20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883


December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays Everyone!  I wish you and yours all the happiness, prosperity and peace your hand and hearts can hold!  Take the time to get some rest and relaxation too!  Thank you to all for your ongoing support.

Check out the pics from one of the best nights of Canadian talent ever - the
Monday Night VIP Jam reunion at Revival!  See PHOTO GALLERY.

The Gospel Christmas Project
is coming on Saturday night - have you picked up the CD and bought your tickets yet?   

For those that enjoy a fun and entertaining vibe like dinner and a full show, check out the Ebony and Ivory New Years Eve Gala at 6 Degrees!  And don't forget about New Years Eve at Harlem with Chef Anthony Mair - Call for reservations! 



Ebony and Ivory New Years Eve Gala

The New Years Eve Gala of the year - The Ebony and Ivory NYE Gala. Steppin Out Series!

Dinner tickets are $70 which includes DINNER (chicken, goat, rice and peas, roti, white rice, salad), DESSERT (assorted cakes)and a SHOW featuring Dwayne Morgan and Jay Martin, Trixx and Teedra Moses backed by her live band.  Party music by Skimpy, Trixx and Presto.

Lastly at 2:00 am, we will serve Breakfast – yes, Breakfast!

We are topping it off with an early bird deal that includes a night’s stay at the Roe Hampton Best Western on New Years Eve for $300 and includes two all inclusive New Years Eve Gala tickets, a hotel room and parking (with in and out privileges).

6 Degrees
2335 Yonge St. (just north of Eglinton)
7:00 pm – Dinner; $70 - All inclusive  Dinner, Show , Dance, Breakfast
9:00 pm – Show; $50 - Show, Dance, and Breakfast
Info line is 416 949 2766
www.JayMartin.tv; www.upfromtheroots.ca

Two Shows, One CD - The Gospel Christmas Project – December 21 (Ottawa) and December 22, 2007 (Toronto)

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’re invited to the Christmas musical events of 2007: the
Gospel Christmas Project, live at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and Toronto’s Massey Hall! Audiences are calling this show “fabulous”, “amazing”, “thrilling beyond expectation”, “music to God's ears” and “a wonderfully joyful spiritual evening”.

“The Gospel Christmas Project - LIVE!” is two hours of the world’s greatest Christmas carols, in all-stunning new arrangements made by musician, producer and broadcaster
Andrew Craig. The songs are rendered by some of our country’s greatest voices:

Jackie Richardson, Canada’s Queen of Jazz and Blues,
Alana Bridgewater, “Killer Queen” in the Mirvish production of “We Will Rock You”
Kellylee Evans, 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Female Vocalist of the Year
Chris Lowe, a tremendous new voice recently-emerged from the Gospel community
and the Juno-award-winning
Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale

“The Gospel Christmas Project” is already a wildly-popular radio show, a Gemini-nominated TV special, and a brand-new CD, called “The Gospel Christmas Project”, available in all major retail outlets right now, and on ITunes as of December 4.

“The Gospel Christmas Project” was originally performed in
Ottawa in December 2006.  It returns to Ottawa this Christmas, joined by the National Arts Centre Orchestra on December 21.

And the next night (
December 22) The Gospel Christmas Project makes its Toronto debut at the legendary Massey Hall!

Visit the website: www.gospelxmasproject.com
Purchase CD at CBC Records, HERE!

Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Harlem

Carl Cassell and Anthony Mair invite you for dinner at Harlem this New Year's Eve.  Master Chef Anthony Mair (formerly of Mardis Gras) will be preparing a four course Soulful Feast for you and your loved ones.  Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in Harlem's art-filled dining room, then go upstairs to the Renaissance Room for some bubbly and get your party on in 2008. It will be a night to remember. Two seatings are available: 6:30pm and 9:00pm.

 As an aside, Chef Mair will be featuring new, soulful, tasteful and mind-blowing items to his Soul Food Menu weekly!

Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s,
Harlem (67 Richmond St. E. - Church and Richmond) celebrates the joy of Toronto's cultural diversity and the art of entertaining. It is a rebirth of creativity in Food, Art, Music, and Cocktails.
To make a reservations please call 416-368-1920.

Monday, December 31
Harlem Restaurant
67 Richmond St. E. (Church and Richmond)
Two seatings are available: 6:30pm and 9:00pm
Reservations: 416-368-1920


New Tax Breaks To Boost Local Film, TV Industry

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(December 18, 2007)
Toronto's film and television industry is getting a boost just when it needs it the most.

With threats from a higher Canadian dollar and increased competition, industry insiders say Queen's Park's new tax breaks are a welcome indication that the provincial government is waking up to the importance of the industry to the Ontario economy.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced in his economic statement last week that the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit – which benefits domestic producers – would increase from 30 to 35 per cent, and the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit – which benefits foreign production – would rise from 18 to 25 per cent.

Acting Toronto film commissioner Peter Finestone said the tax credit boost is "absolutely fantastic news" for the city, where about $500 million is spent annually in domestic productions alone. It will help it compete against other provinces that have been luring away jobs in recent years.

"We're not slow to blame or criticize when we're not happy with what they (government) do. So it's a delight to be able to say that they got this one right," said Karl Pruner, president of the Toronto chapter of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.

"It sends a very clear message to all of our foreign producers that the government is listening and that they are taking the industry very seriously. That is a comfort because ... the film and television industry is a very, very significant part of the Ontario economy," he added.

The Canadian dollar's rise to $1.10 (U.S.) earlier this year – before settling in at around par – sent "a big scare" throughout the film and television industry, Pruner said.

The move comes just in time for FilmPort, a massive new film studio complex on the Toronto waterfront set to open March 31, said president Ken Ferguson.

"It couldn't have come at a better time for us," said Ferguson, noting U.S. studios make critical decisions about film production in January and February.

Veteran movie producer Don Carmody also called the beefed-up tax credits a "good thing."

"It shows foresight on the part of the provincial government to realize with the high Canadian dollar and the enhanced competition from virtually every U.S. state ... for this business that they had to do something," said Carmody, who spearheaded bringing production of 2002 Oscar-winner Chicago to Toronto.

Projects like FilmPort "need all the help that they can get and to get them established is going to take some doing," Carmody said.

At the same time, Carmody noted, the federal government still has in place a policy, known in the film industry as "the grind," which in effect reduces the federal tax credit when provincial governments increase theirs.

"It's great of the McGuinty government and it's unfortunate of the Harper government that one hand giveth and the other hand taketh away," Carmody said.

"This is all something we've been after the feds to drop for years."

ole Writers Busier Than Santa's Elves

Source:  ole

They may be just around the corner, but judging by all the activity, the last thing ole songwriters are thinking about are holidays.

Derek Brin, Ben Dunk, Mladen, Tebey, Willie Mack and David Kopatz have all been busy criss-crossing the globe, writing for numerous album, studio and TV projects, and generally filling the world with as much great music as is humanly possible.

As 2007 draws to a close, here's a round-up of what's going on where:

Derek Brin

Among the busiest of our tunesmiths is ole's Derek Brin. Not only is his calendar full, writing and producing with the likes of Miami-born rapper and BET 106 & Park Hall Of Famer Jin and Canadian R&B sensation George, but Brin has several other projects either scheduled for release or currently on the air.

Front and center is his current run with the 13 episodes of CanWest Television's Da Kink In My Hair, a program which Brin composed a dozen songs for and one that is currently airing Prime Time on Sundays.

Also pending is the North American release of Malaysian/Australian singer Che'Nelle's debut Virgin album Things Happen For A Reason, which has already charted internationally. Brin worked on a couple of tracks on the album, including the Che'Nelle co-write "Club Jumpin" and receives a shout-out from the singer on "I'm In Love With The D.J."

If that isn't enough, the man whose previous writing credits include Jaheim, Robyn and Keshia Chanté recently took time out to schmooze and network at the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Conference Awards in Atlanta.

Ben Dunk

With the momentum generated by his sync activity on MTV's The Hills   ("Girls Don't Cry," co-written with J.C. Smith and John Crown and recorded by Cadence Grace), Ben Dunk decided to explore the U.K. scene and has relocated to Dublin, Ireland.

ole's Dunk eventually plans to move to the U.S., but while he's awaiting Visa approval, is taking writing appointments and working with Danny De Matos (Crush, Metroland) in London.


After producing and co-writing the debut effort from Oshawa rockers Lower Back Tatti, recent ole signing Mladen has moved to Los Angeles to concentrate his efforts on securing the band a deal and following up major label interest.

But not without a little fun first: Vegas, anyone?


Another recent ole signing, Nashville's Tebey has been straddling both the country and pop fences with his international talent and jumping on a lot of planes to satisfy the demand for his gift.

After landing the track "Radio" on the platinum Big & Rich album Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, Tebey joined the duo in Las Vegas for a catch-up.

He spent part of December writing in Los Angeles, and will be heading back to Sweden early in the New Year to collaborate some more in that country as well.

Meanwhile, "Shiver" -- a song he co-wrote with Shawn Desman -- has been licensed twice for two episodes of renegadepress.com.

Willie Mack

Speaking of the holidays, here's an invitation to watch
Willie Mack's latest effort, in a duet with Jason McCoy called "I Wanna Be Your Santa Claus." (Click on link).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MHOSzkB-AU

Not only is that song receiving radio (and video) airplay, but ole's Mack is also finding great success with the two Top 30 hits from his Headlights & Tailpipes album, "Gonna Get Me A Cadillac" and "Don't Waste Your Pretty."

As Jason McCoy once declared, "Whenever you're writing with Willie, you just block out a good five minutes, and he'll write a song for you while you watch."

And Willie Mack's prolific nature continues: coming up, he has a track, "Entertaining Angels" on the new Mark Wills album Familiar Stranger -- out in February and co-written by ole's Steve Mandile -- and is currently enjoying a Top 20 Canadian country hit with Jason Blaine's "Flirtin' With Me."

David Kopatz

ole admin client David Kopatz continues to infiltrate the Los Angeles pop scene.

After enjoying some success with a track on High School Musical star Corbin Bleu's debut album Another Side called "Roll With You," Kopatz is currently working with teen sensation Jordan Pruitt and Interscope tween buzz act Clique Girlz.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg: You should see the projects we have planned for 2008!

Toronto Film Critic Found Dead

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Sandra Martin

(December 18, 2007) 
John Harkness, the film critic for NOW Magazine since its beginning on Sept. 10, 1981, was found dead in his home in Toronto on Tuesday, according to Michael Hollet, the tabloid's editor and publisher. Mr. Harkness, who was 53 had been suffering from high cholesterol. “He had never missed a deadline in 26 years,” Mr. Hollet said Tuesday afternoon, “so we sent somebody to his house when his copy didn't arrive.” That is when they found his body and called the police.

Born in Montreal in 1954, Mr. Harkness grew up in Halifax and Sarnia. He earned a degree in English literature from Carleton University in Ottawa before doing graduate work in Cinema Studies at Columbia University in New York City, where he studied under critic Andrew Sarris.

“John Harkness was simply the best film critic in Canada over the last 26 years,” said Mr. Hollet in a press release. “He has been an essential element of NOW magazine's success and his unique vision and bravery and art in expressing it inspired all of us at NOW to strive.”

Mr. Harkness also wrote for Sight And Sound, Take One, and the Cinematheque Ontario program and spent several years as a trade reporter for Screen International and Cinema Canada. His book on the Oscars, The Academy Awards Handbook, is currently in its eighth edition.

Obituary: Dan Fogelberg, 56

Excerpt from
- Reuters

(December 16, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Singer-songwriter
Dan Fogelberg, famed for the soaring vocals and elegant instrumentation of tunes such as "Longer" and "A Love Like This," died on Sunday, three years after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He was 56.

Fogelberg, a native of Peoria, Ill., broke into the music industry in the early 1970s, at a time when it was embracing introspective songwriting, or "soft rock," by such acts as the Eagles and America.

Fogelberg, who distinguished himself with his angelic vocals and lyrics that celebrated beauty and romance, hit his commercial and creative peak in 1981 with "The Innocent Age," which yielded three top-10 singles, "Hard to Say," "Same Old Lang Syne" and "Leader of the Band."

His most recent release, "Full Circle," came out in 2003. The following year, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and urged men over the age of 50 to get tested for the disease.


I hate Celine! ... Or do I?

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Carl Wilson

(December 15, 2007) From the start of her superstardom,
Celine Dion's music had struck me as bland monotony raised to a pitch of obnoxious bombast - R&B with the sex and slyness surgically removed, French chanson severed from its wit and soul - and her repertoire as Oprah Winfrey - approved chicken soup for the consumerist soul, a never-ending crescendo of personal affirmation deaf to social conflict and context. In celebrity terms, she was another dull Canadian goody-goody. She could barely muster up a decent personal scandal, aside from the pre-existing squick-out of her marriage to the twice-her-age Svengali who began managing her when she was 12.

As far as I knew, I had never even met anybody who liked Celine Dion. Certainly not many other music critics.

But they were certainly out there. Dion has sold nearly 200 million albums, not counting the Titanic soundtrack. She has five recordings in the Recording Industry Association of America's list of the Top 100 albums by sales, making her the 23rd-best-selling pop act of all time. Globally she is the most successful French-language singer ever and could be the bestselling female singer. For four years her legions have tithed their salaries to fly to Las Vegas for her nightly revue, A New Day, in the custom-built Colosseum theatre at Caesars Palace , which wraps up at the end of 2007. She is beloved by people from Idaho to Iraq , who trade news and debate favourites on Internet message boards like any other group of fans. They cook, work out and date to her music, and when weightier events come, her songs are there, for first dances at weddings and processions at funerals.

When the singer herself is asked if her critics bother her, she answers as she did to Elle magazine in a 2007 interview: "We've been sold out for four years. The audience is my answer."

Which doesn't mean you have to admire her. Unless maybe it does. Certainly a generation of pop critics that's been determined to swear off elitist bias does seem called to account for the immense international popularity of someone we've designated so devoid of appeal.

Those who find Dion tacky, gauche, kitschy or, as they say in Quebec , kétaine - must be overlooking something, maybe beginning with why we have those sorts of labels. If "guilty pleasures" in pop music are out of date, perhaps the time has come to conceive of a guilty displeasure.

Musical subcultures exist because our guts tell us certain kinds of music are for certain kinds of people. We are attracted to a song's beat, its edge, its warmth, its idiosyncrasy, the singer's je ne sais quoi; we check out the music our friends or cultural guides commend. But it's hard not to notice how those processes reflect and contribute to self-definition, how often persona and musical taste happen to jibe. It's most blatant in the identity war that is high school, but music never stops being a badge of recognition. And in the offhand rhetoric of dismissal - "teenybopper pap," "only hippies like that band," "sounds like music for date rapists" - we bar the doors of the clubs we don't want to claim us as members. Psychoanalysis would say our aversions can tell us more than our conscious desires about what we are, unwillingly, drawn to. What unpleasant truths might we learn from looking closer at our musical fears and loathings, at what we consider "bad taste"?

And so I had set out on an experiment: It has to do with social affinities and rancours and what art and its appreciation can do to mediate or exacerbate them. Primarily, though, the question is whether anyone's tastes stand on solid ground, starting with mine: If I immersed myself in her music, talked to her fans, researched her influences, the sensibility she expressed - while also studying what scientists, philosophers and other thinkers have to tell us about the origins of artistic taste - perhaps I could find the Dionysian within, my inner Celine Dion fan. And what then?

Either way, where better to look than Las Vegas ? So about halfway through the process, I set out on a field trip. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

What I hadn't counted on was Vegas. It was my first visit. I stupidly came alone. If there is a laboratory demonstration of the antagonism between economic and cultural capital, it is Las Vegas , a city of such pure commercialism that money is its entertainment, interrupted occasionally by a show. Nowhere else is it so palpable that art can be simply the green kid stepping in to give a brief break to the main greenback attraction. Alcohol and sex, too, are reduced to lubricants for or after-effects of finance. In this non-stop carnival of social inversion, only money is purely beautiful, in Immanuel Kant's sense of being an end in itself. Vegas's fabled love of the ersatz, like its mini Eiffel Tower , is money giddily blaspheming culture's sacred icons.

All of which, in the abstract, seems kind of healthy. But in the flesh it depressed the hell out of me. I am averse to gambling. I am entirely too shy to hire prostitutes. In Sin City that leaves a solitary man at loose ends. I wandered in a haze through the gold towers and black pyramids, dancing water fountains, seizure-inducing signage and replicas of landmarks from cities where I'd rather have been, before slouching back to my room each night with a fifth of bourbon to watch pay-per-view. Muttering witticisms to myself got tired fast. I was a stray member of the cultural-capital tribe deported to a gaudy prison colony run by a phalanx of showgirls who held hourly re-education sessions to hammer me into feeling insignificant and micro-penised. In my shrivelled condition, the notion of interviewing people at Caesars seemed as absurd as some peasant dropping in on Versailles in the 1680s to demand the courtiers' opinions of Louis XIV.

And so, a dismal failure at overstepping my own boundaries, I stepped passively into line to make my grudging pilgrimage, to throw myself to the Colosseum's 3-D, full-colour, computer-animated lions.

In the preshow of A New Day, the stage appears to be overhung by a mammoth gilded picture frame, within which is a real-time, live-video projection of us, the audience. As show time nears, the camera zooms in on selected spectators, creating a serial comic pantomime in which we get to catch people catch themselves being caught on camera and flinch in embarrassment or mug for our amusement. First it's three girls in J'ADORE DION T-shirts; then two low-key parents with their daughter (Dad is reading a book and never even notices his 15 seconds); then an impressively tanked pair, the guy's shirt half-unbuttoned and the woman with huge silicon boobs; last, a couple still wearing their wedding outfits.

And at that, the frame, which is merely a computer-generated illusion on North America's largest indoor LED screen, expands and shatters into a thousand shards of glassy light, which all spin tinkling through the air and converge ... on Celine herself, revealed poised atop a sweeping red staircase.

I hardly needed to see the rest of the show. It was a perfect figure of music calling forth, representing, breaking and remaking identities. Celine was offering to reflect us back to ourselves, with all our endearing foibles but larger, fancier, better. She put an 18th-century golden frame around us, the ultimate in egalitarian bling, then shattered our collective self to draw the fragments into her own body, itself little but a container for her voice, its own kind of exquisite antique.

Yet the frame was long out of fashion - no elite connoisseur or curator would fix it to a contemporary picture. And this, I thought, in my cut-price balcony seat, is why Celine winds up mocked, because her efforts at class and taste always go wrong. With her synthesized strings and genuine pearls and her opera-crossover attempts, she aspires to the highbrow culture of a half-century ago. She doesn't pass the retina scan: The real elites now are busy affecting muttonchops and trucker caps and reading about teen pop in The New Yorker.

But the fact is, A New Day, which I'd been dreading as I boarded the plane, was the most fun I had the whole trip. Celine was gawky and funny and, compared to most of Vegas, human-scale. I liked it best when she came downstage, out of the knot of dancers and numbingly literal CGI projections that illustrated every song, to chat a bit stiffly and accept flowers. It was easy then to see that she was Canadian, and we could be un-American and uncool together, along with the tiny Filipino mom who sat beside me whispering, "Wow. Oh wow," and occasionally weeping behind the sunglasses that she wore, sitting in the dark, the whole show.

Her oversized shades reminded me of Phil Spector and the lost Celine recordings he produced, and I started to get sucked in by the music, too. The songs of devotion - If You Asked Me To or Because You Loved Me - began to probe at the open sore of my own recent marital separation, and even coaxed a few tears.

For a few moments, I got it. Of course, then Celine would do something unforgivable, like a duet with an enormous projection of the head of the late Frank Sinatra. Still, I could see the point of her in Vegas, land of ejaculating slot machines and flows of global capital through artificial rivers: As she exclaimed in her infamous Larry King Show interview about poor New Orleans looters, Let them touch those things! And I could answer, Yes, touch me, Celine.

But when I had escaped from Vegastraz, back home in Toronto with her CDs, I couldn't find the feeling again.

Adapted by the author from Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson, published by Continuum International, $13.95 © Carl Wilson


1. Halfway through what would be a two-year hiatus from her singing career, Dion gave birth to her and René Angélil's only child, René-Charles, on July 25, 2001. His baptism was broadcast live throughout Canada .

2. Dion at the 1998 Academy Awards, wearing a replica of the blue diamond that figured in the hit movie Titanic. Dion's album Let's Talk About Love was released on the same day in 1997 as the soundtrack of the blockbuster motion picture, Titanic. Both albums featured the movie's hit theme song, My Heart Will Go On, which won the Oscar for best original song. It was the second Dion song to win an Academy Award: The title track for the animated Disney movie Beauty and the Beast won best original song in 1992.

3. Dion belts out God Bless America at the start of Super Bowl XXXVII at San Diego 's Qualcomm Stadium on Jan. 26, 2003. Two months later, Dion began a four-year commitment to appear five nights a week at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas , a 4,000-seat arena designed for her 90-minute show, A New Day.

4. Dion salutes following a performance for hundreds of Air Canada employees during an unveiling of the newly restructured airline in a hangar at Toronto 's Pearson Airport in 2004. Air Canada hired Dion as spokesperson following the airline's emergence from bankruptcy.

5. Dion receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Jan. 6, 2004.

6. Dion renewed her vows with husband René Angélil in 2000, in a $1.5-million Las Vegas extravaganza that included camels, six Berber tents, jugglers and musicians. The couple was married on Dec. 17, 1994, at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal .

Iconic True North Label Gets New Owner

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(December 19, 2007)
True North Records, the independent Canadian record label that grew from a phone booth on Yorkville Ave. to a powerhouse in domestic and international markets, has a new owner.

"I've been in the music business for 43 years and in the recording business for 38, and there's only so much time left to make changes in my life that I can dictate,"
Bernie Finkelstein, 63, the company founder and Canadian music industry icon, said yesterday.

He confirmed that True North – with a catalogue of some 300 albums, including classics by Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Rough Trade, Stephen Fearing, Rheostatics, Colin Linden, Lynn Miles, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and David Wiffen – will be taken over by Mississauga-based independent Linus Entertainment.

There's also financial backing from Ottawa radio station owner Harvey Glatt and a private investor, Mike Pilon from Courtice, Ont.

Linus CEO Geoff Kulawick, a former artist and repertoire manager at EMI/Virgin, will operate the two companies as separate entities, said Finkelstein, who underwent heart bypass surgery two years ago.

Financial details of the deal are confidential, but music industry insiders put the value of True North's catalogue and assets at between $2.5 million and $4 million.

Finkelstein will stay on as True North chair and adviser, and retains the publishing administration rights to Cockburn's songs.

A recipient of the Order of Canada and inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Finkelstein will continue to manage Cockburn, Fearing, and the rock bands Hunter Valentine and The Golden Dogs. He will also remain chair of VideoFACT, the government-financed organization that funds videos for Canadian music artists.

Finkelstein's plans also include writing a memoir of the Canadian music industry.

Linus, in operation since 2001, has a catalogue of about 50 Canadian artists, including an exclusive contract with jazz chanteuse/songwriter Sophie Milman and licensed recordings by Gordon Lightfoot, Downchild, Ron Sexsmith and Ashley MacIsaac. The new company will honour all existing True North contracts, Kulawick said.

"This is the biggest deal of my life, Bernie is a creative and energetic businessman and has always been a mentor to me."

Miley Cyrus's Feel Good ACC Performance

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

(December 16, 2007)
Miley Cyrus may cater to the tween market, but she's not exactly slinging popcorn pop.

The 15-year-old Disney Channel TV star brought her "Best of Both Worlds" tour to a capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre yesterday afternoon.

Whether performing as herself, or as alter ego Hannah Montana from the Emmy Award-nominated TV show of the same name, the Nashville native delivered high-calibre techno pop and rock with wholesome messages and dance appeal.

The 4 p.m. show opened with the Jonas Brothers.

"This is a rock 'n' roll show, am I correct?" inquired Joe Jonas, one of three floppy-haired singing siblings decked out in skinny ties and tight pants. And there was certainly nothing subpar about their performance, in spite of the 5-year-olds singing along.

Then came Cyrus, in blonde wig as Hannah Montana, lowered to the stage from a catwalk above, to sing songs popularized on the TV series, including, "Rock Star," "Old Blue Jeans" and Nobody's Perfect."

She performed the latter half of the 90-minute set as Miley – brunette topped and slightly more mature in style for tunes from her debut album, such as "G.N.O. (Girls Night Out)" and "East Northumberland High," which she explained was named for the Toronto school she attended while living here when her dad, country singing star Billy Ray Cyrus, was filming a TV show.

The raspy-voiced Miley is a spunky, poised performer – not perfect, but with a truckload of talent and personality in the vein of past Disney stars made good such as Hilary Duff and Justin Timberlake.

For now, Miley's still growing; she was breathless towards the end of show, had a tendency to say "you guys" a lot, and revealed bottom teeth in need of braces.

But that "regularness" is a big part of her appeal.

"It's fun, it's harmless, the kids love it," said marketing executive Walter Levitt, who brought his three children aged 5, 8, 10. "It's all we listen to in the car and they know every word."

While Levitt scored free tickets through work, Dennis and Kristin Reintjes shelled out $270 for seats for themselves and children Connor, 5, and Caitlin, 8, as well as $60 on souvenirs.

"We go to so few events and the kids have never been to anything like this," said automotive plant manager Dennis.

Both he and his wife laud Cyrus's TV show.

"I remember watching Family Ties. (Hannah Montana) is the only show the whole family can watch together."

Teacher Kristin added: "She has really good messages of self-esteem for kids."

The concert attracted a few older kids as well, like 19-year-old Quinn Le, who was thrilled with the $175 tickets her boyfriend bought online yesterday morning as an early Christmas present.

Janet's Giving 'Feedback'

Source:  Think Tank Marketing, www.thinktankmktg.com

(December 17, 2007) International megastar
Janet Jackson, who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide and is the newest signing to the Island Def Jam Music Group, has completed her first new single for the label with hitmaking producer Rodney Jerkins.   "Feedback" will impact across-the-board at all radio formats on January 7.  DISCIPLINE, Janet Jackson's new album - and the 10th studio album of her career - is scheduled to arrive in stores on February 26th.   In addition to Rodney Jerkins, the new album brings together an A-list of guest producers, including Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo, Stargate, Tricky Stewart, and The-Dream.   DISCIPLINE was executive produced by Antonio "L.A." Reid, Chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group. Click the link below to listen to "Feedback" and then give us YOUR feedback on it:


In a class all by herself, 5-time Grammy Award-winning and Oscar- nominated  Janet Jackson is currently starring in Why Did I Get Married?, the smash hit movie by Tyler Perry, which opened #1 at the box office.  This is the third motion picture of Janet's career, and her third to open at #1, following the success of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), and her leading title role in John Singleton's Poetic Justice (1993).

Lupe Fiasco Announces Birth Of 'The Cool'

Source: Sydney Margetson, (National), 212.707.2262, sydney.margetson@atlanticrecords.com; Kelly McWilliam, (Regional), 818.238.6835, Kelly.mcwilliam@atlanticrecords.com

(December 17, 2007) NEW YORK, NY - 1st & 15th/Atlantic recording artist
Lupe Fiasco has announced next week's release of his hugely anticipated second album, "LUPE FIASCO'S THE COOL."

Highlighted by the smash single/video, "Superstar (Feat. Matthew Santos)," the collection arrives in stores and online on Tuesday, December 18th.

"LUPE FIASCO'S THE COOL" sees the critically acclaimed rapper -- who just last week received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Urban Alternative Performance," honouring his hit single, "Daydreamin' (Feat. Jill Scott)" -- following up on last year's breakthrough debut, "LUPE FIASCO'S FOOD & LIQUOR," by kicking and pushing against the boundaries of modern hip-hop.

Loosely structured as a multi-character concept album detailing the "damaging influences and corrupt allure" of post-millennial Urban America, the set features such special guests as the one-and-only Snoop Dogg, with diverse and inventive production from Soundtrakk, UNKLE, Chris & Drop, and Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump.

MTV's "The Leak" (www.mtv.com/music/the_leak/) is currently streaming "LUPE FIASCO'S THE COOL" in its entirety, continuing through to the album's December 18th release. The Chicago-based MC has been all over MTV and its affiliated channels in recent weeks, including a show-stopping performance with Stump at the recent mtvU Woodie Awards extravaganza. "Superstar" -- directed by the great Hype Williams -- is currently scoring play at MTV, MTV2, mtvU, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, and VH1 Soul. In addition, Lupe will be the subject of a January instalment of MTV's "52 Bands," a special feature segment that highlights one new artist per week, throughout the year. The MC recently visited BET's "106 & Park" to introduce the "Superstar" video, with additional upcoming TV appearances slated for BET's "Rap City" and Fuse's "The Sauce." In addition, Lupe will be the featured MAX Tour Stories artist through mid January. Airplay will be in high rotation on Cinemax on Demand (www.cinemax.com/maxtourstories/).

Unquestionably among hip-hop's most electrifying and active live performers, Lupe will celebrate the new album's release with a concert appearance at New York's The Fillmore at Irving Plaza on Tuesday, December 18th. He will then head west for a special "MySpace Presents The Release" concert, slated for December 27th at Honolulu, Hawaii's Pipeline Café -- Lupe's first-ever Hawaiian live date. A full-scale US tour will follow in the New Year, kicking off on January 11th at The Showbox in Seattle, with dates continuing through late March (see itinerary below). What's more, Lupe's recent hometown show at Chicago's House of Blues will be featured on AOL Music (www.aolmusic.com) beginning on Monday, December 17th.

One of MySpace's top 10 current artists, Lupe is a major online presence, with future plans including the December 18th relaunch of his own LupeFiasco.com (featuring a wide range of interactive features such as "THE COOLest" video game). Other upcoming cyber-highlights include a dedicated Artist-of-the-Week section on SOHH.com, a feature on Fliptrack.com (where users can create their own unique photo slideshows to the sounds of "Superstar"), and the first-ever Imeem.com artist site takeover (including a skateboard design contest judged by Lupe himself). In addition, Lupe's YouTube channel -- located at www.youtube.com/lupefiasco -- has logged over one million plays, with videos including "Superstar" and the banging street anthem, "Dumb It Down."

On the international front, Lupe is making a global impact with his new single, "Superstar." Recently, the single has been added to Radio 1 B List, Capital playlist, GCAP Music Control playlist (32 Stations), Galaxy C List and 1Xtra B List in the UK. "Superstar" is also making waves in Australia, being named the Single of the week on Daily Tele and Album of the week on JJJ. Additionally, "Superstar" is #9 most added to radio overall and #15 on the alternative airplay chart in Australia. Lupe currently graces the cover of Australia's December/January issue of The Mag.

An array of high-profile mobile initiatives are also in effect, including early drops of "LUPE FIASCO'S THE COOL" on Verizon and Sprint, as well as feature slots in all major off-deck and on-deck ringtone stores. A special Boost program -- featuring a can't-miss-it standup of Lupe -- will hit over 8,000 retailers in mid-January.

Furthermore, Lupe kicks off his album release with a hometown celebration on December 20th. The Chicago In Store will be held at "The Bassment" where Lupe will be signing his new album for fans.

Finally, Lupe can be seen in an assortment of current and forthcoming national publications, including Entertainment Weekly, XXL, Rolling Stone, Vibe, Spin, Blender, and Fader, with additional features and album reviews to follow.

Lupe Fiasco has quickly established himself as among the most compelling and creative artists of the era, offering a rare combination of complex, thought-provoking lyricism coupled with sure-fire beats. The MC first made himself known with his featured appearance on Kanye West's hit single, "Touch The Sky," followed by the anthemic hit single, "Kick, Push." As a result, "LUPE FIASCO'S FOOD & LIQUOR" debuted on Billboard's "Top Rap Albums" chart at #1 upon its September 2006 release, while also entering the Billboard 200 at #8.

The 25-year-old rapper soon proved to be the year's biggest hip-hop breakthrough, garnering a trio of 2006 Grammy Award nominations, including "Best Rap Album," "Best Rap Song," and "Best Rap Solo Performance." Other honours include his being named one of Rolling Stone's "10 Artists To Watch 2006" as well as GQ's 2006 "Breakout Man of the Year," not to mention an array of nominations from the BET Hip Hop Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, the mtvU Woodie Awards, and the Soul Train Music Awards.

Among Lupe's biggest fans are hip-hop's best and brightest stars, including Jay-Z, who told Blender that "I love Lupe. He's a genius writer." What's more, the legendary Rakim -- without question one of rap's all-time greatest talents -- recently named Lupe as his favourite current MC, explaining that "there's still a lot of artists and a lot of songs out there that's good for you and still sound like that real hip-hop. The positive rap doesn't get as much coverage as the negative rap, but people (like Lupe Fiasco) are trying to get back around to the lyrical stuff." In addition, Kanye West recently announced that if he had a to form a Super group, "Lupe Fiasco would be one of the members."

For more information, please visit www.myspace.com/lupefiasco or www.lupefiasco.com.

Critics hail Spice Girls' U.K. Comeback

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(December 16, 2007) LONDON — Nearly a decade after their last
British concert, the Spice Girls made a triumphant return home with a sell-out performance that critics hailed as the return of "girl power."

Most reviewers agreed that the group managed to recreate the excitement of their 1990s heyday at the first date of the U.K. leg of their reunion world tour.

"Spice One Girls -- Band even better this time round," screamed the banner headline in Sunday's News of the World.

"(They) gave the show of the century -- bigger, bolder, brasher and, yes, more brilliant," said the paper's Rav Singh.

The group were one of the most popular acts of the 1990s, selling 55 million albums worldwide under their slogan "girl power."

They began their current comeback world tour in Canada .

"Girl power is back. The show was fantastic," said the Sunday Mirror's reviewer June Sarpong under the headline "Gold Spice", with a picture of the quintet in dazzling gold costumes.

Saturday's concert came less than a week after Led Zeppelin played at the same arena in east London .

"If you thought Robert Plant's banshee wail was loud, you should have heard the screeching that 20,000 hardcore Spice Girls fans made when their idols returned to the stage," said the Sunday Telegraph's James Delingpole.

The Sunday Express said "Girl Power takes over U.K. again", while the Observer said they were "better than ever" with performances of hits such as "Spice Up Your Life" and "Wannabe".

However, not everyone was convinced by the return of Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, Melanie "Sporty" Chisholm, Geri "Ginger" Halliwell, Melanie "Scary" Brown and Emma "Baby" Bunton.

The Independent on Sunday said the sound quality was terrible and the singing slapdash, although the audience didn't seem to care.

"It may have been fake on stage, done for sound business reasons, but for many in the crowd it looked real," said the paper's Cole Moreton. "Posh and the others should have been the ones paying the fans."

House Of Wax Produces Hot Bed Of Talent In St. Lucia

Excerpt from
www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(December 13, 2007) *The island of
St Lucia is now going through a musical renaissance with hit tracks emerging from one particular group of performers who all work with producer Sherwinn “Dupes” Brice of The House of Wax studio. Rhythm and blues singer Shayne Ross, dancehall artiste Cherry L and rapper Kayo have been making strides working with producer Brice.

Davina Lee, film and television producer/director is the studio’s resident video director and she has released unplugged performances from the performers.

Shayne Ross released a music video for his popular song Take You Home. The video, directed by Lee has been airing on television channels including BETJ, Tempo and Caribvision. Ross later followed up with the single Bad Girl which is still in heavy rotation.

On the heels of Ross’s release, another singer in Brice’s camp, Cherry L, came through with the track Friday which highlights the exciting party atmosphere of any Friday night anywhere in the world. A recent addition, to the House of Wax, rapper Kayo is getting ready to release the track Cheers.

In a recent interview published in the November/December issue of SHE Caribbean magazine,  Brice said that the music industry in St Lucia is now at an important stage and poised to take off. “The industry is now at a place I never thought I would see. It is finally at a point where the flower is getting ready to bloom. It’s going to blow up and a select few are about to blaze a path that will change the music industry forever,” said Brice.

Brice says that his inspiration comes from life and the relationships that he has. He admitted that a lot of his early music was inspired by his wife, Genele Brice, who is the cause of a lot of the sweet music that he produces. Brice’s ultimate goal in life is to “make my mark and to know that I was responsible for some of the best music the world has and will ever hear.”

Booker T. Jones Tells Why He Re-Recorded It Just In Time For The Holidays

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(December 14, 2007) The world is wonderful, more than ever, which is why I was recently puzzled by something written in these pages. Ninalee Allen Craig, known as Jinx Allen in 1951, was interviewed about her featured role in Ruth Orkin's famous photograph, the one where Craig was captured walking down a Florence street past a group of leering Italian men. Then an American tourist in her mid-twenties, Craig didn't feel threatened by the ogling men. She said she hoped the photograph would inspire young women to travel, but that these days they would need to be more careful. “Our world is much, much uglier today,” she judged.

Is it, really? Was post-Second World War Europe so beautiful? Are things so bad today?

Of course not, but the perception that present days are worse days is nothing new. At any time in history, the grass was greener several decades prior, when nobody needed to lock their doors and you could buy a dollar with a nickel! It was 40 years ago that songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss composed the classic
What a Wonderful World, a hummable tune for the froggy-voiced, hankie-dabbing trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Against the backdrop of race riots and the Vietnam War, the balmy song was hopeful for the future, with lines about blooming trees and babies learning. Thiele once said the song was about “how good things really could be.”

Over the years, the song has become a holiday standard, its cheerful optimism and placid melody suitable for the season, though it has nothing to do with Christmas itself. Now, four decades after its original release, What a Wonderful World has been rerecorded and released as a digital single by the Anti-record label, performed by alt-folk chanteuse
Jolie Holland and soul-music legend Booker T. Jones.

In their hands, it's less a pop song than was Armstrong's version. Holland 's vocals are supple and curvy, loitering along a pseudo-jazz chord structure until the mood turns more soulful, finally ending with the singer's carefree whistling. As for the song's conceit, Jones believes it's as relevant as ever. “It is a wonderful world,” the Hammond B-3 veteran says, “it absolutely is. You can't judge by newspaper headlines, because print publications are geared to sell copies. Sensationalism sells.”

Jones was the leader of the Memphis-based Booker T. & the MGs, which backed such singers as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Carla Thomas in the 1960s, and scored instrumental hits themselves ( Green Onion, Hip Hug-Her). He remembers the riotous era when the song was written, and believes the lyrical optimism has been realized. “There's forward progress,” he says, from his home north of San Francisco , “in terms of numbers, in terms of the temperament of the human heart.”

We pay attention to all the new Christmas albums every year, but what's memorable about seasonal music are the singles; the albums, in large part, are marketing. Radio stations convert their play lists to the holiday pop classics, in all their different forms: the smooth (Bing Crosby's White Christmas, Gene Autry's Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Burl Ives's A Holly Jolly Christmas, Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song), the rock (Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus is Comin' to Town), the retro (Bobby Helms's Jingle Bell Rock, Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree), the uplifting (John Lennon's Happy Xmas, Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas?), and the novel (Elmo & Patsy's Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and, my personal favourite, those barking dogs doing Jingle Bells).

Though it was a hit in England upon its 1967 release, What a Wonderful World flopped in the United States . It took time, and placement in the soundtrack of 1987's Good Morning, Vietnam , before the song became popular.

Holland's and Jones's version likely won't be a hit right away either, but there's time. As for the world's condition, Jones sees better days – and better people. Of the cozy line about seeing friends shaking hands, saying “How do you do?” when what they're really saying is “I love you,” Jones agrees.

“For every one person that's doing something untoward, you've got 500 or a thousand people who are trying to help somebody,” he says. “That's been my experience. That's what the ratio is. That's the way the world is.”

Chalk It Up To Growing Pains?

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Growing Pains
Mary J. Blige

(December 18, 2007) While Rihanna sang in the rain, the Queen of
Hip-Hop Soul worked through the pain. The biggest song on Mary J. Blige's eighth album is the one that isn't on it - the hit Umbrella, apparently written for the storm-attracting singer, but recorded by the slinky young Barbadian instead.

Hoo! How's that sitting with Blige, anyway? Well, if we believe the surround-sound chorus of the album's lithe and lively first single, she's "fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, oooh!, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine" with it. Moreover, Just Fine reveals exactly where the Grammy collector is these days in general.

"No time for negative vibes, 'cause I'm winning," affirms Blige, who nimbly sings a tune co-written by Tricky Stewart and the Dream, the duo responsible for Umbrella. "And I'm a still wear[ing] a smile if it's raining."

Over her career, it has been a matter of no pain/no gain for a stunningly successful artist who has translated her drama into a 15-year chart-topping run. The thing is, there's not much crisis to Growing Pains, a smooth album of light R&B and healing neo-soul, with a wiser singer offering trite avowals as an alternative to cathartic oversinging. Good that it's working for Blige and Dr. Phil, but it might not be everybody's cup of chicken soup.

Things are strong initially, with the robust go-girl rally Work That ("hold your head high") and the zesty hip-hopping Grown Woman, where a mature and sexually capable Blige fulfills rapper Ludacris.

But after Just Fine, things settle into a relaxed groove, with a slew of producers generating middling results. Blige, hormonal and embraceable on Feel Like a Woman, turns blandly reassuring on the limp Stay Down, produced by Bryan Michael Cox. (I do like the track's shout out to George and Weezie from The Jeffersons, though.)

Nothing else, besides Talk to Me, is all that interesting and even that tune sports couples-therapy clichés like "love is a process." The conciliatory Come to Me (Peace) is a Maroon 5 knockoff.

Maybe because it rhymes with pain, or maybe because she digs the drizzly metaphor, the disc is drenched, with "rain" dropping in lyrically (on the undercooked Smoke and elsewhere) and sonically (on the title track's dripping effect).

Hey, who knows, perhaps Blige intended to build a whole album around a missing song. If that's the case, it all makes sense. You never can find an Umbrella when it's pouring out.

Grammy slam

Her new disc Growing Pains was released too late in the year for a 2007 award, but Mary J. Blige managed to grab three just-announced Grammy nominations nevertheless, including recognition for her single (Just Fine), as well as duets with Chaka Khan (Disrespectful) and Aretha Franklin (Never Gonna Break Faith, co-written and co-produced by Bryan Adams). Last year, Blige won three of her eight Grammy nominations. B.W.

Keith Sweat Says It's 'Just Me'

Source: rhino.media@rhino.com; courtney@cbgpr.com

(December 19, 2007)  LOS ANGELES -- Atco Records, an imprint of Rhino Entertainment,  announces the March 18 release of JUST ME, the first new studio album from R&B legend
Keith Sweat since his 2002 Rebirth set.

The original "new jack" hitmaker, who celebrated 20 years as a chart artist at the end of 2007, produced and cowrote most of the material on his latest project which features guest artists Keyshia Cole, and Athena Cage (Keith's duet partner on the million-selling 1996 hit "Nobody"). 

The Harlem-born singer/songwriter and producer says he called his new  album JUST ME "because I'm giving the people what they expect from me. You hear other artists out here who make the mistake of trying to be trendy. 

They really try to keep up. I know people want to hear Keith Sweat.  I'm conscious of the people who have followed me the whole time, since day one.  I remember that I have a fan base and I'm very careful to give the people what they expect from me."

The first single from the set is the sexy jam "Suga Suga Suga," featuring Paisley Bettis.  Standout cuts include the hypnotic "Somebody," which showcases Sweat singing falsetto for the first time; the future classic "Love You Better," a truly memorable duet between Keith and hitmaker Keyshia Cole; and "Just Wanna Sex You," a hit-the-spot cut that Keith says is on the album "to remind people of what I've done and what I'm about musically." 

Sweat, who first broke through as a leader in the "new jack" of the late '80s with the #1 single "I Want Her" reunites with producer Teddy Riley, with whom he worked on his multiplatinum debut album, for the track "The Floor"; former Kut Klose vocalist Athena Cage joins Sweat for a new duet, “Butterscotch." 

Producers for the album also include The Ambassadorz, and Roy Battle; Sweat executive-produced the CD, his first Atco release.

Since 1988, the multi-faceted artist has sold over 15 million albums worldwide, racking up six #1 R&B hit singles, with close to 30 chart entries, three multiplatinum, three platinum and two gold albums, including Rhino's 2004 The Best Of Keith Sweat: Make You Sweat.  In addition to his solo work, Keith also scored major hits with Johnny Gill and the late Gerald Levert as part of the popular L.S.G. trio in the '90s.

Currently the host of his own The Keith Sweat Hotel radio show, which is heard in 21 markets nationwide, Keith, who tours almost every weekend, regards his longevity as a recording artist as a blessing that he doesn't take for granted. 

"It's surprising to me that my career has had such a long life span. When you first start out, you hope people will hear the music and you don't expect to still be around 20 years later. It feels good," Sweat says.

Track Listing

1. Somebody featuring Chris "F.L.L" Conner
2. The Floor
3. Girl Of My Dreams
4. Sexiest Girl
5. Butterscotch featuring Athena Cage
6. Me And My Girl
7. Suga Suga Suga featuring Paisley Bettis
8. Never Had A Lover
9. Love You Better featuring Keyshia Cole
10. Just Wanna Sex You
11. What's A Man To Do
12. Teach Me

Lost In Translation Meets High School Musical

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(December 19, 2007)  Most culture seekers have a recurring thing with Japan. Kitsch iconography, street fashion, even teen-tinged pop can turn fascinating, sometimes compulsory after being reimagined by the Japanese.

So leave it to Hollywood producers, with the help of a Canadian director, to tap into that perennial Japanophilia. No less than the producers of the wildly popular High School Musical are behind a plan to turn
Oreskaband, an all-girl teenage ska band (of all things) from the southern industrial city of Sakai, Japan. (of all places) into the next big crossover hit on this side of the Pacific.

Already getting noticed on various Japan-culture blogs and websites, Oreskaband couldn't seem further removed from the faux Romeo and Juliet sugar high of Disney's successful High School Musical and its seemingly endless sequels and offshoots. Producers Barry Rosenbush and Bill Borden aren't entirely moving away from the winning formula. After all, there's still the upcoming High School Musical 3 and another film along similar lines, American Mall, due out next year.

But they are trying something different with the feature-film vehicle for Oreskaband titled Lock and Roll Forever, currently in production and scheduled for next summer.

The movie Lock and Roll Forever is being built around Oreskaband, a real ska band from Sakei, Japan, made up of six girls who met in junior high. (Sony Music Associated Records Inc.)

The six-piece band is a real, working group of energetic musicians still in their teens, including a guitarist, bassist and drummer, and a horn section. The girls met in junior high and already have a sizable following in Japan. They play feel-good ska and, decked out in shiny ties and touches of black and white checkerboard, they're cute (like real girls, though, rather than High School Musical Barbies).

But the band's name, literally “I am ska band,” uses the informal ore, an idiom that a schoolboy would use, not a group of girls. It hints at subtle irreverence, the antithesis of the wide-eyed, sexed-up girlishness of Japanese anime characters or the hyper-exaggerated Little Bo Peep look in Japanese street fashion. But unlike Avril Lavigne and her neckties and skater pose, there's little sexual coyness with Oreskaband.

Rosenbush calls the film A Hard Day's Night meets Lost in Translation. The screenwriter for the High School Musical films, Peter Barsocchini, is also connected with Lock and Roll. But to give it a different feel and ratchet up the hip quotient with anime-style animation scenes and long music segments, the producers have chosen Chris Grismer to direct. The Toronto-based director is known in part for his music videos for Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire and others.

“I didn't have a template,” Grismer says. “They kind of let me go nuts. I got to create all sorts of weird animated sequences and big rock 'n' roll musical numbers [with] real punk rockers. It was a lot of fun.”

As Rosenbush describes it, the story revolves around “six Japanese high-school girls with a big rock 'n' roll dream, whose paths cross with an unscrupulous promoter played by Lucas Grabeel, one of the stars of High School Musical. He says, in an offhand remark when he sees them, ‘Girls, if you ever come to California, I'll make you rock 'n' roll stars.'”

The girls take him at his word; they raise the money, fly to Los Angeles and show up on his Beverly Hills doorstep. “He had no intention of ever seeing them again. And now this rat bastard, unscrupulous rock 'n' roll promoter is stuck with six adorable, hard-playing, rock 'n' roll girls,” Rosenbush says.

“We're going to reach to the same audience that we reached out to [with] High School Musical,” he adds.

And do we already detect spinoffs and sequels? “From your lips to God's ears,” he says hopefully.

But the film also commits a number of Hollywood no-nos: The first portion will be in Japanese with subtitles. And in addition to the anime-style sections, it will include a number of musical scenes that don't propel the plot but simply feature music for its own sake.

And there is one troubling aspect, the title Lock and Roll. It seems to make fun of Japanese English pronunciation right from the start. But that's a quality of the movie Lost in Translation that Grismer says he has been very conscious of avoiding. “That was definitely a consideration. That was how a lot of people felt about Lost in Translation in Japan, that they were being made fun of,” he says. “With this movie, I didn't want to take these girls and do that with them, because you can easily slip into that Jerry Lewis, ‘Me so sah-wy' comedy.”

Not only would that not go over with audiences in Japan, where the film is planned for wide release, it wouldn't be accepted by the pop-culture Japanophiles elsewhere whom the producers seem to want to entice in order to make the film more than High School Musical Goes to Japan.

Russian Orchestra Dazzles With Stravinsky Concert

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

(December 18, 2007)  Leaving Roy Thomson Hall last night felt much like exiting a movie theatre after seeing a particularly intense film. The legs were a bit wobbly. The eyes had trouble focusing on such ordinary things as a pedestrian signal.

The world had suddenly gone off-kilter.

All this dizziness was caused by a one-night-only visit by the
Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, and its superstar music director Valery Gergiev.

True to form, they dazzled the near-capacity crowd with dexterity and dynamism. This time, they came with an all-Stravinsky program, performing two famous ballet scores for Les Ballets Russes in Paris that introduced the world to Modernism in music. L'Oiseau de feu ("The Firebird") was first performed in 1910. Le Sacre du printemps ("The Rite of Spring") caused a notorious riot at its premiere performance three years later.

Igor Stravinsky, who made several visits to Toronto before his death in 1971, was the talk of Europe by the time he was 30 for his rhythmically spiky, often dissonant scores. It was his music that would lead the West, kicking and screaming, into a new age after the Great War.

When these two scores were first heard in a world that was still, essentially, wedded to 19th-century Romanticism, they offended people's musical sensibilities and expectations.

This was noise, not a companion to ballet.

It's safe to assume that the perturbed crowds at the premieres nearly 100 years ago would not have heard something as viscerally biting as what the Kirov delivered last night. So the ultimate genius in Gergiev's approach is to literally and metaphorically turn up the volume for us jaded 21st-century listeners.

By accentuating the spikiness of the rhythms, extending the dynamic range, asking the players to sharpen the attack on each note – and then ever so subtly playing with the timing in many musical figures – Gergiev can recreate some of that aural shock.

There nothing in the conductor's stage manner that suggests his godlike status in the orchestral world. Every moment of his life is in demand somewhere, yet he presents himself as the humble servant. There's no white-tie-and-tails and no podium, as he stands on the floor.

Yet the results are stunning.

Firebird – which draws from old Russian legends – is a more lyrical suite, giving the orchestra and conductor the opportunity to play lush, sweet passages as well. Of the two pieces on the program, this is the one that allows an orchestra to show off the full range of its abilities technically as well as musically.

The later suite is more bombastic and also rhythmically much more complex – a challenge for the world's best players.

The Kirov's playing (augmented by at least five members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra) was so crisp, that the score positively throbbed with invention.

Copyright Act Reforms Shelved Again

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(December 16, 2007) The copyfight is underway in earnest in Canada.

This past week saw Industry Minister Jim Prentice playing a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't game with
new copyright reform legislation. It was supposed to be introduced in Parliament on Tuesday, but amid a firestorm of criticism and online mobilization by thousands of Canadians, the update to the Copyright Act was pulled for the time being.

Critics of the reform bill have been charged up because of rumours of the bill being pushed through because of American pressure, perceived similarities to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and a lack of public consultation on the issue. Much of the dissent was spearheaded by Michael Geist, Canada 's Research Chair on the Internet and a law professor at the University of Ottawa (and Toronto Star columnist) along with influential blogs like Boingboing.net.

Some consequences that are feared are that it will become illegal to attempt to circumvent digital rights management – embedded software that limits the uses for media, like not allowing copying CDs or software – or outlawing modification of products you buy, which critics fear could harm innovation. "If we get copyright reform wrong, we'll have significant impact on basic consumer rights, the kind of property that consumers purchase, the CDs, the DVDs, the cellphones, the electronic books," Geist says.

Consumers could face a worst-case scenario where "their right to use property they've purchased would be significantly limited, turning them potentially into criminals for simply trying to access property that they've bought," says Geist.

The fears generally come from statements that Industry Canada has made about falling in line with two World Intellectual Property Organization treaties from 1997, which were part of the fundamental principles behind the American DMCA, and have created a copyright climate which, among other things, have allowed record companies to sue users who share music.

"The U.S. laws have had significant, what are often called unintended, consequences, which I think are negative consequences and in many cases, I think they are best to be avoided ... we've now had almost 10 years of impact and we've seen negative impact on consumer rights," says Geist.

Rumours abound that there will be no exemptions for fair use – which basically allows copyright infringement for artistic purposes, or other exemptions like for educational uses, such as a professor excerpting a text for a class – or fears about allowing companies to put digital locks restricting certain uses of devices like iPods.

But at present, no one has actually seen what is in the legislation.

"That's the point, no one has seen the act, and no one knows what's in it," says Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, the union representing actors in Canada . "This vocal minority are saying that iPods are going be locked down, you won't be able to use them. I mean how can they possibly be saying stuff like this, they don't know what's in the act.

"It's very much like Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling but of course it isn't ... let's take it to the legislative process and parliamentary process, and if there are concerns, we may in fact share those concerns, but let's see the act before we start condemning it."

The dispute isn't a new one. Paul Martin 's Liberal government introduced a similar bill in the summer of 2005 but it died when that government fell. Then-Toronto MP Sarmite Bulte, who helped draft the bill, was defeated last year amid charges she was too close to big media companies.

ACTRA has been lobbying for 10 years for the Copyright Act to be updated to ratify the WIPO treaties, because they help establish the rights of performers. The union would particularly like to see a right of remuneration – a guarantee that performers will get paid for work in new forms of media. (Such compensation is at the root of the Hollywood writers' strike, with producers reportedly worried that whatever they give writers for Internet and new-media works will serve as benchmarks for later negotiations with actors and directors.)

This latest round of controversy is remarkable for the public mobilization and outcry over what is just an attempt at copyright reform. Bloggers are urging people to call or write the minister's office, and last weekend when Prentice held an open house at his Calgary riding office, activists organized a rally and confronted the minister, who has so far refused to speak with the media on the issue.

"When public consultations were held on this issue in 2001, there were 600 submissions and that was seen as a lot. There were more calls and letters to the minister's office in one week this time," says Geist.

This week, ACTRA released a statement asking the government to finally table the legislation. In delaying the bill, copyright activists are claiming an early victory, but the speculation is that the legislation could still be introduced in late January when Parliament returns.


Youssou N'Dour: CD pick of the week

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

Rokku Mi Rokka (Nonesuch)
(out of 4)

(December 18, 2007) Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour helped pioneer a dance music so rhythmically complex that most Western listeners felt like they were coming and going. The music is called mbalax (pronounced em-BAL-lakh) and for more than 25 years it has remained the most popular sound in Africa's westernmost country. To appeal to Europe and North America, N'Dour has also continually experimented on international releases, introducing more conventional pop sounds for overseas fans drawn to his warm, majestic, singular voice.  Such efforts have often brought disappointment – until recently. Nothing's in Vain (2002) succeeded by emphasizing acoustic sounds. Egypt (2004) set aside mbalax entirely in a collaboration with classical Egyptian musicians, and won a Grammy. Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take) marks another breakthrough.  Here N'Dour draws from the musical traditions of northern Senegal to create rich, instrumental textures and soaring melodies. Best of all, he seems to have dropped all conscious attempts at a smash, crossover success, making the album all the more deserving of one. Top Tracks: Desert blues number "Létt Ma (Indecision)" stands out as a fresh departure. The stately "Xel (Think)" features two vocalists from the venerable Orchestra Baobab.

Shaggy All About Love

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

Intoxication (VP Records)
(out of 4)

(December 11, 2007)  Mr. Lover Lover is focused as always on the fairer sex, whether pledging eternity – There's no need to stray/Our love is like a perfect work of art ("Bonafide Girl") – or revealing infidelity – I had sex with mi woman best friend again ("Intoxication"). The 39-year-old gravely voiced Jamaican reggae-rap singer also takes time out to decry social ills on "Mad Mad World," boosted by a poignant hook from Sizzla, and slyly attack religious hypocrisy with "Church Heathen." Top track: Stepping out of his comfort zone to sing "All About Love," the performer exudes sincerity.

Chris Brown
Exclusive (Zomba/SonyBMG)

Chris Brown should be a big star someday; the challenge in the meantime is to harness the singing, dancing phenom who made his 2005 self-titled debut at 16. The Virginia native melds youthful exuberance with Southern swagger on his sophomore effort, which utilizes a different top producer (from Kanye to Swizz Beatz) on nearly every track. It's a fun danceable disc, geared to teens, with tidbits for the party-loving parents who don't mind the adolescent shrill of his ballads. Top track: Producer will.i.am pulls out all the stops for "Picture Picture."

We Remember: Jazz Producer Joel Dorn Dies At 65

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 19, 2007) *The entertainment field has suffered the recent losses of veteran record producer
Joel Dorn and groundbreaking Harlem filmmaker St. Clair Bourne.    Dorn – a former disc-jockey for a Philadelphia jazz radio station who went on to work at Atlantic Records with such artists as Roberta Flack, Max Roach and the Neville Brothers – died of a heart attack on Monday in New York. He was 65.   He produced Flack's 1969 debut album "First Take" and with the singer won consecutive Record of the Year Grammys, for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (1972) and "Killing Me Softly With His Song" (1973).   Dorn left Atlantic in 1974, and in his later years formed his own labels. He also oversaw reissues of classic jazz albums for Columbia, Rhino and GRP. At the time of his death, he was a partner in the roots label Hyena Records, and was working on a five-disc tribute to his mentor, "Homage A Nesuhi." He is survived by three sons.  


A Culture Saturated In Sexism

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(December 15, 2007) The horror, the horror. If you believe many of this year's movies, tabloids and blogs, one of the most terrifying sights is an adult female body that is (gasp) slightly imperfect. If you really want to scare the 15-year-olds to whom pop culture caters, forget chainsaws and torture devices - just zoom in on wrinkles, sags or cellulite.

In last August's hit comedy Superbad, a blind-drunk hottie in short-shorts dirty dances with one of the film's heroes, chubby Seth (Jonah Hill). He's delighted, until he realizes she's left a stain on his pant leg. "Period blood!" he screams in disgust, while other partygoers reel. Okay, having that accident is unpleasant, but Seth is as repulsed as if the girl - hot no longer - had presented him with a severed head. Box office: more than $120-million.

In Knocked Up, which came out in June, hero Ben (Seth Rogen -- also chubby, which I point out because it's not an issue for the men) impregnates a babe (Katherine Heigl). But when she's delivering the baby, there's an extreme close-up of her distended vagina, with horror-movie sound effects. The friend who glimpsed it rocks back and forth on the waiting-room sofa, traumatized. "I shouldn't have gone in there, I shouldn't have gone in there," he chants. Box office: nearly $150-million.

In the remake of The Heartbreak Kid directed by the Farrelly brothers, which came out in October, Eddie (Ben Stiller) hastily marries the lovely Lila (Malin Ackerman), only to be repulsed by her sexual wantonness -- and the thatch of unkempt hair on her crotch. When she pulls off her jeans, the camera swoops in for yet another close-up as her flattened pubic hair springs back to menacing fullness. Stiller recoils as if from a werewolf. Box office: $37-million.

Celebrity nitpickers hit a new low when they targeted Jennifer Love Hewitt. (Phil McCarten/AP)

"I didn't see those movies, but I heard about those scenes," said Tracy Clark-Flory, who writes for Salon.com's Broadsheet, a blog that focuses on feminist issues. "They're the ones people walk away talking about."

"Women's bodies have always been fodder for jokes, but the envelope keeps getting pushed," said Jessica Valenti, whose book Full Frontal Feminism came out in March. "Young moviegoers expect more and more outrageous humour, so the movies get more risqué."

Offscreen, recent tabloids, TV shows and Internet sites raked Tyra Banks and Britney Spears over the coals for gaining weight. Endless unflattering photos of their non-washboard midriffs were displayed and discussed. The fact that Banks was at most a size 12, and that Spears has had two children, didn't matter: These women didn't maintain their veneer of perfection. They had failed.

A few weeks ago, the nitpickers hit a new low: They targeted Jennifer Love Hewitt, zeroing in on bumps on her bikini-clad bottom and blaring, "We know what you ate last summer."

Now, I try to have a sense of humour about this stuff. But Jennifer Love Hewitt is a freaking Polly Pocket, and obviously fit. Seeing her scorned - for I don't even know what, having hips? - I can't help but feel that the volume and ubiquity of this kind of criticism is tipping from humour into something uglier.

"Women's inferiority - in fact, their malevolence - is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they're sporting burkas," wrote Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon on a website recently. "I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards... Women are weak, manipulative, somehow morally unfinished. The logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are expendable... There is a staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted."

The reasons are as old as time. Men are visual creatures who fear female power. Women are self-loathing. Each sex mistrusts the "otherness" of the other. Humans have a natural inclination to raise up heroes, then tear them down. Plastic surgery has created a super-race, and the Internet keeps their images in our face 24/7. The baby boomers who are running Hollywood are alarmed by their own aging. And on and on. I'm more interested in the results.

"I write about this stuff around the clock, switching between celebrity stories and the stories of women murdered by their family members in Iraq ," Clark-Flory said. (And this week, tragically, in Mississauga .) "It's hard not to see a link. The imbalance exists in every culture. We're relatively lucky that this is how it shows up in ours. But that shouldn't diminish its seriousness. It's a valid concern that affects the lives of women in a real way."

Last February, the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report that examined "the omnipresence and damaging effects of sexualized images of girls and young women in American culture." In study after study, the report summarized, "findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized... Ample evidence indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs."

Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves, a non-profit women's advocacy collective based in Boston , also sees an impact on women's health. "Humans have a natural desire to feel attractive," she said, "but our culture is pushing an extremely narrow norm of what constitutes beauty, and that results in critical risks: complications from elective surgery, from silicone ruptures to MRSA [the virulent methicillin-resistant staph infection that plagues hospitals]. Health risks from fad diets. New mothers being encouraged to lose their baby weight so soon that they can't produce breast milk. These dangers are downplayed left and right by the beauty industry. Their marketing misleads the public in massive ways."

Valenti, meanwhile, posits that a commercial and tabloid culture that encourages women to obsess about their so-called imperfections is a dangerous distraction from bigger issues, such as the rollback of reproductive rights in the United States . (In three popular films this year - Knocked Up, Waitress and Juno -- women who find themselves accidentally pregnant dismiss the option of abortion almost immediately. Characters in Knocked Up can't even utter the word. "It rhymes with smashmortion," one says.) Start looking, and everything seems relevant: VH1's show Little Beauties: The Ultimate Kiddie Queen Showdown featured four six-year-old pageant contestants - six-year-olds! -- being kitted out with spray tans and fake teeth. A video starring Will Ferrell, running on FunnyOrDie.com, features a gang rape played for laughs. Several Delta Zeta sorority sisters at DePauw University in Indiana were kicked out for not being attractive enough. (DePauw dropped the sorority. The national chapter is now suing the university.) I know, I know, typical humourless feminist, seeing oppression everywhere. "That's the quickest way to shut someone down who is saying something valid, call them humourless," Valenti said. "But shaming someone, breaking down their spirit, is not funny. The thing is, I don't think the people making these movies or blogs even consider themselves sexist. It's such a part of our culture, we're so saturated, we don't even see it."

When Katherine Heigl recently called Knocked Up "a little bit sexist," blogs slammed her for being a hypocrite. Jennifer Love Hewitt felt compelled to post her dress size, 2, on her website. Then last week, former supermodel Janice Dickinson, defending Hewitt on The Today Show, inadvertently ended up embodying our cultural ambivalence.

"Jennifer Love Hewitt is a healthy, not emaciated, woman," Dickinson said. But she couldn't stop there. She had to add, "You want to see someone who's fat, I'm sorry, Tyra Banks is fat."

We're all pretty sorry, if you ask me.

Johnny Depp: A Bloody Good Idea

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(December 17, 2007) LONDON — Even
Johnny Depp didn't know Johnny Depp could sing until he went into his friend's garage, fortified with wine and cigarettes, and turned on the microphone. He attempted My Friends, the acid-dipped ballad that Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, sings to his razors. Depp's friend – they had been in a band called the Kids in the 1980s – turned to him and said, in essence, “Man, you're going to have to take the part.”

It was hard to tell, on this chilly London day, whether Depp was happy he agreed to pick up Sweeney's razors, because he was suffering a bout of the flu, which has him swaddled and shivering. Dressed in his usual William Burroughs/hobo chic, he huddled in an armchair next to his friend and long-time collaborator, Tim Burton, to promote the film, which opens on Friday. Burton gave him the original cast recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical six years ago and waited, patiently, for Depp to discover his voice – or lack thereof.

“I think I was probably more frightened than anyone, except maybe Tim,” Depp said, and turned to share a laugh with Burton. They're clearly on the astral plane that comes from nearly 20 years working together, as well as a shared love of old horror and science-fiction films, 1970s American kitsch culture and jokes. (“Mainly poo jokes,” as Burton's partner, Helena Bonham Carter, later revealed in a moment of blithe sharing.)

“I've never sang before in my life, so I had to kind of find my way to it,” Depp continued. “I just wanted to make sure I could do it for Tim. So I cut the demo with my friend, and showed it to Tim, and just waited for the outcome.”

Much depended on Depp's voice: Stephen Sondheim, who had casting approval, had already agreed on the actor, sound unheard. The composer believed that if Depp said he could sing it, he could. He has always had a preference for actors who sing over singers who act.

But singing Sondheim is difficult, even for a professional, and for a tyro it's like trying to learn to drive a standard in San Francisco. The Sweeney Todd set was being built, producers' money had already been spent, and finally Depp sent in his songs. When the tape landed on the producers' desk, the decision was clear: The kid stays in the picture.

Earlier in the day, as someone mysteriously carried a pair of mannequin legs past his open hotel-room door, Burton talked about the first time he'd seen Sweeney Todd. It was not very far from this hotel, in fact, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and Burton – a student and not a big musical fan – was seduced by the macabre poster.

“It really surprised me and affected me,” says Burton, a genial presence almost hidden by a Phil Spector-ish cloud of dark hair and oversized blue sunglasses. “I loved the mixture of the music, which is so beautiful and lyrical, and the imagery, so dark and harsh. And all the blood, of course.”

Burton, sitting in the cheap seats, watched as the blood gushed across the stage. Two proper English ladies, who were sitting in front of him, stiffened at the sight and one turned to the other to say: “Was that really necessary?”

To young Tim, born in California in 1958 and raised on a solid diet of Hammer horror films, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, the blood was absolutely necessary: as vital on screen as it is in the body. “I've seen productions that are more politically correct where they tone down the blood a bit, and it loses something. It's not meant to be real; it's part of the emotional fabric of the thing.”

Contrary to reports, Burton said he was not asked by the studio to trim the bloodier bits of Sweeney Todd, and the blood does indeed flow, almost comically thick by the end. The film's palette is black and white and crimson.

The gore flows, of course, from Sweeney Todd's razor: In Sondheim's musical (based on a play by Christopher Bond, which is in turn based on the old myth of the demon barber), Todd is a wronged man whose wife and child have been stolen from him. He exacts revenge, with the help of his sharp friends, on the man who betrayed him – and, indeed, anyone else unfortunate enough to be in his chair when the red rage descends. As for the small problem of the corpses, Mrs. Lovett (played by Helena Bonham Carter) is always having trouble finding enough meat to fill her pies.

When he first saw the musical (over and over again), Burton had no plans to make it into a movie; he didn't even have plans to make himself into a director: “I didn't know if I was going to be a plumber, a waiter, whatever.” When he did end up directing (after a stint as a Disney animator), Burton called up Sondheim and said he wanted to make Sweeney Todd into a movie.

Sondheim agreed, but Burton was distracted by another project, and for a while Sam Mendes ( American Beauty) tried to adapt Sweeney for the big screen, but couldn't get the cast he wanted. In the end, when Burton's plans to make a movie about Ripley's Believe it Or Not fell through, he went back to Sweeney, with one proviso: Johnny Depp had to be the demon behind the barber's chair.

Burton admits, in his surfer-boy drawl, that the material gave some of the money-men pause: “The fact is, no one was jumping up and down for joy to make a bloody, R-rated musical, but they were cool about it.” The cast would have laid many fears to rest: There was Depp, fresh from his Pirates of the Caribbean successes, and Sacha Baron Cohen, who replaced Borat's thong with an equally alarming blue-satin jumpsuit as Sweeney's rival, Signor Pirelli.

Like the rest of the cast (Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as the Beadle), Baron Cohen is not a trained singer. He showed up for his audition and sang the entire score of Fiddler on the Roof. It wasn't the world's hardest casting decision.

A tougher call was the role of Mrs. Lovett, which was apparently catnip for some high-profile actresses. Bonham Carter had to audition seven times, on both sides of the Atlantic, to convince the producers and Sondheim that she was the slatternly pie mistress of their dreams. “I didn't want to be cast for the wrong reasons,” the actress said. “I knew Tim wouldn't cast me for the wrong reasons, for emotional reasons.” The “wrong reasons” were obvious as she reclined on a pillow, vastly pregnant with her and Burton's second child.

She looked magnificent in a black dress; her hair, if anything, was higher than her boyfriend's. The towering tresses predate her star-making role as Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With a View. Apparently even as a child she was mad about Sweeney Todd: When she told a friend she'd won the role, the friend said, “Don't you remember we used to call you Mrs. Lovett? You went around with a Mrs. Lovett hairdo.” Bonham Carter sighed. “I was a strange child.”

She was asked if Depp and Burton – whose relationship stretches through six movies, from Edward Scissorhands to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – behaved like a married couple on set. “No, they're more like brothers,” she said. “And Johnny's hair in the movie looks so like Tim's, they could be twins.”

At the press conference, Depp had shed many layers of scarf, coat and sweater, revealing various necklaces, a beat-up denim shirt and even more battered boots. You have to be profoundly good-looking to work the tramp aesthetic. Burton said that one of the reasons he loves working with Depp, on top of his risk-taking, is his dislike of watching himself: “That's a huge issue for me,” the director said, “not to have that vanity where you keep stopping and looking at yourself.”

Depp said the two of them had a weird, instant connection when they first met in a Los Angeles coffee shop and ended up discussing the absurdity of the culture of their youth: “Things like macramé owls … fake fruit.…” The flu was clearly winning.

“You know,” said Depp, “anything he'd ask me to do I would.”

Except a ballet, someone shouted.

“No,” said Depp, seriously. “I would try.”

Leelee Sobieski: Somewhere Along The Line, She Became An Actress

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(December 14, 2007) Talk about a charmed life. Since being discovered in a school cafeteria at the age of 10,
Leelee Sobieski, already the child of well-known New York artists, hopped from TV movies to blockbusters in just three short years.

Her strong performance in the end-of-the-world thriller Deep Impact led to the lead role in the miniseries Joan of Arc (for which she was nominated for an Emmy) and, most notoriously, to Stanley Kubrick's controversial Eyes Wide Shut.

In the late nineties and early this decade, every celebrity magazine on the planet declared Sobieski the Next Big Thing. But somewhere along the line, something more interesting happened - she became an actress, instead of a starlet. Her films since have not been huge hits, but they have been consistently smart and provocative. Co-starring with the likes of John Cusack, Diane Lane , Donald Sutherland and Chloë Sevigny hasn't hurt, either.

Sobieski's new film, Walk All Over Me, is a sweet little movie about dominatrixes, stolen gang money, kinky sex and the chipped charm of Vancouver 's underworld. Just in time for Christmas!

Once billed as the Next Big Thing, Leelee Sobieski took a pass on the froth. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

If only people would stop asking her if she's Helen Hunt's sister.

You're very funny in Walk All Over Me - a departure from your usual dark roles.

Yes, but I love comedy. It was a challenge for me to play somebody that is so naive. Since I was born in New York and I've been working since I was 11, it was not easy to play someone from a small town who is new to everything.

Naive would be hard, given that you're from a family of artists.

Ha! It was kind of difficult for me! But it's a nice way to look at the world, because you start to see things for the first time that you've seen many times before. After I finished the film, that positive energy stayed with me for two more films!

It's refreshing to see a film about sex workers that avoids moralizing.

I think everything is a case-by-case basis. I wouldn't want to generalize about that work, but in this film it seems totally cool. The dominatrix in the film is very choosy about her clientele, and for her it's not so heavy.

You often play heroines and tough women. Was it difficult for you to play vulnerable?

Do you think it was difficult for me to play vulnerable?

Maybe ...

Did you think Alberta [her character in Walk All Over Me] was vulnerable?


Is that a vulnerable question?

I ... don't ... know ... any more

I like to show strong female characters, I find that exciting. And I think it takes an enormous amount of strength to show your vulnerability.

Walk All Over Me is set in Vancouver and is about prostitutes. The Pickton trial must have been in the back of your mind.

Sorry? [Lengthy discussion of Pickton case.] I had no idea about that! Oh my God! We weren't really talking about that. And it was public information at the time we filmed? Interesting. I was not aware of it, and I'm not sure if the director was aware, either.

Well, never mind. Was Kubrick the unholy terror he was reputed to be?

Oh my God, no! He was completely the opposite. I was 13½, and he couldn't have been more warm and sweet and inviting. The most open director ever. I worked on it for two months, but they worked on it for two years, and he sent my mother and me boxes of chocolates during the filming. He was even cuddly! I remember when I first met him, he had these warm chuckling eyes, the kind of eyes you'd want Santa Claus to have.

One doesn't hear "Santa Claus" and "Stanley Kubrick" in many sentences.

Ha! No! Well, you know, I was 13½.

After that film came out, you were on the cover of everything. Are you glad your, shall we say, Maxim days, are over?

Oh, I don't know about Maxim! I was never on the cover of Maxim. I think that maybe when there was that "sexy" emphasis, I was still under 18, so most of it was muted and tame. Maybe this is me being egotistical, but I don't think that I ever got attention other than for the reason I was doing a good job. When everything happened to me, I was not aware of it. I didn't realize it until much later.

You made a film with Catherine Deneuve. I would be terrified to even look at her.

She is very private, but once she realizes that you're okay, then she becomes very inviting and funky. She gave me my 19th birthday party, at an Indian restaurant in Montreal . My best friend, Anthony, who is an opera singer, was visiting me and she told him he had to sing for me. But the restaurant didn't have any sound equipment, so the owner went home and got his stereo and Anthony sang.

That is the power of Catherine Deneuve.

Yes - when she says sing, you sing. You have no choice!

Walk All Over Me is now playing in Toronto




June 10, 1983, in New York , as Liliane Rudabet Gloria Elsveta Sobieski.


Through her father, painter

Jean Sobieski, claims descent from John III Sobieski, a 17th-century monarch of Poland

and Lithuania .


Her Eyes Wide Shut role as a crazed teenage nymphet - tempting to Tom Cruise's wandering husband - put the youngster in the middle of a movie that was expected to be very prurient. (It wasn't, really, and she remained fully clothed.)


Since her career started, Sobieski has been noted for her resemblance to Helen Hunt; the show Celebrity Deathmatch even put claymation figures of the two into battle. But Sobieski is no relation to her fellow actress, who is a native Californian.

Will Smith Certainly Knows How To Strike Gold At The Box Office

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss, Special to The Globe and Mail

(December 13, 2007) LOS ANGELES —
Will Smith is worried.

Yes, Mr. Self-Confidence himself: The movie star who could credibly brag through the late 1990s that he owned the Fourth of July release weekend; the star whose films for more than a decade have almost all earned nine-figure box-office grosses ( Independence Day, both Men in Blacks, Enemy of the State, Bad Boys II, Shark Tale, I Robot, Hitch, even – yes – Wild Wild West), or earned him an Oscar nomination ( Ali) or both ( The Pursuit of Happyness).

The hip-hop star who also claims one of Hollywood's happiest home lives with his wife of 10 years, Jada Pinkett Smith, their acting son and daughter, Jaden and Willow, and his son Trey from a previous marriage. The guy whom everybody seems to at least like, and whom legions of fans love. He's worried that, maybe this time, he's giving them more Will Smith than they can handle.

“I'm in an extremely vulnerable emotional space with this film because it's such a departure,” Smith, buff in a silky white T-shirt and his head shaved almost clean, says of his latest science-fiction spectacular, I Am Legend.

“Like, I know how to give people what they want. I know what people want because I'm that person, I'm a mainstream consumer. But with this film, it's really the first time ever in my career that I've imposed this amount of my artistic desire on the process. There's a level of performance that I wanted to give, a level of authenticity that I wanted to bring to this idea.”

The third film version of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel and the first to use its original title – The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price (1964) and The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston (1971) were the others – Legend features Smith as perhaps the only human survivor of a mutated virus.

His Robert Neville has certainly been the only uninfected person for years in a nature-reclaimed New York , which he prowls by day with a German shepherd before barricading himself against diseased vampires at night.

Which means lots of scenes of Smith just by himself, talking to the dog or not at all. There are abundant scares and action as well, but by Smith's populist way of thinking, this is very avant-garde business indeed.

“We posed the question: Why do the big movies come out in the summer and the good movies come out in the fall?” Smith, 39, explains. “And what we determined is that the framework of a big movie is structured around the delivery of an idea and the so-called ‘good' movies are about people. And what happens is, if you follow the line of a person, you actually break the structure of the idea. So to try to create the small art film in the big blockbuster package is terrifying for me because I so know how to do the other thing. Y'know?

“But I just so want to do something else,” he continues, eschewing the cheerful laughter that accompanies most of his statements. “We had a line we kept saying to ourselves over and over again, though: ‘You don't want to be so smart that you're stupid.' We've seen that happen with movies that are so intellectually and artistically sound that they actually don't work as a movie! So we tried not to be in that space.”

The desire to establish artistic cred alongside popularity goes way back with Smith. Though never considered on the cutting edge of rap, the duo he formed in his native Philadelphia, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, won the first Grammy Award ever bestowed in that category. While his winning personality charmed a big audience for six seasons on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sitcom, Smith worked his way into movies through such art-house fare as Where the Day Takes You and Six Degrees of Separation.

More recently, Happyness, in which he co-starred with Jaden, sure looked like a cry for critical approval ( Willow has a smaller role in Legend). But Smith says he doesn't need awards.

“I measure my success and failure as a performer exclusively at the box office,” he insists. “I feel that people work jobs that they hate, they work with people that they don't like, they drive in traffic that they despise every morning and afternoon. When somebody goes to a movie theatre, or you go to an Imax movie theatre and pay $34 for you and your date, I don't care what anybody says: That is an artist's high-five that is unlike any award you can ever receive.”

If you didn't know I Am Legend is screening in Imax theatres, now you do. Artistic impulses or not, Smith has a dedicated genius for promotion. And let's be serious here: The guy he plays in I Am Legend – a tough, resourceful, highly trained military scientist who may just save the world – is no big departure from the superachievers we associate with Smith.

So what does he really worry about? The same thing that's got him as far as he has come.

“My grandmother thought that I was just the greatest,” he reveals.

“She always had us playing the piano and doing recitations at church and all of that. And there was a look of pride that my grandmother had in her eyes that became, like, the fuel that I need for life. Like, I need my woman and daughter and mother and women in general to look at me with that look – that ‘That's it, Baby!' – that my grandmother had.

“I was about 15 years old when my first girlfriend cheated on me,” he continues. “The way I processed why she cheated on me was that I wasn't good enough, right? So I remember laying in my bed and making a decision that I would never not be good enough again.

“I may have gone a little overboard with it in my mind. But every single day, I can't function if Jada doesn't have that look in her eyes. So that means with my movies, that means as a father, that means as a husband – in everything that I do in my life, I have to educate myself to the place that I can contend as the best on Earth … and that's the only way I can keep my woman from leaving me!”

Will Smith's trademark laugh is heartily back in place – but sounding more nervous now than before.

The faces of Will Smith

Despite the slick, action-packed look of the new sci-fi film I Am Legend, Will Smith says this role is a departure from his more typical action-hero fare. A look at the types of roles that have led him to box-office gold in the past:
The everyman-turned-hero
Men in Black (1997) and Men in Black II (2002)
Bad Boys (1995) and Bad Boys II (2003)
Independence Day (1996)
I, Robot (2004)
Enemy of the State (1998)
The cultural icon
Ali (2001)
The sensitive, troubled soul
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The Taming Of Nicolas Cage

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(December 19, 2007) HOLLYWOOD–The paradox that is
Nicolas Cage sits before us, a reformed wild man in a conservative dark suit.

He's preparing to unspool National Treasure: Book of Secrets, opening Friday as the follow-up to 2004's National Treasure, his biggest movie to date.

He talks enthusiastically about how he'd love to have his historical thrill-seeker character Ben Gates go on further adventures.

Cage is also eager to add another chapter to this year's highly profitable Ghost Rider story, his "Disney-meets-Faust" saga that marries a comic book demon with weighty philosophy.

This from a man who hadn't previously wanted to fit a movie sequel – "I never like to repeat myself" – into his workaholic schedule of up to four films per year.

And yet at the same time Cage, 44 next month, is seriously vowing to pull away from the business, so he can spend some real time with his new young family: his third wife Alice Kim, 24, a former waitress he met at a sushi bar, and their 2-year-old son Kal-El, named for Superman's childhood handle.

"I think you'll probably start to see less of me, as my youngest son begins to go to school," Cage tells the Star.

"I'm probably going to take more time off and stay in one area more. Make my choices a little more stringent. I don't know when I'll go back to work or not."

At a press conference minutes later, Cage elaborates on his new family-man persona, which includes putting his motorcycle in the garage a lot more often and maybe not dressing up like Elvis as much.

"I think the main changes are that my priorities have improved. I started acting at a very young age. And I had interests, which I'm not saying were wrong.

"It's just that I'm maturing, and motorcycles and things like that aren't as important as they once were to me."

The usual drill when an actor is selling an action movie is to make it seem like the action is everything. Cage makes no secret of the fact that the National Treasure franchise appeals to him because it is grounded in historical fact and legend, not because he (and his stuntmen) get to leap around Mount Rushmore.

"What's really fun about it for me is that (Gates') only superpower is that he's read a few history books."

Cage can afford to be choosy, and to do things his own way.

This year will end as his best ever in box-office terms, since Book of Secrets is a guaranteed hit.

He seems more serious and restrained off the screen than on it. In that way, he's a lot like stand-up comedians, who are often far less funny off stage than you'd expect them to be.

"I like a good book and I like being in nature around the water and being with my family. I think those are just the real treasures."

But Cage knows how to deliver the requisite emotion when the cameras are on.

"He's unexpected; you never know what he's going to do," says National Treasure producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

"Some actors, you'll watch them in movies and you'll know where they're going with their reactions, with their emotions.... You never know where Nic's going to go in a scene. Ever. He's so quirky and interesting, he'll take something that is a very straight scene and he'll turn it on its ear."

As the title implies, the National Treasure franchise is all about spinning wonder and whimsy into hunts and chases involving U.S. history and symbols: the Declaration of Independence in the first movie; the assassination of Lincoln and Mount Rushmore in the sequel.

If Cage has his way, the franchise will go international, using the history of other countries as a springboard to fun and adventure for Cage and his sidekicks played by Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight and Helen Mirren.

"I've always felt that it would be great to make it go wider and wider. I'd like to see the movie go into Asia, or into Africa and through Egypt and keep it going. And Canada as well!

"I'd like to see him recruited, if you will. (Other countries) will read about his exploits and his adventures and say, `Well, why don't we get him on the case?' And then he'd have to get a dossier and record in his mind all the British history or Canadian or whatever it would be, and figure it out."

For better or worse, Cage knows that his outsized persona plays better in blockbusters than in artier films – his 1995 Best Actor Oscar win for Leaving Las Vegas notwithstanding.

His most recent character-driven films The Weather Man and Lord of War were dead on arrival.

He figures now that if he can encourage kids – and maybe their parents, too – to open up a history book to follow along with Ben Gates, then he's doing something worthwhile. He just wants to make fewer movies, at least for now.

"I feel very blessed. I've worked with a lot of great people. I have no complaints. I just feel like my son is about to go to school so I want to stay home just a little bit more. Doing these movies requires a great deal of travel. That's what it's really about. It's about just wanting to have a better balance."

Paradoxical as always, Cage is planning a big trip. But it involves being closer to his family and a very special Christmas.

"This year, I'm going to do something new. I'm going to have a (Charles) Dickens Christmas. I'm going to take everyone to England. I've never done that. I just want to walk around Bath and see how they celebrate the holidays. I've always fantasized about that."


Alicia Keys To Star In Lena Horne Biopic

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 19, 2007) *PageSix.com is reporting that Oprah Winfrey has taken control of the long-gestating
Lena Horne biopic and has cast Alicia Keys in the title role.  “We’re going to start filming next year, and we've got Alicia,” Oprah reportedly told the New York Post column during an interview for her film "The Great Debaters."   The announcement comes as a final blow for Janet Jackson, who for years has expressed interest in playing the legendary entertainer on screen, and was actually in serious consideration when the project was set up as a TV movie at ABC.   But her dream role was all but snatched away in 2004, when Mrs. Horne herself famously asked Jackson to step away from the role following her Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction."


'Top Model's' Saleisha Scandal

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 17, 2007) *Less than 48 hours after 19-year-old Los Angeles resident
Saleisha Stowers took the Cycle 9 crown on "America's Next Top Model," rumours began circulating that her victory may not have been all that fair.

It was made clear in the season opener that Saleisha attended Tyra's T- Zone camp for underprivileged girls when she was 14. However, it was not made known to viewers that the two extended their friendship beyond that experience.

Following her win on Tuesday, footage of Saleisha working the runway in an "ANTM" Cycle 6 fashion show began surfacing on the Internet, reports E! Online. Also, fans found video of the model hopeful appearing on the catwalk in an episode of "The Tyra Banks Show," the Web site reports.

Viewers also found that Saleisha had appeared in a nationwide Wendy's commercial that aired in 2006, seemingly in violation of an "America's Next Top Model" eligibility rule that states would-be contestants "must not have previous experience as a model in a national campaign within the last five years (including, but not limited to, appearances on television and print advertisements)," E! reports.

In response, the CW issued a statement saying that Saleisha did disclose her participation in the Wendy's spot, but "after reviewing the commercial, it was determined that her appearance did not amount to 'modeling' experience, and therefore did not exclude her from participating in the show."

As "Top Model" winner, Saleshia pockets a CoverGirl gig, a $100,000 contract with Elite Model Management and a cover and photo spread in Seventeen magazine.

In related news, "ANTM's" ninth season ended on Tuesday as the CW's highest rated show, averaging more than 5 million viewers each week. Tyra is currently overseas shooting Cycle 10.

Herzog Wins Latest Survivor

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 17, 2007) NEW YORK – All that studying paid off. 
Todd Herzog, a longtime fan of "Survivor," won the CBS reality show's $1-million prize after 39 days of lying and scheming.

"I wasn't the strongest. I wasn't the smartest," Herzog said during the finale.

"But I was definitely the most strategic."

The 22-year-old flight attendant from Pleasant Grove, Utah, bested his "Survivor: China" allies Courtney Yates, a 26-year-old waitress from New York City, and Amanda Kimmel, a 23-year-old hiking guide and former beauty queen from Los Angeles.

Herzog won the 15th edition of "Survivor" with four votes against Yates' two and Kimmel's one. He's the youngest winner in the show's history.

"I knew that the second that I got out there that, no matter what it took, I would do everything that I possibly could to be sitting right here," Herzog said after the votes were revealed.

That meant teaming up with Kimmel on the first day of the competition and aligning himself with both weaker and stronger players to deflect any attention away from himself.

"I can't believe it worked," he said.

None of the opposing Zhan Hu tribe members was able to penetrate Herzog's alliance with Kimmel, Yates and fourth-place finisher Denise Martin, a 40-year-old janitor from Douglas, Mass.

Earlier in the season, the quartet turned on fellow original Fei Long tribe members Jean-Robert Bellande and James Clement, who possessed but didn't use either of the game's two Hidden Immunity Idols. "Survivor" host Jeff Probst called that move the "biggest blunder in the history of this game."

Despite his misstep, gravedigger Clement was selected by viewers to win $100,000 from Sprint.

Herzog and Clement weren't the only players awarded money. Probst announced "Survivor" executive producer Mark Burnett would give $50,000 to Martin, who said she lost her job as a lunch lady as a result of being on the show.

Probst also revealed the upcoming Micronesia-set 16th edition of the show will pit "Survivor" fans against former "Survivor" contestants – including one from "Survivor: China."

Writers Strike Casts Shadow Over Oscars

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

(December 18, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Two of Hollywood's most glamorous events are now caught up in the entertainment industry's ugliest labour dispute in two decades.

The Writers Guild of America, West, will not allow its members to write for the Golden Globes on Jan. 13 nor the Academy Awards on Feb. 24.

The group's board of directors decided not to give the academy an interim agreement for writing services, a person close to the guild said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment. The person declined to say when the decision had been made.

The guild's decision raised the temperature in the already heated contract dispute between writers and studios. Talks aimed at ending the costly strike, now in its seventh week, broke down Dec. 7 in a flurry of insults that has yet to cease.

After talks ended, the alliance claimed guild leaders were trying to increase their power at the expense of members. Union leaders accused the alliance of "lies" aimed at sowing doubt and dissension in union ranks.

Now the guild is casting the strike shadow over the Oscars, the industry's key showcase for its finest films and hottest actors. The Golden Globes represent another important promotional vehicle.

The guild made a similar move before the 1988 Oscars when writers last walked out on studios. That strike lasted five months.

With the strike drawing support from the Screen Actors Guild, which faces its own contract negotiations next year, actors' participation as Oscar guests and presenters might be affected – diminishing the star power that drives TV viewership.

Jon Stewart, a writers guild member, was announced as host of this year's Academy Awards, but he has honoured the strike: His ``The Daily Show" on Comedy Central has been in reruns since the walkout began.

An e-mail sent to Stewart's publicist seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday night.

Several Golden Globe nominees said last week that they hoped to attend the ceremony but might not if the strike remains unresolved.

The guild released a letter on Monday rejecting the request from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which awards the Golden Globes. The letter said that granting a waiver "would not advance" the guild's ongoing battle with studios to negotiate a new contract.

In a separate letter to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also released Monday, the guild denied the use of clips from movies and past awards programs that could be shown during the award show in February.

The academy had made its standard, annual request for clip use to the writers guild and other relevant industry guilds that must grant approval, spokeswoman Leslie Unger said.

"The academy has not requested any strike-related waiver from the writers guild related to the awards show," she said.

In a statement, the Globe organization expressed measured unhappiness.

"The Golden Globe Awards, which has a long and friendly relationship with the Writers Guild of America, is obviously disappointed that the WGA denied its request for a waiver," the statement.

The strike has shut down production on many TV series, had a growing effect on movie production and idled many industry workers. Networks have seen ratings slip as shows fall into reruns, jeopardizing advertising revenues.

The guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are wrangling over compensation for burgeoning digital media.

NBC was able to crow about the end of late-night reruns Monday, announcing that "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" would return in January with new shows, although without writers.

On Location With 'The Border'

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(December 18, 2007) It is one of life's sweet ironies that the filming of
the new CBC series The Border is actually taking place at a border point.

When the ill-fated Rochester fast ferry service to Toronto came to an abrupt halt in January 2006, after less than two years of operation, the Toronto Port Authority must have wondered what to do with a new state-of-the-art $8 million building equipped to handle thousands of passengers and staffed by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Enter White Pine Pictures, the producers of The Border, about an elite team of special agents dealing with smuggling, terrorism and other trans-border issues.

Five months of shooting have just wrapped up for the series' first season – set to premiere on Monday, Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. – at the port authority's International Marine and Ferry Terminal.

"It seemed like a perfect fit to be able to film a show called The Border at an actual customs facility," said port authority president Lisa Raitt.

Not only is the building on the southern tip of the city's port lands functional, it's downright ideal, producers and crew say.

"This building has been a godsend, literally a godsend," said producer Brian Dennis.

While some shooting was done for the pilot at Pearson International Airport, "post-9/11, it is very tricky to pull off. It's also very, very expensive," Dennis said.

"We found this place and saw ... the customs hall and the interrogation rooms that are brand, spanking new and the jail cells. It was like manna from heaven," he added.

When the crew arrived, a huge portion of the terminal building was bare walls and ceiling, and concrete floor.

"It was a giant room with stud walls, it wasn't even drywalled. It was a total blank slate. It was great, it was a production designer's dream," said Benno Tutter, the production designer behind the cool glass-and-steel set where much of the action takes place.

The marine terminal, with its large windows overlooking Toronto's harbour and waterfront, actually presented an opportunity to use the existing natural light instead of artificial studio lighting, said director of photography Gavin Smith.

"We don't try to hide the fact in any way that this is Toronto. In fact, we embrace it completely," Smith said. The city's striking waterfront skyline is also used frequently and prominently in many of the show's scenes, he added.

The terminal building has also proven to be versatile and adaptable, with numerous temporary "swing sets" constructed on-site that have seen parts of it transformed into a hospital, an apartment space, a swanky hotel room, a state room on an aging ocean liner and a professor's office.

Dennis said outdoor customs booths at the site have substituted for Vancouver's port and a massive cargo container at an adjoining shipping business has served as the setting for an episode regarding smuggled illegal aliens.

The nearby Leslie Street Spit temporarily became a Sudanese village and a ship, Algobay, berthed in the harbour and long since departed, served as another handy location.

Raitt said the authority has developed a "great working relationship" with the production team, especially deputy harbour master Mike Riehl, who maintains an office in the building and is affectionately known to cast and crew as Spike.

The arrival over the past summer of the Columbus, a 400-passenger cruise ship from Germany, was handled without difficulty and the entire shoot has been problem-free, Raitt said.

"It's a working port ... with sensitive cargos and everything was fine. No complaints," she added.

Cast and crew particularly loved the site, which includes ample space in a barbwire secure parking lot.

Besides the beautiful setting, they came to enjoy the regular forays made by an otter back and forth from the Toronto Islands during the summer, Dennis said.

Local shoots are easily accessible from the site as well, he added.

On one occasion, several crew members, appropriately called "grips," came to the rescue of sailboaters during an unexpected gale when their boat crashed into the side of the harbour wall beside the terminal, he added.

"It's really been a nice working environment," Dennis said.



Musical Monsoon Heading For London Stage

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(December 16, 2007) MUMBAI, India–Indian-born director Mira Nair is working on a musical-stage version of her hit movie
Monsoon Wedding, an Indian newspaper reported Friday. Nair said she was retaining some of the movie's songs and adding many new ones in adapting the 2001 movie to a stage show for London 's West End .  "I can finally reveal that I will be directing a three-act stage version of Monsoon Wedding," she told The Times of India. The movie, which explored the clash between tradition and modernity as a family from the northern Indian state of Punjab prepared for a noisy, colourful wedding, won critical acclaim in India and overseas. Nair said she first got the idea of directing a musical version about four years ago, but got busy with her most recent film starring Kal Penn, The Namesake, about an Indian family's assimilation into American culture. "But now all my concentration is on the musical." Nair did not give a date for when the musical would be ready.


Steve Rolls: A Champ's Fright And The Fight

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell, Sports Reporter

(December 17, 2007) WINDSOR –
Steve Rolls spears his sparring partner with a jab, then glides away untouched.

A provincial champ last year, he's on a squad selected to help Canada's national team prepare for the world championships. He's here to spar with Windsor's Adam Trupish, the reigning welterweight national champ.

For Rolls, a Chatham native training in Mississauga, sparring's not a problem. With no judges and no pressure, his punches flow like poetry and he looks like an Olympian. He's chased that dream for seven years. But in competition, it's different. Dogged by stage fright, Rolls sometimes freezes when stakes are high.

They're higher than ever today, as he lances Trupish again.

To qualify for Beijing, Rolls must defeat Trupish, a 2004 Olympian. Trupish lost in Athens and refused opportunities to turn pro. He wants redemption in Beijing.

Nobody keeps score, but national team coaches watch closely. If Rolls stands strong against Trupish he won't just prove he's an Olympic contender. He'll earn a victory over fear.

The session unfolds like a debate – Rolls cleverly arguing he's Canada's best welterweight, Trupish rebutting with sheer volume. Rolls sticks and moves, Trupish stalks and swings. He bulls Rolls into a corner and hooks hard to the body.

At 28, Trupish brings nearly 200 bouts of experience into the ring. He also brings a black eye from yesterday's session with Rolls, who spins him then throws three body shots.

Pop, pop, POP!

Rolls fires four more and Trupish launches an overhand right that sends Rolls staggering across the ring at the buzzer.

Point. Counterpoint. Time.

Early in Steve Rolls' fights, opponents run from him. Wary of his speed and skill but unsure he'll use them, they circle, trying to read him.

If his head's in the fight, he usually leaves them two options: a loss on points or loss by stoppage.

But if it's in Steve's World, anything can happen.

There, fear of failure collides with fear of success. He second-guesses every move, paralyzed by questions.

What if I can't hurt this guy?

What if he can hurt me?

What if I don't give my best effort?

What if I do and it's not good enough?

Self-doubt forms a shell his coach can't penetrate. Fights he should win big become slim victories. Slim victories become frustrating losses.

Rolls is one of Canada's best welterweights, but he's lost his last two fights. His coach, former Olympic bronze medallist Chris Johnson, thinks Rolls would have blown out both opponents if he had just let his hands go.

Sometimes Johnson wishes Rolls were more like Shevar Henry, the heavyweight he coaches who, like Rolls, hopes the provincial championships will vault him into Olympic contention.

Johnson sometimes doubts Henry's dedication, but can't question his confidence. Where uncertainty defines Rolls' bouts, Henry, a national junior silver medallist in 2004, brings a sense of inevitability. He's sure he's faster, stronger and smarter than his opponent, and plans to prove it once the bell rings.

He's so self-assured that despite taking a year off with a broken right hand, he wants to move up in weight.

Right now he's 12 pounds above the 201-pound heavyweight limit and would rather stay strong and fight super-heavyweight than weaken himself by cutting weight. He'll face guys 30 pounds heavier, but doesn't think they'll touch him. And if his hand holds up, you may as well crown him champion.

That's what he believes, anyway.

As the debate rages, Steve Rolls is the fearless fighter he wants to be; the boxer his coaches wish would show up when it counts. He blends offence and defence, mixes movement and pressure, and takes shots without flinching. Right now he's getting the best of a four-time national champ.

He backs Trupish into the ropes and wings a left hook. He pauses, worried the punch landed low.

"Sorry, man," he says, without backing up.

"Naw," Trupish says, bobbing, weaving. "You were okay."

Suddenly Trupish springs forward with a left hook. Rolls rocks back and Trupish's fist whistles past his chin. Rolls steps in and smashes his face with a straight right.

Point. Counterpoint. Time.

Most days, Rolls slinks into the gym late in the afternoon. He'll say hello to Chris and Shevar, peel off layers of baggy clothes, and warm up in silence.

Rolls speaks volumes when he spars, but might not utter 10 words all afternoon.

But his parents, Gary and Barb Rolls, say Steve loved the spotlight as a child. They even bought him a guitar, and when he wasn't writing songs he would sing them in the living room. Barb says Steve has a beautiful voice, though she hasn't heard him sing in years.

The Rollses adopted Steve at six weeks old. Born in Hamilton, he went from the delivery room to a foster family to the Rolls home, where he joined one of Chatham's most established African-Canadian families. Neither Steve nor his folks have met his birth parents. They only know his mother was in college. They're not sure Steve's biological father knows he exists.

But it's clear his natural parents blessed him with long arms, uncanny reflexes and a knack for sports.

Problem is, none held his attention. At 11 Steve was his baseball team's MVP. Then he quit.

Same with soccer and basketball. But at 15, just when it seemed Steve wouldn't stick with anything, a friend suggested he try boxing. Since then it's been his life.

After graduating from high school he joined a gym in Akron, Ohio. Found them online, packed up and moved. A rash decision but Barb supported it, happy Steve had found a passion. Gary, however, was sceptical. He didn't think living in sleepy Chatham gave Steve the street smarts to survive down south.

In Akron, Steve did odd jobs for his coach and competed across the midwest, but without the proper visa he couldn't work a legitimate job. Without money, he returned to Canada, moving to Toronto in 2004. He joined a gym in Parkdale, where he met Shevar and Johnson.

The coach says he recognized Rolls' talent right away, and pushed him to maximize it. When he pushed too hard, Rolls left for another coach. They reunited last month.

A bronze medallist in 1992 in Barcelona, Johnson swears Rolls has the talent to reach the podium, but he's not sure Rolls believes it himself.

Rolls and Trupish had never sparred before this week, but as the session ends each has made his point. Rolls, quicker and slicker, dominates from long range. Trupish, stronger and cagier, wins exchanges inside.

Rolls circles left and lashes Trupish with a jab. Trupish slides right and clubs Rolls' ribs. Rolls stops and drives a right hand between Trupish's gloves.

Later, they stand silently at ringside. Rolls removes his headgear. Trupish unwraps his hands.

Next week, Trupish heads to Chicago for the world championships. He'll make the Olympics with a top-eight finish. Next month Rolls returns to Windsor for the provincials. A top-two finish sends him to the nationals and, he hopes, a showdown with Trupish.

The veteran won't just give Rolls his Olympic spot, but he gives credit. He taps Rolls on the shoulder and tells him he's got a great jab.

Rolls grins and thanks him.

Point. Counterpoint. Time.



Venus Graduates From Fashion School

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 17, 2007) *
Venus Williams has achieved yet another goal. On Thursday, the owner of 14 Grand Slam titles in tennis received an associate degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. The athlete, currently preparing for the Australian Open in January, graduates with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average and the honour of Best Sportswear Collection, reports the Miami Herald. Last month, she launched her own fashion line, EleVen, exclusively at department store Steve & Barry's. 'I love fashion, and the idea that I am using my design education to actually create clothing and footwear that reflects my personality and energy both on and off the court,' Williams said in a statement. "Venus' drive and focus is somewhere in the stratosphere,' said Andre West, chair of fashion programs at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. "She has taken that same drive that she shows on the court all the way to the cutting table, sewing machine and computer.' Following the graduation ceremony, Venus and her sister Serena reportedly celebrated at the Hotel Victor.



John Waters puts the X in X-mas

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

(December 15, 2007)
John Waters believes in keeping his holiday wishes simple.

"I think if you can be with your family, get through the Christmas season and not kill each other, that's a blessing," he says.

The sardonic filmmaker with the beady eyes and the pencil-thin moustache is best known for such outrageous cinematic assaults on conventional morality as Pink Flamingos and Polyester, even though in recent years he's reached out to a larger public thanks to the success of the musical version of his 1988 movie Hairspray, both on stage and screen.

But you still might be surprised to hear he'll be bringing his own particular "smutty sleigh ride" to our fair city tonight for
A John Waters Christmas at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. It's an opportunity for the sultan of sleaze to hold forth like a composite Dickensian ghost on Christmases past, present and to come.

It makes perfect sense to Waters, however, who has been touring this "Yuletide dog and pony show" around North America for the past few years because, "I have been obsessed with Christmas all my life.

"Oh yes," he laughs wickedly on the phone from his home in Baltimore, "me and Johnny Mathis."

Waters embraces most of the holiday traditions of his native Baltimore , including the gastronomical oddity of serving sauerkraut with turkey, which he does at the enormous festive dinners he throws for family and friends every year.

Of course, hanging over everything is the memory of the famous Christmas from his childhood when the tree fell on his grandmother.

"At the time, I thought it was a fairly harrowing event," he recalls dryly, "even though I was more concerned whether or not any of the presents had been broken."

Still, it lingered in his subconscious for years and finally burst forth in his 1974 movie Female Trouble, during the famous sequence in which Divine bludgeons her mother with the Christmas tree for failing to buy her the right pair of black cha-cha pumps.

Yet it seems the Waters of today has made peace with the holiday season, despite (or maybe because of) its commercialism.

"Sure, the stores make lots of money," he admits, "but so do all the criminals, because people are carrying lots more in their wallets and purses."

So it's all good, except he does draw the line at "the ever-increasing trend toward ludicrously overdecorated houses. I prefer to go to the more pitiful neighbourhoods and see their touching attempts at making things look cheerful – electric bulbs spelling out `Merry Christmas' with most of the letters missing."

And what really gets his ire going is watching "people becoming living members of Nativity tableaux and running around dressed up like Joseph and Mary. Some people even dress their babies up like Jesus. In my neighbourhood, people steal kids like that and hold them for ransom."

Waters prefers to turn his dress-up thoughts to Santa Claus and encourages people "to look at Christmas in a sexual way. Why, you could have Santa in an S&M outfit, or dressed up as a Daddy Bear, or even a kind of bitchy, snotty, effete sort of Old St. Nick. It's your holiday, baby, make it your fantasy."

One of his favourite parts of the season is getting (and receiving) presents, although he hastens to point out "it's not about how much money you spend, but about how many wicked thoughts you put into what you buy."

This year, for example, Waters' friends have had a field day because – as he puts it – "I have the hots for Alvin the Chipmunk and, for me, the idea of a new Chipmunks film opening is pure porno."

So far, the best present Waters has been offered is from an animator who produced a still from the movie that he had doctored to depict Alvin enjoying himself in, er, a very personal way. "Nothing's gonna top that one, baby," Waters giggles satanically, "absolutely nothing!"

It truly seems Waters loves Christmas, warts and all, but what does he suggest for those individuals who have problems with the season?

"I advise people to find the parts they can enjoy and throw out all the rest. Look, when I was a kid, I hated going to church and watching people get all wound up about the holidays, so now I just play it cool.

"To me, it's a time to be with friends, have fun, eat too much and have fun. Period. And if those little elves turn you on, baby, well you just go and grab one of them for your very own."

After a year in which Hairspray became a hit movie musical and Cry-Baby seems on its way to Broadway success, it appears to be a good time to ask Waters if he ever thought his life would turn out the way it did.

"What did I know about anything?" he chuckles. "I was an idiot savant with a lot of weird friends, living in a trailer. I was just telling the only kind of stories I knew how to tell."


Chris Rock To Launch His First Worldwide Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 19, 2007) *
Chris Rock is going back to his stand-up roots with a comedy tour scheduled to launch New Year's Eve in New York and head to countries around the globe for the first time in his career. Dubbed the No Apologies Tour, the trek will begin at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Dec. 31 and travel directly to the U.K. for a run through Jan. 26.  He returns to the States to launch a U.S leg on Feb. 8 in Cleveland. Stops have been booked in Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, Baltimore Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, Los Angeles and more. His final bow is scheduled for March 21 at Atlanta's Fox Theatre.  Rock is also scheduled to play Australia and South Africa for the first time. Visit his Web site at http://www.chrisrock.com/ for the complete list of cities and dates.


St. Maarten/St. Martin's Arts & Culture

Source: www.experiencestmaarten.com - by Melanie Reffes

A tropical paradise southeast of Puerto Rico and halfway down the chain of Leeward Islands,
St. Maarten/St. Martin is a dual nationality island that's a quick hop from Anguilla and St. Barths. Dutch St. Maarten sizzles with shopping galore, casinos and dance clubs, while French St. Martin is a cornucopia of treasures, from art galleries to bookstores that sell Le Monde and Paris Match.

"There are very few places in this hemisphere with such a vibrant, multicultural society where things are constantly happening in music, literature, fine art, theatre and dance," said Regina LaBega, director, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

Although each has its own distinctive personality, both sides seamlessly blend West Indian and African influences in a cosmopolitan mix unlike anywhere else on the planet. The visual artists salute the island through paintings, crafts, etchings, sculpture and prints, while award-winning authors express themselves through essays, novels, plays and poems. Musically, St. Maarten/St. Martin is a mélange of sounds guaranteed to keep you on your feet until the wee hours.


Awarded the honour of Knight of the Orange Nassau — the highest award from the court of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands — and easily recognized by his Leonardo da Vinciesque beard and hat with a wide brim, Sir Roland Richardson is a national treasure, aptly honoured as the Father of Caribbean Impressionism, with a style that mirrors the plein air artists like Monet, Cézanne and Gauguin. His St. Maarten heritage dates back to the 1700s, and today he is credited with introducing the beauty of the Caribbean to the rest of the world with his images of the brilliant red blooms of the Flamboyant tree. "The purity of color in St. Maarten inspires me to create," he says.

Born in Aruba and living in St. Maarten for three decades, Ruby Bute's prolific career has earned her the reputation as the island's master storyteller. Her first volume, Golden Voices of S'maatin, was published by House of Nehesi Publishers on St. Martin's Day, November 11, 1989. Her paintings immortalize the pulsating traditions of the Caribbean.

Donating some of her proceeds to charities like Blue Moon, which helps AIDS patients, and the homeless shelter Manteau de St. Martin, Dona Bryhiel is not only a renowned painter but also an appreciated philanthropist. Born in Marseille, her portraits of Caribbean women and depictions of the pelicans of Oyster Pond reflect her adoration of St. Maarten.

Also tucked away in Oyster Pond, ceramist Marie Moine can be found in her studio firing up and painting her distinctive line of earthenware. After a lifetime of sailing, she settled in St. Maarten, honing her skills as a ceramist. Today she uses natural pigments to create exquisitely detailed images on plates, boxes and bowls.

For Francis Eck, the crystal-clear sea and the endless horizon are a source of spiritual and creative inspiration. Having moved from Alsace, France to St. Maarten/St. Martin 20 years ago, this abstract painter, who says meditating in his hammock is a favourite pastime, uses a palette knife and bold primary colors like red and blue to create his impressive works.

Defining herself as an "observer of nature," jewellery designer Tessa Urbanowicz combines coconut fibres, seeds and seashells with pewter, gold and precious stones to create striking necklaces and bracelets sold in her Front Street boutique.

Another observer of nature and of the human spirit is Joe Dominique. A former BBC reporter, he first burst onto the St. Maarten/St. Martin arts scene in 2000, exhibiting 50 works in acrylic, pastel and charcoal. His works convey a profound proficiency in his craft as viewers become one with the art, immersed in Dominique's dabs and wiggles of media that weave into his creative lines.


Multicultural St. Maarten/St. Martin is no better represented than in the Ikemba African Art Gallery on Front Street. Nigerian-born owner Michael Maghiro stocks this popular gallery with masks, furniture crafted from metal, ebony sculptures and colourful hand-woven clothing.

The husband and wife team of Patricia and Deny Ramsami love to chat with tourists browsing at their Front Street art gallery. From watercolour to wood inlay, Le Saint-Geran showcases the work of more than 50 artists. "We only sell originals and have an inventory of more than 200 pieces," says Deny as he gives an art aficionado a tour around the gallery.

In the heart of the action on Front Street, the Dutch Delft Blue Gallery is not to be missed by those who admire the traditional hand-painted Delftware from Holland. The only authentic Delft gallery in the Caribbean, this shop/gallery is brimming with the white-and-blue Delftware. "The most valuable piece we have is a 1923 plate that was made in honour of Queen Wilamena," says Falo Oosdburg, owner. "It's not for sale, but if you really like it, I might consider an offer."

From Star Wars to St. Maarten, Planet Paradise is a unique gallery owned by Nick Maley, a Hollywood special effects wizard who created Yoda, the little green puppet with the big eyes and pointed ears. The gallery is also the workshop for this self-proclaimed Yoda Guy who delights in showing off his authentic Star Wars memorabilia. "The movie changed my life forever," says the cherubic creature-builder. "But I still prefer simple living in the Caribbean."

In front of the Sonesta Resort in Maho, the Minguet Art Gallery immortalizes the work of the late artist Alexandre Minguet with an extensive collection of his Expressionist work including paintings, lithographs, posters and postcards.

Boasting the largest collection of Haitian art in the world, the Gingerbread Galerie is a candy store of Creole color. In the Marina Royale in Marigot, the gallery showcases work that traces the history of Haitian art through scenes of gritty street life, voodoo mysteries and stunning scenery.

In Grand Case on the northeast tip of the French side, L'Atelier des Tropismes is a chic gallery run by three artists, including Paul Elliott Thuleau, revered for his Impressionist paintings of Creole homesteads; Nathalie Lepine, known for her Modigliani-influenced style; and Patrick Poivre de La Freta, who studied with Salvador Dalí.


Although humble, Lasana Mwanza Sekou is respected as a brilliant poet, storyteller, author and publisher. His literary contributions to St. Maarten/St. Martin were rewarded with the 2007 Caribbean Tourism Organization Award of Excellence. The co-founder of House of Nehesi Publishers, Sekou has written 13 books himself. These include 37 Poems, his most recent collection reflecting the 37 square miles of St. Maarten, which he authored while in China as a visiting fellow at Asia's first International Writers Workshop.

Nicknamed the "Philosopher of Humor," Fernando Clark is a funny guy who started making people laugh as a young teenager in Aruba. Today, he's a mainstay at Carnival, has recorded comedy CDs and pops up at island clubs.

Born in Nigeria, Fabian Badejo is a multimedia jack-of-all-trades. The former African diplomat has written extensively on current affairs, has produced shows by the Mighty Dow, directed one-man shows by Fernando Clark and Paul Keens Douglas and still finds time to host a radio talk show.

Masquerade was the first play Guyanese-born Ian Valz wrote, and today his story of a poor family immigrating to the United States is still being performed. Respected as the undisputed champion of the local drama scene, his recent work, The Peacock Dance, tells the story of a group of islanders living in the same backyard. Starring a cast of veteran actors, this comedy about hope and promise continues to wow audiences at every performance.


In matching colourful shirts and straw hats, Tanny & the Boys are the premier string band in the Eastern Caribbean. With fans young and old, these golden age musicians have also entertained royalty like Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. Performing festive tunes rooted in island tradition, their get-up-on-your-feet blend of meringue, calypso, bolero and blues has kept them in the spotlight for three decades.

Another performer melting the blues and calypso genres together is Leroy Brooks. Known today as King Beau Beau, this versatile entertainer grew up listening to the Mighty Sparrow and Otis Redding, but stuck to the only music that could make him move — calypso. Joined by his dance troupe, The Bobettes, he is a master of the local restaurant and hotel circuit.

At Cheri's Café, the retro-music sounds of Sweet Chocolat keep the crowd dancing with cover versions of hits by Earth, Wind & Fire and the Village People.

A smash hit at the Heineken Regatta, Connis Vanterpool's inspiration comes from jazz icons like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. The "saxiest" horn player in St. Maarten/St. Martin, he is also one of the most sought-after performers in the region.

Hearing his first piano notes at age 4 in his native Brazil, Eduardo Filho puts his sultry jazzy stamp on all rhythms Latino. In 1980, he discovered St. Maarten/St. Martin where he opened the island's first music school and still teaches the younger set the rhythm of the bossa nova.

He calls himself The Mighty Dow and has dedicated his musical career to the steel pan tradition, which he learned from his father Pan Maestro Chester York. With 10 hit recordings under his belt, The Mighty Dow and his Ebony Steel Orchestra Foundation teach steel pan to young people.

And if it's Tuesday, it must be Harmony Nights in Grand Case. From January to May, a spirited street party stretches from Il Nettuno to the Rainbow Café with drummers, dancers and street vendors galore


Tight Abs in a Hurry

By Garry Messick, eDiets Contributor

I know how it is. Every day you get out of the shower, glance in the mirror and then quickly turn away. Ugh.

Gotta do something about that poochie gut. And then you get dressed and go to work, and immediately, other than having to feed it, your stomach is the last thing on your mind.

Who has time to do all those abdominal exercises anyway, right? Well, YOU do, for one! Even just 5 or 10 minutes a day devoted to toning your tummy is much better than ignoring it. So here are some suggestions for a variety of ab exercises, all of which can be done quickly and easily at some point during the day.

(One quick note. You can do sit-ups all day if you want, but your tight, rock-hard abs won't be visible if they're concealed under a thick layer of fat. So if you aren't already lean, you'll need to diet in addition to exercising in order to see the results.) Try to do three of the following exercises at least three days a week. Shoot for five or six days if you possibly can.

Each exercise targets a specific abdominal area -- upper abs, lower abs and obliques (the sides). If you have time to do more than one of these exercises, choose ones that target different areas. Remember to always exhale with the exertion and inhale as you relax.

Sit-ups -- The classic sit-up goes in and out of style as an effective abdominal exercise, but many professional trainers swear by it. It can be tough on your back, though, so it may not be for you if you have back problems. This exercise mainly works the upper abs. Lie on your back on a hard surface. With your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees at an angle a little tighter than 90 degrees. Put your hands behind your head. In a smooth, controlled manner, raise your upper body to a fully upright position.

You may need to have someone hold your feet, or place your feet under a heavy piece of furniture. Lower yourself to the floor, and, without resting, repeat the motion. Concentrate on using your stomach muscles to pull yourself up. Be careful to keep your head and neck relaxed. Shoot for three sets of ten repetitions.

If you're a rank beginner, and depending on your age, you may not be able to do more than one or two reps. That's alright. If you work out consistently, you'll gradually be able to increase your reps.

Crunches -- If back problems prohibit you from doing sit-ups, do these instead. Assume the same position as described above, but just pull you shoulders and upper body off the floor, then return to the resting position. As always, do these in a slow, controlled manner. And concentrate on pulling from the abs, making sure your neck and head are relaxed and NOT pulling

Standing Ab Pull -- Stand with your knees bent a little. Place your hands on your knees. Exhale completely. Suck your stomach in and hold it for five seconds while simultaneously raising your body until you're just about standing upright. Now relax your stomach muscles and take a deep breath. Exhale as you place your hands on your knees and bend them again. Do 10 if you can. This works both upper and lower abs.

Leg Raise -- Lie down on a flat, hard surface. Put your hands down flat at your sides and bend your knees slightly. With your feet together, raise your legs until your shins are more or less straight up and down. Without pausing, gradually lower your legs back to the starting position. Concentrate on working your lower ab muscles the whole time you do the exercise. Shoot for 10 reps.

Oblique Crunch -- Lie on your back on the floor and put your hands behind your head. Bend your knees.

Keeping your feet and legs together, allow them to drop to the left as far as possible, while keeping your back flat on the floor. Pull your shoulders and upper body up off the floor as high as you can manage -- perhaps a few inches. Again, DO NOT pull from the neck. Your head should be resting in your hands, completely relaxed. Slowly drop your shoulders back to the floor. Do ten reps (or as many as you can manage). Now turn your legs to rest on the right side and repeat. This exercise works your obliques, or side abdominal muscles.

Do as many of these exercises as you can. If you can do them all, you're getting a complete ab workout that you can probably do in less than 20 minutes!


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Rosalynn Carter: Former first lady and author

"You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don't try – you don’t take the risk."