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


December 6, 2007

Only 19 days to go until Christmas for those of us that celebrate it - a break in this busy time is also something to look forward to!

The Gospel Christmas Project is a must-see show - in Ottawa on Dec. 21st and Toronto on Dec. 22nd.  Have you purchased your tickets yet?  No?  Why not purchase tickets and give to someone for a gift?  The Aroni Awards offer the unsung heroes of our community special recognition - have you checked out who the exciting guests are!?

I'm so excited to tell you about the reunion of friends and artists alike for this festive season in a showcase of showcases at the
Monday Night VIP Jam reunion at Revival on December 17th! 

And a special announcement on the social scene,
Chef Anthony Mair joins the crew at Harlem - think about attending their New Year's Eve bash! 



Monday Night Revival Jam Reunion – Monday, December 17, 2007

Yes, that’s right folks – all the original players – Shamakah Ali
(percussion), Rich Brown (Host and bass), Joel Joseph, (keys) Anthony Wright (sax), Alexis Baro (trumpet) and Dane Hartsell (Guitar) will be reuniting on Monday, December 17th at Revival for a festive version of VIP Jam!!  Many special guests will be joining this famous crew as well!

Did you ever go to the Monday night jams at
Revival?  Practically every big visiting artist would stop by and hit the stage with our amazing Toronto musicians!  It was such a great vibe and very well-attended.  Well, now it’s time for the REUNION! 

cover but PLEASE be generous during this needy time of year as we are collecting food for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Check out the best of R&B, funk, rock and blues this holiday season! 

783 College St. (at Shaw)
9:00 pm

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

Source:  Andrew Craig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Night Revival Jam Reunion – Monday, December 17, 2007

Yes, that’s right folks – all the original players – Shamakah Ali
(percussion), Rich Brown (Host and bass), Joel Joseph, (keys) Anthony Wright (sax), Alexis Baro (trumpet) and Dane Hartsell (Guitar) will be reuniting on Monday, December 17th at Revival for a festive version of VIP Jam!!  Many special guests will be joining this famous crew as well!

Did you ever go to the Monday night jams at
Revival?  Practically every big visiting artist would stop by and hit the stage with our amazing Toronto musicians!  It was such a great vibe and very well-attended.  Well, now it’s time for the REUNION! 

cover but PLEASE be generous during this needy time of year as we are collecting food for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Check out the best of R&B, funk, rock and blues this holiday season! 

783 College St. (at Shaw)
9:00 pm


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.

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



Artists Cope With Ethnic Differences

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

(December 04, 2007) From the bhangra jams in Mississauga to salsa dancing at Yonge and Eglinton to the sold-out Japanese pop concert that nobody outside the Japanese community hears about,
Toronto's arts culture is vibrant mix of all the people that call the GTA home.

Today, as Statistics Canada releases its 2006 Census report on language, mobility and immigration, we look at how art and multiculturalism plays out in this city.

While Sudan native Waleed Abdulhamid, who belongs to several bands with members from different countries, is an example of the meshing of different cultures, there is Croatian rocker Marko Perkovic, a.k.a Thompson, to illustrate that culture can also be divisive when disputes from the homeland migrate here.

Perkovic's concert scheduled for Toronto last month was cancelled at two local venues and forced to relocate to a secret location out of the city because Serbian groups objected to his nationalist lyrics, which some call racist.

Everyone knows that ingredients from around the world blend well when it comes to food in the
GTA. But in talking to various entertainers, it's clear it is much harder to build bridges between cultures across the lines of film, music, visual art and theatre.

We chatted with four artists about their backgrounds and attempts to decipher some of the issues of cultural acceptance within the multicultural stew we call home.

Toronto Roots Musicians Snag Prizes

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

(December 03, 2007) Violinist/songwriter Anne Lindsay and the Creaking Tree String Quartet, both staples of the Toronto roots music scene, were multiple winners in instrumental categories in the third annual
Canadian Folk Music Awards Saturday night at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que.

Lindsay, who records and performs regularly with Blue Rodeo, the Jim Cuddy Band and Celtic balladeer John McDermott, and was a featured instrumentalist in the stage production of The Lord of the Rings during its Toronto run, received the Best Instrumentalist (Solo) award for her sophomore album News From Up the Street.

Lindsay and violinist/composer Oliver Schroer also won the Producer of the Year award for their work on the album.

For their CD The Soundtrack, jazz/newgrass/folk/chamber music ensemble the Creaking Tree String Quartet received Best Instrumentalist (Group) and the Pushing the Boundaries award – the latter for the second time in three years. Best Contemporary Album honours went to Grammy-nominated Winnipeg acoustic band The Duhks for its album Migrations.

Other prizes handed out included: Best Traditional Album: La Part du Queteux of Quebec

Best Ensemble: Quebec folk band Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer

Best Songwriter (English): Oh Susanna (Suzie Ungerleider) of Toronto

Best Songwriter (French): Hugo Fleury of Quebec.

Best Songwriter (Aboriginal): Sandy Scofield of Vancouver

Best Solo Artist: Sarah Noni Metzner of Toronto (formerly Vancouver)

Best Vocal Group: Tanglefoot of southern Ontario.

The concert gala, with performances by Sylvia Tyson, The Duhks, Florent Vollant, Ron Hynes, Ian Tamblyn, T. Nile, Vishten and Galitcha, will air on
CBC Radio Two Friday at 8 p.m.

Canadianfolkmusicawards.ca has a complete winners' list.

Exclusive Interview With Andre’ Braugher

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore

(November 29, 2007) *
Andre Braugher considers himself a private person and admits you will not read that much about him in the tabloids. As one of our best actors to grace a stage or screen, it was indeed a pleasure to get some one on one time with Braugher. 

It is not just happenstance that Braugher became an actor. He defied his parents wishes to become an actor. As a college student studying engineering, Braugher was bitten by the acting bug.

“I was dragged to a play and it fired my imagination,” - he recollects.

 When the “stubborn” Braugher broke the news of his decision to become an actor, his parents felt betrayed. 

“We sacrificed our entire lives to give you exactly the kind of education necessary to [succeed] and have a future and now you’re throwing it away, to become what, a circus performer?” was his father’s caustic response. Braugher understood his father’s concern and pointed out that at the time he decided to make the switch, Black actors were not the superstars that they are now.

“It was only in the late 70s and 80s that there was this huge groundswell of African American actors who wanted to be involved in this business,” Braugher says. “My father said to me, ‘Who does what you want to do?’ He’s a practical man and thought I was sabotaging a perfect engineering career so I could act.”  Asked if his father is proud of him now, Braugher took great pleasure in saying, “Yes, very proud.”

 And his father should be proud. Not only is Braugher a successful actor but he has attained his stature with dignity. In the years Braugher has made his presence known on the big and small screen, he never did it in a disparaging manner.  Besides his astounding performance in “Glory,” Braugher has impressed audiences with his performances, be it a judge, detective, doctor or angel. He appeared as A. Philip Randolph in the Showtime Original Film, “10,000 Black Men Named George and served as Executive Producer. Although he has appeared in blockbusters such “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Poseidon,” my two favourite films of his are “City of Angels” and “Frequency.”  In the unique film “City of Angels,” Braugher and all the angels wore black, which is quite an understatement considering the negative connotation black has throughout the universe.

In Stephen King’s “The Mist,” Braugher is a prominent attorney who rents a summer home in a lakeside community.  “My character is a brilliant lawyer who is going insane like everybody else.”  But Braugher’s approach to his role was unlike everyone else, director Frank Darabont told The Film Strip. “Andre brought this amazing subtext to that character and when I was watching what he was doing I thought, ‘Well, this is a guy that got picked on when he was younger and had some names called at him and grew up to be this incredible, prominently powerful man who had a chip on his shoulder though.’ That was never intended in the script, in the story necessarily. It was a layer Andre brought to it. When we were shooting those scenes everybody was around the monitor with their jaws dropped. It was like, ‘Got dam!’ This is why you hire an actor like that because he’s gonna go above and beyond. He’s going to find his own way into the material. 

Even though he’s saying the words you wrote, it means so much more. Andre is like a gift. Even though Andre never crossed my mind, I’ve been a fan of his since ‘Glory.’ His performance in that movie is stunning and he made such an impression on me in that film; it was so damn good.” 

There was a time Braugher used to sit by the phone waiting for it to ring. Now, between movies, he does the things he always wanted to do.

“So I took a bike trip to Kansas in May. I got on my bike one day, packed up my junk, waived goodbye to my wife and five weeks later I’m in Kansas.”  His trek began in New Jersey and for the most part, he went unrecognized. “Sometimes I was, but most people didn’t believe it was me. It was like, ‘What are you doing here on a bike in the middle of nowhere?’”

In his attempt to not get caught up in the fanfare of celebrity, Braugher doesn’t even comment on his philanthropic projects when asked about them. He will only say, “I do make contributions but prefer to do what I do quietly. I do it anonymously when possible and just leave it at that. You may notice you don’t hear a lot about me. I share my thoughts about this film and things like that, but that’s about it.”

Chad Butler, 33: Rap Musician Known As Pimp C

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ryan Pearson, The Associated Press

(December 05, 2007) LOS ANGELES –
Pimp C, who spun searing tales of Texas street life into a key role in the rise of Southern hip-hop, was found dead in an upscale hotel on Tuesday. He was 33.

The rapper formed Underground Kingz with partner-in-rhyme Bun B while the pair were in high school, and their often laconic delivery paired with wittily dangerous lyrics influenced a generation of current superstars like Lil' Wayne. T.I. had the group on as guests when he remade their 1994 song "Front, Back and Side to Side" for his "King" album.

To a mainstream audience, Pimp C was best known for UGK's cameo on the Jay-Z hit "Big Pimpin'," and for "Free Pimp C" T-shirts and shout-outs, ubiquitous in rap several years ago while he was jailed on gun charges. On Tuesday, his MySpace page had been changed to read: "C the Pimp is FREE at last.''

Born Chad Butler, Pimp C was found dead in a room at the Mondrian hotel, a longtime music industry hangout not far from the House of Blues on Sunset Strip, where he had performed Saturday night alongside rap veteran Too $hort. Capt. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County coroner's office said Butler had apparently died in bed.

"At this time there's no signs of foul play," Winter said. ``It appears to be possibly natural, but pending autopsy and toxicology we can't say the cause.''

Butler had been in Los Angeles to work on his next solo album for Rap-A-Lot Records, according to James Prince, the Houston-based label's CEO. Manager Rick Martin identified Butler's body, and said in a statement, "He was my best friend and I will always love him.''

Though they never enjoyed massive pop chart success, UGK's early CDs are considered landmarks for the then-burgeoning
Texas hip-hop scene, which also featured the Geto Boys. Signed to a deal with Jive Records, they released "Too Hard to Swallow" in 1992, ``Super Tight" two years later, and "Ridin' Dirty" in 1996, considered a rap classic.

Over laid-back beats, they laid out incisive details that remain Southern rap mainstays: descriptions of sex and conspicuous consumption, wood-grain steering wheels and triple-beam scales used to weigh drugs.

Butler led off Three 6 Mafia's 2000 ode to drinking cough syrup to get high, "Sippin' on Syrup," with the lines: "I'm trill working the wheel. A pimp, not a simp. Keep the dope fiends higher than the Goodyear blimp. We eat so many shrimp I got iodine poisoning.''

Butler was jailed for three years in 2002; he had plead no contest to aggravated assault for brandishing a gun during an argument with a woman at a mall, then fell behind on required community service. UGK's rise was derailed, but the "Free Pimp C'' slogan caught on and an unauthorized album of Pimp C's freestyle rhymes was released while he was in prison.

When Pimp C and Bun B finally put out an album this year, they felt such a need to re-establish themselves they titled their album ``Underground Kingz," as if to underscore a new start.

Critics praised the CD, which included the hit "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)," featuring OutKast. Pimp C's verse riffs on high-class women and cars: "I'm pullin' Bentleys off the lot. Smashed up the gray one, bought me a red. Every time we hit the parking lot we turn heads," he raps.

Barry Weiss,
CEO of Jive, said in a statement: "We mourn the unexpected loss of Chad. He was truly a thoughtful and kindhearted person. He will be remembered for his talent and profound influence as a pioneer in bringing southern rap to the forefront.''

Butler, who grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, came from a musical lineage. His father was a professional trumpet player, and the rapper studied classical music in high school. He even received a Division I rating on a tenor solo at a University Interscholastic League choir competition.

"That's how I came up listening to everything," he told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. "Music don't have no color or no face. It's a universal language. I think being exposed to all that kind of stuff influences the way I make records.''

Butler is survived by a wife and three children.

Associated Press writer Kristie Rieken in
Houston contributed to this report.


The Horseshoe Turns 60

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

“It used to be about the ability to play an instrument. `F--- that’, we said.It’s about expression, politics, a sense of danger, something unexpected. That was the aesthetic we inherited from (Toronto concert promoters) Gary Topp and Gary Cormier, when Craig (Laskey) and I took over (from former owners X-Ray MacRae and Ken Sprackman) in 1997-98, and we carried it through. “We got rid of (bluesmen) Jack De Keyzers and the Paul Jameses and all the others who were living off the Horseshoe’s past, and started booking independent bands from the U.S. and across Canada. Audience acceptance was immediate.” — Jeff Cohen, co-owner, Horseshoe Tavern

(December 02, 2007) From its post-war origins as a honky-tonk hosting the likes of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn, through its Canadiana years as Stompin’ Tom’s stomping ground in the late 1960s, to its punk glory days a decade later under renegade promoters Gary Topp and Gary Cormier, to its ascendancy as the birthplace of Canada’s new rock heroes (The Tragically Hip, The Watchmen, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Moxy Früvous, The Barenaked Ladies) in the ’80s and ’90s, and since then as a showcase for an astonishing array of diverse emerging talent from across Canada and around the world,
The Horseshoe has never really lost its edge. How?

The Horseshoe’s enduring allure has a lot to do with its against-the-grain history, says Cohen, a tradition he and the club’s co-owner, Craig Laskey — and their promotions company, Against The Grain — cranked up a decade ago.

“In 1997 we started booking really left-of-centre stuff, we called it pink stuff ..... and (CFNY deejay) Dave Bookman opened up Nu Music Tuesday Nights as a way of developing young bands,” he says. “There’s no cover, and sometimes four bands a night.

“Older people hated us. We lowered the audience age from 35 to 19, the age of the musicians who played here from 30 to 21. If we were serious about building into the next 10 years, we had to make a break with the past. We booked the bands we liked over and over again Thursday through Saturday, sometimes for three sets a night. Blue Rodeo, Nickelback, Billy Talent, the Tragically Hip all got signed at the Horseshoe, or because they were spotted here.

“We’re very open-minded about booking new talent. It’s real easy to play at the Horseshoe. It’s more difficult to stay. You have to prove yourself.”

Cohen and Laskey don’t take all the credit. Much of their experience was gained as bookers for former owners MacRae and Sprackman. They also relied on former Toronto concert promoter Eliott Lefko and super-agent Ralph James at the Agency Group to pitch bands that suited their mandate. They watched what worked at the Rivoli, a couple of doors away on Queen St., and tracked down contenders. Cohen and Laskey go to the SXSW new music conference in Austin, Tex., every year to buy talent.

“We spotted Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown there, and instantly thought they’d be the next big Horseshoe weekend band,” Cohen says. “They played on a Tuesday night first time, then two weekend shows — now Ryan sells out Massey Hall. But he always stops by at the Horseshoe when he’s in town.”

Montreal-born Joey Burns, who heads up Tucson-based alt.country-folk outfit Calexico, says “It’s an old bar with old furniture that looks as if it came off a sailing ship in the 1800s.” But Calexico has performed there frequently in the past decade, always to packed houses.

“You walk in there and your first impression is that the place has character, age and that it’s sturdy enough to withstand the hardest blows bands and audiences can deliver.”

Even better, it’s an inner-city gathering place for hard-core music fans who know what’s good and what’s phoney, he adds. “It’s in a well-fortified area, a part of the city where musicians and artists of all kinds hang out. It’s conducive to conversation, a real North American bar that feels like an Irish pub. There’s so much going on in there you don’t want to leave. Sure, the Troubadour in Los Angeles is still going, but it’s under siege, surrounded by the corporate fear factor. The Horseshoe is robust, lively, and really interesting ..... every night of the week.”

The first time Calexico played there, it had only the recommendations of trail mates Dallas and Travis Good (The Sadies) to go by. “

But the minute we walked in I knew it was going to be interesting,” Burns says. “I was surprised that so many people were so into our music. And Jeff and Craig are really creative promoters. After every show, they’re busy turning bands on to new music they’ve discovered. They make musicians very comfortable.”

For Joel Plaskett, who has played there countless times, the club’s design and layout is perfect for live music.

“It just draws you in. You’ve got the long bar up front where people congregate, talk, drink and eat, and when it’s time, you pay your cover at the far end of the room and go into the inner sanctum. It holds about 300 people, but you feel really close to the music. It’s a big performance room, but intimate.”

The ’Shoe is a destination point for traveling musicians, the one club whose listings every band checks when they hit town, adds Plaskett, who will be joined in his six-night run by his father, Bill Plaskett, on guitar, and Grady (former Big Sugar) frontman Gordie Johnson, among other surprise guests.

“It’s the place to play if you want to leave a mark, one of the most consistently curated music rooms in the country,” he adds.

“In fact, I can’t think of another.”

Ralph James inherited the Horseshoe as a client when he joined The Agency Group in 1991, much to the amusement of his colleagues.

“Even back then, X-Ray and Kenny refused to deal with agents. Basically their deal was that the band takes the door and they take the bar (proceeds). It seemed to me to be a brilliant opportunity.”

The ’Shoe still operates that way, but it’s Bookman’s free Nu Music Tuesdays that have become the magnet for talent buyers and managers over the past dozen years.

“Dave very effectively pre-screens new talent from around the world for Tuesday night’s shows,” James says. “On any given Tuesday, you’ll get a glimpse of the future of music. If you’re serious about the business, you’ll be there a minimum of 40 Tuesdays a year.

“The ’Shoe is magic. It’s the most consistent and safe showcase for new talent in the country. It’s no wonder so many bands come back after they’ve made it big.”

Devoted Crowd Knows Oshawa Foursome More Than Merely Rootsy

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

(December 02, 2007) Seems like it's
Cuff the Duke's time and, frankly, it's about time.

These guys are doing fine anyway, make no mistake. If that wasn't a capacity crowd welcoming the Oshawa-spawned ensemble back to Metro Toronto and, specifically, into the Mod Club Theatre on Friday on the closing night of a cross-Canada tour to launch its dandy new disc, Sidelines of the City, then there was still sufficient popular interest in the local CD-release gig to lure a handful of scalpers out on College Street in defiance of a brewing, not-quite-there winter tempest.

Inside, Cuff the Duke did as it always does, expanding and elevating a time-tested roots-rock formula – lots of early Tom Petty and Blue Rodeo, some pre-suck Son Volt and a maybe-unconscious hint of Meat Puppets – into something decidedly more ... I dunno ... cosmic. Cosmic, but still "earthy." The combination doesn't really make sense, I know, but that's the way Cuff the Duke rolls.

The sage deployment of visceral guitar noise and a stern command of spacious, prog-worthy dynamics have been this band's secret weapons since co-founders Wayne Petti and Paul Lowman and the original Cuff line-up were welcomed as wee sprouts barely out of high school into the gone-but-not-forgotten Three Gut Records fold with 2002's Life Stories for Minimum Wage. Consignment to the overburdened "alt-country" category has nevertheless left the band overlooked and misread as, perhaps, a bit too "ordinary" to get fully caught up in the subsequent Canadian indie-rock hypestorm.

Sidelines of the City finally, properly nails on record Cuff the Duke's knack for catapulting down-home stomp into an epic orbit usually occupied by British guitar bands. But onstage is still where the group – now enriched by the subtle guitar heroics and on-point harmonies of Dale Murray and rock-steady drummer Corey Wood – unfailingly reminds you that you haven't been paying nearly enough attention to its talents.

Friday's set cockily opened with the irresistible new single "Surging Revival" and old fave "Blackheart" before conjuring down-home post-shoegaze doom to rival Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on "If I Live or If I Die," out-Petty-ing Tom with Petti's AM-worthy gem "Remember the Good Times" and then nearly bursting every heart in the place with an extended, arena-worthy assault on the ooey-gooey "Failure to Some."

More impressive than the musicianship required to turn it on and off as reliably as this band does, though, was the fact that the crowd already seemed intimately acquainted with the new songs that dominated the set. Cuff the Duke, maybe your moment is now.

Young Cellist's Toronto Debut Worth The Wait

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

(November 30, 2007) People say that, of all instruments, the cello most resembles the human voice. If that's true, then 25-year-old cellist
Alisa Weilerstein would be Tina Turner in her prime.

Weilerstein plays classical music with the depth of soul and raw emotional energy of a diehard rocker. She also has a classic poise and onstage elegance that make her welcome among the traditional symphony starched white ties.

The young string diva already qualifies as a veteran, having grown up with musician parents, with whom she played regularly as part of the Weilerstein Trio, based in Boston. She made her orchestral solo debut in Cleveland at age 13 and has worked steadily ever since while completing her music studies and even getting a degree in Russian history at Columbia University in 2004.

She has performed around the world with major orchestras and top-name venues, so her Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut Wednesday night came not a moment too soon.

The wait until the second half of the program was worth every minute. Her rendition of Antonin Dvorak's grand and intimate Cello Concerto from 1895 was a treat from start to finish.

Weilerstein has a magical control over her bow, giving the sound of her cello seemingly infinite degrees of expression. She even has a way of turning a simple vibrato into a breathless flutter that she deployed to great effect in quieter sections of the first movement.

The Toronto Symphony players were in fine form, with maestro Peter Oundjian coaxing an equally rich backup performance.

People came for Weilerstein and likely left with smiles as the cello piece faded into memory. But there was much more to the program earlier in the evening: Mozart's "Prague" Symphony and a Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani from 1938 by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959).

Neither piece is a natural companion to the Dvorak concerto. The
TSO had billed this as a Czech program, which is not exactly true: Dvorak wrote his concerto in the New World, Mozart had intended his Symphony No. 38 for a London premiere and Martinu was in Switzerland as he surveyed the gathering clouds of World War II while writing his concerto.

In fact, it's hard to find anything that ties these works together other than atypical compositional structure, relative to traditional models.

Suffice to say that the program-opening Mozart suffered from some mushy bass playing and thin-sounding violins. The Martinu is a hair-raising piece that offers little respite for jangled nerves.

Toronto-based pianist Andrew Burashko brought out the nervous edge in the often virtuosic piano part, while Oundjian kept the orchestra tight, and focused on the composers' rhythmic and harmonic tension.

Martinu here leaves everyone wound up to the very last chord. Only in the second movement can our hearts unclench a bit.

Thank goodness there was Alisa Weilerstein to make us see warmth, light and life all over again after intermission.

Ladies Sing The Blues

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(December 02, 2007) Women's blues and men's blues are different, lyrically in particular, enough so that the female brand is often thought to be a subgenre of the overall idiom. Think of the conciliatory verse “You can have my husband, but please don't take my man,” or the great Besse Smith, on “Dirty No-Gooder Blues,” carping about the 19 men living in her neighbourhood, 18 of which are fools, and the other one who “ain't no doggone good.” Now picture a man singing the same lines, genders reversed. It just doesn't make it.

Same thing when, at the 21st-annual
Women's Blues Revue at Massey Hall, Montreal's pint-sized vocal prodigy Nikki Yanofsky warns on “Evil Gal Blues” not to mess with her, that she'll empty your pockets and fill you with misery. If a man approached a woman with that kind of promise, she would most likely flee – ending things before they began, and not leaving much of a song to work with. But a man – 18 out of 19 are fools, remember – he'll check that evil out for himself, never minding the consequences.

Similarly, on her elegantly jazz-chorded “While I Wait for You” (think of John Coltrane's version of “My Favorite Things”) Toronto-based Roxanne Potvin simmers, suffers and has just about had enough. On the flipside, if a man is waiting alone at home, he's just a sap – a terrifically non-bluesy sap.

Saturday's was young Potvin's third appearance at the revue, a platform for Canadian female blues performers put on by the Toronto Blues Society. For someone with her obvious ability (voice, songwriting and a stylish, dry-toned guitar approach), Potvin was oddly meek. There was a slight swagger to her own “I Wanna Do Everything,” but the evening's lone guitarist among the six featured artists was reserved compared to the bill's bolder vocalists.

Toronto's Shawne Jackson, who had a seventies hit with “Just as Bad as You,” was fairly lounge-minded, though she did add a nice Dionne Warwick touch to Haydain Neale's “Still Believe in Love.”

More assertive was Toronto's Treasa Levasseur, a sturdy-throated Rhodes player who covered Latin-tinged R&B, matrimonial country soul and soul that was horn-driven and high-spirited. Likewise, Vancouver jaw-singer Layla Zoe walked the divide of Janis Joplin and Joss Stone, showing off her tattoos and a suggestive nature that drew wolf whistles and applause from the male part of the audience. A brawny Hoochie-Coochie Woman was what she sang – and was.

Each performer was allotted three songs, backed by a seven-piece band that counted a two-piece brass section. I liked what they did, particularly standup jazz bassist Brandi Disterheft and bandleader Suzi Vinnick, who was the night's seventh star on vocals and guitar.

Last act Dawn Tyler Watson is often described as fiery and flashy, but at Massey she was less of that and more just plain consummate. “Montreal's queen of the blues,” showed invention with John Lennon's “Come Together,” starting it off in a Delta style before sprawling it out Prince-like. “Movin' On” was a deeply-dug soul power-ballad, and “Wang Dang Doodle” was done as imagined by James Brown. Watson, easily charismatic, seemed like the only performer that wasn't auditioning for next year's revue.

After an all-smiles finale of the Beatles' “With a Little Help From My Friends” (with all of the performers except for 13-year-old Yanofsky), there was enough time to catch a set by U.S. blues veteran Lucky Peterson at the Silver Dollar Room.

Peterson, once dubbed a “five-year-old genius” for his early developing talents, is now a declining 44-year-old. Wild-eyed and undisciplined, the singer-guitarist took scribbled song requests out of a beer pitcher as he erratically cobbled together a string of rocked R&B, Chuck Berry and a numbly-fingered “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Over at Massey, young Yanofsky impressed with improbable pipes, poise and spelling prowess (Aretha Franklin's “Respect” is spelled R.E.S.P.E.C.T.). Maybe the singer – she looks like a pocket-sized Norah Jones – was at the Dollar taking notes, observing a once promising performer now reduced to parlour-trick shenanigans.

The Woman's Blues Revue was taped for future broadcast on
CBC Radio Two's Canada Live (Dec. 8), with highlights on CBC Radio One's Big City, Small World (Dec. 15) and upcoming segments of Saturday Night Blues early in 2008.

Shaggy 'Intoxicates' Billboard

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
- By Kevin Jackson

(November 29, 2007)
Shaggy’s Intoxication lands at the top of Billboard’s Reggae Album chart. 

*Shaggy's latest album Intoxication debuted in the number one spot on the Billboard Reggae Album chart. The 15-track disc which features collaborations with the likes of Sizzla, Collie Buddz, Akon, Ricardo 'Rik Rok' Ducent and Nasha among others, was released a few weeks ago through a joint venture deal with Big Yard Music Group and VP Records.

"Intoxication is the most important album for me. It's the first time in my 17-year musical career that I was fully in charge of every aspect of an album that I have done. I was involved in the songwriting, the marketing, the making of the videos, the promotion and the whole works. It was a 110 per cent involvement," Shaggy said.

Shaggy pointed out that Intoxication gave him the freedom to do what he wanted. "I had no guys in suits telling me what to do. To see all the great reviews that the album has been getting is really quite rewarding for me."

He added, "We came back and cemented Shaggy with Church Heathen and then to drop an album to match all of that. This is an album that stands out in the core market."
Asked what was his favourite track on the album and why, Shaggy said "Woman Scorn. I like songs that I can come up with a subject that everyone can relate to".

Intoxication, according to Shaggy, took seven months to complete.

"This album was completed relatively in quick time. My last album Clothes Drop was a headache to finish and one of my worst because I had to make too many compromises. The only form of pressure that I came under while doing Intoxication was selecting the songs for the album. There are a lot of good songs that we left off," Shaggy pointed out.

Intoxication is Shaggy's eighth studio album. His first release was Pure Pleasure in 1993. Original Doberman for Greensleeves was released in 1994. A year later Virgin released the double platinum-selling Boombastic, while Midnite Lover, his final opus for Virgin, saw the light of day in 1997.

MCA Records released Shaggy's Hot Shot album in 2000, and the set became his biggest selling disc to date, shifting more than 10 million units worldwide. The set reeled out hits with Angel and It Wasn't Me (both of which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart), and Freaky Girl. Lucky Day arrived in 2002, while Clothes Drop hit the streets in 2005.

To date, Shaggy has scored four number one albums on the Billboard Reggae album chart. The previous chart toppers were Boombastic, Midnite Lover and Lucky Day.

The next single from Intoxication will be What's Love featuring Akon. A video is to be shot within the next few weeks.

"We wanted to do the video here in Jamaica, but we might have to do it overseas because of the busy season and Akon's other obligations," said Shaggy.

Marsalis To Tour With Lincoln Center Jazz Group

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 30, 2007) *
Wynton Marsalis will once again lead the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on a national tour that focuses this year on Duke Ellington's love songs.

The 21-city trek is scheduled to launch Jan. 16 in Ann Arbor, MI and roll through several college campuses throughout the West Coast and Midwest.  There will also be a Jan. 18 stop in Chicago for the orchestra's continuing Jazz For Young People series.

The fifteen-member JLCO - formerly known as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra - is anchored in the venerable New York performing arts theatre and is the official house orchestra for Jazz at Lincoln Center activities. They've toured annually over the last 12 years, performing compositions and arrangements made famous by composers such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, as well as commissioned works by Benny Carter, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Heath, Chico O'Farrill, members of the JLCO and others.

The current JLCO features music director Marsalis, along with Ryan Kisor, Sean Jones and Marcus Printup on trumpets; Chris Crenshaw, Vincent Gardner and Elliot Mason on trombones; Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, Sherman Irby, Ted Nash and Joe Temperley on reeds; Dan Nimmer on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass; and Ali Jackson on drums.

Here are the dates for the JLCO National Tour:

January 2008
16 - Ann Arbor, MI - University of Michigan
18 - Chicago, IL - Orchestra Hall (Jazz for Young People concert)
19 - Bloomington, IL - Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts
20 - Notre Dame, IN - Debartolo Center for the Performing Arts
21 - Minneapolis, MN - Orchestra Hall
24 - Santa Cruz, CA - Civic Auditorium
25 - Santa Rosa, CA - Wells Fargo Center
26 - Berkeley, CA - Zellerbach Hall @ UC Berkeley
27 - Stanford, CA - Memorial Auditorium @ Stanford University
28 - Arcata, CA - Van Duzer Theatre @ Humboldt State University
29 - Davis, CA - Mondavi Center @ UC Davis
31 - Costa Mesa, CA - Orange County Performing Arts Center

February 2008
1 - Los Angeles, CA - Walt Disney Concert Hall
2 - Malibu, CA - Smothers Theatre @ Pepperdine University
4 - Mesa, AZ - Mesa Arts Center
5 - Tucson, AZ - University of Arizona
6 - Albuquerque, NM - Kiva Auditorium
8 - Kansas City, MO - Folly Theatre
9 - St. Louis, MO - Sheldon Concert Hall
10 - Columbia, MO - Jesse Auditorium @ University of Missouri
12 - Iowa City, IA - Hancher Auditorium

Evel Knievel Dies Days After Making Peace With Kanye West

Excerpt from www.allhiphop.com - By Houston Williams

(November 30, 2007) Stunt and motorcycle legend
Evel Knievel died Friday, days after peacefully resolving a legal dispute with rapper Kanye West. He was 69 years old.

The legend died from complications associated with diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, according to published reports. Knievel also had to receive a liver transplant in 1999 due to a Hepatitis C infection from a blood transfusion.

Knievel had sued Kanye West and Roc-A-Fella Records in Dec. 2006 after West released a video for “Touch The Sky.” In the video, West assumed the name "Evel Kanyevel" and donned several of Knievel’s staple looks, including a unique “WK” belt buckle, according to thesmokinggun.com.

On November 27, the pair released a statement via Def Jam Records stating that their legal issues were amicably resolved.

Knievel often wore red-white-and-blue and was the world’s forerunning daredevil. Typically using a motorcycle, he would jump over obstacles like passenger buses, sharks and even Idaho's Snake River Canyon.

“I routinely faced Death himself and was able to turn it into a benefit for my life, my family and everyone that surrounded me and believed in me,” Knievel said on his website. “Practically my entire existence in the public spotlight has been borne out of overcoming adversity – adversity that should have cost me my life.”

Bow Wow And Omarion 'Faceoff'

Source: ThinkTank Marketing, Ryan@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(December 3, 2007) The chart-topping multi-platinum hip-hop dynamos
Bow Wow and Omarion have joined forces to create a new collaborative collection that promises to become one of the major musical events of 2007.

The Bow Wow-Omarion project, Faceoff, in stores December 11th.

While details of the Bow Wow-Omarion project remain under wraps, the new album marks the culmination of a joint collaborative process dating back to 2005, when Omarion's vocal contributions to "Let Me Hold You," the first single from Bow Wow's fourth album, Wanted, peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Bow Wow his first-ever Top 10 single and Omarion his first Top 10 as a solo artist.

That same year, Bow Wow and Omarion hit the road as co-headliners on the SRO "Scream Tour IV Presents: The Heart Throb Tour."

"Me and O have been trying to put this together for so many years, and now we've got the opportunity to do it," Bow Wow told Billboard.com earlier this month. "We're in the creative process right now, coming up with ideas daily, so the process is real smooth. We're anxious to make this whole thing happen. It's gonna be a special event. It's gonna be crazy, something the people have been waiting on -- the girls have been waiting on -- for years. O's one of my best friends. Anytime you get a chance to work with somebody you're best friends with, it's not even work, it's like working with family."

Omarion shares his best friend's enthusiasm for the as-yet-unnamed project. "This isn't about money, this is about music," says Omarion. "We both started young and have grown up together, working on the same tours, and have developed our identity in the music world. Jay-Z and R Kelly were the first big R&B/Rap combo, and we have great respect for them and have been inspired by them, but we still want to create something we can call our own. We just want to do our own thing. We want to have a great time and make good music for our fans. This is gonna be fun, so 'World, Watch out! We're coming!'"

Currently on the road with his "Price Of Fame Tour," Bow Wow is riding the success of his latest Top 10 album, The Price Of Fame, which reached #6 on the Billboard 200 and #2 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The Price Of Fame kicked out a string of hit singles including the #1 Hot Rap Tracks chartbuster "Shortie Like Mine" as well as "I'm A Flirt" and "Outta My System."

Released in December 2006, The Price of Fame is the first new studio album from Bow Wow since July 2005 when his RIAA platinum-certified Wanted debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and generated the smash singles "Let Me Hold You" (featuring Omarion) (#1 Rap, #2 R&B/Hip-Hop, #4 Hot 100) and "Like You" (featuring Ciara) (#1 Rap, #1 R&B Hip-Hop, #3 Hot 100).

Bow Wow--whose film credits include "Like Mike" (one of the 50 Top Grossing films of 2002), "All About The Benjamins" (2003), "Johnson Family Vacation" (2004), "Roll Bounce" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006). This past year, he also starred in the CW hit television series, "Smallville."

Bow Wow first burst on the scene back in 2000--under the wing of super producer Jermaine Dupri--with his debut album, Beware of Dog, which went on to sell more than three million copies while solidifying his status as an authentic hip-hop heartthrob.

Bow Wow took his brand of rap to the next level with 2001's Doggy Bag, hitting the road in support of his multi-platinum sophomore CD with the sold-out "SCREAM Tour II," wowing fans all over the country with hits like "Take Ya Home" and "Thank You."

With his third album, 2003's Unleashed, Bow Wow became more directly involved with writing and producing his music, creating a collection directly from the heart, conveying a more personal overview of life from Bow Wow's perspective.

He is the youngest musician to open the Grammy Awards, is the first "kid" to be included in Vanity Fair's prestigious annual music issue (October 2001), and entered "The Guinness Book of World Records" as the youngest solo rapper to hit #1 on the U.S. charts.

Bow Wow is launching his own media company, LBW Entertainment, which handles emerging artists including Young Jinsu and Clee-O.

With numerous hit singles, platinum-plus albums, sold-out tours, starring roles in hit films, and a place in "The Guinness Book of World Records" already on his resume, Bow Wow continues to prove that he's the 100% real deal with the indisputable goods: a bona fide superstar blessed with talent, tenacity, and a deep connection to his audience.

R&B superstar Omarion rang in 2007 with 21, the year's first #1 album. The performer's second solo album (and first on Columbia Records) entered the Billboard Top 200 best-selling albums and the R&B sales charts at #1, mirroring the achievement of his debut solo album, O, which entered both those charts at #1 in February 2005. An important new voice in contemporary R&B and hip-hop, Omarion is one of a select group of artists to have achieved back-to-back #1 debuts on both the Hot 100 and the R&B charts with two consecutive albums.

Born and raised in Inglewood, California, Omarion rose to fame while still a teen as a member of the groundbreaking urban "boy band" B2K. His soulful vocals, riveting stage presence, and undeniable charisma helped B2K score a hit with the group's very first single, "Uh Huh," in 2001; achieve gold status with the group's self-titled debut album in 2002; and go RIAA platinum with the group's best-selling sophomore outing, Pandemonium! in 2003.

Omarion's undeniable media-geniality has led to numerous television guest appearances including "Punk'd," "The Sharon Osbourne Show," "Regis & Kelly" and "Soul Train." In addition to his musical performances, Omarion has acted on the big screen with key roles in "You Got Served" and "Fat Albert." Omarion stars in "Somebody Help Me," an innovative horror film directed by Chris Stokes and may be seen in the upcoming films "Reggaeton" and Tyger ("Menace II Society") Williams' "Street Soldier."

Jill Scott On Her Tyler Perry French Connection

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
- By Ricardo Hazell

(December 3, 2007) *She's taking her freedom, taking it off the shelf, putting it in her car and it certainly has taken her far.  The artist for now and forever known as
Jill Scott has had an extremely eventful year. 

Two positives and a big negative: She released part three of her self-titled Jill Scott musical anthology, starred in Tyler Perry's runaway hit "Why Did I Get Married" and she also divorced her husband of 5 years, Lyzel Williams. 

When EURweb happened upon the soul sister from the City of Brotherly Love back she was on a promotional stopover along with film writer/director/actor Tyler Perry. 

Scott gained critics' praise for the manner in which she played Sheila, an overweight sister with a crumbling marriage and horrible self-esteem. 

With skills like that we just knew she had some acting in her background ... and she does.

"I was working as a poet and I had a really good friend of mine named Ozzie Jones who's a director in Philly," remembered Scott. "He says "I think you should act."  I said, well I don't know anything about it."

But that didn't stop this young lady, who at times seems to emanate positive energy not unlike a nuclear reactor emanates radiation.  She knew that she didn't know how to act, but she wanted to know badly.  

"So, I found a fellowship in Philadelphia at a great theatre company," said Scott. "First it was a fellowship, then an internship.  For two years I cleaned toilets, mopped floors and hung lights and billboards and helped put up sets.  I did whatever they asked me to do so that I could get free acting classes because I couldn't afford university. So, I studied Shakespeare and did improv.  Whatever they had to offer.  So, I just took it and ran.  It took time.  I was doing 'Rent' but then I got a record deal and that meant I had to stop doing plays so that I could do the first record, 'Who Is Jill Scott'."

Positive energy is a wonderful and mysterious thing.  Jill Scott put a lot of it into learning the craft of acting yet was whisked away by her other dream, that of recording an album.  The energy she put out years earlier returned to her when she was selected by Tyler Perry to star in his summer time hit. But Scott tells EURweb that she and Perry go back even further than that.

I was a manager at 'French Connection' in Philly, because you know I'm a Philly girl. Ty comes in looking for a shirt. 

"At that time I hadn't done anything.  I just had a play in town and nobody knew who I was," said Perry as he spoke to other reporters nearby. 

"So, I'm showing him shirts," she continues.  "He doesn't buy anything, but he has a nice sense of humour. He was funny and a pleasure to talk to.  So, we talked and then he said 'So, what're you doing later?'  And I said 'I don't know.'  So he said 'Why don't you come and see a play?'  So, I said OK.   I didn't know what that meant, but he only gave me one ticket."

("So, you couldn't bring nobody," laughed Perry.) 

"So, I went to see the play and I don't remember which play I saw, but I do remember this.  It wasn't the okie doke. It wasn't the chitlin' circuit.  It was smart, and it was funny and it was thoughtful.  It wasn't a whole lot of 'hee hee' and 'haw haw' and 'Yeah girl!' It wasn't the typical stuff we see all the time.  It wasn't the flaming hair stylist with the hot comb in his hand the whole (play).  This wasn't that."

"So, I get on the bus and I look at the playbill and I see this guy," Jill pauses then points at Perry.  "This guy right here was the director and the writer.  And I thought 'Oh!  That's nice.'  That's how Tyler and I met the first time.  I think that was 12 years ago?  We didn't exchange numbers or anything like that.  I just remember him being a nice guy." 

Tyler Perry has always been thought of as 'a nice guy' but Scott told us she wasn't feeling so nice during some scenes in "Why Did I Get Married."  Her character was sad all time.  We asked Scott whether she was able to channel some of the energy from her divorce into her 'Sheila' character.

"That influenced everything, the divorce did it, quite frankly," Scott admitted.  "It influenced everything that I wrote. Everything that I lacked I wrote down. I tapped into these experiences to feel unabashed to cry and to feel so low that the feelings were hard to let go. Sometimes when you're acting you fall into the character you play and when they say 'cut' you walk away.  This wasn't like that.  I felt it later, I felt it at night and I felt it before I got to work.
"Plus, Richard T. Jones is such an amazing actor that he wanted to hurt my feelings.  It wasn't Jill that he was trying to hurt but, to get to Sheila, he had to go through me and he definitely hurt me," said Scott of her on screen problems." 

Spice Girls Kick Off Reunion Tour

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kerry Gold, Special To The Star

(December 03, 2007) VANCOUVER–It’s been eight years since the
Spice Girls stepped onto a stage and demanded to know: “So tell me what you want, what you really really want.”

Judging from the ear-piercing shrieks of 15,000 fans at the launch of the British pop quintet’s world tour at GM Place in Vancouver, we really, really wanted them back together.

They didn’t disappoint.

The production, which arrives in Toronto Feb. and 4, was easily one of the best productions to grace an arena in years — a spectacular, sensory feast of a show that went off without a hitch.

Two hours before show time, throngs of girls waiting in line sang Spice Girls’ songs at the top of their lungs. Once inside, excited girls — a lot of them in makeshift Union Jack dresses and sequins — rushed merchandise tables with such urgency that more than one seller had to yell at them to get back.

If you weren’t carrying a glow stick, you were probably someone’s mother.

“They’re our idols,” said Nicol Spinola, 20. “This is our childhood.”

“This is who we loved growing up,” added her friend Tamara Bishniakofs, 21. “I think their music has a good message for young girls.”

Like the majority of the crowd, Freya Enemark and her friend Greg Hues were early fans of the Spice Girls. Hues still has their first CD.

“This crowd is really mixed,” Enemark said. “There are 10-year-olds here, and it’s like, ‘You weren’t even here when they first came out. You don’t get it,’” she said, laughing.

“They’re on my iPod, and they’ve been on there for about three years,” gushed Krista Munro, 13, who landed premium floor seats with 15-year-old sister Ashley.

By the time the Spice Girls appeared shortly after 8 p.m., the fans were screaming as if the Beatles themselves had reunited.

Following a spectacular video and light show, the five emerged like superheroes on risers — singing their signature hit, “Spice Up Your Life.” They disappeared behind big screens and came back out for another megahit, “Stop,” a song that most everyone in the room had acted out in front of their bedroom mirrors at some point in their young lives.

They tore through all the Spice Girls mega-hits, including the new one, “Headlines,” as well as solo material such as Melanie Chisholm’s (Sporty Spice) hit song “I Turn To You.”

If their superstardom, candy-coated music, and not always obvious talents had irritated anyone back in the 90s, all is forgiven now.

These days, the 30-something women, four of them mothers, are more vampy couture than cheeky cornball. The Robert Cavalli-designed costumes were elegant and daring, and their athletic team of break dancers were a marvel to watch. Instead of filling space, they were an integral part of the show, which was a testament to the spot-on choreography as well.

The Spice Girls know their audience well, and catered to the girlie-girls with frequent, elaborate costume changes as well as their gay fan contingent with a sequence that felt like a gay disco. It was deliciously campy, and everybody did her own send-up of herself. Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) vogued her way down the catwalk to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Ginger Spice (Geri Halliwell) performed her solo hit “It’s Raining Men,” wearing short shorts while being carried around by shirtless male dancers. Curvaceous Scary Spice (Mel B) pranced around in skin-tight leopard spots and cracked a whip.

Through to a sensational encore that included “Wannabe,” a conga line and a massive snowfall of confetti, the Spice Girls looked like they were having a blast.

No doubt it was relief that the world had not turned its back on the 90s phenomenon.

At a press conference prior to the concert, they were charming and giggly, but Victoria Beckham expressed some first-night jitters. She hadn’t been expecting soccer star hubby David Beckham to attend.

“David turned up today but he hadn’t been at any of the rehearsals,” she said. “So I’m nervous about what he’s going to think about the show.”

The group also discussed their reservations about mounting a reunion tour.

Melanie Chisholm, a.k.a. Sporty Spice, had long been outspoken about her reluctance to reunite.

“I won’t lie about it — I was scared,” she said. “I was nervous about it. But I feel there has been a change of feeling in the world…I feel the feeling for the Spice Girls has changed, and it’s been a natural thing. And I thought, ‘Why not?’ And I’m so glad I made that decision.”

Mary J. Blige Discusses 'Growing Pains'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 4, 2007) *
Mary J. Blige had a recent sit-down with Reuters to discuss the creative process that fell between her Grammy-winning 2005 album, "The Breakthrough," and her new album, "Growing Pains," due Dec. 18.

 Blige has said that "The Breakthrough" symbolizes the light at the end of a long tunnel filled with personal demons, including a troubled childhood, drug addiction and an abusive relationship.

 On the eve of flying to South Africa to launch a publicity tour for "Growing Pains," Blige shares with Reuters her perspective on life after "The Breakthrough."

Q: Was it more or less intimidating going back into the studio after the success of "The Breakthrough?"

Blige: "We were coming out of a valley, so to speak, with 'The Breakthrough.' Everyone had run away and turned their backs on us. And that was cool. We love them still, and we forgive them. But it's been easier doing 'Growing Pains' because now you don't have anything to try to conquer. It's like you've accomplished everything you set out to do. You've done the hard work to be where you are. Now, though, you've got to work harder to deliver based on that confidence. Not that I was lax on anything or taking anything for granted because "The Breakthrough" did so well. I worked just as hard, maybe even harder, on this album."

Q: Among your collaborators on this new project is Ne-Yo.

Blige: "Ne-Yo is an incredible kid. He nailed everything. I began writing for this album in February around the time of the Grammys and the (Academy Award) parties. I started out with this concept of growing pains because that's how I was feeling during the Grammys: 'Am I good enough for this; do I really deserve all this in my life?' But something in my head said, 'Yes, you are. Now you're forced to rapidly grow up in this area in order to achieve and get the things you want.' All this was in my poem and everything else I'd been writing.

"I read everything to Ne-Yo. He came back with not only some of the words that were in my poem but with songs that matched up to where I'm going and where I'm at in my life. He's such a sweet man, a gentleman who respects women. When I got a chance to sit down with him and talk ... you know, men don't usually relate to or understand women on that level. He just totally understood."

Q: You're on TV now with a car commercial and have done some occasional acting in the past. Now that you've conquered the music world, is acting the next frontier?

Blige: "It's my goal to do more acting if it works for me. I'm not trying to get into the film business just because I'm Mary J. Blige. I don't want to make a fool of myself with everybody laughing and talking about me like a dog. I want to get it right (laughs). A lot of scripts have come my way. It's just about choosing the right one.

"I actually went to read for a film role and could have gotten the part. It was for a director who, being new himself, didn't want to take a chance on a new person. So he wanted to go with a more seasoned actress. But the feedback I got behind the scenes was that I was great at my reading. So the word is out that I can do this."

Q: Was it a dramatic role?

Blige: "Yes. I would have played the part of woman named Linda, whose husband was a crooked cop who got killed. In the role, I was mourning for my husband. So I had to go to dark places in my own life to do that. I remembered mourning over my cousin when he got killed; I remembered an abusive relationship. I had to rewind my life to play that role. The songs that made me go there were Roy Ayers' 'Everybody Loves the Sunshine' and 'Searching.' Those were the songs I was playing heavily when those events were happening in my life. I really didn't like to go there, but I had to (for the reading). I kept crying over and over when I was in the car afterward."

Q: Getting back to music, who is at the top of your wish list to still work with?

Blige: "When and if I do a jazz album, I'd want to work with Anita Baker. I love her. She's got to know I'm a huge fan. There's also the possibility that I'd do a gospel album. Everyone always asks that question, and I believe I would."

Q: Growing up, were gospel and jazz major musical influences?

Blige: "Not really. It was more whatever was playing in my house. When I was a little girl, about 4 years old, I remember hearing 'Everybody Loves the Sunshine.' That's the reason why I know who Roy Ayers is. My father was a musician, a bass player, and he had a band. ... From his end, it was all about everything from Parliament to the Grateful Dead. My mother was the soul chick. She had everything from Candi Staton and Gladys Knight to Dorothy Moore, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack and Otis Redding. She'd be around the house singing all these songs."

Q: If you could use only one phrase or one word to describe the evolution of Mary J. Blige the artist, what would that be?

Blige: "Then: Starting to wake up. Now: Aware." (laughs)

Q: Now that you're aware, what would you do differently if you were just starting out?

Blige: "I would probably behave. (laughs) I can't change what I was because I didn't know any better. But if I'd have known then what I do now, I wouldn't have done any of that stupid stuff."

Q: Wouldn't that have affected your music, given that it's derived from your life experiences?

Blige: "That's true. But you know, showing up 10 hours late for an interview or not showing up at all? That doesn't have anything to do with anything. That's just stupidity. I wish I'd done that differently instead of (in a mimicking voice), 'I'm not going. I'm hung over. I'm staying home.' (laughs) Meanwhile, you've got interviewers and all these people at photo shoots waiting for you who don't care about any of that. They're just there to do their jobs and you don't show up. And now you're difficult."

Q: Early on, you were tagged "the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul." Do you ever tire of that moniker?

Blige: "There's nothing I can do about it because it's something I've earned. I would never disrespect it. Hip-hop is not something that you ultimately hear. It's a culture we grew up in, and it became us. This is the way we think, walk and talk. There's a lot of intelligence in hip-hop.

"A person doesn't have to slump all over, curse or act stupid to do hip-hop. Look at Erykah Badu, D'Angelo or Jill Scott. They live in that culture and you can hear it in their music. It's what others labeled neo-soul, but which is an extension of hip-hop/soul. Jill Scott carries herself pretty nice. You can hear in her music those hip-hop influences. It's where she comes from in her heart. A Tribe Called Quest gave us jazz influences. And the Jungle Brothers was another rap group I loved. If you knew who they were, then you were really a hip-hopper. They made you feel good about the culture."

Q: What are your thoughts on the ongoing controversy about rap lyrics?

Blige: "Honestly, it's not just a song's fault or a lyric's fault. Parental guidance is very key with everything that's going on. You can have your child listen to all that, but it's up to you to say, 'Look, that's what they do, but this is what you're going to do. You can't knock or judge them for what they do. But as your parent, this is what I would like for you to do, and it's the right thing to do.' It's society as a whole that's the problem. It's not about a song doing the killing or making women promiscuous."

Q: So are children in your future?

Blige: "I have two young stepchildren, who are 8 and 9. They are my children, and I have to nurture them. I don't have room or time right now for a baby. At the end of the day ... I don't know. If it happens, it happens. But right now it's not something on my radar."

Q: Do you want to be singing at age 50 or 60?

Blige: "I don't know. That's up to the people. If they request it, I'll be there. But I'm not going to force myself into their lives."

Hannah Montana: If You Loved Me, You'd Buy Me $1,200 Tickets

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Siri Agrell

(December 04, 2007) Jonathan Laurens thought of himself as Super Dad last month when he began searching for Hannah Montana concert tickets for his two daughters.

The girls, 13-year-old Maxine and nine-year-old Sarah, watch the Disney Channel show religiously and were desperate to see its star, Miley Cyrus, live at Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Dec. 15, the only Canadian stop on a sold-out tour.

But after posting want ads on Craigslist and scouring the offerings of Internet vendors such as StubHub, Mr. Laurens was shocked to see ticket prices as high as $1,200.

Now he must choose between shelling out big bucks for a little girls' rock show, or letting his kids down even though they have made it clear this is the must-have gift of the season.

“Begging isn't even the right word,” he said. “I mean, they'll die if they don't have them.”

Toronto is just the latest city to experience Hannah Montana ticket madness. Tour dates sold out within minutes here and across the United States, leading desperate parents to pay as much as $2,500 so their children could hear a 15-year-old girl sing songs such as Livin' the Rock Star Life!

In Tampa, Fla., last month, 35-year-old Jody Powell hung onto a statue of Hannah Montana for almost six days to win tickets for his fiancée's daughter, Hannah. The New York Times reported that celebrity parents like Sylvester Stallone have also pulled strings to get backstage at one of the shows.

All this can put a lot of strain on regular moms and dads – and their finances.

“It's devastating because you don't want to disappoint them,” Mr. Laurens said. “They can't be bad seats, either, because all the kids want to sit closer to the stage than each other.”

While Mr. Laurens agrees the ticket prices are “insane,” he worries they will only get higher the longer he waits. He has not considered telling his kids they are staying home that Saturday night.

“No, I have not,” he said. “I told them I might have to take a second job.”

Sharan DeGaetano of Richmond Hill, Ont., is relying on her husband's job to land tickets for her seven-year-old daughter, Anjali.

Ms. DeGaetano posted an ad on Craigslist that read: “Looking for 3 Hannah Montana tickets in exchange for services from Licensed Plumber.”

“Plumbers are very expensive so I thought this might work,” she said. “He's willing to do two days' work.”

Her ad has been up since Nov. 21 but she has received only one e-mail, offering tickets at $400 a pop. She knows parents who have paid $1,000.

“I just won't buy into that,” she said. “My daughter wants to go, but it's not a necessity to her happiness. She won't even remember it.”

Ms. DeGaetano has taken Anjali to concerts before, paying $200 to see The Cheetah Girls, another Disney creation. She believes parents are willing to do just about anything to satisfy their children's demands.

“I guess we just like to see them happy,” she said. “We will do whatever we can for her, within our boundaries.”

This time around, Anjali's parents have told her the show is too expensive, and promised to take her to Disney On Ice instead.

But not everyone is taking the disappointment in stride.

There is a Facebook group called “I died inside when I heard that Hannah Montana was sold out,” and others where ticket holders flaunt their victory.

A posting on one group calling for a “Hannah Montana Boycott” defends the young star's worth: “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Is An Amasing Singer,” it says. “And yes, the beatles were HUGE, and they still are, but its hannahs time now.”

In the United States, ticketless parents have complained to police about price gouging and called for the government to regulate prices. This led economist Doug Campbell to blog that “the ticket company didn't inflate the price; the forces of supply and demand did.”

Lise Monette, chief marketing officer of Toronto law firm Ogilvy Renault, said her department has received several requests from employees and clients for the coveted tickets.

“There's definitely interest,” she said, “although there are more people who want to see the Spice Girls.”

Mr. Laurens said his daughters have never put him on the spot like this before – another reason he is determined to make their wish come true.

“The disappointment would be palpable,” he said.

But even if he is successful in his quest, the father of three (his son is not interested) will not be attending the show.

“I'll get my wife to go,” he said. “There's certain limits to my generosity and one of them is that I could never actually sit through that. That would be torture.”

Sophie Milman: Now It's Less About Her Voice, More About Her Story

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

(December 05, 2007) Perspective is everything. To most of her fans, jazz singer
Sophie Milman is a bright young thing, with the emphasis on young. Just a university student when she cut her self-titled debut, Milman is now 24 and still an undergraduate, despite being on tour for her sophomore release, Make Someone Happy.

For Milman, though, there's a world of difference between the raw kid who cut that first album and the worldly, seasoned singer heard on the second album.

She may joke about her age - "I think I found my first wrinkle!" - but the difference was less physical than psychological, as she moved from the brash confidence of youth into the self-doubt of adulthood.

"When I was 18, I knew everything," she says. "I knew everything about politics, I knew everything about life, I had my life completely planned out and mapped out - when I was going to have a career, when I was going to have kids - and then, I hit 21 and I realized I know nothing. I know nothing. My life turned upside down."

Given how topsy-turvy her existence was before then, that's saying something. Milman was born in Russia and, as a girl, moved with her family to Israel after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then, at 15, they moved to Canada, where Milman learned English and eventually entered the University of Toronto as a commerce major.

However much she may have felt that she knew "nothing," Milman was coming into a stronger sense of what she was doing musically.

She describes her debut as just "a 19-year-old girl recording her favourite songs. "I don't know that I really understood what I was singing about," she says. "I grew up with jazz, so musically, these songs were second nature to me. But most of them I just sang. It was about my voice. It was about this young girl who has a nice voice and grew up with jazz records and has this story. And that's the record."

Make Someone Happy, on the other hand, "is really more about my life, and about the lyrics," she says.

"I learned a little bit more about being a singer. Growing up, I listened to Sarah Vaughan, and Sarah oversings a lot. I adore her, but she really does oversing. So does Edith Piaf, another person I listened to growing up. And I just thought, 'Hey, I'm going to be a singer, I'm going to show everybody what I've got.'

"Whereas this time around, it was less about my voice but more about my story."

Part of that has to do with her approach to lyrics, which she feels is the central component of a song. "It used to be strictly about melody when I was a kid, because I didn't really understand the lyrics," she says.

"Now that I speak better English, if the lyrics don't move me, I can't sing it.

"Especially on this latest record, because it's the story of my life, in the way I want to tell it. I kind of consider it my real debut, because every single song on that record is so personal to me, and tells a little bit more about my personality, about my emotions - the roller coaster that I'm constantly on."

It's not the most obvious narrative, however. Milman admits to a few conventional sentiments ("the really happier love songs, like Like Someone In Love, sort of describes one of the things I was experiencing between records," she says), but the album's most emotional moments come from the least obvious songs.

Take, for instance, (It's Not Easy) Being Green, which is most commonly associated with Kermit the Frog. "Being Green is very, very relevant to me, because it speaks of my childhood and growing up," she says. "Really, it's the way I view the world. I still see the world as a little bit of an outsider, because I'm a combination of different things and I still don't fit into any category."

Then there's Randy Bachman's Undun, which is seldom considered a jazz standard. "I wanted a Canadian song on this record because I'm really super in love with this country," she says. "In the past few years, the lives of both myself and my family really got solidified here, and it really feels like home. Everybody's doing really, really well, which is a far cry from how we started.

"So I wanted a Canadian song on there, and the bridge of Undun really appealed to me, especially the last line - 'Too many lives to lead and not enough time.' Which really has been my entire life, trying to be all things to all people. It just felt like really personal, autobiographical stuff."

Sophie Milman plays Guelph, Ont., tonight; Peterborough, Ont., tomorrow, Toronto on Dec. 8, Edmonton on Dec. 11, Calgary on Dec. 12, Vancouver on Dec. 13 and Victoria on Dec. 14.


Prepare To Thrill Again In 2008

Excerpt from www.thestar.com  - The New York Daily News

(November 30, 2007) Finally: a reason to write about
Michael Jackson that's creepy in a good way. The New York Daily News is reporting that Thriller, the iconic album released 25 years ago tomorrow that conjures up images of dancing zombies, will get a commemorative re-release by Sony on Feb. 5.  The set is slated to include all the original songs, with four remixes of the hits overseen by Kanye West, will.i.am and Akon; an additional track, "For All Time," recorded then but left off the album; and a DVD with the most iconic Jackson video footage from that era.

Shane Yellowbird Top Winner At Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(December 2, 2007) TORONTO — Country star
Shane Yellowbird was the top winner at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards on Friday night, picking up trophies for best male artist, best country album and best album of the year for “Life Is Calling My Name.” The ninth edition of the event was held at the Rogers Centre, where 28 prizes were handed out. Earlier this month, the Alberta-born Yellowbird picked up three prizes at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards in Winnipeg. In September, he took home the rising star award at the Canadian Country Music Awards. Saskatchewan's Donny Parenteau, meanwhile, was a dual winner on Friday night. He won best song/single and best producer/engineer for “Father Time.” Northern Cree — the Grammy-nominated Alberta clan of aboriginal drummers and singers — won best hand drum album for “Long Winter Nights” and best powwow album contemporary for “Stay Red.” Other winners included Manitoba artist Tracy Bone for best female artist and Vancouver trio M'Girl for best group or duo award.

Santana Preps Holy Trinity Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 30, 2007) *
Carlos Santana says his next album will be a three-CD set full of his myriad musical influences under the bold title, "The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost," reports Billboard. "We still love (John) Coltrane and Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye," he says, "so that music is gonna get in there. And Paco de Lucia ... very Spanish." The guitarist is teaming up with producer Bill Laswell for the project and will enlist his longtime keyboardist Chester "CT" Thompson and drummer Narada Michael Walden to record the album as a trio. He's also planning to incorporate guests such as Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders, Kenny Garrett and others.  "I have yet to do a trio band," Santana notes, "so this is my opportunity to do kind of like a Tony Williams trio thing. It's a trio with other colors; we're gonna bring other musicians in, singers and stuff like that." Santana hopes to release the album by next summer.

More Drama With The Wu-Tang Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 29, 2007) **The
Wu-Tang Clan reunion tour in support of their upcoming album "The 8 Diagrams" may be back on, but promotion company Live Nation announced Tuesday that two of the shows have already been cancelled. A stop at the Fillmore in Denver, Colorado on Dec. 20 and another show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Jan 10 have been removed from the itinerary without explanation from Live Nation. Wu members Raekwon and Ghostface Killah have spoken out publicly about friction within the group that has hampered creative efforts. Raekwon said he was unhappy over the band's musical direction, while Ghostface has expressed frustration at the group's decision to drop "The 8 Diagrams" on Dec. 4, the same release date of his new solo CD, "The Big Dough Rehab."   In the midst of all this, the group announced in October that it was cancelling its planned 26-date tour. But several days ago, the hip hop collective said it would mount the outing after all with a Dec. 15 launch in Chicago.

Janet Jackson Signs With William Morris

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 29, 2007) *
Janet Jackson has signed with the William Morris Agency in preparation for a number of projects on deck for 2008.  The entertainer comes to the agency fresh from her role in Tyler Perry's hit film "Why Did I Get Married?" She's looking to star in more projects next year, and she's also planning a world tour to promote her new album due in February.  "Janet is one of the most iconic female entertainers of our time." said WMA president Dave Wirtschafter, according to the Hollywood Reporter.  A team of William Morris agents will represent Jackson in all areas, including film, touring, licensing and merchandising, television, theatre, publishing and new technology. Jackson said she chose WMA because of its successful track record. She continues to be represented by managers Johnny Wright and Kenneth Crear as well as attorney Don Passman.

Latifah Wants More Women In Power

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 5, 2007) *Lifetime has recruited
Queen Latifah to help with its new Every Woman Counts campaign by asking ladies across America to complete the following sentence: "If I Were President, I would ...." Lifetime is recording Latifah's interviews during stops on her Trav'lin' Light concert tour. The vignettes will begin airing on the network in January and will run through Election Day on Nov. 4.       Designed to draw attention to issues of significance to women that are often lost in the frenzy of campaign coverage, the spots will also air as broadband vignettes on myLifetime.com.  "Women have a lot to say about the issues they want addressed in the presidential campaign. I am excited to join forces with Lifetime Networks to use my tour to get their voices heard," said Latifah. "It doesn't matter what party the women I talk to are affiliated with; we just want to make sure that women, 52 percent of the population, get the opportunity to get their point across because they are shaping our country's future."  In addition to getting key women's issues raised, Lifetime's award-winning non-partisan "Every Woman Counts" campaign also hopes to encourage women to vote and run for office.

Quincy Jones Song Headed To Space

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 5, 2007) *Music from the legendary
Quincy Jones will be among the cargo for tomorrow's scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis as it delivers the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. Astronaut Leland Melvin says he is bringing along Jones' Grammy-winning 1969 recording "Walking in Space" to use as his morning cup-of-joe during the mission.        "Quincy Jones is someone who I have a great deal of respect and admiration for and I couldn't think of a more appropriate selection to use as my wake-up music," Melvin said. Once Jones' song gets him up and floating, Melvin's duties on the Shuttle Atlantis mission will be to support three space walks using the robotic arm and install the Columbus laboratory from Atlantis' payload bay to its permanent home on the International Space Station. "I am truly honoured that Mr. Melvin has chosen one of my pieces of work for this momentous occasion," said Jones.  "I was inspired to record the 'Walking in Space' album in 1969 after Buzz Aldrin told me that he had played my arrangement of Frank Sinatra's 'Fly Me To The Moon' during his space flight to the moon, so to have it come full circle like this is quite remarkable and very humbling."


Sundance Festival Line-up Announced

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(November 30, 2007) LOS ANGELES–Films featuring Winona Ryder, Nick Nolte, Anjelica Huston and Paul Giamatti will be among those competing for top honours at the
2008 Sundance Film Festival.

The line-up announced Wednesday for Sundance, a key showcase for independent film, also included several Canadian documentaries, as well as American pieces on writer Hunter S. Thompson, musician Patti Smith and filmmakers Roman Polanski and Derek Jarman.

The National Film Board of Canada is sending two of its co-productions to the festival held in Park City, Utah. Patrick Reed's documentary Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma and Yung Chang's Up the Yangtze will screen in the festival's world cinema documentary competition, the
NFB announced Wednesday.

Reed's film, a collaboration with Toronto's White Pine Pictures, follows Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. James Orbinski to Somalia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The feature, produced by Peter Raymont, had its world premiere recently at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

Chang's piece, co-produced with EyeSteelFilm, follows the Yu family as they try to recoup from the flooding of the Three Gorges Dam. It's the first feature film for the Chinese-Canadian writer-director.

Both films "look at the human spirit during times of massive change and crises," the
NFB said in a release.

Taking place Jan. 17-27, Sundance chose 16 titles in its dramatic competition for American fictional films, including director Geoff Haley's The Last Word, starring Ryder, Wes Bentley and Ray Romano in a romance about a writer who crafts suicide notes for other people.

Also competing in a line-up heavy on tales of families at odds: Rawson Thurber's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, with Nolte, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard and Jon Foster in the story of a young man with a gangster father who goes soul-searching after college; Clark Gregg's Choke with Huston and Sam Rockwell in a mother-and-son tale; and Paul Schneider's Pretty Bird with Giamatti and Billy Crudup in a dark comic narrative of entrepreneurs trying to invent a rocket belt.

Another entry in the U.S. dramatic competition: Christine Jeffs's Sunshine Cleaning, the story of an enterprising mother and her reluctant sister who try their hand at the crime-scene cleanup business. It stars Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin and Amy Redford, daughter of Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford.

The 16 documentaries in the U.S. competition feature Alex Gibney's Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Marina Zenovich's Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, about the Academy Award-winning director of The Pianist and Chinatown who fled the United States in 1978 over child-sex charges; and Patti Smith: Dream of Life, Steven Sebring's study of the music icon.

The Women of Brukman (Les Femmes de la Brukman), directed by Canadian Isaac Isitan, is also in the line-up. The piece profiles workers who take over a Buenos Aires men's clothing factory during Argentina's financial collapse.

Other Sundance documentaries include Isaac Julien's Derek Jarman, a look at the work of the British experimental filmmaker; Edet Belzberg's An American Soldier, which examines U.S. army recruitment tactics; Patrick Creadon's I.O.U.S.A., an exploration of America's fiscal straits; and Jackie Reem Salloum's Slingshot Hip Hop, a chronicle of Palestinians using protest rap in the struggle with Israel.

Charlotte Sullivan: On-The-Job Ingénue

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(December 03, 2007) Toronto-born actress
Charlotte Sullivan's career is like a snowball rolling down the mountain.

She started acting when she was 12, landing a role opposite Rosie O'Donnell in the children's film Harriet the Spy. An ingénue, her performance nevertheless caught the eye of Robert Redford, who was auditioning for The Horse Whisperer. Redford narrowed it down to a choice between Sullivan and Scarlett Johansson, but alas, the American won the roll of the dice.

The same year, Sullivan was asked by director Alfonso Cuaron to play the younger version of Gwyneth Paltrow's character in Great Expectations. She had to say no, because of scheduling conflicts with an Imax film, The Hidden Dimensions.

Since then, the self-taught actress - she has never taken a formal acting class - has worked alongside the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola, Drew Barrymore, and, most recently, Peter O'Toole and Sam Neill.

In the coming months, audiences can catch this sunny, gregarious (not to mention drop-dead gorgeous) actress in four Canadian television series:
CITY-TV's Across the River to Motor City (currently airing) and The Murdoch Mysteries, as well CBC's steamy hockey drama MVP and the miniseries Iron Road, a Canada-China co-production with a cast that includes Neill and the eight-time Oscar-nominee, O'Toole.

Working with the naughty Irish actor, Sullivan chuckles, was an experience she won't forget. "I'm still in a state of gratitude," Sullivan says of the time Iron Road was shooting in Hengdian, a major film centre in China.

"Sam is my favourite," she goes on. "He's the love of my life ... He's the most intelligent, kind, hysterically cheeky human I've ever met. O'Toole? Well, his stories are unbelievable. He told me about the time he was on stage, trashed out of his mind, performing Hamlet. He was in the middle of his monologue and forgot the words. He looks to the audience and says, 'I didn't write this ...!' " Sullivan chuckles.

But more than the ribald stories, Sullivan, now 24, says she valued the heart-to-hearts she had with both veteran actors. "You meet these people - who you might have on a pedestal - and you realize they still have problems and have to fight for roles. That someone like Peter O'Toole would have to fight for a movie role humbles it for me, and makes me realize it's not just me."

To get the part in director David Wu's Iron Road, Sullivan went to a salon and had her hair styled the way it would have been worn in the 18th-century. She also rooted through Toronto's vintage shops to find an appropriate wardrobe.

She has a gung-ho style that she's honed over the years and will deploy, yet again, in a tape she's now sending to director Tim Burton for his new feature, The Spook's Apprentice, which is now casting.

"I was obsessed as a child with Tim Burton," Sullivan says. "He had such an eye, so morbid and cryptic. I fell in love with how he can turn things society would normally call ugly into something beautiful. I memorized all of Winona Ryder's lines [in Edward Scissorhands]. Tim is the love of my life. I've got a lot of loves of my life, don't I?"

Sullivan and her elder brother, Sean, were raised in Toronto by their mother, Shireen, - an executive assistant at Air Canada for 30 years - whom the actress credits for keeping her grounded and focused in a career that often leaves people flailing. "My mom made it very clear that [my acting] could never screw around with school," says the actress, who recently bought a house in Toronto which she shares with her black lab, Mango. "She told me I could work during the summer, but I couldn't during the year."In the series MVP, Sullivan plays Mandy, a feisty blonde with an active libido. "She wears wigs and Bettie Page dominatrix outfits. I got paid to pour wax all over my co-star, Peter Miller's, body. It's definitely not what you would expect from the
CBC," she says. "We show boobs, bums. We swear. It's certainly not Road to Avonlea."

Sullivan is almost breathless talking about Across the River to Motor City director Michael DeCarlo, another love of her life. "I could talk about him forever," she gushes. "For someone so young, he has this great eye for telling stories in different time periods. I think he's honestly light-years ahead of the rest of us in terms of his shots, his style. I love the way he works with actors. He doesn't give direction to a group. He pulls people aside and whispers something in your ear."

With no formal training, Sullivan goes on set and soaks everything up: "I've learned as I go. I heard this quote once that I thought was really beautiful. If people tell you you're green, the retort should be: I'd rather be green. Because once you're ripe, you start to rot. I never want to feel like I've arrived."

Career highlights Landed first film role in 1996 as Marion Hawthorne in popular family movie Harriet the Spy.

Offered part of young Gwyneth Paltrow in Alfonso Cuaron's Great Expectations. Sullivan turns it down because of previous commitment to Imax's The Hidden Dimensions.

Does TV pilot called Platinum with Francis and Sofia Coppola (not picked up by a network).

Directs a short film under

Brian de Palma in a workshop at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Has TV roles

in Blue Murder, Radio Free Roscoe, Puppets Who Kill,

This Is Wonderland, as well

as film parts in How to Deal

and Fever Pitch.

Currently in four Canadian television series, Across the River to Motor City, MVP, Iron Road and The Murdoch Mysteries.


Will Smith Goes It Alone

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

(December 03, 2007) HOLLYWOOD–Genial actor
Will Smith has saved the world with a smile many times, in sci-fi movies like Independence Day, Men in Black and I, Robot.

He's trying to rescue Earth again in
I Am Legend, the blockbuster opening Dec. 14. But this time he's much more serious and utterly alone in the role of scientist Robert Neville, the last known human survivor of a cancer treatment that mutates into a global killer virus.

Neville fights off rampaging zombies while searching for a cure.

Smith also felt highly estranged offscreen while filming in New York City. The production forced many temporary road closures in Manhattan, causing massive traffic tie-ups and raised digits pointed in Smith's direction.

"I would say percentage-wise it's the most amount of middle fingers I've ever received in my career," the rapper-turned-actor said over the weekend at the start of a press junket for I Am Legend.

"I'm used to people liking me. When I come to town, it's like fun. I was starting to think F.U. was my name."

I Am Legend, directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine) is the fourth and biggest screen adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel. Previous incarnations have included Charlton Heston (The Omega Man) and Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth) playing Neville.

The film was a real test for Smith, 39, a family man and social animal who doesn't naturally seek out solitude. To adjust to playing Neville, a role originally planned for Arnold Schwarzenegger, he sought out people who had been forced to survive alone.

"You learn things about yourself that you never would even imagine. So in order to prepare for that we sat with former POWs and we sat with people who had been in solitary confinement. They said the first thing is a schedule. You will not survive if you do not schedule everything."

The research included a meeting with convicted felon and ex-Black Panther Geronimo Pratt, who told Smith that he'd spent his time in solitary training roaches to bring him food, an exercise to stave off madness.

Smith's not sure if he believes the roach story, but it contains at least an allegorical truth about what loneliness can do to the human mind.

He put plenty of incessant scheduling and bizarre behaviour – including talking to mannequins – into his portrayal of Neville.

Despite his considerable experience playing action heroes, Smith isn't sure how he'd react in a real catastrophe. He's honest enough to admit he'd be as frightened and confused as the rest of us.

"Oh man, that's always a tough question. That's what interesting about playing characters like this," he said, his smile flashing as bright as his two gold earrings.

"Because you get to explore and wonder how you would react ... You want to be tested to know what you would do, but you really don't want to be tested."

The time when Smith most doubted his personal resolve was during the making of Ali, the 2001 biopic of boxing legend Muhammad Ali that netted Smith the first of his two Oscar nominations.

He didn't know if he'd be prepared to go to prison over a matter of principle, the way Ali did when the champ refused to answer his Vietnam War draft under his birth name, Cassius Clay.

"I just don't know if I would be enough man to give up everything I have right now the way Ali did it for that principle," Smith said.

"And when I look at Robert Neville, what was there to live for? ... I like to believe I'd put out my chest and stand forward and march on and continue to fight for the future of humanity, but I'd probably find a bridge (and jump off)."

At least he had family to keep him company during the arduous filming of I Am Legend. His 7-year-old daughter, Willow, one of two children Smith has with actor wife Jada Pinkett (Smith also has a son from a previous marriage), makes her feature debut playing Neville's daughter Marley in flashback scenes.

Willow wanted the job after she saw how well her older brother Jaden did playing opposite his father in last year's The Pursuit of Happyness, a drama that earned Smith his second Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Willow took to acting so naturally, Smith jokingly compared her to spotlight-seeking Paris Hilton, whereas Jaden is more work-driven, like Johnny Depp.

"You kind of don't work with Willow, you work for Willow."

Smith has other plans to get back into the fun side of life. He's hoping to reunite his hip-hop crew DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince for a concert tour next summer, with Toronto being a likely stop.

Is Dakota Poised For Potter-Like Fame?

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

(December 05, 2007) CANNES–
Dakota Blue Richards hung up on director Chris Weitz when he called to tell her she'd beaten 9,999 other girls for the coveted lead role in The Golden Compass.

She didn't mean to and it wasn't really her fault. Her mom was also involved.

"He told my mom to put it on speaker phone and so she hung up on him. She's not that good (with technology). Then they called again."

Weitz was letting the shy 12-year-old from Brighton, England, know that she'd been selected for the part of Lyra Belacqua, the youthful heroine of The Golden Compass, a fantasy adventure movie opening Friday.

She had won over not only Weitz and his team, but also Philip Pullman, the author of His Dark Materials, the children's book trilogy The Golden Compass is drawn from. The highly particular Pullman had narrowed down his favourites to two girls, Dakota being one of them.

Before that, Dakota had managed to jump through the hoops of an open audition in Cambridge, which drew 2,000 of the 10,000 girls the filmmakers eventually auditioned. Not bad for a girl, now 13, whose previous acting experience had been limited to school plays.

It all seems like a happy accident to her, like the kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who find golden prize tickets inside candy bars. In Dakota's case, it was watching the BBC and hearing about the auditions that made her decide to give it a shot.

She didn't need any additional background on Pullman's books. She was already a fan of both the His Dark Materials trilogy and the London stage show based on it.

"I read the books – well, my mom read them to me when I was 9. I didn't understand them at first. Then we went to see the stage show. Since then, I've just wanted to be Lyra. That was my favourite character ever.

"I think I'm quite a lot like Lyra, in some ways. And then there are a lot of differences between us, but I think I'm quite brave and I stand up for what I believe in. And yeah, I like adventures."

It was an ambitious desire. The role of Lyra is bigger even than the ones played by Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Sam Elliott in The Golden Compass, and they all have scads of movie experience. Lyra is a schoolgirl in an alternative world, one that looks much like England, and she is called upon to save her world and ours from the forces of evil.

Dakota told herself that it was unlikely she'd get the part and she mustn't get too upset about it.

"Well, I thought it would be really great if I got it, but I didn't think I was going to. It's not like I'm being overly modest or something, but I kind of thought the whole way through, even if I don't get it now, it's really good that I got this far," she said.

Yet she was such a natural combination of Lyra's alternating moods of shy and sassy, the choice became an easy one for Weitz, who also wrote the screenplay.

Filming took Dakota out of school for six months – with a private tutor on set – and showed her a world outside her normal experiences.

"In a lot of ways, it was like how I would imagine it to be, but in a lot of ways it was completely different. Some parts were new and exciting, and some parts were just kind of how I would have expected it."

One very unusual thing for Dakota, as for any actor, was having to envision her "daemon" trotting alongside her. Daemons in Pullman's lexicon are the physical manifestation of a person's soul. They live outside the body and usually take the shape of an animal.

Lyra's daemon is a pine marten, a cousin of the weasel. Its name is Pantalaimon, voiced in the film by Freddie Highmore, the English actor who serendipitously played the title character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Pantalaimon was created digitally for the film, and so was Iorek, the armour-clad polar bear voiced by Ian McKellen. Iorek protects Lyra as she travels north to rescue friends who have been kidnapped by sinister forces of The Magisterium, the church-like force that imposes authority and dogma onto her world.

McKellen would visit the set occasionally to do his vocal work live, to assist Dakota.

"Other times they had like a green stick for an eye line. Or there was also a puppeteer who would have a bear head who was on stilts and stuff."

She also had a set visit from Pullman, who was completely charmed by her. But everyone loved Dakota, even the actors playing the villains.

His Dark Materials is frequently compared to the Harry Potter books and to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, both of which have spawned highly successful film franchises. If The Golden Compass is a hit, there could be more films to come, and Dakota is ready to reprise her role.

She thinks she could be playing Lyra right up until she turns 16, if the sequels get green-lighted. She's bracing herself for the same kind of sudden fame that came to Daniel Radcliffe, who started playing Harry Potter was he was 12.

Dakota admits to being nervous.

"I do wonder what it will be like. I have no idea how it's going to all work out. But I hope it will all be fun."


Reese Witherspoon Tops List Of Highest-Paid Actresses

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(November 30, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Even though her latest film, “Rendition,” was a flop,
Reese Witherspoon is a moneymaker. The 31-year-old Academy Award winner commands $15-million to $20-million (U.S.) a movie, placing her at the top of The Hollywood Reporter's annual list of the highest-paid actresses. Angelina Jolie came in second with similar salary demands, though the animated “Beowulf” earned the 32-year-old actress far less — just $8-million. Cameron Diaz was third, with a $15-million-per-movie price tag. Nicole Kidman dropped to fourth place, two spots lower than last year, with an asking price of $10-million to $15-million a film. Renee Zellweger and Sandra Bullock also get $10-million to $15-million paycheques. So does Julia Roberts, who hasn't appeared on the big screen since 2004. Her next film, “Charlie Wilson's War,” is due in theatres in December. Rounding out the top 10 are Drew Barrymore and Jodie Foster, who ask $10-million to $12-million per project, and Halle Berry, who gets $10-million a picture. The salary list appears in The Hollywood Reporter's “Women in Entertainment: Power 100” issue, on newsstands Tuesday.

Will Smith Headed For Grauman's Cement

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 29, 2007) *It's
Will Smith's turn to join the ranks of Hollywood legends Sidney Poitier, Eddie Murphy and others, whose hands and feet are immortalized in the pavement outside of world-famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. The rapper-turned-actor will stick his extremities into the wet cement during a ceremony to take place on Dec. 10 at 11:30 a.m. Smith, star of the upcoming action thriller "I Am Legend," was selected for the honour due to his tremendous box-office success in such films as "Men in Black," "Independence Day," "I Robot," "Ali" and "The Pursuit of Happyness."  The Grauman's ceremony precedes the Dec. 14 opening of "I Am Legend," which stars Smith as the last man on earth following an apocalyptic event.

Brad Pitt Funds Eco-Friendly Homes In New Orleans

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 03, 2007) NEW
YORKBrad Pitt expects the foundations to be built for at least 150 eco-friendly homes in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward by the end of next summer.  "I'm hoping we can expand here and expand over into the rest of New Orleans," the 43-year-old actor said Monday morning in an interview on NBC's "Today" show, as he walked through the devastated neighbourhood.  The initiative, called Make It Right, is Pitt's latest effort to help the area recover from Hurricane Katrina. Pitt has also worked with the environmental organization Global Green USA to build five single-family homes and an 18-unit apartment complex and community centre; earlier this year, he and Angelina Jolie purchased a mansion in the city's French Quarter for US$3.5 million.  Pitt has pledged $5 million of his own money toward the project and – calling himself "not much of a salesman" – was campaigning for more donations for the cause.  "I mean, this is really an adopt-a-house campaign," he said. ``I'm asking for foundations, for high net-worth individuals, for church groups, for corporations to come in and adopt a house – basically, $150,000 will get a family back in their home."  Pitt has teamed up with 13 architects for the project, and explained that each home will be built on stilts as a precaution against the threat of flooding. He said design requirements for the homes were "affordability, sustainability, safety – and that they be beautiful."

'Project' Living For Cuba Gooding Jr.

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 3, 2007) *Oscar-winning actor
Cuba Gooding Jr., currently seen in the film "American Gangster," has been cast in the upcoming action thriller "Untitled Gehenna Project," according to the Hollywood Reporter.   The film follows an elite group of soldiers (Gooding, Taryn Manning, Jason London, Franky G, Zack Ward, Stephanie Jacobson and Brandon Fobbs) sent on a covert mission by a government agent (Valerie Cruz) to retrieve a missing scientist (Ron Perlman) from an underground lab.   They encounter a priest (Henry Rollins) who tells them that an "ancient evil" has been released, causing their greatest fears to come to life. Their former leader (Ray Winstone) plays a pivotal role in uncovering what is actually taking place at the facility.      Bill Moseley and Sarah Ann Morris play members of the compromised research team.   The film is being directed by Sean Connery's son, Jason Connery, an actor who has appeared in more than 30 films and television shows, and recently made his directing debut with "Pandemic."

Djimon Hounsou Is A 'Beautiful Black Man'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 4, 2007) *"TV One Access," the Shaun Robinson-hosted TV One version of syndicated entertainment program "Access Hollywood," has crowned actor
Djimon Hounsou as the “Most Beautiful Black Man Alive.”  The "Blood Diamond" star and beau of Kimora Lee Simmons ranked No. 1 on a list that included Denzel Washington at No. 2, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at No. 3, Boris Kodjoe at No. 4 and Will Smith at No. 5.  “It certainly wasn’t easy selecting this handful of men out of the millions of beautiful brothers out there,” Monique Chenault, senior producer of “TV One Access” said, “but someone had to do it.” A special announcing the beautiful black men premiered recently on TV One with Robinson and co-host Jamal Munnerlyn counting down the brothers one by one.  British actor Idris Elba came in at No. 6 while “Dirty Sexy Money” star Blair Underwood took 7th place. Rounding off the list in eighth place was “Private Practice” actor Taye Diggs, rapper L.L. Cool J in ninth and finally, “Crimnal Minds” actor Shemar Moore at No. 10.

A 'Raisin' In The Sundance

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 4, 2007) *The "
ABC World Premiere Movie Event: A Raisin in the Sun" made history last week when it was selected for screening (out of competition) at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, to be held Jan. 17 at Park City, Utah.    This marks the first time that a broadcast network film will be featured at the annual festival, billed as the largest independent cinema gathering in the U.S.   "A Raisin in the Sun" will premiere on ABC Feb. 25, one night after the network's live coverage of the 80th Annual Academy Awards.   ABC.com features a the trailer of the three-hour film, which stars Sean "Diddy" Combs as Walter Lee Younger, Phylicia Rashad as Lena Younger, Audra McDonald as Ruth, Sanaa Lathan as Beneatha and John Stamos as Mr. Lindner.   See the full list of films in competition at Sundance here.

Jodie Foster Given Leadership Award

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 05, 2007) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Despite being the guest of honour at the Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast Tuesday,
Jodie Foster said, "I don't feel very powerful." "I feel fragile ... unsure, struggling to figure it all out,'' the 45-year-old actress-director-producer said as she accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at the event, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Foster characterized herself as a "professional" and a ``gentleman." But she also said that after working in entertainment for 42 years, "there's no way you can do that and not be as nutty as a fruitcake." "I always feel like something of an impostor. I don't know what I'm doing," she said. "I suppose that's my one little secret, the secret of my success." Lansing, former chief of Paramount Pictures, said she was overwhelmed when the Hollywood Reporter decided to name its award for female leadership in entertainment after her. "I'm equally if not more overwhelmed to be presenting it to Jodie," said Lansing. Other speakers at the 16th annual event included "Hairspray" co-stars Queen Latifah and John Travolta, who played Edna Turnblad in the film. "I woke up saying, 'What dress do I wear today,' " Travolta quipped. "Because I'm a woman who believes in the power of women, I said, 'Wear the suit.' "


Taped By Nearly As Many Cameras As The Super Bowl, Lingerie Show About Fantasy, Sales

Excerpt from www.thestar.com  - Sandy Cohen, The Associated Press

(November 30, 2007) LOS ANGELES–It might be too much to devote an hour of prime-time television to long legs, taut tummies, and half-bare bottoms and bosoms. So
The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show incorporates elaborate staging and musical performances.

The annual hour-long flesh fest, featuring songs by will.i.am, Seal and the Spice Girls, airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. on CBS.

"This is really an event that's anchored in a fashion show," said CBS executive Jack Sussman.

But isn't it essentially an hour-long commercial?

"To a degree," he said.

Still, with top talent and a $10 million (U.S.) budget, The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is more interesting than most everyday advertisements. This year's show spotlights 61 skimpy outfits worn by more than two dozen of the world's most beautiful women. Sixteen cameras stationed throughout the Kodak Theatre capture the catwalk action from every angle.

"A normal fashion show has two," said executive producer Ed Razek. "We have almost as many as the Super Bowl."

That means each fetching curve is filmed multiple times. The fashion show is performed and taped twice, with the best moments blended into the special.

Despite the assets on display, the show is designed for women, Razek said.

"The notion that we pander to men or advertise to men is ridiculous, ludicrous. Maybe 2 per cent of our customers are men. Women shop us every day .... Guys come in twice a year: Dec. 24 and Feb. 14."

Women make up slightly more than half of the show's viewers, according to ratings information provided by CBS. But overall viewership has declined each year, from more than nine million in 2002 to just over 6.5 million last year.

Razek isn't daunted.

"The shows we're doing today are by far the most ambitious, most entertaining, most watched fashion shows in the world – and the most expensive," he said.

That means the company shows more than its typical underwear offerings. Each lingerie ensemble is embellished with one-of-a-kind couture creations such as flowing feather skirts and crystal-encrusted accessories.

The pieces that turn underwear into outfits aren't for sale, said spokesperson Monica Mitro, but the basic items upon which they're added are. It's all about creating a "lingerie fantasy," she said.

The show's fantasy element this year includes scantily clad beauties ornamenting an oversized Christmas tree and an inspirational choir marching through the crowd.

Past shows have had issues with overexposure, prompting the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the program in 2001. But these days, the network collaborates with the lingerie company to avoid "a post-production situation of having to edit around a lot of things," said Sussman.

"It's still the sexiest night on television," he said, "but within the realm of standards."

Hollywood Writers Call New Offer A Rollback

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Gary Gentile, Associated Press

(November 30, 2007) LOS ANGELES–Hollywood studios presented a new contract offer to
striking film and TV writers yesterday that the studios said would pay writers millions of dollars extra for shows created for the Internet.

But writers said some of the proposals amounted to rollbacks and said studios should adopt their counteroffer.

The Writers Guild of America said they asked for a recess in the talks until Tuesday to consider its options, but it called on members to continue picketing today and Monday.

The producers said the new offer, dubbed the "New Economic Partnership," included payments for work shown on the Internet, the key sticking points in the talks.

"The entire value of the New Economic Partnership will deliver more than $130 million (U.S.) in additional compensation above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year," the statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said.

The guild countered with a lengthier response, saying the producers' proposal only dealt with advertising-supported programs streamed for free and jurisdiction over shows created for the Web "and it amounts to a massive rollback."

The writers said their plan, presented yesterday, would cost producers $151 million over three years.

"That's a little over a 3 percent increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10 percent," the statement said.

Increasingly, Danger Lurks In The Comfort Of Our Living Rooms (Except In Canada)

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

(December 03, 2007) There were always many good reasons to watch television alone. Now there's a great one: you won't get stabbed.

On Thursday, a 66-year-old Seattle woman was knifed in the abdomen as she watched TV with a neighbour. According to a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the two "started arguing after the victim changed the channel to a religious program."

Weird. Weirder still: the dispute happened around 8:15 a.m., a time when television is overrun with cartoons, infomercials and staid morning shows. Who knew TV could trigger such antisocial aggression in the non-prime-time hours?

Maybe programs such as The Early Show should start running disclaimers: "Warning. Some viewers may find the following so spellbinding that changing the channel could result in a murderous fury."

As Seattle police spokesperson Renee Witt told the paper: "I don't know what they were originally watching. But it must have been something really good."

The attack occurred three days after an eerily similar incident in Phoenix, Ariz. Last Monday, a 13-year-old boy was seriously injured when he was stabbed (also in the abdomen) in a dispute (also over what to watch on television).

The attacker? His 12-year-old brother.

In September, meanwhile, The Times of India published a story about the stabbing death of a 24-year-old man in New Delhi. The victim was killed because the accused wanted to watch television at a party instead of listen to impromptu guitar playing.

"Now I am regretting the heinous crime I committed over a petty issue like watching TV," the accused told the paper.

Then there was last year's bizarre case in which a woman in Fremont, Ohio, fatally stabbed her 69-year-old father. She also attacked two children who, fortunately, managed to escape and call 911.

The motive? The woman wanted to watch football. But her father and a friend's 8-year-old girl were already watching the movie Seventeen Again.

I have stumbled upon many other cases of what might be termed "TV rage." From the emergency call Houston police received after a young couple literally came to blows over the remote control, to a Malaysian case in which an elder brother doused a sibling with kerosene and set him ablaze after the two argued about what to watch.

Across the planet, there have been beatings, stabbings and shootings stemming from TV rage. Except, that is, in Canada*.

(*Questionable statement based on limited research conducted yesterday morning after a long night of unrelated research into the effects of vodka.)

Why don't Canadians inflict physical harm on one another over a petty issue like watching TV? Do we have more perspective? Are we simply a kinder, gentler nation? Or could this national shortage of TV rage somehow be related to Canadian TV itself?

Think about it. Corner Gas (
CTV, 8:30 tonight) has a loyal following. But even the most devoted Dog River groupie would not resort to homicide if he or she was suddenly deprived of Brent Butt.

Dragons' Den (
CBC, 8 tonight) is airing its season finale. It's a great show, no question. But you know what? No Canadian would brandish an assault weapon if a friend or family member casually changed the channel to, say, Chuck (NBC, Citytv, 8 tonight).

As I sit here with throbbing temples – damn you, Grey Goose! – I'm starting to really appreciate Canadian television. I mean, just knowing that I can walk into any bar in this city to watch The National with Peter Mansbridge and leave without bleeding to death is profoundly comforting.

The industry should really use this in its marketing campaigns: "Watch Canadian TV and nobody gets hurt."


Law & Order Back On Wednesdays

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 04, 2007) LOS ANGELES – "Law & Order" is settling back into its longtime Wednesday home next month, paired with sister series "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," NBC announced Monday.  A two-hour episode will kick off the 9 p.m. EST on Jan. 2 midseason return of "Law & Order," which will move to 10 p.m. EST the following week when spin-off "Criminal Intent" joins the schedule in the 9 p.m. EST slot.  "I'm delighted to be back in the time slot where `Law & Order' was the only show to watch for 15 years," series creator and executive producer Dick Wolf said Monday.  Earlier, NBC had said "Law & Order" would return at midseason Sunday night, following the network's NFL telecasts. Last season, it aired Friday.  With a screenwriters strike now in its fifth week and with networks running through their stock of completed dramas and comedies, "Law & Order" represents a bonanza of unaired hours for NBC.  So does "Criminal Intent," which started showing earlier this season on USA Network, an NBC Universal cable channel, before beginning its broadcasting run.  Wolf declined comment on how many scripts were completed before the walkout. But if the strike is not protracted, he said, he's optimistic the series will fulfil their 22-episode orders.  "Law & Order" is introducing new cast members in its 18th year. Jeremy Sisto (``Six Feet Under") is aboard as a detective, while Linus Roache plays an assistant district attorney who replaces Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) when McCoy steps up to New York district attorney.  McCoy is taking over from the D.A. played by Fred Thompson. The former U.S. senator asked to be released from the drama to pursue his bid for the Republican nomination for president.  The D.A.'s role, which usually called for brief appearances by Thompson, will be expanded with Waterston, Wolf said.  The English-born Roache starred last season in NBC's short-lived ``Kidnapped" and appeared in the films "Batman Begins" and "The Chronicles of Riddick."

Michael Bivins Teams With TNT For NBA Coverage

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 4, 2007) *Best known for being a member of New Edition and its spinoff Bell Biv Devoe, singer
Michael Bivins hits us with a crossover into NBA basketball as a contributor on TNT's broadband channel, TNT OverTime on NBA.com.   The Boston native will largely cover the resurgence of his hometown Celtics in his "Bivins in Boston" segment, but he will also venture to other NBA cities and focus on other teams as he did in this first piece – an interview with Knicks great and current Orlando Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing.    Bivins is the latest music artist to partner with TNT for its NBA coverage, joining a list that includes Jay-Z, Pharrell and Fort Minor. 


Broadway Gets Back To Work

Excerpt from www.thestar.com  - Associated Press

(November 29, 2007) NEW
YORKBroadway came back to life Thursday as stage-starved fans lined up for tickets and theatres reopened their doors following a 19-day stagehands strike that took a big toll on the local economy.

The mood was ecstatic all around the theatre district. Tourists, actors, stagehands, restaurants, musicians, hot dog vendors — basically anyone remotely affected by Broadway — were all thrilled about the return of shows.

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see a Broadway show! And the price is right,” Canadian tourist Susie Biamonte said as she waited for steeply discounted $26.50 tickets to Chicago — reopening Thursday with a new cast that included two stars from The Sopranos .

The strike inflicted serious harm on Broadway during one of the best times of the year, when the city is teeming with tourists and Christmas shoppers. Officials estimated that the city lost $2 million (all figures U.S.) a day because of the strike.

Most plays and musicals that were shut during the walkout were expected to be up and running Thursday evening, even if the cast and crew were a little rusty after a nearly three-week layoff. Chicago held a last-minute afternoon rehearsal to work out some kinks before going back on with a new cast that included Sopranos actors Aida Turturro and Vincent Pastore.

“There’s a lot of energy,” said Pastore, perhaps best known for playing Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on HBO’s mob show. ``I want to go back to work.’’

Michael Van Praagh, a stagehand for 34 years who was returning to work on Tom Stoppard’s Rock ’n’ Roll, said the settlement was a sign “that we’re finally getting the respect we deserve on Broadway.’’

Actor Jeff Perry was also relieved: He would finally appear in August: Osage County , the critically acclaimed Tracy Letts play that was to have opened on Nov. 20 with New York previews after its run at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Perry said the walkout allowed him to spend a lot of “hand holding” time with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday.

But he added: “There was that dead pit-of-your-stomach feeling of, ‘Don’t tell me this play will never be seen by a wider audience.’.’’

Rosemarie DeForest stood at midday outside the box office of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where Spring Awakening” was playing. Long ago, she had bought two tickets for the Nov. 29 performance and she wanted to make sure that the play would be performed Thursday evening.

“I’m ecstatic because it was a birthday gift for a friend and I’m so glad I get to give it to her,” she said. When she heard the news last night that the strike was settled, “I was jumping up and down.’’

While most businesses suffered during the strike, the Broadway NY gift shop on the ground floor of the Marriott Hotel registered an uptick in sales: T-shirts for the striking Wicked show ``almost sold out,” said manager Alex Dudgeon. “People said, ’Well, we can’t see the show, but at least we’ll have this.’’’

Otherwise, he added, business got worse and worse as the strike wore on. “People were here at first, but then, they said, ‘Why bother to even come into the city?’’’

“Business was very bad for everybody,” said Mohamoud Ali, a cart vendor in Times Square who sold less than half the hot dogs and pretzels usually snatched up by crowds on their way to nearby theatres. He lost more than $1,000 during the strike.

On Thursday, the crowds returned — especially in front of the Ambassador Theatre, where promotional tickets for Chicago were going for a hard-to-believe $26.50. By midday, the show was sold out and the offer was extended to the Sunday matinee.

British tourists Steven and Claire Haywood, who were staying at a hotel near Times Square for their 20th anniversary, were buying up tickets with glee — for Chicago, Hairspray and others.

“This is Broadway!” Steven Haywood said. “It’s a part of New York. It’s the razz-matazz!’’

The stagehands and theatre producers reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday, on the third day of marathon sessions between Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers.

Right up to the last day, both sides struggled with what apparently was the final hang-up: the issue of wages. It concerned how much to pay stagehands in return for a reduction in what the producers say were onerous work rules that required them to hire more stagehands than are needed.

Until then, the talks had focused on how many stagehands are required to open a Broadway show and keep it running. That means moving scenery, lights, sound systems and props into the theatre; installing the set and making sure it works; and keeping everything functioning well for the life of the production.

The end of the walkout means a scramble for new opening nights for several shows that were in previews when the strike hit. They include Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, August: Osage County and an adaptation of a long-lost Mark Twain comedy, Is He Dead?

Disney’s The Little Mermaid already has announced it would push back its scheduled Dec. 6 opening — with a new date still to be set.

Sony Centre Winter Season Heats Up

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

(November 30, 2007) The
Sony Centre plans to warm up the Toronto winter with an eclectic selection of programming that covers all the entertainment bases from classical ballet to rock musicals.

And if you needed a guiding light for the whole proceedings, announced yesterday, there's Ted Neeley, coming back at the age of 64 to play the Messiah one more time in Jesus Christ, Superstar (Feb. 15-16).

The year begins with dance with the renowned Russian Moiseyev Dance Company on Jan. 23.

A different kind of dance is next, as African Footprint, the group that's been called "South Africa's answer to Riverdance," brings its unique blend of tribal rhythm and infectious music to Toronto Feb. 7 to 9.

Then, from Feb. 11 to 14, The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley opens, as the popular children's book by Jeff Brown comes to life through the magic of theatre.

On Feb. 22, Ireland's Trinity Irish Dance Company arrives, displaying a mixture of "elegance and harmony" that the Chicago press declared will "almost take your breath away."

On Feb. 22, the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir celebrates its 22nd year of performing around the globe with a visit to Toronto, sharing its songs of hope and inspiration.

"Seasons of Love" will ring throughout the Sony Centre between March 19 and 22 as the hit rock musical Rent returns to Toronto with its mixture of driving rhythms and la vie Bohème.

And finally, to end things with a frosty flourish, Swan Lake on Ice, performed by the Imperial Ice Stars of Russia, will appear from April 30 to May 11.

White Christmas Is White Hot

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

White Christmas
(out of 4)
Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Book by David Ives and Paul Blake. Directed by Walter Bobbie. Until Jan. 5 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E. 416-872-2262

(December 01, 2007) Would you like your days to be merry and bright?

Then head on over to the Sony Centre, where
White Christmas, which officially opened last night, has happily settled in for a Yuletide run.

While it's true that nothing in this world is perfect, I think you're not going to find a more enjoyable show in Toronto this holiday season.

Only a Scrooge or a Grinch could fail to respond to this artful blend of music, dance, comedy and sentiment, delivered, at the preview I attended, with that good ol' Broadway know-how by a talented cast, nearly half of whom are Canadian.

The source material is, of course, the famous 1954 film that starred Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and is an annual "must-see" on everyone's televisions.

But instead of just putting the movie onstage, the creative team behind White Christmas gave it enough of a makeover to glide unassisted into the 21st century and seem – dare I say it? – better than ever.

Don't worry, most of your favourite scenes and songs are there, but the musical has been given a neat nip-and-tuck by David Ives and Paul Blake, who have polished the jokes, rethought some relationships and added some additional great Irving Berlin songs from other shows and films.

It's still 1954, when World War II vets and entertainers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis find themselves spending their Christmas in a Vermont ski lodge, run by the guy who used to be their commanding officer, Gen. Waverly.

Thanks to a premature episode of global warming, there's no snow in supposedly frosty Vermont and the general's resort is going bankrupt.

Enter Wallace and Davis, accompanied by two perky singing sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, and pretty soon we're into that classic showbiz scenario, "Hey, my general has a barn but no snow, so let's put on a musical."

There's a high-maintenance concierge to nag the crusty ol' codger and a cute (but not cutesy) granddaughter along for the ride.

Everyone goes through some romantic complications but I won't be dishing out any major spoilers if I tell you that everything works out just fine in the end. Hey, it's called White Christmas, after all.

Director Walter Bobbie keeps it all moving slickly and choreographer Randy Skinner's routines (especially the tap ones) have just the right
MGM gloss to them. Kudos also to Carrie Robbins for costumes that are so period perfect they manage to be stunning and amusing at the same time.

Best of all is the cast. Bob Wallace (the Crosby role) is played by Peterborough's Graham Rowat, the kind of leading man you thought they didn't make anymore: tall, dark and handsome, with a milk-chocolate baritone and a nice light sense of comedy. Give him a number to sing like "Count Your Blessings" and he's charm personified.

He's paired onstage with his real-life wife, Kate Baldwin, who's ace as Betty Haynes (Clooney's part). Statuesque and stunning, in a wow of a black evening gown, she smoulders her way beautifully through that fine Berlin torch ballad, "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me."

Tony Yazbeck and Shannon O'Bryan pack a lot of high-energy comedy into their dances as Phil and Judy, and Rod Campbell is priceless as Yankee stagehand Ezekiel. Giving the show a lot of its sparkle is Kate Hennig as the motor-mouthed Martha, performing with such flare you'd never know she stepped in just recently to replace an ailing Nora McLellan.

And Barry Flatman tugs at your heartstrings in just the right way as the gruff but lovable general.

I'll admit that White Christmas is old-fashioned, but I think of what Irving Berlin said when someone levelled that accusation at another one of his shows.

"Sure, it's old-fashioned," he admitted. "A good old-fashioned smash."

So is White Christmas. Don't miss it.


Will Siegfried And Roy Make Magic Again?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 03, 2007) Four years after retiring, illusionists
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn say they may just reappear. The German-born performers' long-running Siegfried & Roy production ended in October 2003 when Horn was critically injured onstage by a tiger. "A good magician never lets the cat out of the bag," Horn told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday for a story about the pair's possible return to show business. "Act surprised when you hear about it." The tiger sank its teeth into Horn's neck and dragged him off stage in front of a horrified audience at The Mirage resort, ending one of the most successful casino shows in Las Vegas history. Siegfried, 68, said he marvels at Horn's dedication to his recovery regimen, which includes daily rehabilitation and trips to a gym three times a week, including games of racquetball. "It cheers me up," Siegfried told the newspaper. "All the doctors say what he's doing now is impossible. I've always said, `I am the magician and Roy is the magic.' And Roy shows me every day the magic – the magic of life." Horn, 63, gets a boost from visits to his family of animals at The Mirage, including Montecore, the white tiger that attacked him.

Cindy Williams joins N.Y.'s Drowsy Chaperone

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(December 04, 2007) New York — From Shirley Feeney of TV's Laverne & Shirley to Mrs. Tottendale, the ditsy dowager in the Broadway company of the Canadian hit The Drowsy Chaperone.  On Dec. 11, Cindy Williams joins Bob Saget and the rest of cast of the merry Tony-winning musical with all-Canadian origins - book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and score by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.  Williams replaces JoAnne Worley in the musical at New York's Marquis Theatre.


Bas-Reliefs Swims Along Beautifully

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

(out of 4)
Choreography by Guillaume Bernardi and Ginette Laurin. Until Saturday at the Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000

(November 30, 2007) 
Marie-Jose Chartier has for most of her choreographic career gone to visual artists for inspiration. With Bas-Reliefs, where the source for the show is Montreal artist Betty Goodwin's Swimmers paintings, she has outdone herself.

The show, commissioned by Dance-Cité à Montréal, involved the collaboration of 11 artists from Montreal and Toronto. Chartier and the collaborators have pulled off an impressive work that fully integrates all their contributions.

The creators include Toronto-based theatre and opera director Guillaume Bernardi and Ginette Laurin, artistic director of Montreal's O Vertigo, each of whom choreographed a piece for Chartier and Dan Wild. Video projections wash over the tall canvas hangings that form a swimming pool's walls, with a diving board for a dancer's entrance.

In Bernardi's First tableau, Wild lies under the board as Chartier enters, dipping her feet into imaginary water. He puts on a white latex mask shaped to conform to his own features, transforming himself into a menacing figure, an underwater Phantom of the Opera. Chartier dons a short sheepskin cape with a hood, for a series of encounters that are more tableau than dance.

Laurin's Second tableau is a more lyrical piece, with the dancers in the same opening positions, bathed in the video glow of what looks like a huge seascape by J.M.W. Turner. Pictures of floating naked women swimmers rise and fall on the canvas screens.

Without the added burden of choreographing, Chartier pours everything into her performance, demonstrating how much she has in her, as both a dancer and actor.  


Pinball Named Argos' CEO

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(December 05, 2007)
Mike Clemons isn't giving up "coaching" the Argonauts.

The local sports icon has officially moved from field level at the club's Mississauga practice facilities to the executive offices at the Rogers Centre as its new chief executive officer.

He'll be responsible for all executive and football operations and will be the team's representative on the CFL's board of governors.

But the team's head coach for the past five years, under two different ownerships, said yesterday that his new title simply means he'll be a coach in the team's front office rather than on the playing field.

CEO is a fancy term, but by job is to coach and empower ownership," Clemons said. "I had a wonderful team that I coached to several playoff victories and a Grey Cup. But now I have a different team to coach."

Clemons said he didn't accept the
CEO's job just to say he's still associated with the Argos.

"I am here to do a job," he said. "It is now my job to continue to give direction and vision to this organization. Vision without action is dangerous; action without vision is a nightmare. What you want to do is be able to put vision into action. My job is to provide the vision."

He said Brad Watters will execute the action.

Watters, the former Ottawa Renegades president who headed the just-completed and highly successful Grey Cup week in Toronto, was introduced yesterday as the team's new chief operating officer.

Clemons and Watters will share the role held by president and
CEO Keith Pelley, who left the team last week to take up the position of president of the consortium that holds the television rights for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Argo co-owner Howard Sokolowski said the club will not have a president.

Clemons, who has long maintained that coaching was not a life-long career for him, said he had other opportunities in politics, television and business that he could have pursued, but decided "to stay at home."

The 42-year-old native of Dunedin, Fla., came to the Argos in 1989 and his elusiveness as a ball carrier earned him the Pinball moniker from then-coach Bob O'Billovich.

He retired midway into his 12th season holding a number of club records, as well as still holding the CFL's all-time combined yardage record of 25,438 yards.

Rich Stubler, the team's long-time defensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach, will replace Clemons as head coach. That announcement is to be formally made tomorrow.

As well-liked and as close to the players as he was, Clemons said he won't have a difficult time leaving that side of the game.

"I'm not a yesterday guy, so I don't look back too much," he said. "I'm not a guy who says, `Oh, I wish I was back there.' I move on pretty easily. I'm really a today guy.

"People talk about the good old days, but for me these are the good old days."

He said he took a similar approach when he retired in the midst of the chaotic 2000 season from his initial fling as the head coach of the Argonauts.

"And the reality is at that time I still wanted to play," he said. "But when I took the job I didn't look back."

Clemons said the most enjoyable part of coaching was to be able to take a group of players and mould them into a team "and teach them that they can accomplish more than they thought they could."

He cited this year's team, which battled back from an injury-plague 2-6 start to win nine of its final 10 games to finish first in the East Division.

He said what he didn't like about coaching was having to cut players.

"And I hated to lose more than I liked to win," he said.

Watters Run Deep With Argo Pride For Son, Dad

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Allan Ryan, Sports Reporter

(December 05, 2007) It took almost 44 years but the Watters family has finally made it with the Toronto Argonauts.

Proud poppa,
Bill Watters – long-time sports agent, one-time Maple Leafs executive and now local radio and TV hockey commentator – was happily retelling the tale yesterday.

Once a star fullback/linebacker type with the U of T, Watters had been the Argos' first-round pick in the 1964 CFL draft. He got as far as training camp, when knee problems short-circuited that career option. Yesterday, son
Brad Watters, coming off a two-year run as general manager of the recent and highly successful Grey Cup, was introduced as the Argos' new chief operating officer.

He takes over at least part of the portfolio held by the now-departed president and
CEO, Keith Pelley – the part that has everything to do with marketing, corporate sponsorship and sales.

Mr. Argo, Michael (Pinball) Clemons, takes over as
CEO and it'll also be Watters' challenge to implement the vision and initiatives that Clemons comes up with over the coming months and years.

The just-turned 37-year-old father of three – Kaitlyn, 10; Lauryn, 7; and Mark, 4 – said he'd been honoured in simply being considered.

"The Grey Cup was a great thing to do, but this has so much more potential," said Watters, a product of Leaside High.

"To work for Michael, to work at building this storied brand and to continue to make the Argos a relevant part, a bigger part, of this city ... that, to me, is a true privilege."

Besides the 2007 Grey Cup, Watters had been president of Grey Cup 2004 in Ottawa, where he also served as president of the Ottawa Renegades in 2002, and is also co-owner and president of the five-time National Lacrosse League champion Toronto Rock.

"A lot of this organization is in great shape," said Watters, steering ample credit toward Pelley, his mentor of sorts. "It's not something that you're coming in to rebuild ... we're really just taking it to the next level.

"I still don't have a Grey Cup ring," he added, "so I want to get one very quickly."

Deep Thoughts On How To Succeed In The NBA

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(December 05, 2007) Bryan Colangelo, the
Raptors general manager, got a phone call the other day. It was from an agent advertising the wares of a player possessed of qualities sorely missing from the Toronto roster this season, athleticism for one.

And though the GM wasn't interested for a list of reasons, the deal sealer, in some ways, was a simple truth: the free agent in question cannot shoot.

"If a guy can't shoot, I generally say ... `I'm not sure he can play with us,'" Colangelo said. "It's just the way the game has evolved."

Speaking of shooting, the league's 30 teams are on pace to take a record number of three-pointers this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Heading into last night's action, the average NBA game had seen the launch of about 36 three-point shots. That's two additional attempts per game over last season and about five more per game than in 2004-05, the season Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix and the Suns – who face the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre tonight – began popularizing the European-influenced drive-and-kick style that has since been embraced, to various degrees, by many other squads.

There's a good reason why the Suns – who are firing up about 23 three-pointers a game this season, third most in the league – have bred copycats. Shooting a lot of three-pointers appears to be good for the win-loss record.

This season, 12 teams, the Raptors among them, are averaging 20 three-point attempts per game when rounded to the nearest attempt. As of yesterday, those 12 teams had compiled a .603 winning percentage. The 12 teams taking the fewest three-pointers per game, in contrast, were a combined .401.

Maybe those numbers lie. But in a league rife with internationally bred marksmen, short on dominant post players and heavy on swarming help defence since zone coverage was legalized in 2001, perhaps it's not a stretch to suggest that if you don't shoot from deep, you'll be hard-pressed to compete.

Three-point accuracy is important, too. But the volume of three-point attempts seems to be a key factor in winning games. Even if a team shoots the current league average of 35.5 per cent from three-point range, that team would have to shoot 53.3 per cent on two-point attempts to produce the same number of points with the same number of shots. As of yesterday, the league average on two-point field goals was 47.8 per cent. So the three, if you're seeking bang for your chuck, is the more efficient option. The Raptors, who are shooting a league-best 43.3 per cent from behind the arc, would need to shoot 64.5 per cent from two-point range to get as much value per shot.

No team's success can be explained by one factor and you can't have an outside game without an inside game. The Suns and Raptors, like a lot of teams, rely on guard penetration to produce either an easy lay-up or a kick-out to an open gunner. And Toronto functions best when Chris Bosh becomes, as Colangelo terms it, "a magnet for the defence," drawing double coverage in the post.

"Then when you put three or four shooters (behind the three-point line) at any one time, the defence cannot guard everybody," Colangelo said. "You're going to get an open look."

The Raptors, bent on creating those open looks, don't suffer bricklayers gladly. Which is why Colangelo had some advice for the shooting-impaired client of the agent who called the other day. He suggested the guy go play in Europe so he could learn to play in the NBA.

"I told him, if he goes over to Europe, he can work on his skills," Colangelo said, "and he can come back more in tune with where the game is going."


We Unassuming Heroes Don't Need Further Fame

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ron Sparks, Special To The Star

It isn't every week that a comedy album gets recorded in Toronto, but the Rivoli will be the home of one such recording session this Wednesday. Ron Sparks requests your attendance. Sort of.

(December 02, 2007) Hello, I'm
Ron Sparks. The Star asked me to write up an article about my stand-up comedy CD recording Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at the Rivoli (334 Queen St. W, at Spadina). Well, I'm sorry, but I can't. I just don't feel right telling you to come see my show. I mean, sure, I'm a fantastic, multi-award-winning comedian, and one of the stars of MuchMusic's hit show Video on Trial – but saying it just feels like nothing more than shameless self promotion. And if I wanted to do that, I certainly wouldn't do it here. I would do it on my home page at www.sparksnation.com, the only place where you can purchase official Ron Sparks merchandise. So no, I won't tell you about my show Wednesday at the Rivoli at 8:30 p.m., even though it's a great value at just $5. Instead, I'll just tell you a little bit about myself.

A friend of mine suggested that maybe I should embellish my past a little bit, to make myself more interesting. Well, I'm sorry, but I can't do that either. I was raised to be honest – by a secretive group of superheroes in a volcano lair. Later, after thwarting a KGB attempt to destroy the moon using a Doomsday Weather Machine, and developing a cure for diabetes which should be available early next year, I became a comedian. A comedian who is currently dating both Jessica Alba and Jennifer Love Hewitt. (It's cool – they know about each other.) I hope I don't seem like a "name-dropper" here. I did consider dropping names, but my good friend Sir Paul McCartney advised me against it. So did Natalie Portman, whom I am also dating. But I digress ...

Anyway, I guess that's everything you need to know about me. It's not fancy, but it is the truth. And even though there is room in this article, I still won't be plugging my fantastic show at the Rivoli Wednesday at 8:30 for $5. Instead I'm going to plug a show for a couple of my friends and fellow Video on Trial stars, Debra DiGiovanni and Fraser Young. These fantastic comedians will be appearing Wednesday night at the Rivoli (334 Queen St. W., at Spadina) at 8:30 p.m., and you can see them for just $5. Oh, and I'll be there too. Along with Jessica Alba, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and my arch-nemesis Dr. Hypno. Maybe.

Diversity On Luminato Bill

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(December 05, 2007)
Luminato, Toronto's new festival of arts and creativity, will embrace the city's multicultural identity with a South Asian version of A Midsummer Night's Dream that features actors speaking eight languages, the Toronto Star has learned.

Another Luminato 2008 highlight to be announced at a media launch today is a rare Toronto appearance by the Mark Morris Dance Group.

This much-loved New York avant-garde troupe will perform its sparkling Mozart Dances and two mixed programs at the University of Toronto's MacMillan Theatre.

Morris is considered the most exciting American choreographer around, and for anyone who loves contemporary dance this is an unmissable opportunity to catch up with a troupe that has been absent from this town for far too long.

It's also a chance to erase what happened in 1998, when a Morris performance at Mississauga's Living Arts Centre was cancelled because of poor ticket sales.

As for Dream, call it Shakespeare with a dash of curry.

This first India/U.K. theatrical co-production is unlike anything ever seen on the stage of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Having played to rave reviews and packed houses in both England and India, it is sure to be a highlight of Luminato's second time around, June 6 to 15.

The festival offers a range of innovative work in theatre, dance, music and the visual arts. Janice Price, its
CEO, does a juggling act by collaborating with some local arts partners as well as importing events from far away.

Tim Supple, one of the most talented stage directors in Britain, went to India seeking a new twist to one of the world's most familiar scripts. Only part of the dialogue is in English, but that has not stopped Anglo audiences from hugely enjoying it.

Supple's production was a highlight of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works Festival, wherein all the Bard's plays were staged in a 12-month period. This Dream was favourably compared to Peter Brook's famously acrobatic 1970 staging.

Although this contemporary version explores the influences of India, it stays faithful to the text, translating the words with strict line-by-line accuracy.

This Dream is an audience-pleaser that has proved to have a life beyond Stratford-upon-Avon. For most of 2007, there was an extensive tour of the United Kingdom, including a London run.

Now the cast of 22 young and athletic performers from Sri Lanka and many parts of India is crossing the globe.

Toronto is probably the one city in the world outside India where this show is most likely to find a large, receptive audience. It's a huge coup for Luminato, which was accused of elitism by some naysayers after last year's inaugural festival. Staged at a non-traditional venue, it will have ticket prices designed to make it accessible.

In Toronto, according to new statistics, 93,590 people claim Tamil as their mother tongue; Hindi is favoured by 33,545 and Bengali by 25,060. Also spoken onstage: Malayalam, Sinhalese, Sanskrit and Marathi.

According to Benedict Nightingale, critic for The Times of London, even those unfamiliar with the text should not be confused, because many of the key lines are delivered in English.

And when the actors move into other tongues, their body language makes the meaning clear.

Even if you don't understand the words spoken by a domineering father who has arranged an unwanted marriage for his daughter, you get the drift by the way he pushes her around.

I look forward to watching Shakespeare's court figures and creatures of the forest find themselves "ill met by moonlight" in an enchanting new way.


Chappelle Makes Laugh Factory History – Again

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 5, 2007) *Dave Chappelle took the stage at Hollywood's Laugh Factory Sunday night and told continuous jokes for six hours and 12 minutes straight, which is five minutes longer than his record-setting performance on that very stage eight months earlier.  "Dave was determined to keep his record because he recently heard that Dane Cook was planning on trying to break (his) record," club owner Jamie Masada told the Associated Press Monday. Masada said Cook's record of three hours and 50 minutes, set in early April, was broken by Chappelle's six-hour-and-seven-minutes on stage later in the month.    Richard Pryor set the original bar in 1980 with a Laugh Factory performance lasting two hours and 41 minutes. According to Masada, Chappelle says he's been spending his time traveling, most recently to Ecuador.


The Glutes: The Bad, The Ugly

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA,
CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

I regularly host online meetings here at eDiets.com. Members can ask me questions related to their fitness routines, and I provide immediate and realistic solutions.

Can you guess one of the most popular questions? I'll give you a hint -- look directly behind you. We hear a lot about exercises that are great for the glutes such as squats, walking lunges and stationary lunges. However, did you ever wonder what exercises for the butt aren’t worth doing?

Hopefully, you’re aware that your glutes won’t get tighter and smaller unless your overall body fat is reduced. You can do all the butt movements on the planet for hours a day, but it won’t make one bit of difference unless you lose body fat -- that fact is non-negotiable.

Most of the time people (no fault of there own) don’t analyze a movement. They don’t think about resistance, proper number of reps, angle of the movement and how the body responds to various parameters.

That being said, here is my list of what won’t work for achieving smaller, tighter glutes. Oh, I know you’ll read some of my points and say, “yes, but I feel that exercise or those amount of reps in my glutes.”

I contend that “feeling it” isn’t enough. For example, I can take a pair of 10-pound dumbbells and perform a chest press with slow and controlled movements and feel it in my chest. So what? Do you know what that will get me? Zip… Nada… Zero… The resistance isn’t enough to stimulate a change and I’d end up doing too many reps to have any effect. All I would do is increase muscular endurance.

I’m sure that’s not the goal you have for your butt.

Now for the “what won’t work” glute list:

Butt Blaster Machines -- These machines, sometimes called “butt blaster” or “butt burner units,” have you positioned on your hands and knees. You place your foot on a platform above your glutes and behind your upper body and then push up toward the ceiling with your foot.

This is an ineffective exercise. It places some resistance on the butt, but nothing that will stimulate any type of significant change. It doesn’t matter if you perform 10 reps or 30.

You’d be better off performing a lunge, which places excellent resistance on the glutes/legs and allows it to be worked more effectively, or even an angled leg press, which works the legs and glutes as well.

Focusing Only On Butt Exercises -- Some people will do a 10-minute weight workout, 10-minute cardio workout and then spend 20 minutes working the glutes. This will not give you the results you seek. This method assumes that constant work of the butt will make it smaller.

Fire Hydrant Exercise -- Did you ever walk by a cardio class and see people on all fours as they raise one leg (with bent knee) up to the side. This is called a Fire Hydrant. Again, an overrated exercise that is ineffective.

Why is it ineffective? A muscle responds to overload and resistance. You simply can’t place enough overload on the glute in that position. You’d need the heaviest ankle weights on earth and it still wouldn’t work.

Very High Repetitions –- This applies to any lower body movement, including the glutes. Very high reps for the lower body (over 20) will not place enough overload and stress on a muscle to make any cosmetic change. So, the people who perform 100 kneeling rear leg kicks, 50 reps of leg presses etc. are simply training for muscular endurance -- that’s about it. One might say that at least they’re burning calories, but if that’s the goal, there are better ways to burn calories (i.e. cardiovascular exercise)

The formula for success remains clear -- calorie reduction to lose fat, cardiovascular exercise to burn more calories, weight training to stimulate the metabolism, including strategic lower body exercises such as squats, lunges and leg presses to tighten the legs and glutes.

Now, go get that bodacious butt you’ve always wanted.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Og Mandino: Author, The Greatest Salesman in the World

(December 10, 2007) "The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them. Even the most tedious chore will become endurable as you parade through each day convinced that every task, no matter how menial or boring, brings you closer to fulfilling your dreams.”