us going, scoring the basketball, we need AP to continue to play like that," Mitchell said of Parker. "He was just unbelievable. He competes, he's shooting the ball well, he got into the paint, which is something we wanted him to do." Parker's biggest contribution was holding down Carter, who was again pretty much a non-factor. The one-time Raptor star is now a combined 13for43 in the series.

That's hardly superstar production. "One thing I feel good about is my shots were good looks," Carter said. "You can adjust from that. I was shooting them correctly, they just didn't fall. "(It's) not making shots, I'm still aggressive, still confident, I'm still going to play my game to the end. If I play aggressive, I'll play my way out of it." Toronto's all-star, meanwhile, had an all-star game when the outcome was on the line. Bosh, still battling a bad cold, had 11 of his points in the final 12 minutes, getting to the basket with hard work and aggression rather than settling for jump shots. "That's kind of my job, that's what everyone was telling me, now it's time to try to take over the game," said Bosh. "I just wanted to be aggressive. "I knew I could get a jump shot at any time but I wanted to work on getting to the basket."


The 5 Best Ways to Burn Fat!

By Michael Stefano, eDiets Contributor

The average American gains five pounds a year, every year over the age of 30. Some estimate that 60 percent of our society is overweight. Of course, the best way to avoid obesity is to resist temptation and never let the unwanted calories cross your lips in the first place. But what approach can we take that will help us balance exercise and food consumption?

1. Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise has been touted for years as a key to effective fat burn. Most experts agree -- a fitness program with the main goal of achieving weight loss must include at least three weekly cardio workouts. This translates into 20 to 30 minutes (or up to 60 minutes when working at lesser intensities), of any physical activity that gets your heart to beat at a rate that’s 60 to 90 percent of its maximum.  The specific exercise isn’t as important as its affect on your heart rate (and breathing rate). Generally speaking, cardiovascular exercise involves working the major muscles of the lower body in a continuous, rhythmic fashion. Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, riding a bicycle and jumping rope all qualify as aerobic exercise and should be incorporated into your weekly fat burning regimen.

2. Strength Training

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding strength training, even amongst people that strength train on a regular basis. When you lift weights (or engage in any other type of strength training), you pit your body against a challenging (but controllable) level of resistance. If done right, muscles will adapt and grow stronger as they anticipate a progressively more difficult workout. This muscle growth will take the form of a sculpted and more toned physique, and unless taken to an extreme, will usually not materialize into big and bulky muscles. But what about that layer of fat that floats over every inch of your otherwise sculpted body? An increase in lean muscle, if only slight, will result in an increased basal metabolic rate, or your body’s requirement for fuel at rest.

If you consider that almost all the burning of body fat takes place inside muscle tissue, it’s logical to assume the more muscle you have -- the more fat you’ll burn just to exist. This translates into a 24-hour-a-day increase in demand for fat as fuel, and if accompanied by a steady decrease in supply, will result in major fat loss.

3. Flexibility Training and Yoga

Many would question the connection between stretching and fat burning. Flexibility training increases the effectiveness of the rest of your fitness program in many ways. It cuts down on injury and recovery time, reducing next day soreness, getting you back in the gym sooner. Stretching improves performance, balance and speed of motion, allowing you to perform more work in less time.  Interspersing some stretching exercises into an otherwise strength training routine keeps you moving between sets, adding to the overall caloric consumption of your workout. Yoga, with its unique blend of stretching and strengthening exercises, has gained unprecedented popularity. Many fitness enthusiasts, who at one time wouldn’t be caught dead in a cat pose, now find themselves attending regular yoga classes -- and looking as lean and fit as ever.

4. Sleep, Rest and Recovery

Most of us won’t resist this one, but you’d be surprised at how often lack of sleep or rest is the culprit behind a failed weight loss program. More of a good thing isn’t necessarily better. When putting together a fitness and weight loss plan, be sure to include adequate recovery periods between workouts. Rest at least 48 hours between full body strength training sessions and limit cardio to no more than 3 to 6 hours a week. If over-trained, your body will break down, you’ll lose precious lean muscle mass and actually get fatter.  Do whatever it takes to ensure a good night’s sleep. Get a new mattress, install heavier blinds or go to bed earlier. During sleep, the body’s recovery processes go into high gear. Depending on activity levels and individual requirements, get 7 or 8 hours of sound, restful sleep every night.

5. Meditation and Stress Reduction

Meditation has been proven to minimize the body's reaction to stress and alleviate many stress-related health problems. But few realize that it can actually raise your body’s levels of the anti-aging hormone, DHEA. Also available as an over-the-counter supplement, DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, which is necessary for muscle growth and fat loss. DHEA and testosterone levels decline with age, but tests conducted on people that meditate on a daily basis reveal that serum DHEA levels were restored to much more youthful levels.  In addition, stress has been found to generate dangerously high levels of the naturally occurring hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has a major role in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as regulation of the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When cortisol is secreted, it causes a breakdown of muscle protein, leading to the release of amino acids into the bloodstream. This process can also raise blood sugar levels.

Meditation, or any other form of stress reduction, can balance this hormonal shift. You can use your meditative sessions to visualize how you’d like to look, or even imagine yourself engaged in activities you once enjoyed. This type of visualization technique has been found not only to relieve stress, but also to increase your odds of achieving goals you've set -- a nice fringe benefit.

If your goal is to burn fat, take a five-pronged approach. Combine the above five methods with a sensible eating program, and you’ll be on the road to unprecedented fat loss and a health and fitness program that you’ll stay with for a lifetime.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Henry Ford: Founder, Ford Motor Company, prolific inventor

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."