20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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December 27, 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  I hope everyone is enjoying the season! Again, I wish to thank all of you for your love and support and I wish you a special 2008 with joy and fulfillment overflowing.  As New Year's Eve approaches, I want you to enjoy it safely! 

Speaking of New Year's Eve, f
or 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!  Details for both below...

Now, I have a special scoop for you - in January 2008, a new book hits the shelves by one of my all-time favourite people - Terrie Williams (see my company bio for more on Terrie and myself).  In her newest book, Black Pain, Terrie explores the dark place of depression and it's effect on her life and the unique impact it has on the Black community.  Please support this book of healing and pass it on to someone who may need to hear the message.  See all details under SCOOP below. 

Newsletter is a little short and sweet this week folks but still got the goods for ya!



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

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


Black Pain - It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting

Source:  Terrie Williams Agency

"Black Pain brings a new understanding to the widely-held misperceptions and stigmas about depression.  People around the country are now talking about the issue; many have been moved to start speaking about it publicly…by [sharing her story, Terrie] has helped countless fellow sufferers realize that they are not alone.  It's a powerful thing to admit the pain, to seek help, and to move on to a more productive, healthy, and fulfilling life."

—Bebe Moore Campbell

Terrie Williams is a woman on fire, and the fuel that keeps that fire raging is the epidemic of emotional pain and depression in Black America. Depression is a catchword in the mainstream media, but among African-Americans it might as well be “the D-word”—the shameful thing nobody talks about, even as it’s killing them. But Terrie Williams is not afraid to talk about what depression is doing to the Black community— she’s determined to get everyone talking about it, and she will not rest until Black people can freely speak their pain without shame, and start healing. Her groundbreaking new book, BLACK PAIN: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting (Scribner; January 8, 2008; $24), is her opening salvo in that battle.

Despite the disproportionate damage depression does to Black people, it’s hardly limited to them. Yet for all we hear about depression on TV talk shows and talk radio, few of us can recognize the symptoms we see every day in ourselves—let alone in other people. Here are just six of Terrie’s 20 Signs That You Might Be Depressed:

·              You are always too busy—never have or take the time to give yourself the care you need.

·              You can’t ask people for what you need.

·              You can’t wait to get home to eat—something, anything—and lots of it. It’s the only thing that soothes you.

·              You just don’t have energy to do anything—you have to force yourself to do everything.

·              You are not doing work that brings you joy; you are just working a gig, and holding out for the check.

·              You call in sick at least once a month.

Any of these ring a bell? That’s because depression doesn’t just look like sadness. Depression can look like:

·              your sister who works eighteen-hour days and hasn’t made it to Sunday dinner in weeks.

·              your best friend who’s stopped cleaning her house or doing her hair or taking any interest in your friendship.

·              your coworker who’s chronically late and blames everyone else for her missed promotions.

·              the corporate executive who needs a bottle of wine and 10 mg. of Ambien to get to sleep every night.

·              the 13-year-old boy who joins a gang because no one else wants him.

Depression looks like all these people, and millions more, because it’s an insidious disease that takes as many forms as there are people who suffer from it. So how do we recognize it? How do we treat it? For African Americans BLACK PAIN is the Answer!

In BLACK PAIN, top African-American publicist and former clinical social worker Terrie Williams uses her therapeutic training and unparalleled access to take us into the heart of African-American suffering— the heart of Black Pain. Forty years after the book Black Rage explained to all of America what was boiling beneath the surface of brown skins, many African-Americans have turned that rage inward. Black America is suffering from depression, and Terrie Williams is the first person to name that pain in a way that lets us see its on-the-ground face. From the schoolgirl to the gang-banger to the hip-hop star to the corporate exec, she shows us that Black people in this country, even if they’re living the American dream, are still fighting a nightmare they can’t wake up from, the nightmare of depression.

Never before has a book laid out a community crisis with such sensitivity, such empathy and such clear direction to solutions. By showing us her own pain and the pain of the Black community, Terrie Williams gives us the power to transform our lives. Filled with the untold stories of celebrities like Mike Tyson and Blair Underwood, and the experiences of everyday folks, this book can show you yourself, your parent, your child, your neighbor, and help you take concrete steps to end your suffering. It’s time we all came out of the closet about depression, and BLACK PAIN opens the door out of that darkness.

Depressed people are not empowered people—politically empowered, economically empowered, or any other way. Tired of hearing the media ask why Black folks can’t “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” Terrie Williams shows how many of the problems that seem economic are really psychological. And until Black people can address their psychological pain, they can’t begin to tear down the other obstacles that hold them back. Addressing emotional wounds is the greatest intervention Black people can make, because every other wound starts in the soul.

BLACK PAIN was written from Terrie Williams’s fierce desire to reconnect the Black middle class to the urban centers and rural pockets…to bring back Black civic life.


A social worker by training, Terrie Williams launched the public relations firm, The Terrie Williams Agency, in 1988. The company quickly became one of the most successful PR firms in America, representing top names in entertainment, sports, business and politics such as Miles Davis, Johnnie Cochran, Stephen King, Eddie Murphy, HBO, and Time Warner. After surviving a profound depression, Terrie chronicled her struggle to regain her health in Essence magazine and the feedback was staggering. She continues her work with the agency and she also created the Stay Strong Foundation, which reaches out to anyone of any age suffering from mental illness. Terrie has a BA from Brandeis University and a master's degree in social work from Columbia University. She has one grown son and lives in New York City.

BLACK PAIN: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting
By Terrie M. Williams
Publication Date: January 8, 2008
352 pages; $24.00

To purchase from Amazon in Canada, go HERE.

To purchase from Amazon elsewhere, go HERE.


Oscar Peterson, 82: Jazz giant

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

(December 26, 2007) Oscar Emmanuel Peterson will be honoured posthumously next month at a prestigious annual gathering of the global jazz community in Toronto.

The inimitable technician and composer — celebrated for a swinging approach that permeates more than 100 recordings — succumbed to kidney failure and stroke complications at his Mississauga home Sunday night. He was 82.

An unprecedented partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts — the national arts funding agency in the U.S. — and the Canada Council had arranged for Peterson to receive a $25,000 fellowship along with other jazz masters (including Quincy Jones and Gunther Schuller) during the International Association for Jazz Education conference being staged at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre next month.

“He had confirmed he and (wife) Kelly would be there with family members,” said association executive director Bill McFarlin, who lauded Peterson’s “amazing virtuosity” and placed him on par with “great innovators of jazz, like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.”

The Jan. 11 tribute will go ahead as planned, with Montreal pianist and former Peterson student Oliver Jones playing excerpts from the late great’s 1964’s Canadiana Suite during the gala concert.

“I kind of puff up my chest when hear it,” Jones said of Peterson’s best-known composition, which was inspired by various regions of the country. “I can visualize different parts of Canada.”

The suite was indicative of the pride Peterson took in his Canadian roots despite the international recognition he accrued. The Montreal-born tunesmith, who battled arthritis and had been using a wheelchair since a 1993 stroke, completed a U.S. tour in fall 2006 but spent much of this year in poor health.

A late June performance at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival was cancelled on doctors orders after more than 900 tickets had been sold, and he did not attend an all-star tribute in his honour at Carnegie Hall earlier that month. Celine Peterson, 16, the youngest of Peterson’s seven children, told the Star that her father died “peacefully.”

“It’s hard to say. I’m very shocked. It hasn’t hit me quite yet,” she said, when asked how she was coping with his death. Standing in the doorway of the family home, the teen said her mother Kelly, Peterson’s fourth wife, was “doing okay” and that the family would have a private funeral and plan a “public memorial within the months to come.”

Accolades continue to pour in for the eight-time Grammy winner and Order of Canada recipient who played with greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and ranked with Glenn Gould as one of our best known musicians.

“There’s only one word that does him justice: legend,” said Toronto Mayor David Miller.

“Oscar was the most famous jazz musician in the world and his passing further marks the end of a rapidly approaching era,” said Toronto Jazz Festival executive producer Pat Taylor.

In official French reaction to his passing — even before the Canadian government — President Nicolas Sarkozy said one of the bright lights of jazz had been extinguished.

“He was a regular on the French stage, where the public adored his luminous style,” Sarkozy said. “It is a great loss for us.”

Peterson’s last recording was 2004’s live album/DVD A Night in Vienna. His final public appearance is believed to have been a May 6 fundraiser for Mount Sinai Hospital at Roy Thomson Hall where headliner Diana Krall acknowledged the jazz giant to warm applause from the audience.

B.C. native Krall was one of dozens of musicians, across generations and genres, but particularly keyboardists, who cited Peterson’s artistic example.

American pop/soul icon Stevie Wonder reportedly made a low-key visit to Peterson’s home following his November concert in Toronto.

“I consider him the major influence that formed my roots in jazz piano playing,” said U.S. pianist Herbie Hancock in a statement. “He mastered the balance between technique, hard blues grooving and tenderness.”

“He was the Wayne Gretzky of the piano,” said Toronto pianist/educator Mark Eisenman. “What he brought in musical sense? An incredible sense of movement and time.”

Though Peterson was noted as a brilliant soloist, Eisenman posited that some of his best playing was as an understated accompanist to likes of singer Fitzgerald and trumpeter Roy Eldridge.

“He was a complete musician,” said pianist Jones, who knew Peterson growing up in Montreal’s St. Henri district.

“Never has there been another piano player who could swing so much, then be just as soft and tender. And his work ethic was of the highest standard.”

Ottawa-born pianist D.D. Jackson also recalled Peterson’s “impeccable sense of swing” as well as “the blues tinge he brought to everything he did, combined with his flawless and elegant piano technique.”

To a musician with African and Chinese heritage such as Jackson, that “such a figure was also African-Canadian was even more inspiring.”

Peterson was the fourth of five children of a railway porter father who encouraged music as an option to the menial jobs blacks were then relegated to. Peterson started off on trumpet at age 5 but moved to piano after a bout of tuberculosis. Taught by older sister daisy, at 14 he won a national CBC music contest and became the star of a weekly local broadcast, quitting school to pursue a career in music.

“He had the ability to play classical as well,” said Jones, “but that arena was not very inviting back in those days for any black musicians.”

Peterson’s big break came when New York jazz impresario Norman Granz visited Montreal and heard Peterson on the radio during a taxi ride. He arranged for the 24-year-old to appear on a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert at Carnegie Hall in 1949 and recorded his debut, Tenderly, on Verve Records the following year.

As the Jazz at the Philharmonic house pianist, Peterson toured with luminaries such as Fitzgerald and Gillespie. His most popular format was the trio, the most definitive being his partnership with guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown from 1953 to 1958.

Influenced by legendary musicians Nat King Cole and Art Tatum (whose image is carved into the front door of his Mississauga home), Peterson, whose style was somewhere between swing and bop, was a technically dazzling player whose sound would be akin to raindrops — if they were made of crystal.

While some critics said the pianist, who also sang occasionally, used too many notes in his music, others found his approach impressive.

Lauded as a fine interpreter of standards, Peterson later established himself as a composer, penning 1981’s A Royal Wedding Suite in honour of the Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer nuptials.

“There’s an extreme joy I get in playing that I’ve never been able to explain,” he said in a 1996 interview. “I can only transmit it through the playing; I can’t put it into words.”

But his days weren’t all bright.

Peterson never forgot his experiences with racism — a patron who wouldn’t shake his hand in a Montreal nightclub, the Hamilton barber who refused to cut his hair, segregated halls and hotels in the U.S. south, criticism for employing white guitarist Herb Ellis — but was proactive, writing “Hymn to Freedom,” which became a battle song of the U.S. civil rights movement, campaigning to get non-white faces on Canadian TV in the ’80s.

However, there were more heartbreaking setbacks. Peterson, who had five children with first wife Lillian and one with second wife Charlotte, was plagued by misgivings about the incessant travelling which compromised his duties as a father.

“His contribution to jazz is huge, but he told me the cost was his first family,” said broadcaster and Jazz FM.91 CEO Ross Porter.

Only in later years, with fourth wife Kelly Green, a restaurant manager he met on a Florida tour stop in the ’80s, and their daughter Celine, born when he was 66, did the entertainer finally enjoy a fulfilling homelife.

Though he received dozens of awards and honorary degrees, and saw a 50-cent stamp issued in his honour, the artist cited the naming of Oscar Peterson Public School in Mississauga in 2005 as “the most special event so far in my life.”

“I love children,” he said at the time. “You couldn’t give me a better gift than being amongst the kids.”

Peterson always displayed a commitment to education.

In the 1960s, he co-founded the short-lived Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto. He also served as adjunct professor of jazz studies and chancellor at York University in the ’80s and early ’90s, respectively.

Personally, Peterson was a 6-foot-3 teddy bear of a man.

“He had a wonderful sense of humour,” said Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.

“I often had dinner with he and his wife at their home, and we would just sit there and chat. You wouldn’t know he was so famous, he was so down to earth, had a marvellous sense of humour. He teased you a little bit. You never knew when he was serious or not. He always had a twinkle in his eye.”

“He could be very humorous, firm and generous,” said jazz guitarist Lorne Lofsky, who played in his quartet in the ’90s.

Sidelined for two years by the 1993 stroke, Peterson credited his long-time bass player Dave Young for coaxing him back to the piano. Since then, until his final convalescence, his desire to play and write new music was undiminished.

In a 2003 interview with then Toronto Star jazz critic Geoff Chapman, Peterson scoffed at any suggestion of retirement: “When it doesn’t come out, I’ll shut the piano down. Playing is manna to me. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t play. It’s not the playing but the travelling that is wearing, so maybe in the future I’d have to adjust that. If I could live my life all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing musically. It’s been an education.”

With files from The Canadian Press, Bruce DeMara and Josh Wingrove

Penguins Superstar Chosen The Canadian Press Male Athlete Of The Year

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

(December 27, 2007) He's only 20, but Sidney Crosby's trophy case is already getting pretty crowded.

The gifted Pittsburgh Penguins centre was chosen The Canadian Press male athlete of the year yesterday, capping a season that included a Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player, the Pearson Award as the league's outstanding player according to his peers, and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion.

The Cole Harbour, N.S., native was the runaway winner of the Lionel Conacher Award in a poll of sports editors and broadcasters across the country. He's the first hockey player to capture the honour since former Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux won in 1993.

Crosby also won the Toronto Star's Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's outstanding athlete earlier this month.

"I'm definitely proud to be Canadian and I realize that there's a lot of great Canadian athletes, so to be considered athlete of the year is quite an honour," Crosby said in an interview. "It's special. I don't take it for granted whatsoever."

Crosby received 58 first-place votes for 247 total points in voting for the Conacher Award, named for the all-rounder who was voted Canada's athlete of the first half-century in 1950.

NBA star Steve Nash of Victoria, the winner in 2005 and 2006, was second with 17 first-place votes and 122 points, while Colorado Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis of Vancouver was third with seven first-place votes for 50 points.

"Crosby will be to kids today what [Wayne] Gretzky was to the children of the 1980s," said Jim Swanson of the Prince George Citizen.

The female athlete of the year will be announced today, while the team of the year will be revealed tomorrow.

Crosby joins some of the greats of hockey in winning the award, including Gretzky, who won it six times as well as being chosen athlete of the century in 1999, Gordie Howe (1963), Maurice (Rocket) Richard (1952, 1957, 1958), Bobby Orr (1970) and Jean Béliveau (1956).

In addition to his win in 1993, Lemieux also earned the honour in 1988. Lemieux now owns the Penguins and Crosby has lived with him and his family since joining the team in 2005.

"I've seen his award," Crosby said. "Just to be able to follow behind him is certainly something to be proud of."

Crosby, now captain of the Penguins, will complete a three-year, entry-level contract that pays $850,000 (U.S.) in salary but close to $4-million in total with bonuses. Endorsement deals also swell his bank account.

He signed a $43.5-million, five-year extension last July that averages out to $8.7-million a year, a payout that matches the No. 87 sweater the superstitious centre wears.

Fame and wealth do not appear to be going to the young man's head. He has displayed a maturity well beyond his years.

"Even with high expectations, Sidney Crosby has lived up to his billing as 'The Next One,' " said David Ritchie of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner. "He is the poster boy for what the NHL should be all about and continues to be a role model both on and off the ice."

Crosby was 18 and just into his first NHL season when Canada picked its team for the 2006 Olympics. He wasn't selected as he was considered too young and inexperienced.

When Pittsburgh missed the playoffs, he joined Canada's team for the 2006 world championship in Latvia - the last time he represented the country - and was chosen the tournament's top forward on a team that finished fourth.

That left some wondering if he wouldn't have been an asset in the Turin Olympics lineup that was eliminated in the quarter-finals.

Now, he is a virtual lock to make Canada's team for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

"I'd love to be a part of it, but I'm sure there's a lot of guys who feel the same," he said. "A lot of it has to do with timing - you have to be playing well in the Olympic year.

"But definitely, with it being in Canada and being Canadian and knowing how big an opportunity it is to represent your country, it's something I'd love to do."

The Crosby File

A look at Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who won the Lionel Conacher Award as The Canadian Press male athlete of the year yesterday:

Born Aug. 7, 1987, Cole Harbour, N.S.

Personal 5 foot 11, 200 pounds.

2007 The Pittsburgh Penguins centre won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Lester B. Pearson Trophy as the NHL's best as voted by other players. Became the youngest player to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring leader, with 120 points.

Career Drafted first overall in 2005. Was major-junior player of the year in 2004 and 2005, and was the youngest player to reach 200 career NHL points.

Award Is the first hockey player since Mario Lemieux, now owner of the Penguins, in 1993 to win the Lionel Conacher Award.

Susan L. Taylor To Leave Essence

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 27, 2007) *
Susan L. Taylor, the current editorial director of Essence magazine, will leave the publication next month to focus more attention on building her Essence Cares mentoring program, reports Richard Prince's Journal-isms column.  Those who attempt to contact Taylor by e-mail are told: "I am taking a break in South Africa and will have little access to email. When I come back to the States in mid-January, I will be leaving Essence to do what at this juncture in my life has become a larger work for me —building the National Cares Mentoring Movement, which I founded as Essence Cares and today is my deepest passion.  "With mentoring I see light shining at the end of a long dark tunnel.

There is a chance that if I devote more time and space in my life to learning and working with the growing number of community leaders throughout the nation who are organizing local Cares mentoring efforts, such a movement will succeed in doing what political will and public policy have not done: give our children in peril a chance to develop the extraordinary in themselves." Taylor moved from the part-time position of free-lance beauty editor in 1970, to the full-time staff position of fashion and beauty editor, and eventually became editor-in-chief, in 1981. Six years ago, she was promoted to editorial director.    Her Essence Cares mentoring program is a partnership with the National Urban League, 100 Black Men of America, the Links, Inc., and the YWCA.


Their Music Was Made To Last

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

(December 27, 2007) More than 300 CDs and DVDs arrived at my desk this year and only a handful were inspiring, complex and entertaining enough to remain in regular rotation – My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux (Keith Jarrett), Graduation (Kanye West), River: The Joni Mitchell Letters (Herbie Hancock) and The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (Meshell Ndegeocello).

Also-rans, which become more rewarding with every listen, include Introducing Robin McKelle (Anita O'Day sound-alike Robin McKelle) and Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations (Cornel West & BMWMB). Can't wait to hear where Usher and Roy Hargrove take it next year.

Here are a few of my other standout music moments from 2007:

Best Unearthed Jazz Recordings: Andy Bey (Ain't Necessarily So) and Keith Jarrett released 10- and six-year-old recordings respectively, and the Miles Davis estate offered up a six-disc box set from the late trumpet great's '70s funk period (The Complete On the Corner Sessions), but my favourite archival find was Cornell 1964.

This exciting two-CD package captures the bassist Charles Mingus at his creative best on beloved originals – "Fables of Faubus" (a kitchen-sink edition that quotes "Old MacDonald" and "The Song is You") and "Orange was the Colour of Her Dress" – as well as Duke Ellington and Fats Waller tunes, with a standout sextet that included reedman Eric Dolphy who died a few months later.

For a visual take on this nonpareil band playing some of the same music in the same period, check out the second installation of the Jazz Icons DVD series, which showcases three of their European concerts. The daunting seven-disc set (which can be purchased individually) also features unseen performances by John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan and Dexter Gordon between 1958 and 1966.

Most Ironic Moment: Fortunately, the post-divorce offering of love goddess Jill Scott found her flaunting her libido instead of moping around; I can't wait to hear Kanye West's take on the tragic death of his mother following plastic surgery. That the self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don experienced a major high – trumping 50 Cent in their trumped-up Sept.11 album battle – then lost his No.1 fan (the Louis Vuitton Mom) two months later was obviously devastating.

Someone as sensitive and informed and vain and contradictory as West – whose early hit "All Falls Down" decried superficiality – will be bleeding lyrics for years to come over the fact that the very success he chased afforded his erstwhile college professor mom/manager the means and perhaps motive to have the fated procedure that led to her untimely demise.

Best Reggae Reissue: With the death of lead singer Joseph Hill last year, the 30th anniversary edition of Culture's Two Sevens Clash was a welcome opportunity to recall the Jamaican trio's compelling 1977 debut.

This was also the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley's Exodus, repackaged as a single disc, or with a Live at the Rainbow DVD, which captured the band at London's Rainbow Theatre in the midst of a European tour. The blessed-out King of Reggae is in fine form throughout, showcasing future classics such as "War" and "No Woman No Cry" and the group's new rock-fused guitarist Junior Marvin. A new book, Bob Marley & the Wailers: Exodus-Exile 1977 by Richard Williams, also explored the political and social crisis around the attempted assassination Marley survived in Jamaica the previous year, a crisis that led him to record Exodus in exile in London.

Most Cinematic Moment: The 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival (Sept. 21-24) featured deans like saxists Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins, mid-career faves such as singer-pianist Diana Krall and newcomers such as trumpeter Christian Scott.

The most poignant moment came courtesy of New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard who – backed by his own quintet and the festival's chamber orchestra – delivered his spellbinding Katrina suite, A Tale of God's Will, from an outdoor stage on a cool, rainy night when the clouds seemed to huddle together in honour of his stirring tale of loss and redemption. (You can catch Blanchard on the Monterey Jazz Festival: 50th Anniversary Tour when it stops at the University of Buffalo's Centre for the Arts March 11; no Canadian date).

Best I Knew Her When: Sure, everybody's jumping on the Amy Winehouse bandwagon now, but I recall her first Toronto showcase at the Top O' the Senator in 2004 around her debut Frank – recently released in North America – a sophisticated jazz-influenced disc that I much prefer to the old-school funk of Back to Black. The then-20-year-old performed in red stilettos in honour of "F--k Me Pumps," one of the most popular tracks on the intensely personal record, which tears several strips off an ex-boyfriend and melds flutes and acoustic guitars with a Nas sample and Ella-esque scats.

Her unconventional pipes summoned the ache of Billie Holiday, the nasality of Nelly Furtado and the rawness of Lauryn Hill. Accused by the British press of being anti-male, she told the Star: "I'm much harder on myself on the album than I am to any man. I know he couldn't help being a certain way, but it still frustrated me, so I lash out with my lyrics.... I love boys. That's my problem. That's why I'm so (messed) up." Given the legal problems facing Winehouse and spouse these days, some things, it seems, haven't changed.

Lucky 2007 (For Some)

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(December 26, 2007) Seven is supposed to be a lucky number, and for some Canadian musicians, 2007 was truly the year of the jackpot. Top spot among Fortune's darlings belonged to Feist, who scored a double bonanza when Apple Inc. chose not just her single ( 1234) but her video for a relentless series of TV ads pitching the iPod. World fame and four Grammy nominations ensued. Not bad for a down-to-earth anti-diva from Calgary who, before she refashioned herself as a pop chanteuse, nearly shredded her vocal cords wailing with punk bands.

Fortune also smiled on Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Montreal conductor who snagged two major posts across the Atlantic (principal conductor in Rotterdam, principal guest conductor with the London Philharmonic) even though he had almost no profile in Europe. As of next fall, when our world-renowned singers (including Ben Heppner, Adrianne Pieczonka and Measha Bruggergosman, all of whom had good years) cross the water, they may have a compatriot leading the orchestra.

Nelly Furtado surged back into view in 2007, mainly because she had the luck to pick the right guy to write and produce her album for her. Timbaland, whom Furtado barely acknowledged as she triumphed at last spring's Juno Awards, refashioned her sound completely, adding her to the string of prominent musicians (including Justin Timberlake, Bjork, Duran Duran and Madonna) who went to the ubiquitous beat doctor for career refreshment this year.

Montreal pop musician Patrick Watson came from behind with his Close to Paradise disc to snag the second annual Polaris Prize for best Canadian album, beating Feist and Arcade Fire among others. Also in Montreal, Kent Nagano lived up to almost all the high expectations that greeted him when he arrived as new music director of l'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, though the orchestra has yet to announce any serious recording projects with its American-born conductor, in spite of a $100,000 annual grant from the city to raise the orchestra's recording profile.

The Canadian Opera Company also had reason to be happy for much of 2007, as it sold out its entire first season at the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. But it also lost its much-admired general director, Richard Bradshaw, who died suddenly in August, scarcely a year after his great dream for a Toronto opera house had been realized.

Calgary Opera continued to beat the odds by bravely putting a new Canadian opera on its main stage, and rousing the town to come and see it. I wasn't crazy about the result ( Frobisher, a northern melodrama with a John Estacio score that kept drifting south to Broadway), but most of the new operas staged at La Scala or the Paris Opera in the past two centuries weren't masterpieces either. If you want to win, you have to keep playing.

Vancouver music mogul Terry McBride and his Nettwerk empire seemed to thrive in a newly uncertain industrial landscape, while larger, older labels struggled to get the hang of things. And our cultural life was made much richer in '07 by many creative and persistent micro-labels, including Secret City, Six Shooter, ATMA, weewerk, Arts & Crafts, Last Gang, Mint, Do Right! Music, Rectangle and Nrmls Wlcm.

Hard luck dogged some major talents, above all Amy Winehouse, whose breakout success with her album Back to Black seems to have undone her. Pete Doherty continued to make a shambles of his life, even as his band Babyshambles produced a sharp album of new songs. Britney Spears continued her tawdry downward spiral, messing up at the MTV video awards while hiring enough of the right people to find commercial success with her recent disc.

Radiohead got everyone's attention by offering downloads of its latest album on a pay-what-you-will basis, though various hard-copy versions of In Rainbows were also on the agenda.

Online access to a huge body of classical-music scores, meanwhile, was abruptly cancelled after the founder of the Canadian-based International Music Score Library Project, which had made more than 15,000 scores available online since early 2006, received a menacing letter from an Austrian music publisher. The heart of the dispute seems to be a discrepancy between European and Canadian copyright laws – another sign that we need practical global standards on this matter, and soon.

Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney went for coffee and sold their albums through Starbucks; the White Stripes toured the Canadian north as no major rock band ever has; and the Dixie Chicks got major love for what I still think was a fairly opportunistic attempt to pose as free-speech champions. Celine Dion wrapped up her gaudy, lucrative Vegas show, and Daniel Libeskind designed a 16-foot grand piano that looks as foolishly impractical as his $250-million addition to Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum.

And that's how it goes with Fortune, whose favours are granted and withdrawn beyond our powers of prediction. Best of luck in '08.

Most Memorable Classical Music Moments Of The Year

Excerpt from www.thestar.com

(December 27, 2007) Here, in no particular order, are five notable Toronto musical events from 2007. Coincidentally, all of these involve singers, pointing to the drawing power of the human voice:

The First Emperor Tan Dun's new opera received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City – and we could be there, too on Jan. 13, thanks to direct-via-satellite broadcasts to select Cineplex theatres. The Met for $20 – how fabulous is that?

Aldeburgh Connection Toronto's art-song masters celebrated their 25th anniversary with nearly three hours of music by some of our finest established and young singers on Feb. 18. It was magic, as well as a laugh when diva Mary Lou Fallis dressed up as Terpsichore.

Elektra The COC's opening night of Richard Strauss's high-anxiety opera on April 21 was riveting – thanks to soprano Susan Bullock, contralto Ewa Podles and the COC Orchestra. It was one of general director/conductor Richard Bradshaw's finest moments. Then he had to go and die on us on Aug. 15.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra Conductor Peter Oundjian guided the orchestra, Mendelssohn Choir and soloists through a radiant reading of Carl Orff's popular masterpiece, Carmina Burana on Sept. 19, making many of us fall in love all over again with an otherwise over-exposed piece of music.

Valery Gergiev A capacity house at Roy Thomson Hall went into a collective swoon over an all-Stravinsky program presented by the superstar Russian conductor and the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on Dec. 17. Music by dead white guys never sounded more alive.

Gamble & Huff To 2008 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Source: Sony Legacy

(December 27, 2007) Legendary songwriting and production team
Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff, widely renowned as the architects of the classic Philly soul sound, will be inducted into the 2008 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with a presentation of the highly prestigious "Ahmet Ertegun Award." 

The Grammy-winning, multi-platinum selling duo are responsible for one of the most recognizable and influential catalogs of pop and soul music ever recorded:  70 #1 Pop and R&B singles,175 RIAA Gold, Platinum and multi-platinum certifications, five Grammys including the Recording Academy's Trustees Award and more than 3,500 songs produced to date. 

The Gamble & Huff signature sound is internationally recognized as "The Sound of Philadelphia" with a Gamble & Huff song being played somewhere in the world every 13.5 minutes. 

Comments Gamble & Huff: "We are extremely happy and appreciative of this honour. We have always wanted to be in the Rock& Roll Hall of Fame and wholeheartedly thank the foundation for this prestigious induction.  We are especially excited about being the first inductees under the newly named Ahmet Ertegun Award.  Moreover, the timing couldn't be better as we celebrate a 45 year creative vision that has impacted people and music all over the world including the music of Rock and Roll."

 Jay-Z, 50 Cent,  Daft Punk, Michael Buble, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Jennifer Lopez,  Outkast and Bette Midler are just a few of the top artists who have sampled or covered the Gamble & Huff song catalogue.  Gamble & Huff's instantly recognizable tunes and influential lyrics are a favourite among advertising agencies, music production houses, commercials, motion pictures and television sitcoms.  They also have one of the most sought after sought after pop and soul catalogs in the world.

 Their Philadelphia International Records label built a solid stable of talent including Patti LaBelle, The O'Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Archie Bell and the Drells, Billy Paul and the Three Degrees to name a few.  PIR recordings reached the top of the charts from day one, at one point selling more than 10 million records in a nine-month period with hits such as Billy Paul's "Me & Mrs. Jones," a Grammy winning #1 Pop and R&B hit; Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now," a popular track also covered by UK group Simply Red; The O'Jay's "Love Train" and "Backstabbers" among others.

 An historic new agreement was announced last August in which the complete Philadelphia International Catalogue of music has been licensed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment to be released through its Commercial Music Group and Legacy Recordings.

Twenty Years Later, This Blue Raincoat Still Fits

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

(December 22, 2007) Multi-award-winning, platinum-selling singer Jennifer Warnes knew from the start that Famous Blue Raincoat, her 1987 collection of pop- and rock-enhanced
Leonard Cohen songs, would likely be her crowning achievement.

It was, first and foremost, a labour of love, an act of devotion to an artist she had always admired and with whom she felt blessed to have performed for a good many years prior to the sessions that yielded her enduringly popular interpretation of Cohen's best-known songs.

"I knew 20 years ago it was one for the archives, and that it would outlive me," Warnes said recently in a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles, not long after the release of a 20th-anniversary edition of the classic album. It has been digitally remastered, "with more kick and bass in the bottom end," and embellished with four additional Cohen pieces recorded by Warnes a decade ago but withheld till now.

When her landmark recording was released, the singer had already scored major hits – "It's the Right Time of the Night" and duets with Joe Cocker (Canadian songwriter Buffy Sainte Marie's and American movie score composer Jack Nitzche's "Up Where We Belong," from the movie An Officer And A Gentleman) and Bill Medley ("I've Had The Time Of My Life," from Dirty Dancing), both Oscar winners.

She's more bemused than surprised Famous Blue Raincoat never achieved great commercial success, especially after the glowing reviews it received for the purity and power of Warnes' vocals, and stunning contributions from sidemen Stevie Ray Vaughan and Fred Tackett (Bob Dylan) on guitar, David Lindley on pedal steel, and Van Dyke Parks and Bill Payne (Little Feat) on keyboards.

The album is credited with having delivered Cohen – he's being inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame next year, along with Madonna, the Dave Clark Five, the Ventures and John Mellencamp – to an enormous mainstream pop music audience and for restarting the Canadian songwriter's failing career.

One song from the album, "The Singer Must Die," arranged by Parks, was nominated for a Grammy only after Kris Kristofferson mailed a personal plea to members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

"It got to 79 on Billboard's album chart, but it was released too late in the year to make an impression on the Grammys people," said Warnes, who was a regular singing member of The Smothers Brothers Show troupe in the 1960s, and has contributed as a session singer to albums by Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Sam & Dave, James Taylor, Tina Turner, Bobby Womack and Warren Zevon, among others.

The re-release of Famous Blue Raincoat, which has been out of print in North America for almost a decade, is a chance to restore the music to its original sonic glory, for the sake of Cohen's audience and devoted audiophiles, she added.

Recorded on digital equipment, Famous Blue Raincoat is considered one of the finest audio productions of its time, and is still used to test and demonstrate high-end stereos.

"When it was transferred from vinyl to CD, no one was paying attention, and the music lost all its warm features," Warnes continued. "Several generations down the line, the music sounded thin and creepy."

After a tussle with the original label – "It's a sad and treacherous story," Warnes said – the singer managed to secure ownership of the masters and to have them polished up by the best professional ears in L.A.

"It's exactly the same record – the same music, the same sequence – with the exception of four new songs."

One was recorded in concert in Belgium ("Joan Of Arc"), and three in an Austin, Tex., studio ("Night Comes On," "Ballad of the Runaway Horse" and "If It Be Your Will").

Content with her role as a session singer – "In L.A., that's an art, and the essence of what I do," she said – Warnes is particularly proud of recent work with other Canadians, a Christmas duet with Quebec's Michel Bérubé and her contribution to The Gift, an all-star tribute to Ian Tyson.

But Famous Blue Raincoat, on which Cohen collaborated, is her lasting gift to popular music.

"I just wanted to hear his songs with more colour and texture," she said. "I'm not sure he approved at the time, though he loves working with women. He doesn't hear music the same way most people do."

The Year In Hiphop-Indie-Tronic-Rhythm 'N' Roll

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(December 27, 2007) CHAPTER I: I know we're all sick of talking about it, but it really is a good record

Radiohead, In Rainbows (Independent). What else is there to say? "Bodysnatchers" is something else, drummer Phil Selway freakin' rules this thing and In Rainbows, as a whole, already exhibits more song-by-song staying power than Hail to the Thief. So well done, Radiohead: It's the music that got you this far and it is, again, the music – not the revolutionary "pay what you want" digital delivery – by which In Rainbows was ultimately judged a success.

CHAPTER II: To gloat is to be un-Canadian and, yes, the Arcade Fire is grossly overrated. Nevertheless, a round of indie-nationalist applause ...

Feist, The Reminder (Arts and Crafts). When the iPod ad and the Grammy nominations finally push this thing over a million in sales and the real backlash storms in, remember that Leslie Feist once nearly blew her voice out for good as a teenaged punk rocker from Calgary, played in By Divine Right while rooming with Peaches and that there's absolutely no shame in making an indie-pop record that moms dig as much as the cool kids.

The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (Merge). Pretentious to a fault, yes, but at least these Montrealers were headed that way before Neon Bible gave `em a scrape at Bono's pulpit with simultaneous No.1 and No. 2 debuts in Canada and the U.S., respectively. Finally, Merge can pay for the Rock-A-Teens.

Patrick Watson, Close to Paradise (Secret City). It came out last year, but it took another 11 months for Grey's Anatomy, some bad-ass live shows and incessant praise from Canadian critics – who elected Close to Paradise the winner of the second Polaris Music Prize in September – to push this out-of-nowhere indie phenomenon to gold-record status at home.

CHAPTER III: 'Shoegaze' never went away, but it's officially back now

The Jesus and Mary Chain reconciled, Swervedriver announced a reunion tour and My Bloody Valentine predicted both another record and a few concert dates in the New Year. In the meantime, have you heard these?

Dog Day, Night Group (Tomlab/Black Mountain). This writer's unquestionable favourite and most ludicrously overplayed album of 2007. An ideal balance between full-tilt rhythmic aggression and honeyed boy/girl melody on par with MBV's Isn't Anything or Sonic Youth's recent Rather Ripped.

No Age, Weirdo Rippers (Fat Cat/Fusion III). Melody wins here, but only because these two skate-punk noiseniks soften their artsy, anti-formalist sprawl with just enough form to leave you something to hum over the lingering tinnitus.

Sister Vanilla, Little Pop Rock (Chemikal Underground). An easygoing, slyly self-referential sequel to the Jesus and Mary Chain's 1994 Stoned and Dethroned.

Liars, Liars (Mute). Beleaguered fans are rewarded with a "pop" album that pays revealing homage to some of the sounds that might have guided Liars and their admirers to where they are today.

Adam Franklin, Bolts of Melody (Hi-Speed Soul) and Film School, Hideout (Beggars Banquet). If ex-Swervedriver frontman Franklin plays it a bit too folky, at least his formerly drowsy American acolytes in Film School finally took Mezcalhead to heart and became a far more aggressive and interesting outfit than suspected.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Baby 81 (RCA/Sony/BMG). Just a nudge after 2005's alarming rustic detour, Howl, to remind us that BRMC can do BRMC in its sleep.

CHAPTER IV: Didn't see that coming, did ya?

Old dogs, or at least dogs with sufficient mileage already logged to preclude expectations of "new tricks," proved entirely capable of wowing us this year with abrupt self-reinventions and unforeseen displays of latter-years vitality.

Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl). A bookish Georgia indie kid long associated with cutesy psychedelic-folk confronts acute depression and marital breakdown head-on by morphing over the course of one soul-baring and fittingly schizophrenic record into a black, transsexual funk singer named Georgie Fruit. And so Kevin Barnes traces the least obvious path imaginable to the best album of his career.

P.J. Harvey, White Chalk (Island/Def Jam/Universal). Even Harvey thought she'd become predictable on 2004's Uh Huh Her, so she ditched her guitar, taught herself piano and tapped into an ethereal, nearly unrecognizable, high-soprano "church voice" for a fraught, frequently chilling eighth album that totally rewrites our expectations of whatever might follow. Again.

Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero (Nothing/Interscope/Universal). Very nearly as caustic, uncompromisingly forward-thinking and devastatingly danceable as The Downward Spiral. Brilliantly preceded and augmented by an impenetrable Internet puzzle, too, that should keep NIN cyber-obsessives occupied until the apocalypse forewarned by Year Zero actually arrives.

Chemical Brothers, We Are the Night (Virgin/EMI). I'm still not convinced this sleek, supple and unusually subtle delve into less-is-more techno functionalism actually came from the Chems, but ... well, wow. This really got slept on.

CHAPTER V: Radiohead's not the only act still living up to its past

There's more out there that endures than "Country" Jon Bon Jovi:

Wire, Read and Burn 03 (pinkflag). Five years on from the only first-wave punk reunion to truly justify its existence (see 2003's Send), the original Wire lineup condenses the artistic and technological strides first made on 1979's 154 into a single, jaw-dropping 10-minute electro-punk screed, "23 Years Too Late," and serves notice that it's still operating outside of time and trend after 30 years.

Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris (Interscope/Universal), and White Stripes, Icky Thump (Warner). Given the choice, I'd still prefer to be buried with Era Vulgaris. But at the level of infamy shared by these two fine acts, the title of "best contemporary American band" is evenly split. Neither outfit has a weak album in its catalogue and a live "battle of the bands" between the two would end in a horrifically bloody stalemate. In more innocent times, both of these bands would be "the next Nirvana."

Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge). When critics praise Britt Daniel's pop-songwriting "craft," for once, they're not making excuses for effete crap even they won't listen to at home. Sadly, there's a vast, stupid corporate mechanism in place to prevent "The Underdog" and "You've Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" from becoming the radio hits they could and should be.

Neil Young, Chrome Dreams II (Reprise/Warner). All the Neils – electric and acidic, acoustic and spiritual – we've come to know and love over the years, gathered together on an affably uneven record that, with mild but reassuringly typical perversity, purports to be the sequel to an album that was never released.

CHAPTER VI: moments of 'arrival’

The Field, From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt). Kinetic techno minimalism with enough of a melodic haze to seduce even indie-rock blogger types.

Handsome Furs, Plague Park (Sub Pop). This is a doomy, future-folk side project by Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and fiancée Alexei Perry that’s actually better than Wolf Parade. Killer live act and maybe the hottest couple in rock, to boot.

Pinback, Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go). Finally, some tunes that really hang around. Fourth album, best yet.

Georgie James, Georgie James (Saddle Creek/Outside). Charming co-ed power-pop whose sunny harmonies and general pep camouflage a satisfying lyrical bite.

CHAPTER VII: Badly timed deaths

It's never a good day to die, but some times are worse than others.

UGK, Underground Kingz (Sony/BMG). A near-flawless, double-disc comeback from one of the original Dirty South crews. Pimp C emerged from prison to record UGK's first No. 1 album with longtime sparring partner Bun B, but was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel of still undisclosed causes mere months later on Dec. 4.

Chow Chow, Colours and Lines (Fantastic Plastic/Fusion III). A bracing, Pixies-gone-raving debut by an outfit that almost certainly would have become one of Britain's hottest new exports – if, that is, Edmonton-born singer, guitarist and keyboardist Thomas Iain Smith had not died at 26 barely a month before the record's July release.

CHAPTER VIII: Hell freezes over

Everyone reunited this year, from the Phil Collins-era Genesis to the Spice Girls to the Meat Puppets, but three stood out in particular for being the ones no oddsmaker thought would ever happen.

Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones once vowed there would be no Led Zep without the late John Bonham. Nevertheless, rumours of an impending tour haven't let up before or since the group's globally eyed gig Dec.10 in London with youngish Jason Bonham sitting in behind the drumkit for his dad. Keep it special, lads. You don't need the money. You're Led Zeppelin.

The Police. The fact that Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland all detest one another actually elevated this tour above most reunion road trips, as all three gifted players seemed to be attempting to musically outmanoeuvre one another for the duration of the set list when they landed at the Air Canada Centre in July. Some fans didn't appreciate the lads messing with their hits, but the wealth of challenging new arrangements on display made for much more than the usual, by-the-numbers cash-in.

Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth finally buried the hatchet after more than two decades of mutual sniping and on-again/off-again courtship, and actually exchanged numerous smiles during their highly enjoyable touchdown at the Air Canada Centre in October. Still, Eddie might just have been riding the high of seeing his teenaged son, Wolfgang, hold it down expertly in Michael Anthony's place on bass.

Age Of Confusion

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

(December 27, 2007) With the drastic decline in the sales of physical music recordings – CDs, to you and me – finding alternative methods of paid distribution has become the overwhelming obsession of the international music industry, and in 2007, a matter of life and death.

The undeniable reality is that CD sales continue to fall so dramatically – down 20 per cent from 2006, and down 35 per cent in Canada – that the industry as we know it may soon collapse completely.

Insiders and trade magazines are already predicting a bad New Year for the once mighty EMI Music, one of the world's five remaining major labels, after the recent loss of Radiohead, Paul McCartney and rumblings that Robbie Williams is quitting the roster as well. Warner Music, already stripped to the bone, is also struggling to survive.

Other majors are continuing to grapple with the new reality by applying "aggressive pricing" policies, offering some new product for as little as $6.99, compared to $15 just a year or two ago. But they can only last so long on such minimal profit margins, according to trade analysts.

Retail music outlets, too, are victims of the trend. Canada's largest two chains, Sam the Record Man and Music World, closed shop in 2007, unable to sustain themselves on sales decimated by the effects of uncountable Internet retail operations and free music downloading practices. The growth of music sales in big-box stores like Wal-Mart and unconventional venues such as Starbucks only added to the woes of CD store chains.

Industrial attempts to reverse the trend have stalled or failed. Awareness campaigns tried to recalibrate the moral compasses of "pirates"; CDs came loaded with copy protection codes; legislation to outlaw peer-to-peer file sharing was enacted; and the industry went after free music users and distributors with litigation.


But 2007 also saw the emergence of several novel experiments that point the way to a new world of possibilities in the way new music is bought and sold. In October British rock band Radiohead pre-released their new album In Rainbows, with just 10 days notice, as a download on their website, at a price determined not by the seller, but by the buyer. What makes the Radiohead experiment so noteworthy is that this is the first time a platinum-selling band has gone the pay-what-you-can route with a new release.

Not that the results are particularly encouraging. The British trade press reports that six out of 10 Radiohead fans who downloaded the album opted to pay not a penny.

It's not a new idea. Canadian singer-songwriter Issa, formerly known as Jane Siberry, forsook physical retail methods a couple of years ago and made her entire repertoire available only on the Internet in digital form and at donation-based prices, a move that freed her of the costs of manufacturing, storing, shipping and marketing her CDs. Results, says the peripatetic troubadour, have proven she's on the right track.

"I want to treat others the way I like to be treated," goes her official manifesto. "Responses such as `I can't believe you're letting me decide', or `I am so relieved not to be treated like a shoplifter who will steal as soon as someone turns their back,' confirm for me that this is how I want to do things, come sink or swim."

Renegade Canadian roots music star Fred Eaglesmith, who enjoys the benefits of an equally diverse and devoted fan base, did the same thing in 2007 with his album Milly's Café, then, as Radiohead plans to do early in 2008, followed through with the launch of a physical CD.

Grammy-winning Canadian singer/songwriter/producer Daniel Lanois has just pre-released his sixth solo album, Here is What is, as a $9.99 digital download exclusively at redfloorrecords.com. The novelty is that it's the first digital download in both audiophile-quality WAV format and the more conventional, compressed MP3 format. A CD version will also be available at traditional retail outlets March 18.

American bands Wilco and R.E.M., among many others, continue to release albums free on their websites to entice fans to purchase their back catalogues.

Some well-established artists, those who can afford to produce their own recordings, bypassed the major record companies entirely, opting instead for either an exclusive deal with a big-box retailer – following the trail Garth Brooks cut a couple of years ago, The Eagles chose Wal-Mart for their comeback two-CD set Long Road Out Of Eden – or with a lifestyle-enhancing specialty product franchise operation.

Joni Mitchell got lots of publicity when her 2007 opus, Shine, was released exclusively on Starbucks' in-house Hear Music label, where her CD was racked alongside the coffee retailer's stock of classy blues, jazz and roots compilations. Paul McCartney also released his 2007 studio album, Memory Almost Full, exclusively through Starbucks.

And to kick off their reunion tour, 1990s British pop band the Spice Girls chose lingerie boutique chain Victoria's Secret as the sole distributor of their greatest hits album – in-store and online.

The success of these new marketing models has yet to be assessed, but already they have changed the way music sales are reported, collated and charted. Billboard magazine, the music industry bible, abandoned its long-established veto on charting single-source releases late in 2007 to accommodate the Eagles' triple-platinum sales through Wal-Mart.


But big-box and specialty-product chain options are only viable for acts with existing mass-market cachet, says Shauna de Cartier, founder of Toronto-based independent label/management company Six Shooter Records.

"Retail hasn't been open to emerging and middle-ground artists for a long time, nor has commercial radio," adds de Cartier. "You won't find Six Shooter music in Wal-Mart."

With digital download sales accounting for as much as 50 per cent of her company's revenue, and the rest from off-the-stage sales at shows by her constantly touring acts, de Cartier doesn't even think in conventional music industry language.

"The future of music sales is the Internet, whether we like it or not. And independent labels have to develop other streams of revenue – management of their artists, publishing, merchandising, instant CD-ROMs or USB memory-stick recordings of live performances, anything in their arsenal – just to keep going. It's the new reality."

Part of the new reality is also accepting that peer-to-peer (free) music file sharing is here to stay, and that trying to eradicate it – "by scare tactics, education initiatives, legislation and law suits" – will only go so far.

Still, she says, "I don't believe in giving music away. I do everything I can to protect the rights of the creators of the music we sell."

She believes that what's needed to offset the massive revenue losses attributable to downloading is a small pass-through fee, "a few dollars," collected by broadband telecommunications providers that would be divided on a pro-rata basis among labels and artists who sell their music via the Internet.

"The pervasive notion among music users is that because it's on the Internet, it should be free. We are culturally wedded to the idea. We can't change that. But we don't seem to mind paying large amounts of money for access to the Internet. An additional charge for blanket coverage of downloads may just be music's commercial future."

Terry McBride, head of the Vancouver-based Nettwerk Music Group, has been promoting this idea, among others, after seeing it work in China, where compensation for the use of intellectual property at universities is covered by a small addition to tuition fees.

"If this principle were applied worldwide, it would amount to literally billions of dollars," says McBride, who believes a "market solution" is both preferable to legislation and litigation and necessary to the survival of the industry.

"You sell music not by trying to control it with copy-protection locks and threats, but by monetizing the behaviour around it."

While international CD sales have fallen 20 per cent in the last two years, and digital sales have risen by only 5 per cent, McBride points out that profits on digital sales are 50 per cent, compared to 15 per cent on CDs, which incur physical costs not applicable to digital music.

"By engaging the audience, making their music available for remixing, running a shirt design contest, and helping fans become marketing partners, Barenaked Ladies had their second (most profitable) year in 2006. Since 2003, 60 per cent of our revenue is now from digital sales. That's not great, but we're getting there."

Toronto-based artist manager-publisher Larry LeBlanc is skeptical about the Internet solution.

"Ninety-six per cent of all music revenues still come through traditional retail, even though stores are fewer and there are fewer and fewer selections," he says.

"And specialty marketing isn't a new idea ... it was used generations ago by jeans manufacturers and soda pop companies like Coca Cola, which paid for the Guess Who and The Staccatos (later the Five Man Electrical Band) to record a platinum-selling promotional album in 1967.

"With all the publicity Mitchell got for the Starbucks deal, she has only sold 19,000 copies (of Shine) in Canada and just 72,000 in the U.S. McCartney's album did only 500,000 in the U.S. and 31,000 in Canada. Starbucks is in the business of selling coffee; music is an enhancement, a sideline.

"What these (experiments) do is signal to the industry that there are many alternatives available. You don't have to go the old route."

Dancehall Artiste Chino Releases Debut Album Unstoppable

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(December 20, 2007) *Dancehall artiste
Chino, the son of reggae veteran Freddie McGregor, has finally dropped his debut solo album Unstoppable. The 16-track set, which features mostly production work from Big Ship label's Stephen McGregor, has been released in Japan on the Victor Entertainment label.

In an interview with this column shortly before departing for an overseas promotional jaunt, Chino (real name Daniel McGregor) said that the making of the album took a lot of effort on his part. However, he was thankful that it was now available for his fans to enjoy.

"The album is really about me and the kind of vibe that I am in," he said. "The whole mood of the album is really about Chino. We chose the name Unstoppable from the line in the song Red Bull and Guinness that I recorded with Delly Ranks."

Choosing the songs for the album proved to be a difficult exercise as, according to Chino, there were a lot of songs that were left off the set. "We had quite a lot of songs, and then we narrowed it down to 22, but the record company said they wanted 16," he said.

Unstoppable contains songs such as Girl Dem Want, Girls Dem Straight, Red Bull And Guinness, Chronic To My Brain, Inna Di Club, All Night and Handwritings featuring Dennis Brown.

Asked why he chose to have a collaboration with Dennis Brown on the album, Chino said "Outside of my father, Dennis Brown is one of my favourite singers and he was close to my family. I was also close to his children. Having his voice on my album is somewhat like my tribute to him." Dennis Brown, known as the 'Crown Prince of Reggae', died on July 1, 1999 from pneumonia.

Plans are in place for Chino's album to be promoted overseas, particularly in Europe and Japan, where the disc has been released. A slightly different version of the album will be released in the Caribbean and US in early 2008.

The 25-year-old Chino, who made his debut in the late 1990s when he made a guest appearance on the Krazy Kid (now known as Kip Rich) hit single Leggo Di Bwoy, is currently featured in advertising campaigns for Nestlé Supligen and Coca Cola.

Indomitable Olivia Newton-John Has Been Through A Lot Of Tough Times, But Music Has Been Her Salvation

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Columnist

(December 22, 2007) Yes, she's been mellow, but she's also seen the dark side of the moon. And that's why
Olivia Newton-John is the perfect person with whom to spend some time at Christmas.

The 59-year-old singer, who broke into superstardom singing "I Honestly Love You," has had a career and a personal life full of ups and downs. Yet she's managed to balance them out into a sunny sound that has delighted fans for well over 30 years.

Her current project, appropriately enough, is a seasonal album called Christmas Wish, produced by Canadian singer-songwriter Amy Sky.

It's a pleasing mixture of traditional favourites and new tunes, with guest artists like Jann Arden, Jon Secada and Barry Manilow coming along for the seasonal sleigh-ride.

The older songs strike a particular chord for Newton-John because they remind her of the last happy memories of her childhood in Australia.

"My parents divorced when I was 10," she recalls over the phone from her home in Australia, "and that was an incredibly difficult thing for me to accept.

"But before that happened, we had a few Christmases together that I will cherish forever."

That unique voice of hers, all dappled sunlight and Down Under twang, takes on an even softer note as she recalls those times.

"There were several years we enjoyed together before our family was split apart, and it's those memories I cling to.

"On Christmas Eve, my Mom would make German cookies and cakes and then we'd sing around the piano. There were live candles on the tree and my dad would lead us singing hymns like `Silent Night' and `Away in a Manger.'" (Both songs appear on the new album.)

But soon that time was gone and Newton-John started on her path to stardom, which led her to Los Angeles in the late 1970s, which was a considerably different place to celebrate Christmas. Still, she found a way.

"Spending the holidays in Hollywood is the strangest thing," she laughs, "but you find different things to cling to. The Santa Ana winds blowing. Taking care of my horses in the barn at night. Something very biblical about all that, wasn't it?"

But then the world changed, and the wonderful thing about Newton-John is that she treats the bad times with the same sensitivity and care that she treats the good.

"There was one Christmas that most people would rather have forgotten, I suppose," she says with her lilting calm.

"It was 1992 and my father had died of cancer the very day that I was diagnosed with mine."

How did she deal with that year? "I'd be lying if I said it was a celebration," she admits, "but you get together with the people you're close to and you sing the songs that renew you and somehow, it can be a healing time."

And although Newton-John triumphed over her breast cancer, becoming one of the major spokespersons for the disease around the world, she calmly admits life – as you grow older – is a process of loss after loss.

"Each Christmas you spend without someone you cared for – a father, a mother, a lover, a friend – is an unusually hard time. But I've always found that music has given me strength. And that's what I hope this album will give people as well."

It marks her second collaboration with award-winning Canadian musician Sky. Newton-John concedes they're the perfect team.

"Amy is a big-picture person and I'm quite a detail freak, so between us we help create the best package possible."

Newton-John's own personal life has continued to offer its share of testing moments.

In 2005, her long-time companion, Patrick McDermott, vanished following a fishing trip on the California coast.

Newton-John was in Australia at the time of his disappearance and has never been implicated in it, but a series of tabloid accusations about his past have enveloped the experience in a negative cloud she prefers not to discuss.

And, closer to home, she's had to deal with this year's headlines, which revealed her daughter is suffering from anorexia.

But through it all, this calm, golden woman remains seemingly impervious to the blows fate has dealt her.

"My life is about healing at the moment," she affirms, "healing other people rather than myself. I'm building a wellness centre in Australia where you've got to treat the body, the mind and the spirit in equal proportions.

"And yes, I believe music is the most healing medium there is. I'm blessed I have been given this gift," she says.

Lest you think Newton-John is all work and no play, there's her trip to Manhattan last summer where she was a cherished opening-night guest at the Broadway musical version of her 1980 camp-disaster film, Xanadu.

"Omigosh!" she exclaims with a whoosh of laughter. "It was fantastic. It was so fun, it was so very clever."

With the wisdom of hindsight, she admits now that, "at the time, we all stupidly took it all so seriously. I mean, I was acting opposite Gene Kelly. I had to believe in it!

"I cringed at the dialogue even then, but I always loved the music and the best part of the Broadway show is that it lets us laugh at the dialogue and still love the music."

As another Christmas comes around, one asks the resilient Newton-John what she wishes for. Her answer is immediate.

"Good health. Because without that, nothing else matters."


Alicia Has Key To Billboard's Christmas Chart

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Tarice L.S. Grey

(December 21, 2007) *Alicia Keys is the hottest thing in music this Christmas, with her single "No One" remaining atop the
Billboard Hot 100 for a fifth consecutive week and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for a 10th straight frame.  Meanwhile, Keys just may dethrone herself atop Billboard with "Like You'll Never See Me Again," her second single from new album "As I Am." That cut moves up 3-2 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and 19-13 on the Hot 100.  Flo-Rida's "Low" featuring T-Pain is the Hot 100's fastest-growing track at radio, and trades places 3-2 with Timbaland's "Apologize" featuring OneRepublic. Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss" featuring T-Pain holds at No. 4, as does Fergie's "Clumsy" at No. 5 and Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" at No. 6.   The Hot 100's top tier is rounded out by Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer," up to a new high with an 8-7 move, Jordin Sparks' "Tattoo" (10-8), Rihanna's "Hate That I Love You" featuring Ne-Yo (7-9) and Kanye West's "Good Life" featuring T-Pain (9-10).

Jenny Craig Makes Room For Latifah

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 20, 2007) *Oscar-nominated singer and actress
Queen Latifah is the newest spokesperson selected to promote weight loss chain Jenny Craig, reports People.com. "We officially confirm that Queen Latifah will join the Jenny Craig program in January," Scott Parker, Jenny Craig's vice president of marketing, tells People. "We are thrilled to have Queen Latifah support our mission of improving health by taking her first step toward achieving a more healthful lifestyle."   The 37-year-old artist joins veteran Jenny Craig spokeswoman Kirstie Alley and newcomer Valerie Bertinelli in pitching the product's virtues. But the "Hairspray" star, who proudly embraces her plus-size figure – calling it "voluptuous," will have a "very different campaign, focused on a healthier lifestyle, not on getting into a specific dress size," says Parker.   "Queen Latifah joins forces with Jenny Craig to communicate the importance of how small lifestyle changes, in the areas of diet and exercise, can have positive effects on overall health," Parker adds.    Latifah's official Jenny Craig reign will begin in January.

Jay-Z Steps Down From Def Jam

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(December 27, 2007) Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter will step down as Def Jam Records president when his contract expires this year, he and Universal Music Group announced this week. The rapper will continue to record for Roc-A-Fella, the label he co-founded in 1996, which is part of the Universal-distributed Island Def Jam Music Group. In announcing his departure, Jay-Z acknowledged the artists and executives he had worked with during his three years as label president, including IDJ chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid. He added, "It's time for me to take on new challenges." In an interview earlier this month with Billboard, Jay-Z said any decision about his future with Def Jam would not be "about money.'' "It's really about trying to invest in the future, trying to invest in maybe coming up with a new model. Because going in hard making records with artists and throwing those records into a system that's flawed is not exciting for me. "It's not the music; people ingest music the same way. It's just that the model of selling CDs has changed," he continued. "So doing things the typical way is not in the best interests of anyone and not exciting for me."

First Female In Band Finds Harmonious Fit

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(December 27, 2007) After almost four decades as an all-male group, the Canadian Brass is mixing things up. Manon Lafrance is the newest – and first female – member of the quintet, which has seen many male members come and go over the years save for its two constants: founders Charles Daellenbach on tuba and Gene Watts on trombone. Trumpet player Lafrance is fitting in fine since she joined last spring and embarked on her first tour with the group this holiday season. "Their wives tell me they're behaving better now," she joked when asked what it's like being the first non-male Canadian Brass member. Lafrance, who has played with the Montreal Symphony and National Arts Centre orchestras, is one of two trumpet players in the group (the other is Joe Burgstaller). The Brass is rounded out by Jeff Nelsen on French horn. It's taken over three decades to get a female on the roster, but it wasn't for lack of trying, said Watts. The "fabulous five," established in Toronto in 1970, auditioned women in the past, but they didn't make the cut, Watts said. "We haven't ever really considered gender, even though it may look like we have," he said. To fit in, said Watts, a player has to have "a certain maturity," extensive experience and a strong commitment to the music, which covers classical and jazz as well as contemporary songs.


A Personal Faves List - With A Nod To Box-Office Clout

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(December 22, 2007) Did you imagine that the movies of 2007 were more serious than those of recent years?
That filmmakers were evincing a seventies spirit, taking on politics and corruption again as gripping subjects? That societal unease was translating into exciting cinema? I did - until I reviewed the year in box-office dollars.

Not much seriousness there. Of the year's 15 highest-grossing films, five - five! - were threequels: Spider-Man 3 ranked No. 1, earning $337-million (U.S.). Shrek the Third was second at $321-million. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was fourth with $309-million. At No. 6, The Bourne Ultimatum earned $227-million. And Rush Hour 3, at $140-million, was 12th.

The top 15 also included a TV spinoff (The Simpsons Movie, No. 9 with $183-million); a sequel (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, No. 14 at $132-million); a quadquel (Live Free or Die Hard, No. 13 at $135-million); and a quintquel (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, placing No. 5 with $292-million).

Appropriately, a top-grossing non-sequel had a three in its title: 300, which ranked No. 7, at $211-million. And the highest grossing non-sequel was based on a toy: Transformers, No. 3, at $319-million. You can bet there will be sequels to that.

At the beginning of the summer, 2007 looked likely to be the first $10-billion-grossing year, but it will probably fall short: As of Thursday, according to the tracking website Box Office Mojo, the total sat at $8,291,230,571. (Gotta love that last $1.)

In honour of all that dough - plus the uncountable billions spent on popcorn - I decided to list my dozen favourite films in order of their earnings. I'm not claiming they're the "best" films. They're simply the movies I had the best time watching. Because obviously, that's what people buy movie tickets for.

The Bourne Ultimatum

No. 6, grossing $227-million. Spies chasing spies, it's a gas from start to finish, and - bonus - there isn't an ounce of stupidity in it. It's always grounded in time and space. The editing makes sense, not hay of the story. It assumes its audience is intelligent enough to grasp its myriad complications. (Its director, Paul Greengrass, made one of my favourite films of 2006, United 93.) And it's so taut, so thrilling, that during a key chase scene, audiences around North America reportedly burst into spontaneous applause.

Michael Clayton

No. 58, $39-million and counting. This is my favourite kind of movie. Glossy, smart-talky, world-weary but still principled, with A-list acting all the way. There's such depth in the performances, from the top (George Clooney's modest fixer, Tilda Swinton's sweatiness as a corporate lawyer who knows she has sinned, and especially the soulful craziness of Tom Wilkinson as a reformed cutthroat) to the tiniest cameos, which are filled by theatre actors who make their two minutes glow. And it wraps up deliciously, but without cheating.

No Country for Old Men

No. 68, $34-million and counting. This movie, about three hard men and a bag of drug money, is a wonder. So bleak, so violent, but with such a sense of inevitability. It actually haunts me. I feel like it's somehow still happening, a parallel universe playing somewhere on an endless loop.

Eastern Promises

No. 104, $17-million. To my mind, David Cronenberg's best movie. Viggo Mortensen, playing a Russian mobster-wannabe in a London that's always soot-grey, takes instant command. Yes, there's the naked bath-house fight scene, already a classic. But if you want to feel what a life of callousness does to a man's soul, check out the scene in the wine cellar where Vincent Cassel, as the mob boss's son, lets his guard down. One of my favourite movie moments of the year.

The Lives of Others

No. 126, $11-million. It came out so early in 2007, it feels like a 2006 film. But it lasts in the mind. The story of a state spy in Communist Berlin, it glides ever so calmly toward tragedy and regret. (As so many of my favourites this year do - wonder what that says about me?) But there's redemption, too. That's a word I normally hate in movie descriptions, but this time it's earned.


No. 136, $9.5-million. Okay, now we're into the numbers they just round off at the top of the list. But this is the heartbreaker of 2007, a sweet, unexpected, fresh-as-grass love story, acted by real-life musicians playing their hearts out. Fellas, you want your girl to fall for you? Watch this movie with her.

Away from Her

No. 165, $4.5-million. I've always thought that there's nothing more dramatic than everyday life, and I've wondered why filmmakers didn't mine it more. First-time director Sarah Polley (she wrote the screenplay, too) does. She's made a movie about a woman suffering from Alzheimer's (Julie Christie) and the man who loves her (Gordon Pinsent, in the performance of his career) that's full of drama and humour. If the writers' strike ends and the Oscars go on, I expect Christie will thank Polley when she wins best actress.

I'm Not There

No. 190, $2.7-million and counting. This movie, "inspired by the many lives of Bob Dylan," as its tagline reads, is a tad cuckoo, long and self-indulgent. But it's also visionary and smart as hell, and it revamps the biopic so thoroughly I don't know how anyone will make the creaky clichéd version - here's the artist's early talent! Here's his childhood crisis! Here's a montage of his rise, fall and comeback! - ever again.


No. 192, $2.5-million, but rising fast. Note that we are now far down the dollar list, in the realm of people who behave with one another, rather than shoot at one another. But I suspect that this gentle, optimistic comedy about a smart-mouthed pregnant teenager will catch on, because it's genuinely, intelligently positive. There's nothing negative about that.

After the Wedding

No. 201, $1.5-million; and The Savages, No. 250, $550,000, but rising. Two quite different films - one Danish and serene, one American and scruffy - but united in their wit and incisiveness, the detail in which they examine human relationships, and the loveliness of the acting in them. Fascinating things happen when estranged people start talking to each other; these movies prove that. (Indulge me while I squeeze in two runners-up: Zodiac, No. 69, $33-million. A reporter, a cop and an amateur stalk a serial killer, but it confounds all expectations of how a police procedural unfolds, and it's superbly acted by everyone in it. Rent it. And The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, currently No. 285 with $258,000, still in limited release. In his third feature as director, the painter Julian Schnabel transforms the post-stroke life of a French magazine editor into a waking dream. The human spirit, yowza. Don't be too squeamish to see it.) And finally: there Will Be Blood, not yet released so not rated. But I'm telling you, you won't see a sterner examination of ambition - its energy, glory, greed and destruction. It's rough going, so I expect its box office to be small. But its achievement, like all great films on all lists, no matter what they earn? Immeasurable.

Will Smith: The I Am Legend Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(December 21, 2007) *
Will Smith's stratospheric stature in showbiz has only been further enhanced by I Am Legend's record-setting $76.5 million weekend debut for a December release.

The sci-fi adventure marked his seventh straight flick that has opened in the #1 slot at the box office, a run which started with Ali and has also included The Pursuit of Happyness, Hitch, Bad Boys II, Men in Black II and I, Robot.

I Am Legend is the third big-screen adaptation (one, starring Vincent Price, the other, Charlton Heston) of Richard Matheson's post-apocalyptic best seller from 1954 about the desperate struggle of the last man on Earth to survive a scourge that has turned the rest of humanity in a cannibalistic race of zombies.

Here, Will shares his thoughts about the demands of playing virologist Robert Neville, a challenging role which placed him alone on screen for very long stretches at a time.

Kam Williams: Did you have any hesitation about approving a script that would have you carrying so much of the picture alone?

Will Smith: That was the terrifying part about even taking on this film, the idea that there were probably 80 pages of just me and a dog. I thought that although people had enjoyed me in a movie theatre before, this might be a little too much Will for anybody. So, I looked at it, and worked with Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich, the writers of the script. We studied POWs and a guy who had been in isolation in prison, and we found the things that could really create the texture of what that truly means to be by yourself. And the one thing we found that was across the board was schedule. The only way to maintain sanity is that you had to have a regimented schedule. That was the basis of how we tried to create my character in the movie, and then also the idea of his internal monologue. When you have no external stimulus, you lose the stimulus-response concept with your thoughts and feelings. A guy told us you that you forget the names of simple things, when you no
longer have the stimulus and response.  

KW: Did you think this film might be scary enough to warrant an R rating instead of the PG-13 it got?

WS: Fortunately, the MPAA gets to make that decision. So, you just show them the movie, and they decide what the rating is.

KW: Why did you decide to release a summer blockbuster-type action film during the holiday season?

WS: That involved a difficult decision-making process for me creatively. Akiva Goldsman and I posed some questions to one another. Why do the big movies come out in the summer, and the good movies come out in the Fall? Why are they separated? Is there any possibility that you could take both and marry those ideas? Take a big concept, yet put a person at the center of it, and follow a character through the reality of whatever that situation is. So, it was difficult, because we tried to commit to the small, artistic version that stayed true to the feeling and energy of the source material, and yet have that blockbuster package. We knew that people were going to be a little shocked by it in the theatre, but hoped that that'd turn out to be a good thing.

KW: Did you feel that it was financially risky to release a big-budgeted, CGI creature feature at Christmastime?

WS: I'm a student of the patterns of the universe. If I can figure out how something is seemingly risky, but I have the numbers on my side, I get really comfortable taking a leap. When I first came to Hollywood, I said to my manager, James Lassiter, "I want to be the biggest movie star in the world!" He said, "Okay, we should probably figure out what they do, and plot a course." So, he went and got the top ten movies of all time. We watched them to try to figure out what were the patterns. And ten out of ten of them were special effects movies. Nine out of ten were special effects movies with creatures. And eight out of ten were special effects movies with creatures and a love story. So, Independence Day was not really a hard call to make when you look at the numbers. Therefore, I Am Legend, in concept, is not a hard call to make. 

KW: If you really were the last man on Earth like your character, what would be the one item you'd want to have? 

WS: A pistol, because I'm out of here [Laughs].

KW: Did you read the book or watch either of the earlier screen adaptations of I Am Legend? 

WS: Yeah, I looked at both of them. And there are a couple versions of the book, also. The idea of being alone and the fear of the dark is such a primal concept. Every four year-old has thought about being separated from their family, and being alone, and it being dark, and what comes out of the dark. So, to me, the idea, in general, is in the collective unconscious. We're all keyed into these fears. As far as the other film versions, I felt we would be able to bring something new with this film because in the past there's never been this level of technology available to support the weight of this story.

KW: Who inspired you to believe in yourself as a child?

WS: My grandmother thought that I was just the greatest. She always had us playing the piano and kept us in the shows at church. And there was a look of pride that my grandmother would have in her eyes that became the fuel
that I need for life.  

KW: Would you describe yourself as a spiritual person?

WS: I believe absolutely, unquestionably that there are forces at work in the universe that science can't explain. And I think that there is an end to human knowledge. And at that end of human knowledge, beyond that into the unknown, we have to call it something in order for us to be able to talk about it. And if people didn't have to attach specific names to it, and want to argue and fight about it, I think that all across the board we could agree to call the unknown beyond what we know, say, The Higher Power. the X-Factor. God. Allah.. Let's just agree that there's something beyond what we know. Things happen that we can't control. There are things like Karma. Not to anthropomorphize, but there are mysteries that seem to have human qualities beyond what we understand. So, I absolutely believe, and I try to tap in and to become a surfer of the dial, to find that energy, whether it's prayer, or other things people do to try to connect to an energy that we all know is out there. So, yes, I believe there's an energy, yes, I try to connect to it, and yes, I try to use it and be in the good graces of that energy to have things in my life go the way I would like them to go. 

Behind Hollywood's Hottest Producers

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

(December 23, 2007) One has changed the way Hollywood makes comedies. The other is the king of the blockbusters. We talk with the men behind the laughs, explosions and big, big bucks.  Entertainment Weekly called Judd Apatow the smartest guy in Hollywood. He's redefining comedy with Knocked Up, Superbad, The 40 Year Old Virgin and the just-opened Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Judd Apatow

HOLLYWOOD – Judd Apatow is the smartest guy in Hollywood, according to Entertainment Weekly's recent list of the Top 50 Tinseltown brainiacs.

But don't think for one second that the man who is redefining comedy with Knocked Up, Superbad, The 40 Year Old Virgin and the just-opened Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is letting this go to his head.

"I don't really buy into a list like that," he deadpans.

"I was just telling No. 2, Steven Spielberg, that the other day. I was telling him that I don't necessarily think I'm smarter than No. 20, Ben Stiller, or No. 40, Sacha Baron Cohen, or No. 3, James Cameron. I think these lists are ridiculous. As I told Meryl Streep, No. 7 ..."

Apatow may resist having a number put on him – the one he most dislikes is 40, the age he just turned – but it's even harder to pin down exactly who and what he is. For the most part, he's a movie producer, with five pictures planned for release between now and the end of 2008, and another five in development.

He's also a movie and TV director, with Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin and cult TV fave Freaks and Geeks among his credits. Apatow also has screenwriter status for many of his projects.

He's become such a big shot in such a relatively short time, it's hard to believe his ambition growing up in the hamlet of Syosset, N.Y., was to be a stand-up comedian. Just like his pal Jim Carrey, the Canuck comic whom Apatow used to open for during Carrey's own stand-up career.

"The only time I performed in Toronto was when we shot Jim Carrey's Showtime special, Jim Carrey's Unnatural Act. I did the warm-up at the taping in the early '90s."

Apatow learned from about nine years on the stand-up grind that his personality isn't distinctive or memorable enough for the spotlight.

He does have a knack for disappearing in a room, possibly due to his penchant to be mistaken for a member of the tech crew with his favoured look of scruffy beard, T-shirt and jeans.

He's so good at being a regular guy, he often has to good-naturedly explain to people that yes, he is married to glamorous actress Leslie Mann, whom he met on the set of The Cable Guy, the 1996 Carrey comedy Apatow produced and co-wrote. Apatow and Mann have two young daughters, who played Mann's scene-stealing children in Knocked Up.

"I was a person who would write jokes for comedians early in my career or try to help execute other people's visions," Apatow says, offering a quick verbal resumé to explain his success.

"I co-created The Ben Stiller Show, the sketch show for Fox in the early '90s. I wrote jokes for Jim Carrey and Garry Shandling and I wrote for The Larry Sanders Show. But only in the last few years have I tried to define my own sense of humour and do things that are more personal in my own work. That started, really, with Freaks and Geeks, but more so with The 40 Year Old Virgin."

The personal vision Apatow refers to has made him a wealthy and powerful man, and changed the way Hollywood makes comedies. It's a one-two punch that allows him to get big laughs and make big money from low-budget movies with no A-list stars, using yuks that are both sincere and gross.

Apatow is the guy who managed to get a full-frontal birth scene into Knocked Up, something you usually only see in the most clinical of documentaries.

And now he's been chuckling about testing the audience's squirm factor for a totally gratuitous full-frontal male nude shot in Walk Hard, a parody of musical biopics starring John C. Reilly.

"I'm trying to get across certain philosophies of life through humour. The humour is most important, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't have something on my mind or something to say.

"I went through a lot of struggles having children and having a wife and growing up. A lot of it was the best times of my life but also really difficult times. I think a lot of people go through it, so it's something people connect to.

"I never thought my whole life was interesting."

As for the gross stuff, like the penis gag in Walk Hard, it's nowhere as bad as the slimy one-upmanship so common in movies starring Apatow's pal Stiller or former roommate Adam Sandler, both of whom he met on the comedy circuit.

Apatow does like to shock people, but he stops short of cruelty or gag-inducing material.

"I always think you can show bad behaviour as long as the point of it is to show that it is bad behaviour. And you can laugh at bad behaviour.

"What's funny is some people see all the immaturity in it and say the movie's immature. But that isn't what it's about. It's about showing where people start and what they evolve out of.

"There's nothing funnier than immature behaviour."

Canadians Page, Gosling pick up SAG nods

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - David Germain, The Associated Press

(December 20, 2007)  LOS ANGELES — The road-trip drama Into the Wild led contenders Thursday with four
Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, while Canadians Ellen Page and Ryan Gosling picked up top acting honours.

Into the Wild's lead actor Emile Hirsch was nominated as best actor for his role as fierce idealist Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate who abandoned a cozy life and took to the road for two years, coming to a tragic end in the Alaska wilderness in the 1990s.

The film's supporting players Hal Holbrook and Catherine Keener also got nods.

Directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild also was nominated for performance by its overall cast, along with the western 3:10 to Yuma, the crime sagas American Gangster and No Country for Old Men, and the musical Hairspray.

Page, who lives in Halifax, was nominated for best actress for her role as a whipsmart pregnant teen in Juno, while London, Ont.-born Gosling picked up a best actor nod for playing a social misfit with a life-size doll for a girlfriend in Lars and the Real Girl.

Conspicuously absent from the guild field was the British romantic melodrama Atonement, which was shut out after leading the Golden Globe nominations a week earlier with five nominations.

Other best-actor nominees were George Clooney as a conscience-stricken lawyer in Michael Clayton, Daniel Day-Lewis as an oil baron in There Will Be Blood and Viggo Mortensen as a Russian mobster in Eastern Promises.

Also nominated for best actress were Cate Blanchett as the British monarch in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Julie Christie as a woman fading from Alzheimer's in Away From Her, Marion Cotillard as singer Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, and Angelina Jolie as journalist Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart.

Blanchett also was nominated for supporting actress as an incarnation of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There, a fanciful film biography featuring six different performers playing variations of the musician.

Guild awards will be presented Jan. 27 in a ceremony televised on TNT and TBS.

The guild choices solidified prospects for many performers to compete at Hollywood's big prizes, the Academy Awards, whose nominations come out Jan. 22. But as with the snub of Atonement, they also further clouded the field in an unusual year when no clear favourites have emerged.

Though critically acclaimed, “Into the Wild” was shut out on acting nominations for the Golden Globes.

Along with Keener and Holbrook, whose characters become surrogate family for Hirsch's McCandless, the guild supporting line-up included two others overlooked by the Globes: Tommy Lee Jones as a wayworn sheriff in No Country for Old Men and Ruby Dee as mother to Denzel Washington's crime overlord in American Gangster.

Jones will compete against No Country for Old Men co-star Javier Bardem, who may be the closest thing to an Oscar front-runner at this point for his electrifying performance as a ruthless killer tracking a missing cache of drug money.

Unlike the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, which face turmoil caused by striking Hollywood writers, the guild awards look as though they can come off as planned. With actors showing strong solidarity on strike issues, SAG has reached an agreement with the Writers Guild of America for one of its members to write the ceremony.

If the strike that began last month lingers, though, the Globes on Jan. 13 and Oscars on Feb. 24 face possible protests by striking writers, and stars may stay away rather than cross picket lines.

The Writers Guild rejected a request from Globe organizers to allow striking writers to work on that show. Oscar organizers have not yet asked for a similar waiver but face the same prospect.

Actors guild winners often go on to win Oscars, including three from 2006: lead performers Helen Mirren for The Queen and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland were the guild and Oscar winners, as was supporting-actress Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls. Guild supporting-actor winner Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls lost at the Oscars to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine.

Little Miss Sunshine won the guild prize for overall acting ensemble, SAG's equivalent of a best-picture honour, while The Departed won best picture at the Oscars.

Film and TV nominees were chosen by two groups of 2,100 people randomly chosen from the guild's 120,000 members. The guild's full membership is eligible to vote for winners.


Adewale Plays With 'G.I. Joe'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Tarice L.S. Grey

(December 21, 2007) *
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, last seen as Mr. Eko on the ABC series "Lost," has been cast in a forthcoming live action movie based on the military doll, comic book and cartoon series, "G.I. Joe." The original cartoon featured military soldiers fighting a terrorist group called Cobra, with characters like the mute ninja Snake Eyes (Park) among the good guys.  In the upcoming Paramount production, "G.I. Joe" stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, an international force of operatives set in Brussels. Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a British born actor of Nigerian descent, will play an ordnance expert in the Stephen Sommers-directed project.    Rachel Nichols will play a skilled martial artist who specializes in hand-to-hand combat and counterintelligence. Said Taghmaoui ("The Kite Runner") has signed on to portray the team's communications specialist, while Diddy's one-time rumoured flame Sienna Miller will play the Baroness, known for her espionage skills.   "G.I. Joe" is slated for release in August 2009.

Essence To Honour Jada Pinkett Smith

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 20, 2007) *Actress, director, producer and screenwriter,
Jada Pinkett Smith, will be one of the three extraordinary African-American women honoured during the inaugural Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, to be held in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 21.  The star-studded event will salute Pinkett Smith as one of three honourees who have helped to change and inspire positive images of black women in television and film—both in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes.    Pinkett Smith will receive an award in the Film category, while other honourees to be awarded in the categories of Television and Lifetime Achievement will be announced in the near future.   The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon commemorates Essence magazine’s annual Hollywood issue.

Jesse L. Martin, Tracie Thoms In New Drama

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 20, 2007) *
Jesse L. Martin and Tracie Thoms will play a married couple in the forthcoming romantic drama, "Peter and Vandy" for Cook Street Prods. The actors, however, are not Peter and Vandy. Those roles were nabbed by Jason Ritter and Jess Weixler, who play a young Manhattan couple in a story about the ups and downs of their romantic relationship.  The film shifts back and forth in time from their beginnings and increasingly manipulative behaviour to their ultimate reconciliation. Martin has been cast in the role of Peter's best friend, Paul, while Thoms will portray his wife, Marissa. "Law & Order" regular Martin starred in "Rent" and will play Marvin Gaye in the planned biopic "Sexual Healing." Thoms also starred in "Rent" and has appeared in such features as "Grindhouse" and "The Devil Wears Prada."


Green Bringing His Live 'Web-O-Vision' Comedy Show To TV

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(December 20, 2007)  VANCOUVER — 'Rex Murphy is going crazy,"
Tom Green said this week from his home in Los Angeles, referring not to the CBC commentator (and Globe and Mail columnist) but to his own pet green-winged macaw, squawking loudly and interrupting Green's thoughts on comedy, television and second chances.

Green is spending a lot of time at home these days, where he has been hosting a live online talk show - a program he is now preparing for television. Tom Green's House Tonight will premiere on The Comedy Network across Canada on Jan. 7 (it is also being syndicated in the United States). Until now, the show has existed only as a nightly live Web broadcast called Tom Green Live.

You'll forgive Green if he's feeling a sense of déjà vu. He has made the jump to the Comedy Network before - in 1997, when the network picked up the talk show he had developed at a community television station in Ottawa. The Tom Green Show, featuring pranks, stunts and celebrity guests, ultimately went on to MTV in the United States, making Green a bona fide Hollywood star. "Oh man, it was really exciting," he says. "I got to do things I would never have imagined I'd get to do. I grew up just a huge fan of David Letterman and ... all of a sudden I was on the David Letterman show and on Jay Leno. It's been awesome."

Green, now 36, is preparing to make that jump to mainstream television once again, but he is no longer the twentysomething star-struck newcomer. "When you're first starting in television and you're suddenly sort of thrust into the spotlight like that, it can be pretty stressful and it can be kind of hard to know how to handle a lot of that attention," he says. "It can be a distraction. It can take your mind off what you're really supposed to be doing, which is having a good time, making a funny show that people want to watch."

In between that first jump to television and this one, Green has dealt with testicular cancer, divorce (from Drew Barrymore), a critical lambasting of his feature-film directorial debut Freddy Got Fingered, a short-lived relaunch of his talk show on MTV and a general fall from Hollywood grace.

His excitement this time around appears to be tempered by experience and, dare we say it, maturity. "I've learned a lot over the last few years and now I can apply it again from a different perspective and really try to make a really fun, interesting show."

The online show Tom Green Live has a deliberately grassroots feel. "Thanks for calling the living room here," he says to callers (yes, the show is broadcast from a studio built into his living room). He asks viewers to send him things so he can auction them on eBay and use the cash to improve the bare-bones set. Yet the show has attracted some fairly big names, including Val Kilmer, Crispin Glover and Pamela Anderson.

The "Web-o-vision" program is downloaded by millions each month from Green's website (http://www.tomgreen.com). Come January, it will be the first show, Green says proudly, that will be broadcast on television and the Internet on the same day, in the same format.

The studio's technology is being upgraded and the set revamped in preparation for the TV launch. Green seems particularly jazzed about new birch panelling. "It's exciting to be backed by such a great wood," he said during a recent Web preview of the new set, called The Construction Special. "Is that Canadian birch?" he asks the workers behind him. (There are Canadian references aplenty; note pet-bird name, above.)

But Green says the TV exposure is a bonus and not integral to what he does. He has attracted big-bucks advertisers to his online show (Budweiser, Samsung) and that has given him a sense of independence he never felt in his MTV heyday.

"It's always a little stressful working in television when you're kind of living under this sort of threat of cancellation or ratings ... whereas here I can basically just do the show for as long as I want and people tune in if they want to tune in. If they don't want to tune in, they don't tune in. But I can just continue to experiment and grow the show."

Tom Green's House Tonight premieres on the Comedy Network on Jan. 7 at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

Strikes, Flops, Angst, Egos – And Some Great TV

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - John Doyle

(December 21, 2007) It was a surreal, singular year in television. It was a year of stop-start-stop developments, both on the screen and behind the scenes. It was a year in which events served to underline the shifting economics of the business and the vagabond viewing habits of viewers.

For all the background noise, the machinations and distracting disruptions, it was an excellent year for what matters:
TV drama and comedy, both here and in the United States. For a start, cable drama continued to evolve as the most important, substantial form of contemporary storytelling and, even in a disjointed new season, network TV provided compelling quality programs.

Back in January, when U.S. network execs spoke to assembled TV critics in Los Angeles, the mood was confessional, the attitude was tough. Several highly praised and heavily promoted dramas – The Nine, Six Degrees and Day Break – had failed to find sufficient viewers. Thus, serious shows driven by ongoing storylines were dead. Viewers couldn't stick with the shows, couldn't commit. The new mantra of network execs was, “Moving forward.…”

Eleven months later, nobody is moving forward. The strike by the Writers Guild of America has shut down TV production, and the only movement is by writers and their actor and director allies going around and around in circles on the picket lines.

Here in Canada, the year began with the debut of Little Mosque on the Prairie. After an astonishing amount of hype, initially generated by puzzled U.S. coverage – “a comedy about Muslims!” – Little Mosque did very well with viewers. CBC executives started crowing. Eleven months later, they're still crowing about Little Mosque.

In truth, nobody can blame them. It was a very difficult year for the TV industry in Canada, more fraught than usual. In January, 21,000 members of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) were officially on strike in three provinces. TV, film and radio production didn't shut down, because many productions had signed “continuation letters,” allowing production to continue during negotiations.

Those negotiations, with an alliance of Canadian producers, were tough and offered a foreshadowing of what would be the biggest story in TV this year – the American writers strike. The contentious issue in Canada was payment for use of material on the Internet. Observers from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in the U.S. were in Canada, watching the talks closely. They knew that negotiations with U.S. writers, directors and actors would hinge on Internet payment. As it turned out, few in Canada were happy with the eventual deal. But as talks broke down in the U.S. in December, what was being offered to writers was – at least from what observers in Canada could glean – less than that granted to Canadian performers.

Then there was the murky business of threats to withdraw funding to the Canadian Television Fund. Shaw Cable made considerable noise about the issue, even as it was clear that cable companies are mandated to provide funds to the CTF. The upshot was an investigation of the CTF, recommendations about change, and still more threats from the cable industry. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission got a new chairman in Konrad von Finckenstein, who signalled he was interested in less regulation, not more. This caused ever more worry for those who make TV in Canada. The key issue in Canadian TV – the need for more hour-long dramas to be made and aired – remains unresolved.

Yet for all the change and angst, great TV was made here. Durham County, a superb adult miniseries, aired to acclaim on the Movie Network and Movie Central. Those who don't have pay TV can see it on Global next year.

The attention given to Little Mosque caused Canadian-made TV to be newsworthy; the CBC show even poached several writers from CTV's Corner Gas to help with its second season. Regrettably, Little Mosque has largely failed to find the right degree of memorable comedy in its second season. But Corner Gas has managed to be vastly entertaining, week after week.

Intelligence returned to CBC and was rightly called, by some, the best drama on TV. Although it failed to find that magical number of one million viewers, it certainly satisfied its loyal audience.

If there was an overriding theme to American-made TV, it was a questioning rage, a sense of alienation from the promises of the American dream. The final season of The Sopranos was provocatively called Made in America by its creator, and The Riches opened with a key question – What would the thieving family steal? – with the answer being “the American dream.”

The superb Mad Men, from the cable channel American Movie Classics, is about the year 1960, the cusp of the Kennedy years. It offered a startling picture of how much has changed, on the surface, since then, but how little had shifted in the brooding needs of middle-class Americans.

When the 2007-08 U.S. network season was launched, the most talked-about new series were Bionic Woman, a rejigging of the 1970s series, and Private Practice, a Grey's Anatomy spinoff. Only the latter clicked with viewers. The best dramas to emerge were Pushing Daisies and Life. Daisies looked sumptuous and felt droll while Life turned the standard cop drama on its head by having an exonerated ex-con as the hero.

Then everything stopped as the writers hit the picket lines. This TV year has been one of the strangest ever, but a strong one for anyone seeking quality and substance. The evolution of television as a forum for artistic, meaningful storytelling continued, even as the industry stopped and started and stopped again.

Scott Baio Is ... Changing His Ways

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, TV Critic

(December 23, 2007)
Scott Baio is 46 ... and Pregnant.

But not yet. Not here, anyway.

First we have to get through the initial seven-episode season of Scott Baio is 45 ... and Single, which debuts tonight on MuchMoreMusic with a one-hour premiere at 10.

The VH1 series is part of a new 90-minute "celebreality" block, sandwiched in between bulk-to-bulk episodes of Hogan Knows Best (which he apparently doesn't, having since separated from wife Linda, who co-stars) at 9 and 9:30 and The Salt-N-Pepa Show at 11.

The change in title for the series' second season, which debuts next month in the U.S., pretty much defines the difference between the show's first and second year:

After a year of soul-searching and revisiting his impressively extensive romantic past, the middle-aged former teen idol star of Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge has finally settled down, earlier this month marrying girlfriend Renee Sloan, mother of their newborn daughter.

"The second series ends with either a birth or a wedding," Baio said in a phone interview last week. "I'm not telling you which."

To any red-blooded North American male, the question is not so much when Baio got married as why.

Look at this list of conquests: Pamela Anderson. Brooke Shields. Heather Locklear. Nicollette Sheridan. Erika Eleniak ... Not to mention just about all of his leading ladies, including Erin "Joanie" Moran (his "first") and Charles charge Nicole Eggert.

Even his childhood co-star in Bugsy Malone, Jodie Foster, has since admitted to a major crush – in light of recent disclosures, very likely her last of a heterosexual nature.

"Yeah," Baio laughed. "I think I turned her."

The point is, with a hitting record like this, why on earth would the guy be hanging up his bat?

"I can't argue with you," Baio conceded.

"Retrospectively, that (list) is pretty staggering. It's one of those things where somebody writes about it, and you think, `Did I really date all those women?' And then I remember there's a whole bunch that were left out. It's pretty cool.

"They were beautiful," he allowed. "They were all great. But my beef was, it was always them – they were always the ones with some sort of problem. And at a certain point, you wake up and you go, `Well, it can't be all of them. That's impossible. One of them had to be all right.' And so it turns to you."

Baio's journey of relationship revelation, revisiting old girlfriends – not unlike Bill Murray's character in Broken Flowers, or John Cusack's in High Fidelity – became Scott Baio is 45 ... and Single at the suggestion of his friend and producer, and fellow former teen actor, Jason Hervey (the bullying big brother of Wonder Years).

"The first season is (all about) trying to find out what's wrong with me," Baio confirmed.

"Going back to those women ... which by the way was very scary. I thought some of them were going to hit me. One of them almost did hit me."

The second season, he said, "is more about living with a pregnant woman."

Why did he do it? "It was a lot of things," he sighed. "I was getting tired of that (single) life. I guess I was ready. I mean, yes, of course, I love her. But I've been in love before – don't get me wrong, but that's not that big a deal. But she was the only woman I had been with that didn't want to change me.

"I'm not knocking women, but they do tend to put a lot of restrictions on a guy. Especially a guy like me. It's always, like, `You're playing golf again?' Renee loads up my car with the clubs and says, `Get out.' She's just a great chick."

Baio's a little less glib though – indeed, almost at a loss for words – when he starts to talk about their daughter.

"When you have a child ... I mean, the way that (Renee) interacts with that baby ... it just goes to a whole different level."

Scott Baio is 46 ... and finally growing up.

The Quest For Perfect TV Ads

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Peter Goddard, Entertainment Columnist

(December 23, 2007) Frank and Gordon, Bell's ubiquitous sales-rodents, sure gnawed the big one this year. They weren't alone, either. If Bell's spots lacked originality and humour, it only meant they were on par with cellphone spots in general – and most other TV commercials as well.

It wasn't a good year for TV ads, whatever holiday sales are tallied. We know this because beer spots tanked, an unthinkable prospect in the past. We really know this because Super Bowl ads were the worst in recent memory. (The actual football game, featuring the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, was way better. What does that portend?) We know this because the best spots – for workplace safety, say – were the grim-and bear-it efforts. Grim can be good. Messages can be powerful. Nevertheless a lot of ad wit went missing this year.

There weren't even any brilliant, sexy international ad-outrages that eventually force North American ads to get better. Okay, in France, Orangina's sales pitch incorporated pole dancing cyber she-wolves, with enormous bobbling digital breasts. But that's France. In England, the Spice Girls were brought together to hustle Christmas gear on TV. 'Twas the season to yawn.

Is this the beginning of the end of the TV commercial? Britney Spears will be playing Mother Teresa for HBO before that happens. Nevertheless something brash, emotional and challenging – remember the Molson "Rant" or those cheeky early Volkswagen spots? – went missing this year.

A few goodies could be found in tube-land, though. Here are our picks for some of the best.

1. Dove's "Onslaught." The hottest ad of the year is also one of the most controversial. Here's Dove, a beauty products maker, pulling out all the stops to warn Dove-buyers to "talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does." Isn't this already the beauty industry doing the talking? (Dove is owned by Unilever.) Before the warning, we're barraged in best ad-industry manner – by Toronto's Ogilvy & Mather agency – with an absolute feast of fabulous music, cranked sound and hot clips showing the surgical lengths young women feel driven to go to get "younger, smarter, tighter." You can criticize this ad as much as you have to let it wash over you. But you can't hate it. And you won't forget it. And that's the point. (Watch it.)

2: The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board's injured workers spots. Blown out of a window in a freak industrial accident, a guy lands with a sickening thud on the concrete. An apprentice chef writhes in pain, her appealing face fried in an explosion of hot grease. But wait. Any episode of CSI shows lots more pain and gore. It's called acting, make-up and special effects. What gives the WSIB spots their power is how the pain is explained – and why. Calmly and rationally, the victims, shown before the accident, describe what will happen to them. Deemed too graphic to be shown on public transit in Windsor, the campaign delivers its message with a vengeance: "Lack of training can kill." (See sidebar)

3. Xbox 360's "Parking Lot," Guitar Hero III. The entire Guitar Hero ad campaign has done more to revive interest in classic rock – in classic rock guitar, for sure– than all the veteran rock bands now touring. The best of the lot is also the most mysterious. From all corners of a mostly vacant parking lot, people begin to converge. A table is produced. In the distance we hear a swinging children's choir sing Poison's '80s rock anthem, "Nothin' But a Good Time." Out of nowhere, a rather abashed-looking woman and a guy find themselves holding guitars. They look as if they weren't exactly sure how they got the instruments. But just as they're about to crank it, the commercial ends. Fabulous.

4. Toronto Rehab's "The Finger." As controversial as the WSIB spots, this devastatingly simple commercial shows Colby, a young man, his entire body immobile after a terrible snowboarding accident, try to give the finger – it shakes ever so slightly – to anyone who thinks he hasn't a chance of recovery. "We've had complaints," says one Toronto Rehab insider. "People thought it was rude." The people were right. Rude says something. And because of that, Toronto Rehab is right, too.

5. Oxfam's Unwrapped spots. Smart, not glamorous, these commercials urge watchers to "give" an animal – a herd of shaggy llamas are shown on TV, a goat is mentioned on radio – to someone who could use it in the developing world. Here's a great eco-friendly notion brought to gift-giving. The World Wildlife Fund, Christian Aid and other charities are involved in parallel animal-gifting campaigns.

6. Blockbuster's "movie-quote" family-at-home ad. In the hope of hustling a lot of vintage film titles over the holiday season, Blockbuster piles on the mashed potatoes in a family setting in which you hear references to some 30 famous flicks, with lines such as, "you talkin' to me?" and "pay the man his money" and "Stella!"

7. Adidas's "Impossible Is Nothing." Because competition is the name with any 30-second spot, marketing types have a sense of how to use celebrity jocks effectively. But Adidas takes it to a different plane, showing the likes of Reggie Bush and David Beckham talking about obstacles they had to over come while making some child-like sketches of themselves in a translucent screen between them and the camera. (A technique made famous in 1956, with The Mystery of Picasso, for which French director Henri-Georges Clouzot filmed the painter at work.) Lionel Messi, the Argentine soccer prodigy playing for Barcelona, is the best of the illustrious crew as he explains how a human growth hormone problem he had helped his sharpen his ball-handling skills, It helps that Messi, 20, doesn't look much older than the little kid he's drawing.

8. Apple Macintosh Computers Mac-vs.-PC spots. Hipster Mac and squares-ville PC have been going at it all year with the cool, better-looking Mac always emerging the winner. The animated Christmas spot continues the trend. Goofy old PC, ever the klutz, actually changes a line in the tune "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," to "he sees when you're in sleep mode." I liked this spot so much I went right out and bought a PC. He's my kind of nerd.

9. RBC's Local Hockey Leaders. There's the gnarled, ageless volunteer carpenter at your local rink working away tirelessly. Saluted because he created a special dressing room for a female player, the old boy shows he's not behind the times – like RBC maybe?

10. Joe Thornton for TSN. Where's this guy been all these years? It's been a TSN tradition to use the most wooden hockey stars to hustle the network. Yet here's the San Jose Shark centre, shooting pool with the confidence of a pro, saying "it was so cool" to play for the Canadian juniors years ago. It's part of the campaign to hustle the upcoming IHF world junior games from the Czech Republic. Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer are also being used but Thornton's the natural.


Tina Turner Writes Autobiographical Musical

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 20, 2007) *The New York Post is reporting that
Tina Turner has written an autobiographical musical titled "Simply the Best," which will follow her rise to fame, the abuse suffered under ex-husband Ike Turner and her belief that he is the reincarnation of the tyrannical Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III.

 As the Post puts it: "Simply the Best" portrays Ike Turner as a gun-wielding, cocaine-sniffing, wife-beating monster whose signature line is: "That b*tch will taste my wrath like it's her own saliva!"

 The musical is aiming for London production next year before heading to Broadway, the Post reports. It will feature music from Tina Turner's back catalogue to narrate her journey from Nutbush, Tenn. to superstardom. Among the songs in the show are "Nutbush City Limits," "I Can't Stand the Rain," "Let's Stay Together," "Private Dancer" and "What's Love Got To Do With It?"

 The Post reports: "A top-secret workshop of the musical was staged a year ago in London. No auditions were held. Theatre agents received discreet phone calls inviting their clients to take part in a 'rehearsed reading of a new musical.'

 "The actors got the script the day before the reading. When they arrived at a dingy rehearsal studio in southeast London, they were shocked to find Turner, in full-diva regalia, there to greet them." 

 A source tells the Post of Turner: "She was every inch the star, but charming and gracious and overwhelmed by the reading."

 A casting director for the show snuck into New York to scout Fantasia in "The Color Purple," as a possibility to play Tina, according to the Post. "Word is he was knocked out by her performance, though there's some concern she isn't sexy enough to play Turner," the newspaper reports.

 "Simply the Best" – which closely mirrors the structure followed in Tina's autobiographical film "What's Love Got to Do With It" – takes a curious turn when the setting shifts to Ancient Egypt.

 According to the Post, "Tina believes she's the reincarnation of Hatshepsut, whose reign from 1479 to 1458 B.C. was prosperous and peaceful. Hatshepsut prevented her evil stepson, Thutmose III (that's Ike), from assuming the throne (though he seized it when she died).  The Egyptian queen watches over Tina. When Ike pulls a gun on Tina, Hatshepsut shields her and the gun 'leaps' out of Ike's hand (special effects!)."

Was Theatre Half Full, Or Half Empty In '07?

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

(December 26, 2007) For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground And tell sad stories of the death of kings.
Shakespeare, Richard II; Act III, Scene 2

Like a tornado tearing through a historic town, 2007 ploughed across the theatrical landscape of Ontario and changed the face of it forever.

During the summer alone, we suffered the death of giants like William Hutt, Ed Mirvish and Bluma Appel.

And then there were the other kind of farewells, with artistic leaders like Richard Monette leaving Stratford and Layne Coleman departing Theatre Passe Muraille, both after lengthy stays.

Cynthia Dale stepped down after 10 years as Stratford's leading musical star and Daniel MacIvor shuttered the lens on his da da kamera theatre company after two decades of brilliant creativity.

So many goodbyes to be said. No wonder the overall tone for the year was elegiac rather than celebratory.

True, there were still some joyous anniversaries to be marked as well: 100 years for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, and 40 years each for Theatre francais de Toronto and Theatre Passe Muraille.

Oh yes, there were rebirths, with Aubrey Dan rising up to challenge the long-standing Mirvish monopoly in commercial theatre, Jeffrey Latimer bringing back Evil Dead as the surprise hit of the summer and, of course, over at the Stratford Festival, the team christened "The Fantastic Four" – made up of Antoni Cimolino, Des McAnuff, Marti Maraden and Don Shipley – prepared their plans for 2008.

But as one looks back at the countryside and notes the landmarks, great and small, the death of William Hutt from leukemia at age 87 on June 27 probably remains the single defining event of the year.

Not only was he the greatest actor of his generation, but he had come to stand for a certain kind of quality, a belief in standards, that everyone looked up to. His loss made us realize that there was no logical successor, no one ready to take his place ... and that was a frightening thought.

Ed Mirvish had transformed Toronto's downtown core and set up a viable commercial theatre where none had existed before. His son David had been carrying the torch in tandem with him for years and so there was no question of the tradition faltering, but we all would miss the grand warm-hearted individual behind the scenes.

What did Richard Monette's departure mean after 14 seasons at the Stratford Festival? On the positive side, he left them sailing comfortably on a sea of black ink, having delivered a surplus every year.

But many felt that stability came at the cost of show quality and that the very real achievements of Monette's early years were diminished by the Falstaffian excesses of his later ones.

Layne Coleman's history at Passe Muraille was similarly chequered. Yes, he brought The Drawer Boy to life and offered Da Kink in My Hair one of its major stepping stones, but too much else of his program failed to connect with any kind of audience and the place was about to close its doors due to financial troubles until the city came to its rescue. Let's hope new boss Andy McKim truly makes a new start.

Elsewhere around the city, things were uneven, but there were high points to remember.

Tarragon had some of the most truly impressive shows (Scorched, East of Berlin, How It Works), while Soulpepper gave us a daring Threepenny Opera and a solidly moving Leaving Home.

But except for an imported Half Life and a revival of The Overcoat, Canadian Stage had little to cheer about, although Buddies in Bad Times had some superb moments with their MacIvor farewell series and Factory gave us something to remember with The Four Horseman Project.

Our festivals didn't really dazzle, although Shaw's Mack and Mabel featured a starry turn from Benedict Campbell and The Circle was glossy class personified.

Stratford's Oklahoma! was a winner; its best other show was a mind-blowing production of David Edgar's political drama Pentecost.

And on the commercial front, We Will Rock You and Dirty Dancing packed houses for the Mirvishes, proving that our city could sustain a long-run hit if the show was right.

But there's no question that we're at a crossroads. Watch closely as the curtain rises on another year.



Kobe Is Youngest Member Of NBA's 20,000 Club

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 26, 2007) *Los Angeles Lakers guard
Kobe Bryant joined elite members of the NBA Sunday when his 39 points against the New York Knicks made him the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points. With 20,019 points following the Lakers' 95-90 road win, Bryant reached the milestone at age 29 years, 122 days, surpassing NBA greats Wilt Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29 years, 326 days). He reached 20,000 points on a three-pointer with 11:08 left in the third quarter of Sunday's game at Madison Square Garden. "It is special to do it here," Bryant told reporters after connecting on 14 of 28 field goal attempts, including five of 12 three-pointers. He also had 11 rebounds and eight assists. "The culture of basketball here, it is the Mecca, it is special to play in Madison Square Garden. This is my favourite place to play."