20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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July 5, 2007

Hope your holiday weekend was as good as mine! 

Harbourfront Centre
offers hot festivals this summer - World Rhythms - this weekend is Beats, Breaks & Culture - tour the history of electronic music, starting with its roots in soul, funk and jazz; listen in on the present, then continue to the future, where electronic music intermingles and meshes with contemporary global sounds.



Harbourfront Centre Announces The Anticipated Return Of World Routes 2007 - June 4 To September 3, 2007

Source:  Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre is pleased to announce the dates for the
2007 Summer Festival season, as well as the dates for the festivals collectively known as World Routes 2007 presented by RBC. From June through September, Harbourfront Centre will be presenting top Canadian and International artists comprising all creative disciplines including music, dance, theatre, visual arts, readings and film each weekend. Visitors will also enjoy our 10-acre site once again for enriching family activities at multiple waterfront venues. All Summer Festivals are FREE admission.

Visitors to Harbourfront Centre can also experience the rich cultural diversity of each weekend's theme while enjoying rotating shopping and food selections at the International Marketplace and The World Café nestled alongside an expanded boardwalk.

World Rhythms
Harbourfront Centre unites the four corners of the globe together with the musical showcase of World Rhythms. Instruments and icons from around the world will be on hand to demonstrate and display how music is the universal language; also features food, dance and visual arts from around the world.  Sound is the source of this festival as the major regions of the world showcase their rhythms in this global musical mix. Instruments from the farthest reaches of the world, icons of the world music community, and a captivating demo of how percussive movement has charmed the world over - this festival leaves no stone unturned.

·         Futuristic funk mash-up with Sa-Ra Creative Partners

Sampled by everyone from Public Enemy to Mos Def, it's the Toronto debut of Motown guitar God Dennis Coffey

**Harbourfront Press Release:

World Rhythms – A Showcase of Global Sounds and Culture

 Friday, July 13 through Sunday, July 15 – ONLY at Harbourfront Centre
 (complete event schedule included below)
 TORONTO, June 26, 2007 – Harbourfront Centre travelled the four corners   of the earth to assemble the incredible line up for World Rhythms.    This festival escorts visitors on a journey around the world to bring   together globally diverse art, food and culture, an undertaking only   Harbourfront Centre could bring to fruition.
 With icons of the world music community, traditional and contemporary   dance performances, exquisite global culinary demonstrations,   awe-inspiring films and visual art displays, as well as plenty of activities for   the kids, Harbourfront Centre’s World Rhythms is a gateway to an   enriched cultural experience, from Friday, July 13 through Sunday, July 15.
 World Rhythms is part of Harbourfront Centre’s summer long series of   festivals, World Routes 2007 presented by RBC. Each weekend from June   through September, top Canadian and International artists perform in all   of the creative disciplines including music, dance, theatre, visual   arts, readings and film. Harbourfront Centre’s unparalleled 10-acre   waterfront site is prized for its fun and educational family activities at   multiple venues, as well as the ethnic diversity of the International   Marketplace and World Café. These rotating shops and cafés are nestled   along an expanded boardwalk, and enable visitors to explore and access each   weekend's cultural theme through the purchase of unique items and food.   All World Routes 2007 summer festivals are FREE admission.
 Featured music performances include the incomparable Sa-Ra Creative   Partners, the Toronto debut of Motown guitar legend Dennis Coffey, the   highly acclaimed Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac, and the exciting Ricardo   Lemvo & Makina Loca. The Canadian Premiere of the documentary Ali Farka   Touré and Toumani Diabaté - The Hotel Mandé Sessions is only one of many   very special film screenings. 
 Stunning dance troupe Ballet en Fuego from New Mexico make their   Canadian Debut while the body plays percussion in the special dance   performance East Meets West featuring Little Pear Garden Collective and Turn on   the Tap. Local musician and world instrument craftsman Nuno Christo   will display his unique collection of instruments from around the world   and appetites for global cuisine will be satisfied with special Cooking   Demonstrations courtesy of local chefs such as Caroline Ishii, Gregg   Lewis and Jim Comishen.
 For more information on all World Rhythms events the public can call  416-973-4000 or visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com
 World Rhythms at Harbourfront Centre – All events are FREE
 Friday, July 13
 8:00 p.m. – The Arsenals – Toronto’s underground Ska legends (Concert  Stage)
 9:00 p.m. – Soul Influence – soulful a cappella quartet (Toronto Star  Stage)
 9:30 p.m. – Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac – Malian songstress and French  electronic wizard (Concert Stage)
 11:00 p.m. – Pat Braden – Yellowknife based singer/songwriter  (Brigantine Room)
 7:30 p.m. – Hollywood & Tazz (Toronto Star Stage)
 8:30 p.m. – As Old as My Tongue: The Myth and Life of Bi Kidude –  Canadian Premiere! (Studio Theatre)
 Saturday, July 14
 2:00 p.m. – Fiamma Fumana – Northern Italy’s finest (Concert Stage)
 3:30 p.m. – Justin Nozuka – Rising Japanese/Canadian soul star!  (Concert Stage)
 7:00 p.m. – Beyond the Pale – Toronto’s genre-defying specialists, presented by Tilley (Toronto Star Stage)
 8:00 p.m. – Dennis Coffey – Motown and jazz guitar legend – Toronto  Solo Debut! (Concert Stage)
 9:30 p.m. – Sa-Ra Creative Partners – witness “The Future of Music” –  Canadian Debut! (Concert Stage)
 11:00 p.m. – Peace…What It Is! – Sa Ra Creative Partners After Party  with DJ Dave Campbell (Brigantine Room)
 1:30 p.m. - Mosaic Dance (Toronto Star Stage)
 3:00 p.m. – East Meets West – Little Pear Garden Collective and Turn on  the Tap  (Toronto Star Stage)
 5:00 p.m. – Tarana Dance Academy (Toronto Star Stage)
 5:30 p.m. – Ballet En Fuego – New Mexico’s finest dance troupe –  Canadian Debut! (Toronto Star Stage)
 2:00 p.m. – Mariza and the Story of Fado (Studio Theatre)
 7:30 p.m. – The World Talks: The San People of Namibia (Studio Theatre)
 9:00 p.m. – Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté - The Hotel Mandé  Sessions - Canadian Debut! (Studio Theatre)
 1:30 p.m. – Chef Jim Comishen – “Jambalaya” Cooking Class (Lakeside  Terrace)
 3:30 p.m. – Chefs Caroline Ishii & Gregg Lewis of ZenKitchen – Food  Demo (Lakeside Terrace)
 Family Activities:
 1:00 p.m. – Children’s Craft Rainstick (Kids Zone Tent)

 3:30 p.m. – World Music Instrument Talk with local collector Nuno  Christo (Studio Theatre)
 Sunday, July 15
 3:00 p.m. – Pacha Massive – Colombian rhythms via New York City - part  of the Pepsi Concert Series (Concert Stage)
 4:30 p.m. – Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca – Legendary Congolese Rumba  (Concert Stage)
 1:00 p.m. – Bold Steps Dance Studio – Highland Scottish step dance  (Toronto Star Stage)
 2:30 p.m. – Ballet En Fuego (Toronto Star Stage)
 4:00 p.m. – The Road – Emily Cheung and Rina Singha (Toronto Star  Stage)
 2:00 p.m. – HerSong “La Colombiana” - WORLD PREMIERE! (Studio Theatre)
 4:00 p.m. – Breaking the Silence – Music in Afghanistan (Studio  Theatre)
 5:30 p.m. – The Cult of Walt: Canada’s Polka King (Studio Theatre)
 Family Activities:
 1:00 p.m.  – Children’s Craft Rainstick (Kids Zone Tent)
 2:00 p.m. – Chef La-Toya Fagon – Food Class “Sweet and Spicy Caribbean
 Style Chicken with Vegetables” (Lakeside Terrace)
 4:00 p.m. – Tamales Demo with John Martin of Johny Banana (Lakeside Terrace)


Fest Finishes On High Note

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop & Jazz Critic

(July 02, 2007) Slow start, big finish was the order of the 21st
TD Canada Trust Jazz Festival. The 10-day event, which usually attracts about 600,000, got off to a bumpy start with under-capacity attendance for early acts such as Holly Cole and Jean-Luc Ponty at the Nathan Phillips mainstage tent, but saw boisterous, maximum audiences during the second half, ending with blues guitarist Derek Trucks and gospel maven Mavis Staples this weekend. "I blame myself," said executive producer Pat Taylor of jazz-fusion ensemble Manteca's failure to launch the event with an opening night sell-out for their first performance in nine years. "We've been working on bringing the average age of (attendees) down and in doing that we may have not marketed effectively to the Manteca crowd." But even pianist Keith Jarrett didn't sell out the 2,100-seat Four Seasons Centre. "A lot of people who are not dyed-in-the-wool jazz fans come out for the festival; maybe there are more ways to spend available dollars," mused Taylor. The clubs, however, were consistently busy: the Cabaret Series will need a bigger venue next year after packing the 150-seat Savoy nightly. Dozens were turned away from Fathead Newman's stint at The Pilot and about 400 people caught Mike Stern's sets at Live@Courthouse.

A few final notes:

BIGGEST DIVA: No, not Mavis Staples, or the singer who wanted the noisy air conditioner at city hall turned off. Between the "I want to use this piano, no that one, um ... lemme try that first one again"; ensuring that the bench was exactly 18 1/2 inches from the keyboard; a ban on media photographers; refusing to stay at the same hotel as other musicians and sending out to Sleep Country for a $2,000 mattress because his didn't make the flight and the one at the Four Season Hotel just wouldn't do: it's Keith Jarrett. Who, to be fair, once battled chronic fatigue syndrome and did deliver the festival's top performance.

NEAR MISS: For his last song at Live@Courthouse Don Byron called for singer Dean Bowman to return to the mic. No response. "This is an usual situation," said the saxist/clarinettist.

Concluding with an instrumental, the band left the stage, only to return moments later with Bowman, who confessed to falling asleep in the green room. "Jet lag," muttered the vocalist, who had flown in from New York that afternoon. Whatever. At least the people who'd stuck around for the two underwhelming sets finally got to hear "Shotgun."

JUST PLAIN NICE: Derek Trucks comparing notes with photographer Bob Anderson on the digital Leica. Chris Botti greeting each autograph seeker with: "What's your name? How do you spell it? Where are you from? Thank you."

And Nikki Yanofsky, 13, requesting coloured markers and paper to beautify her dressing room sign.

Elizabeth Shepherd's Successful Jazz Career Has Been Built Through Surprising Leaps

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

(June 28, 2007) Many musicians have recurring dreams in which they're late for the show and they've lost their instrument, or they don't know the music, or the audience is waiting and they have no idea what they're supposed to play.
Elizabeth Shepherd knows the feelings associated with those nightmares very well, because almost every key event in her short career as a jazz musician has thrown her into a waking version of one of those what-am-I-doing-here situations. She had never played a note of jazz when she decided, almost overnight, to switch from classical to jazz piano at McGill University's faculty of music. For her audition, she played three jazz numbers she had written out note by note, not fully realizing that you're supposed to improvise the solos. "It was the antithesis of jazz, right?" she said, "And they're like, 'Sounds great.' And I show up for my first lesson, and they ask me to play a 2-5 progression [a simple feat of keyboard harmony that classical players are seldom asked to perform]. I couldn't play. It was horrible," not just then, but through all the months it took her to relearn an instrument she thought she knew how to play. Flash-forward three years, to when Shepherd is looking for work in Toronto as a jazz pianist who has become very comfortable with 2-5 progressions and much else. She plays for a restaurant owner, who seems impressed and wants to know if she can also sing. The simple answer is yes, because she sang in choirs for years, but she has no experience singing jazz, much less to her own accompaniment. She gets the gig anyway, then races home to do a quick study of 30 jazz songs for a four-hour set at the St. Tropez restaurant the very next night.

"It was like background music, but I was sick with worry," she said. She got through it somehow, and her night of fear became a two-year steady gig, a paid tutorial three or four nights a week in the art of singing and playing jazz. Her trio, with which she made a Juno-nominated recording last year (Start To Move, on Toronto's Do Right! Music label), also came together at the gig, after Shepherd landed a month-long residency at the Rex Hotel for a group that didn't really exist. She had jammed with a bass player whose playing she found sympathetic (Scott Kemp) and she asked him to recommend a drummer (Colin Kingsmore). The three of them played together for the first time on the residency's opening night. She has done everything the hard way, in short, and maybe that's the way it had to be. Becoming a professional musician of any kind was bound to involve a difficult leap, because nearly all of Shepherd's early music experiences were part of her family's deep immersion in the Salvation Army. Both her parents are Army officers; she herself was a soldier in the organization till she was 17 and played cornet and tenor horn in Sally Ann bands. Music, in that environment, was a means of stimulating the faith and glorifying God, and nothing else. "Growing up with music being so closely related to notions of religious faith, I think there's a residual, latent sense that I should be doing something to help people, some higher calling, and that music may be self-indulgent on some level," she said. "I don't really believe that, but I still wrestle with it."

Dance rhythms were not part of the Sally Ann musical experience, which makes it doubly interesting to find Latin rhythms romping through so many of Shepherd's funky, post-bebop songs. She attributes those beats mainly to five years spent working as a waitress in Montreal, in a place that played samba every night. In a way, moving to unfamiliar places in music came naturally to Shepherd, because her parents' ministry kept the family changing location every three or four years. She went to eight different schools in cities across Canada and in France, where the family relocated when she was 10. The semi-nomadic lifestyle, and the overwhelming focus on church activities, made for a close-knit family but a nebulous sense of home. "It was a very charged household," she said. "The Salvation Army is kind of all-encompassing. It demands a lot of time, time that was maybe deflected away from family life. For as long as my brother and I were involved in Salvation Army activities, we would have that sort of family life, but otherwise ..." her voice trailed off. She has no real sense of where home is; circumstances, more than choice, brought her family together again in Toronto, after her brother suffered a major injury in a car crash four years ago. At the age of 30, she's a loner who has lots of acquaintances and few close friends, and dreams that seem hard to reconcile. In one, she's having a great career as a jet-setting, independent jazz musician. In the other, she's living on a farm with a husband, kids and a garden.

The first dream seems to be coming along nicely. Start To Move was well received here and abroad; in Britain, the album came in at No. 3 on one BBC list of the best jazz records of 2006. Besides, a terrific new album of remixes and B-sides (also on Do Right! Music), is bound to get Shepherd noticed outside the jazz world. Never mind that most of the remixers left her inventive piano playing out of their tracks. It was her voice they responded to, with good reason: Shepherd's vocal style feels focused and casual at once - cool, smart and sexy. She has a flair for delivering lyrics at high speed, sounding at times like a jazz musician responding on her own terms to the frenetic pace of rap. The link with hip-hop becomes visible in Duane Crichton's playful video version of Four, Shepherd's performance of a Miles Davis tune that becomes the motor behind a quick-cutting sequence of street-dance moves by London's JazzCotech dancers. (You can see it at dorightmusic.com/elizabeth.htm). Like her fave jazz pianist, Herbie Hancock, Shepherd is open to collaborations with people from other parts of the scene, as long as it feels right. That was her guide when she left classical music, in which everything was too scripted for comfort, and the Salvation Army, where faith sometimes seemed to get in the way of trying to understand the world. "There's a tendency in the church to gloss over everything that has to do with harsh reality, and to put a high priority on happiness and joy, at the expense of investigating what might be actually going on," she said. "When you're playing in a bar setting, you often see people at their most dreary. And I kind of like that, because it's real. I look at it, and I think, 'I've felt that way.' And if I'm helping, great, but I don't see it as my role to alleviate anyone's pain. ... The most important thing I can do is to be honest." The Elizabeth Shepherd Trio plays the Supermarket in Toronto tomorrow and the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 8.

The Final Cut

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Columnist

(June 30, 2007) It was like a trip to Mecca, or some other holy shrine, recalls Larry LeBlanc, music publisher, longtime Canadian editor of the American music industry magazine Billboard and the custodian of perhaps the largest private music library in Canada. "If you loved music, and you were a serious record collector, Sam the Record Man was the only game in town from the time it opened in 1961 'til ... well, 'til now."  'Til today, that is. Sam the Record Man's Yonge St. flagship store, for decades the centre of an empire that spread across the nation from east to west and boasted as many as 150 regional stores in its retail empire, closes for good this afternoon. It's the end of the record retail business in Canada as we have known it, the end of an era. Toronto will never be the same. Internet retailing, computer file sharing, a collapsing music industry infrastructure, the effects of the globalization of culture, mass acceptance of portable, disc-free music-listening technology, a radical shift in musical tastes have all made Sam the Record Man – even the signature hometown store that survived the chain-killing bankruptcy a couple of years ago – a relic of the past.

Sales of CDs and music DVDs in Canada in the first quarter of this year fell by an unprecedented 35 per cent – to $68.7 million from $105.6 million in the same period in 2006 – the most drastic decline in "physical" music sales of any country in the world, according to figures released in April by the Canadian Record Industry Association. Unit sales for the same period were down 30 per cent, to 7.1 million from 10.2 million in 2006.  Sales of CDs and music DVDs in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2007 have fallen by about 20 per cent. Music industry sources point out these declines have been largely responsible for the closure of thousands of music retail outlets in both countries and for trimming inventory to a relative handful of top-selling artists. For Toronto musicians and music lovers for whom Sam the Record Man's three-storey building was the centre of the universe – with its garish "revolving" neon LPs overlooking the action on Yonge St. and beckoning the faithful, its overloaded bins, creaking stairs, burrow-like aisles, its hidden nooks and crannies, walls covered with posters and autographed photos of music legends, the dumb waiter bearing ancient or lost treasures from the basement, the third-floor trove of discounted deletes known as the Room Of Broken Dreams, the racks of foreign-language recordings, opera and folk music that no one else carried, the overworked but reassuringly professorial staff – the world will be an emptier place after today. The twin discs – quintessential Toronto iconography that appears in countless images of the downtown core – will stay on the building. It was designated a heritage property last week, and its preservation will pay tribute to the Toronto that used to be. "If you were from outside Toronto, Sam's was magic," Leblanc continues. "Sam's had Sam."

That would be founder and lifelong Canadian music booster Sam Sniderman, who on any given day for more than 40 years could be found just inside the door checking the comings and goings of his customers and staff, making sure you got what you came for and who would take things into his own hands if you didn't. "I swear, he knew every item in the building, and where it was," LeBlanc says. "And if he couldn't find a particular record, he'd make sure to get it for you, usually in a matter of days." Sure, Eaton's and Simpson's carried the latest 45s back when LeBlanc ventured in from Peterborough in his teens with his paper route cash in hand – "39 cents for a 45-rpm single, $3.98 for an LP" – on a Saturday morning. And A&A's, Sam's archrival, was just a few doors north selling records and – yuck! – books. But if you wanted real music, not just the hits, not the records your parents would buy, but the music that came over your radio late at night from Detroit and Chicago and New York, or poured through the doors of nearby rock 'n' roll, R&B and folk joints, Sam's was the only destination. "You'd go with your buddies," LeBlanc explains. "There was always a queue at the counter. We'd never seen so many records in our lives, and Sam always met you at the door, like P. T. Barnum pitching a show. He was proud to be a retailer. He used to say, `Anyone can sell you a record, but it takes a salesman to sell you two.' “And a lot of what Sniderman sold was music made by local artists who had no major label deals. The first time Gordon Lightfoot's music reached the record-buying public was when his Two-Tones singles on the independent Chateau label appeared at Sam the Record Man on consignment. "The same with Raffi's first album, before he became a children's entertainer," continues LeBlanc. "If you were a Canadian artist with records to sell, Sam's was the first place to stop. He'd take your stuff, front-rack it, put up a sign, point it out to customers. He'd put band gig posters in the front window or on the wall near the cash registers. He knew all of Canada's music stars before anyone else. He was a friend to musicians. They loved him.

"On a Saturday afternoon during matinee breaks, Sam's was where the musicians playing in the local bars went to stack up on the latest records. It was a gathering place. It felt like home to them." Veteran Toronto guitarist and songwriter Danny Marks remembers those days well. "Sam's was my store," he says. "I could walk there. I could find just about anything I wanted. They sold my records. They made me feel as if my music mattered. Like Sam Shopsy, Ed Mirvish and Bargain Benny, Sam Sniderman was one of those eccentric and inventive Jewish entrepreneurs who gave Toronto its character. He was a real hands-on guy. You don't see that any more." Sam the Record Man was where Canadian blues legend Donnie "Mr. Downchild" Walsh remembers buying The Coasters' Greatest Hits in his teenage years.  "You couldn't get it anywhere else. Sam had all the music I listened to, stuff that was way off the beaten path, in every category. He put Downchild's first album, Bootleg, in his window, and a pile right inside the front door. If you heard bands anywhere on the Yonge St. strip, you could walk down to Sam's and buy their music." It was where Arkansas rocker Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks – later The Band – bought the elemental R&B, blues and rockabilly records that inspired their raw and vital style.  "If it wasn't in stock, Sam would order it for you," says Hawkins, who first met Sniderman in 1958, when his store was a "hole-in-the-wall," a radio shop.  "Robbie Robertson learned a lot of licks from the records we found at Sam's. It's a shame that it's gone ... it was a huge part of what made Toronto interesting."

The Art of Giving Back with Christopher Cathcart

Source: The Robertson Treatment, www.eurweb.com

(July 3, 2007) *I began working with
Christopher Cathcart in the late 80’s when he use to pitch me coverage opportunities on the many projects and personalities he represented as a leading entertainment publicist.  As I grew to know him better what always struck me was his strong sense of self and dedication to a set of principals, values and beliefs that are very similar to my own.   Another thing that’s impressed me about this Howard grad and New Jersey native is the way in which he’s grown his career—evolving from entertainment to corporate publicist; developing into a popular college lecturer and his dedication as a community activist.   I often tease Chris about being an “All American Black Man” but the truth of the matter is he really does set an example that more black men need to follow. Currently promoting is first book, “The Lost Art of Giving Back: A Helpful Guide to Making a Difference,” this brutha is doing what he does best – DOING SOMETHING to make a difference. It gives me great pleasure to share this platform with Chris as he discusses what motivated him to write this book. Enjoy!  

Robertson Treatment: Why did you write this book?

Chris Cathcart: The idea for the book had been haunting me for a longtime.  After years of volunteering myself in one way or another, I wanted to help encourage other folk to get involved.  So, I figured I’d simply take all the things I’ve been telling my friends and family for years about how they can get started and put that in some organized, framework, and that provided the basis for the book. I wanted to make a concrete contribution in the effort to get folk active.

RT: How does philanthropy benefit Black America?

CC: It’s hard to answer that question with any one specific example, simply because it helps on so many fronts and in so many ways.  We often lament, and justifiably so, about the many ills that still  beset our community.  Whether it’s challenges in education, healthcare, employment opportunities, or other basic quality of life issues, we all know our community still carries a disproportionate amount of the national burden.

By giving back, by engaging ourselves individually on some level, not only do we bring much needed energy and insight to the many issues we face, we also underscore our sense of shared responsibility in  addressing the adverse conditions affecting our community, and our 
world for that matter. It is a fact that we are responsible for each other, and for the condition of our community.

RT: Why aren't more Black Americans engaged in philanthropy?

CC: Again, there are any host of reasons a social scientist could give to best answer that question, but I have a few theories.  Chief among them is we have allowed our values to get skewed.  Like most folk in the larger society, we have bought into the concept of “me” first, “me” last, and “me” always – we are paralyzed “me-ism.”

The fact remains that most of the rights and benefits we enjoy as a community came by way of shared sacrifice and common struggle.  While it was easier to see the collective problem when we were dealing with legal segregation and other forms of overt racism, the realities of today offer more than enough reasons to help each other – as in more mentors and tutors for our youth, greater support for our non-profits, increased fundraising efforts, etc.  The trick, in this day and age, is to understand that you can successfully pursue and enjoy all your individual aspirations AND participate in philanthropic, community enhancing efforts as well,  they are not mutually exclusive concepts.  In fact, they are complementary in most cases.

RT: Most people associate philanthropy only with the rich and famous. Has that connection intimidated most blacks from getting involved?

CC: I believe it’s preventing many people from getting involved, Black and otherwise.  People have a tendency to think giving back is the domain of the rich and famous, a function reserved for the Bill Gates and Oprah Winfreys of the world (and God love them for what they do).  But we can’t fall prey to the convenient excuse of waiting to be billionaires; we have to understand that our time and energy are as valuable and as needed as any financial resource.  In fact, that’s one of the key points made in the book – that everyone, regardless of their education or income, has something of value to offer, and, through that, everyone can be special.

RT: In what ways can Black Americans become involved in philanthropic pursuits?

CC: The simplest approach is to merely get started, and to get started by doing something you like or are interested in already.  Try working with an existing youth program at church, or an intern program at the job, or even via a hobby or other personal interest (think HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, homelessness, breast cancer, etc.).  Using familiar or passionate launching points makes it easier to both get started and stay active once there.

Also, the needs in our communities’ schools are so great, that a simple visit to a nearby guidance counsellor’s office will most likely present a wide range of possibilities.  The most important thing is to get going in a way that’s convenient, and then build from there.

RT: In addition to your book, what other resources are available for blacks looking to become involved in philanthropy?

CC: I didn’t realize how many books and manuals there were on volunteering until I wrote one, so there’s no shortage of resource guides out there, for all categories.  Also, many of our local and 
national organizations have programs, as well as our religious institutions, and public health programs.  Indeed, the need for volunteerism is so vast, that one can find a resource at nearly every turn and in every category.  The key is for the individual to take the initial step and make the commitment to get involved, after that, the pieces will fall into place.

Music, Dance Mark Diana's Birthday

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 02, 2007) LONDON–Waving their arms in the air with 70,000 fans at London's Wembley Stadium,
princes William and Harry celebrated the life of their mother, Diana, on what would have been the Princess of Wales' 46th birthday. William, 25, rocked his hips as Canadian pop star Nelly Furtado belted out her song "Maneater" – to the embarrassment of younger brother Harry, who shook his head and laughed. The concert was organized by the princes. "This evening is about all that my mother loved in life: her music, her dance, her charities, and her family and friends," William told the crowd, thanking them and millions more who watched the show on television.  Diana died Aug. 31, 1997, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver when their Mercedes crashed in Paris. Security for the concert was increased after the discovery of two unexploded car bombs in central London on Friday and an attack on Glasgow airport on Saturday. At least 450 officers patrolled the event.

The concert mixed rock, pop, hip hop and classical ballet, and featured some of Diana's favourite acts, including Duran Duran and Tom Jones. In honour of her love of dance and theatre, there was a performance of an extract from Swan Lake by the English National Ballet and songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Among the 24 performances were songs by Rod Stewart, Kanye West, Joss Stone, Lily Allen and Sean "Diddy" Combs, who performed an emotive rendition of "Missing You" – a cover of The Police's 1983 "Every Breath You Take." The crowd cheered as Elton John opened the show, playing the piano and singing "Your Song." Ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair was among those who recorded a video greeting. His message was booed as he appeared onscreen, but the crowd cheered when he paid tribute to William and Harry – the second and third in line to the British throne, respectively. "I know their mother would be very proud of them," Blair said. William's former girlfriend Kate Middleton attended the concert, further fuelling rumours that the couple, who announced their split in April, have reconciled. Tickets for the concert cost $95 (Canadian) with proceeds going to causes Diana supported. A memorial service is planned in London Aug. 31, the anniversary of Diana's death.


Sam Roberts, K'Naan Among Canadians Performing Overseas For Canada Day

Source: By Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(June 28, 2007) TORONTO (CP) - Shaggy-haired singer
Sam Roberts, rapper K'naan and country rocker Johnny Reid are among the Canadian musicians set to mark Canada Day in London this weekend, joining thousands of expats expected to gather at a bash in Trafalgar Square on Friday.  The Canuck contingent takes over one of London's most familiar landmarks with a free evening show that will cap off a day of Maple Leaf fun - including First Nations dancing and drumming, a street hockey tournament, full-dress Mounties and a specially brewed Canada Day beer.  It's believed to be the largest Canada Day party outside of the country, with roughly 30,000 people turning out for last year's inaugural bash, says Nim Singh of the Canadian Tourism Commission.  The strong ties between Canada and Britain make the London party a natural fit, and Trafalgar Square an especially suited venue since it's home to the Canadian High Commission.  "The square has always been synonymous for a lot of people with Canada anyway," Singh says from London.  This year, the commission has stocked the celebrations with a slate of burgeoning talent eager to break big in Britain.

"We're just hoping we can surprise them with a new, fresh face," Singh says of the British music market.  "They know that Canada is synonymous with good music but we hope that we just can present a vibrant, youthful, fresh face of Canada and move away from some of the more stereotypical views that some may have."  The Scottish-born Reid said he was looking forward to honouring his adopted homeland, where he launched his music career and started a family.  "I was born and raised in Glasgow, came to Canada when I was 17," Reid says in his lilting brogue.  "So the chance to come back here and celebrate Canada Day, a country that's given me nothing but opportunity and allowed me to live out my dreams ... is a wee bit ironic but most enjoyable at the same time."  Reid says he came from a family of tradesmen and most likely would have followed in the footsteps of his father and uncles had he stayed in Scotland.  In Canada, a bursary allowed him to study music and business in Quebec and government funds helped him build a music career.  "(Canada has) a lot of government-funded arts programs that has allowed me to travel the world and play music, which has allowed me to record records, which has allowed me tour support," says Reid.  Other Canada Day events set for London include a riverboat cruise on the Thames, and pub parties in Covent Garden.  But come July 1, the biggest show in town will be the Concert for Diana. Canadian superstar Nelly Furtado is set to represent the Maple Leaf at the star-studded fundraiser at Wembley Stadium.  Canadian music will also be the focus this weekend in New York, where the Canadian Consulate General puts on its annual showcase of the best new artists.

Brooklyn's Prospect Park will feature Montreal acts the Stills, Sam Roberts and Malajube for an outdoor show Saturday that typically draws 10,000 fans, says consulate spokesman Jeff Breithaupt.  On Sunday, veteran singer Carole Pope of Rough Trade joins established local acts in a tribute to Canadian songwriters at Joe's Pub in Greenwich Village. It will be followed by another showcase featuring Serena Ryder, Peter Elkas and Wil and broadcast by Sirius Canada satellite radio.  Last Saturday, the consulate brought Canadian acts Sloan, Apostle of Hustle and the Duhks to Central Park for a free outdoor show held annually for the last nine years.

Chantal Accuses Avril Of Crossing 'Ethical Line'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Geoff Nixon

(July 4, 2007)  Two of Canada's most well-known chanteuses,
Chantal Kreviazuk and Avril Lavigne, share the same orbit in the Canadian music scene. Both are signed to Sony BMG Music, both have management through Vancouver's Nettwerk Music Group and the two have even collaborated from time to time. But now an apparent rift has emerged between the two, with Kreviazuk taking aim at Lavigne and her work in a recent interview in an American music magazine. In the June, 2007, issue of Performing Songwriter, Kreviazuk pokes fun at the notion that Lavigne is a songwriter and suggests that the pop singer from Napanee, Ont., may have lifted a song title from Kreviazuk's own work. "I mean, Avril, a songwriter?" Kreviazuk is quoted as saying. "Avril doesn't really sit and write songs by herself or anything." Kreviazuk goes on to say in the interview that she sent Lavigne a song called Contagious two years ago and that Lavigne then included a song by the same name on her most recent album, The Best Damn Thing. "Avril will also cross the ethical line, and no one says anything," Kreviazuk said in the interview.

"That's why I'll never work with her again. I sent her a song two years ago called Contagious and I just saw the track listing to this album and there's a song called Contagious on it - and my name's not on it. What do you do with that?" In a response to a question from the interviewer, however, she said she would not seek legal action.  Lavigne's Toronto-based entertainment lawyer, Chris Taylor, said yesterday that he had no comment on the remarks made by Kreviazuk. Both Sony BMG and Nettwerk were similarly mum about the tiff between the two stars. Evan Taubenfeld, who collaborated with Lavigne on four songs included on The Best Damn Thing and who is the singer for the L.A.-based band Black List Club, said the Contagious that made Lavigne's record was one that did not involve Kreviazuk. "I honestly can't speak as to the song that Chantal is claiming to have sent or not have sent," Taubenfeld said. "The only thing I can say is that Avril and I wrote a song called Contagious for my record. We started it from scratch. We wrote it at her house and we wrote a 100-per-cent original collaboration that only her and I were part of, and that we came up with the concept for it on the spot. I was going to use it for my record, and then at the last second she used it on her record."

As for the relationship between Lavigne and Kreviazuk, Taubenfeld said he could offer no explanation as to what led to the dispute between the two musicians. "Av is probably my closest friend in the world and I think she's always treated Chantal fairly and with great amounts of respect and dignity," he said. "I'm not sure what happened. I know they had a great relationship for the last record and they wrote some really good songs together. But I'm not really sure, exactly, what happened on this record."  He reiterated, "I can say that Contagious was 100 per cent between [Avril] and I. Chantal had nothing to do with it." Rick Taylor, managing editor of Performing Songwriter, said Kreviazuk's comments simply came out in a regular conversation between the singer and freelance writer Bob Cannon. Cannon said he felt the controversy between the two stemmed more from the fact that Kreviazuk was not mentioned as an influence on Lavigne's song. "I think Chantal, without saying so, ... was a little bit hurt by that," he said, adding that feuds over credit are common in the music industry. Neither Lavigne nor Kreviazuk could be reached by The Globe and Mail yesterday for comment.

At 64, Sly Stone Prepares To Cut A New Album

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(July 4, 2007) Los Angeles — After 25 years,
Sly Stone speaks. The famously reclusive funkster broke his silence by granting his first interview since the eighties to Vanity Fair. In the magazine's August issue, the front man of the late-sixties band Sly and the Family Stone talks about his music, his disappearance from public view and his long-awaited return. Stone, 64, who made a brief, blond Mohawked appearance at the 2006 Grammys, says he plans to start work on a new album in the fall. But after more than two decades away from the spotlight, why come back now? " 'Cause it's kind of boring at home sometimes," he says. "I got a lot of songs I want to record and put out, so I'm gonna try 'em out on the road. That's the way it's always worked the best: Let's try it out and see how the people feel."

Rasheeda Wants To Know: What Kind Of Gurl Are You?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Fiona McKinson

(July 2, 2007) NEW YORK, NY -- Rasheeda, the Georgia Peach from Atlanta has just launched a contest to discover the next generation of female MCs with her latest on line contest.   As an example of exactly what type of girl Rasheeda is, she has created a contest where fans can log on to her My Space page and record their own versions of her latest single "Type Of Girl" to get the opportunity to make a studio recording with a certified rap star.  Rasheeda, who’s new album Dat Type of Gurl on D-Lo/Imperial Records dropped June 19, has created an innovative new contest to help create a new niche for female MCs that want to legitimately get into the rap game.   Via her MySpace Page, http://www.myspace.com/RasheedaGaPeach, Rasheeda has created a contest for her fans to log on and submit an original verse (16 bars) to win an official Rasheeda prize pack.  The prize pack includes a poster, a personal phone call from Rasheeda and the opportunity to record their verse with Rasheeda! Currently, Rasheeda’s MySpace page has some impressive numbers, 97,000 friends, 2.2 million views of her MySpace page, and over 192,000 plays of her new video “My Bubblegum” on MySpace.  The theme of the freestyle is “What type of girl are you?” and as excited fans leave rhymes and entries the competition continues to produce glimpses of emerging talent.

Rasheeda, the famous female MC hailing from Atlanta , Georgia has been cranking out hits since the early 90s.  As a teenager while her friends were transitioning from Barbie dolls to make-up, Rasheeda was busy writing rhymes and perfecting her craft as an MC.  Rasheeda has always ruled as the Queen of Crunk but she has also established herself as one of the sexiest women in hip hop.  Her latest album Dat Type of Gurl includes her new single, “My Bubblegum” and it is quickly climbing up the charts. Rasheeda started out as a member of the teenage hip hop trio Da Kaperz. when she decided to launch her solo career she was snatched up by Motown Records and she released her solo, debut album Dirty South in 2001.  The album contained the dirty south anthem, “Do It (Do Da Damn Thang)” with Pastor Troy.  Her follow up was 2002’s A Ghetto Dream released on the Atlanta based D-Lo Entertainment label.  That album featured collaborations with the superstars of crunk, Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz and secured Rasheeda’s place as one of most talented rap artist in the game.  Georgia Peach, was her third successful album containing the critically acclaimed singles, “Vibrate” featuring Petey Pablo and “Rocked Away” with Lil Scrappy.  Her latest endeavour Dat Type of Gurl has guest appearances from southern favourites, Baby, Jazze Pha and Fabo of D4L.  Rasheeda has grown as an artist, person and young woman and she can’t wait to let the world know everything that she has been going through with her latest hip hop masterpiece. Rasheeda has also remained with D-Lo Entertainment and Dat Type of Gurl will be released through that entertainment entity.  Imperial Music will provide marketing, publicity, on-line and radio promotions for the project.  Rasheeda says, “I’m extremely excited about D-Lo Entertainment and Imperial teaming up on my project.  I finally feel like, together, we will be able to fill the void with what’s been missing.”  Her new album is the next chapter in Rasheeda’s exciting career as a rap artist.  “I feel really good about my new project and confident with who I am and what I have accomplished over the last couple of years.”  There is still time to enter the contest and for more information on Rasheeda log on to http://www.myspace.com/RasheedaGaPeach or contact Zenobia Simmons, zenobia.simmons@imperialrecords.com, 212-786-8496.

The UK Corner: Ring Ring - It's London

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 2, 2007) London Calling made its second appearance in London on June 28-29 at Earls Court exhibition centre.  The two-day music industry conference focused on the future of the business and featured 400 international exhibitors from over 40 countries including the USA, dozens of seminars, and international speakers such as Chief Executive Officer of Warner Music International Patrick Vien who delivered a keynote address.  He discussed how the company is restructuring to tap into new business areas and why such a move is essential for labels to operate successfully in the 21st Century. The line up also included David Bowie music producer Tony Visconti and the top music industry bodies’ leaders The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Chairman John Kennedy and Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) President, Alison Wenham who considered Modelling The New Music Economy. Tony Visconti has helped shape music over four decades and recently published his critically-acclaimed autobiography Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy charting his early days as a performer, relocation to England as a producer in the late 60s, and development of his pivotal artistic relationships from Bowie and Bolan through to Morrissey’s 2006 Ringleader of the Tormentors.

Other leading speakers at London Calling included Umut Ozaydinli, Coca-Cola’s Music Marketing Manager, Afdhel Aziz, Nokia Europe’s Music & Entertainment Manager, Gerard Grech, Strategy & Business Development Director at Orange / France Telecom, Prefueled founder Christian Marstrander, Royalty Share Chairman & CEO Bob Kohn, and Rob Wetstone, eMusic VP. Organisations such as the Association of Independent Music (Aim), Informal Mobile Podcasting and Learning Adaptation (IMPALA), and the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) were represented. There was expert one-to-one business advice, and the line-up of issues included:

•     New technologies and innovation - examining how the next generation of technologies affected the way the music industry does business;

•     Brands & Bands - where advertising gurus, brand owners and experts looked at how they embrace music and how the music industry can benefit; and

•     Music Business 2.0 - looking at the new entrants and new opportunities arriving from all directions.

There were also showcases, gigs, parties and networking events held throughout the last week in June.  Among the artists participating at London Calling was UK soul star Nate James. Nate performed in the main ballroom on opening night. At the 2005 MOBO awards he was nominated for best newcomer and best RNB artist and at the 2006 MOBOs he was nominated for best UK artist. His manager Anthony Hamer-Hodges also gave a talk at the event. According to David Conway, a partner at London Calling, "London Calling was the one event this summer where delegates could hear, see, touch and experience the future of music business. It was the meeting place for labels, managers, distributors, forward-thinking brands, service providers, and technology companies from all over the world who are determining the shape of the new music economy.” London Calling 2008 takes place at Earls Court on 19 & 20 June. For more info, visit: www.londoncalling2007.com  The UK Corner covers the UK/British soul/urban music scene and is written by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at info@thetalentshow.co.uk.

Garifuna Songs Inspire With Words, Rhythm

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(July 02, 2007)
Andy Palacio expects to be stopped at customs. Since the release of his chart-topping album Wátina four months ago, he has put his country on the map with world music fans, but most immigration officers have yet to hear of it. "They look at my passport for 10 minutes," says the singer. "They say ... `Where is this country?' "I can understand the ordinary person not being very familiar with it, but it is completely unacceptable for an immigration officer not to know that there is a place called Belize." Palacio is the current buzz of the world music industry, touring Europe and North America with a seven-piece band called the Garifuna Collective, and set to play Harbourfront Centre this afternoon. He comes from the small Central American country directly south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and from a culture even most Caribbean islanders have never heard of. He is Garifuna, a minority people scattered mostly in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. They trace their beginnings to 1635, when two large Spanish ships carrying West African slaves sank off what is now St. Vincent. Half the Africans survived, intermingled with indigenous Caribs and moved to the mainland coast, where pockets of them still retain a distinct musical and linguistic culture.

It is to those traditions that Palacio, 46, has dedicated himself. In 1988, he formed a dance band playing Garifuna rhythms.  In 1995, he grew more serious. With Belizean producer Ivan Duran, he began to explore Garifuna's music roots, delving into themes of pain, beauty and survival.  "Oh God, please change my life this year," he sings in the Garifuna language on the title song of the hit CD. "I ask you to change my life, but please do not take it away." Wátina hit No. 1 on the European world music chart this month, and won the 2007 Womex Award, the annual prize of the Berlin-based world music industry association.

Reluctant Travelling Jazz Man

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

(June 29, 2007)
Derek Trucks never went to jazz school. The offspring of dedicated Southern country rockers – his uncle, Butch Trucks, was a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, and his father was a diehard fan and a fully fledged Fillmore veteran at the age of 16 – the 27-year-old guitar virtuoso's fate was sealed from the time he picked up his first instrument, a $5 basher, at a yard sale when he was 9. "It was the music I grew up with," Trucks said recently in a phone interview on a tour that brings him and his band to the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival tomorrow night (8 p.m. at Nathan Phillips Square, tickets $30 at ticketmaster.ca).  A 17-year touring veteran, Trucks is used to juggling the schedules of his own band, The Allmans, and last year as the featured guitarist on Eric Clapton's world tour. When Clapton called to invite him to join his touring band, Trucks didn't answer. "It was an international call on my cellphone and I didn't recognize the number. He tracked me down a few days later."

The Clapton experience was educational and musically rewarding, he added, "after you get used to the role changes, and to changes in circumstances."  "I'm used to travelling around in the back of a 15-seat van with a bunch of guys, driving hundreds of miles for a gig or on a bus with the Allmans. With Eric you fly everywhere first class. But the rest is the same: the same bullshit comes up at every level." Jazz, even the rootsy blues/folk/world music blend in which the Derek Trucks Band specializes on the album Songlines, was never on his musical horizon, even though it's a natural extension for a musician singled out years ago for his superior improvisational skills.  He was named one of Rolling Stone's 100 great guitarists of all time and a new guitar god in the magazine's 2007 list of contemporary rock deities. "All those accolades are a bit silly," Trucks chuckled. "You do what you do, regardless of whether magazine writers like it. I'm confident in what I do. I don't believe in hype. After 17 years and 300 shows a year, you have to believe there's a purpose.

"I never studied to be a jazz player. I've learned from the guys in my band and from others I've been lucky enough to record or perform with: McCoy Tyner, Jack DeJohnette, Wynton Marsalis." Not that he calls what he does with his band jazz.  "We pull in blues and R&B, country and folk, some rock 'n' roll, and try to incorporate it all seamlessly. We're getting pretty good at it now." And he works hard at keeping close to his own family, flying his wife, award-winning blues guitarist Susan Tedeschi, 2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to as many band gigs as their schedules allow. "It's not a normal situation, but if you're focused, it can be done ... you can have a family and a life in music. We find creative ways to make it work. We make it up as we go."

Simplicity Of A Trio Is Ultimate Test

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

(June 29, 2007)
Joshua Redman has performed in Toronto many times, but tonight's Jazz Festival appearance, his fifth, is unique.  It's the first time the California tenor saxist, accompanied by bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Antonio Sanchez, will lead an acoustic trio here. "It's not something I felt ready to do until now," said the 38-year-old in a recent phone interview about the format of his new record Back East and the supporting tour.  "The simplicity of the (trio) context makes it more challenging and complex for us as players and musicians to really make a strong statement and to give the music life, and to have it make sense, and keep it interesting and have it varied. "A lot of modern jazz really is defined by harmony and when you don't have a harmonic instrument, like a piano or a guitar, there's so much more responsibility that falls upon all the other musicians.  "It's hard as a sax player. I'm not sure I'm ready, but I'm more ready than I've ever been." Since graduating from Harvard in 1991, turning down Yale Law School and winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition that same year, the son of legendary saxman Dewey Redman has developed into one of the most talented horn players of his generation, whether showcasing acoustic swing-based jazz, or electric grooves.

His 10th studio album finds him giving a direct nod to a sax titan to whom he's oft compared: upending the title of a celebrated 1957 Sonny Rollins recording and including songs Rollins did on that album, his first trio outing. "I was working on my own originals and I kind of rediscovered a track from Sonny Rollins's Way Out West when it came on, shuffling randomly through my iTunes," Redman explained.  "I had this inspiration immediately to do these arrangements of songs (`I'm An Old Cowhand', `Wagon Wheels') that he had done on that record.  "From there I thought `Maybe I can take on music that's not just my own.' ... "So, this whole concept of celebrating the music of some of my influences took shape.  "That's a very tricky proposition for me and something I kind of actively stayed away from in the past: explicitly making reference to a song, or one of my influences, because I didn't ever want to be in a situation where I felt like they overwhelmed me. "But maybe now I feel a little more mature and a little more secure in my own musical identity that I can engage more readily with the music of my influences and hopefully still have something original to say." Through tone and song selection, the album is also toying with notions of east and west in terms of culture and music, Redman acknowledged. "In a sense I'm kind of poking fun at all these distinctions, especially this idea of east and west coast schools of jazz. I'm not sure that really existed to the extent that people say it did; but certainly it doesn't now."  The father of a 16-month-old son jokingly cited coffee, wine and weather as reasons for settling in his Berkeley hometown after decamping from New York five years ago. "It doesn't have the energy and intensity of New York, or the jazz scene that New York has, but I found that with more space and more time in a more relaxed environment I could get more done."

Out of her 'Shell

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop & Jazz Critic

(June 30, 2007) If Me'shell NdegéOcello had her druthers, this storywould be reduced to one sentence: "I know nothing; I'm just having my own life, trying to learn some things."  She's not so much media shy, explained the New York-based singer/bassist of her initial request to conduct this Q&A via email; she'd just prefer to let the music speak for her. Besides, "I find that people have a tendency to put words in my mouth," said the reluctant but gracious interviewee in the phone call she eventually agreed to. "And I'm a very simple person, not that political. I'm trying to live my life and get some clean food and just continue to see the world and be able to make my own personal assessment, so that I can have a good life. Inshallah (God willing)." Uh-huh, just a simple, openly gay musician who punctuates sentences with Arabic expressions of faith. Since she debuted in 1993 with the Grammy-nominated Plantation Lullabies on Madonna's Maverick label, NdegéOcello, 38, has earned a reputation for captivating eclectic music with deeply personal hard-hitting lyrics, dealing often with sex and race.

She claimed not to be political, but check out the inspiration behind the title of her forthcoming album, The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams. "It's kind of like a joke to myself," she said. "I live in a male-dominated society, I've experienced the melding of church and state, I notice that all the premier writing, the whole canon, is based on male ideas, and I live in this over-romantic society where, as a woman, the great dream you're supposed to possess and have is to find this man of your dreams. "I was just looking at myself and thinking the world, through the pressure of it – kind of like when you take a piece of coal and the pressure turns it into a diamond – I've become the man of my dreams. "And if you hear a lot of the lyrics (the record is slated for an August release), I was really immersed in Islam, so it's also a questioning of all these ideas that sprout from the minds of men. "I'm a person who is seeking reason, but I see that clergy and sheiks and rabbis and Buddhist teachers – they're all these men kind of laying their trip on other people.  "Since a lot of the events that have happened – the Iraq war, Sept. 11 – I find myself approaching my spiritual and religious practices differently. I kind of consider myself living in a modern hijab. I've created my own thing, but I can see hypocrisy a lot clearer now.  "I've had to deal with a lot of patriarchal bulls--t and I have a son to raise, so I'm constantly trying to manoeuvre another individual through it, so that he doesn’t collect some of the baggage of it as well. It's a constant struggle, but once you see it, it's just so much easier.

"On stage I have a great time. In the studio I'm very free. I'm talking about walking in everyday Brooklyn, or being on tour in France, or just dealing with people's perception of women/Americans – that has been my new journey." You're probably wondering what of all this has to do with her free show at Harbourfront tonight at 9:30. Well, since NdegéOcello's music is a reflection of her being, the current show has little to do with her last disc, a jazz record, 2005's The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel. "It's got more of a rock edge," she said of the band's new sound. "I hate even genres, but lately that's what people say about us. It's groove and bass, kind of drum-oriented music." And her chameleonic tendency is no big deal, she said. "To me, it's just that I wrote some songs and they kind of vary in textures and, hopefully, people will be open to hearing things they're not familiar with.  "I really stress to the audience to have an open mind and let your body experience the music. You'll probably have a better time; expectations might cause you suffering." Especially if they want to hear erstwhile hits like "Dred Loc" and "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)." "I rarely do any of the older stuff, I'm just a different person, on a different vibration. I want to keep growing and learning different things. I know it disappoints people. I'm not an a--hole, it's just how my brain works.  "I'm lucky to be a musician. I'm not Condoleezza Rice, or I don't have to do some other job that might not uplift my spirit, or do anything for the world. I'm lucky to kind of be neutral. I don't consider it entertainment, but I'm not highbrow ... that's why I didn't like jazz too much. Playing that jazz record in the very male chauvinistic jazz world was also eye-opening. I just want to play and hope people come out and drink, hang out with their friends and have a good time."  Though it's been some time since NdegéOcello has performed in Toronto, she did take advantage of our same-sex laws to get married here two years ago.

"I'm not standing on that soapbox on that particular issue, I just worried about what if (I were dying), I'd be really saddened if the people I loved were not able to be around me. And also the children that I have wouldn't be able to be with the person they were most comfortable with.  "I'm a big fan of Canada and its comedy and its music. It's one of my favourite places to go. I'm trying to figure out (how to move to Canada). Everyone says it's hard to expatriate, but hopefully a way will make itself known and I'll be able to do that."

How A Cellphone Salesman Became An Instant Music Sensation

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Geoff Nixon

(June 28, 2007)
Paul Potts, the portly opera singer recently discovered on Britain's Got Talent, has been awarded a £1-million ($2.14-million) multi-album recording contract just days after winning the talent show's £100,000 ($214,000) prize. American Idol and Talent judge Simon Cowell has signed the South Wales singer to a deal on his label that will see Potts head straight to the studio to record an initial collection of songs. The CD will be rushed into stores on July 11. The 36-year-old Potts's story is an incredible rag-to-riches tale - he worked as a cellphone salesman before stunning the Talent judges with his first appearance on the show in early June. He also was £30,000 ($64,000) in debt after spending time convalescing from illness and from a motorcycle injury in recent years. It was his rich rendition of the well-known Puccini aria Nessun dorma that led the judges to immediately take to the unassuming and bulldog-faced singer. British actress Amanda Holden told Potts that she thought he was "a case of a little lump of coal ... that is going to turn into a diamond."

Journalist Piers Morgan said the Welshman had an "incredible voice." Even Cowell got caught up in the moment. "I wasn't expecting that," he admitted after first seeing him perform. Potts went on to beat his main competitor - Connie Talbot, an angelic, gap-toothed six-year-old girl - to win the overall contest in the final episode broadcast in mid-June. In winning the competition, Potts also walked away with the chance to perform in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance in December. While there was some controversy about his win after the fact - Potts, it turns out, had paid for private opera training and had in one of his recitals performed for tenor Luciano Pavarotti - he has managed to retain his fans. Case in point: He has dozens of Facebook groups devoted to his fame - including one called, "I want to have Paul Potts' babies" and another called "Paul Potts should be banned from TV!" After paying off his debt, Potts says he will make a few purchases for his 26-year-old wife, Julie, whom he met in an Internet chat room and has been with for six years.

And yet with his prize money in the bank, he still hasn't resigned from his phone-salesman job. "I haven't had the nerve to hand in my notice," he told The Sunday Mirror recently. "I worry I'll need the job back."

Budding Teen Stars Get Onstage With Top Performers At UrbanNOISE Event

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

(June 28, 2007) In a room inside the North Kipling Community Centre, a bunch of older men all in turbans and white kurtas sit at tables playing cards. Down the hall, Puja Amin is taking a couple of students from North Albion Collegiate Institute through their Bhangra fusion dance number and in another room of the busy centre, Mae Hem is giving a crash (we use the word advisedly) course in breakdancing.  Mae Hem (Eva Nikitova), owner of Street Dance Academy, is demonstrating a particularly twisted floor movement to 15-year-old Rocio Sostaito and a boy named Will. Rocio, for one, plans to show up on stage on Saturday when the students who've been attending workshops since April join forces with the professionals to put on a neighbourhood festival. The performances, tomorrow and Saturday on a stage next to the community centre, are the finale to a project known as
urbanNOISE: Urban Arts Youth Training.

In other spaces around Rexdale, teenagers have been learning step dancing (the urban variety) from Black Ice members Joseph Sackey and Dionne Green, or stand-up comedy from Kenny Robinson, or reggae music from Blessed and Humble. At the festival they'll perform along with full-fledged stars, including hip hop artist Michie Mee, rapper Drake, musical group LAL, R&B/soul singer Deesha, spoken-word artist Motion, emcee Theology 3 and Bollywood remix star DJ Jiten. Organizers Chris Tolley and Laura Mullin of Expect Theatre (Romeo/Juliet Remixed) are running the project for the second year. "Laura and myself worked about four years ago in the Jamestown area," says Tolley, referring to the housing complex just south of the community centre, best known in the media as the site of a shooting or the residence of a victim of a crime. But that's not what struck Mullin and Tolley. "We found the kids had this incredible connection to the arts. It was so genuine and something we'd never come across in the arts community.” The two directors formed their own theatre company right after graduating from the theatre program at York University, upon realizing that no one hires 21-year-old, newly minted directors. They formed Expect in 1996 and made youth-based programming one of their mandates.

Having observed such deep-rooted interests and abilities, they saw there was a chance to make opportunities in this far-flung part of Toronto. With the help of Arts Etobicoke, they formed urbanNOISE, designed as a family event. The event will feature free food and beverages (donations accepted) and acts on stage from 3 to 8 p.m. each day. Graffiti artists Mediah and Javid Alibhai will create a mural with community input. And local stars will entertain. In the gymnasium Monika Patel, 15, and Riti Naik, 14, from North Albion C.I., are doing a good job of keeping up with Amin, who has been teaching them Bhangra infused with hip hop, house and reggae beats.  "Bhangra is a traditional folk dance, originally done in the fields at harvest time," says Amin. Born in Mumbai, she is a Kathak dancer who has been teaching and dancing for 15 years. She came to Canada about four years ago and since then, she's added to her skills in Bollywood and Latin dancing. "If there's a dance class in anything, I'll take it," she jokes.  Bhangra, as originally danced, employed the tools used in the field, such as stakes or ploughs. "It has a catchy beat and is very energizing," says Amin. With the addition of house or techno or reggae beats, "it pumps you up even more." Amin runs lessons in seven studios around the GTA under the company name Sanskriti Arts.

Like Amin, Mae Hem is a self-starter who could make a role model for any teenager with an interest in dancing. She started dancing right out of high school with the Shebang crew in 1999. After last year's inaugural urbanNOISE, the breakdancer has seen a surge of interest in the workshops. About 15 dancers have regularly attended the 16 hours of free workshops. Mae Hem, who started as a swing dancer because she always loved jazz, teaches the students a routine and gives them the cultural background to hip hop. "I like to inform kids how it evolved and what it is now." She is happy to point out that you can make a career in hip hop. "It's not just commercials and movies, but you can also become a teacher, an agent..." or start a popular school such as hers. Street Dance Academy is behind the coming Thrill the World dance event. Instructors are teaching Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance to Torontonians who want to participate in a simultaneous, global Guinness Book of World Records-breaking event in October.

A Look Back Before The Vancouver Jazz Festival's Last Fling

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Greg Buium

(June 30, 2007) VANCOUVER — As the 2007
Vancouver International Jazz Festival turns toward its final days — Saturday and Sunday at more than 20 venues around the city — you can't help sifting through the past seven days, trying to take stock of the music you've heard. The marquee events — singer Norah Jones at the Orpheum Theatre on Thursday, or saxophonist Joshua Redman's trio on a double-bill with The Bad Plus at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Tuesday — arrived all neatly done up, just another stop, perhaps, on the increasingly homogeneous North American jazz-fest circuit. Historically, however, the so-called headliners have revealed very little about what makes the VIJF resonate. You need to look elsewhere for that. Take the evening shows at Performance Works on Granville Island. Despite its throwaway title (Songs Etc.), this series has been a kind of flesh-and-blood answer to the ever-present genre questions: What fits into a jazz festival, and what doesn't? Well, how about a nifty Bulgarian-Turkish dance band (Lubo Alexandrov's electric Kaba Horo Ensemble from Montreal, which performed Tuesday) or a Vienna-based Tunisian, melding Sufi mysticism and modern Euro ambience (singer-oud player Dhafer Youssef, who performed Sunday and Monday). The series has been eclectic and accessible, and not exclusively what some still call “world music.” The 350-seat space has been filled nearly every night. Youssef's first set Monday was perhaps one of the highlights of the festival so far. With tabla player Jatinder Thakur and Divine Shadow Strings, an Austria-based quartet, his music was an especially hypnotic hybrid: North African rhythms delivered by Euro-Indian instrumentation, layers of often wordless vocals (processed through electronics) soaring overtop. While the VIJF has always been fuelled by its own polyglot tastes — jazz purists, I suspect, shudder to think of the Commodore Ballroom's Urban Groove series – it's also kept Canada's jazz and improvised music community front and centre every year.

Saskatoon-raised, New York-based pianist Jon Ballantyne, a somewhat underappreciated figure in recent years after his sharp ascent in the late-1980s, performed a provocative if not altogether satisfying solo concert at the Western Front Thursday. While some of his tunes were familiar (say, Sonny Rollins's Oleo), he often piled on these dense, rumbling left-hand figures, reworking ideas over and over, turning his sources into thick, complex abstractions — quite beautiful in some cases, jarring and elusive in others. Canadian musicians have been scattered throughout the festival's seven series, and Lower Mainland players, in particular, have dominated the Vancouver East Cultural Centre's program, thrown in among more famous Americans (pianist Vijay Iyer's quartet) and Europeans (Finland's UMO Jazz Orchestra). Bills have included Vancouver trumpeter Brad Turner's quartet (Monday), cellist Peggy Lee (Tuesday) and two groups led, or co-led, by guitarist Ron Samworth (Talking Pictures and DarkBlueWorld, with singer Elizabeth Fischer, on Friday). Quebec-raised, Vancouver-based clarinettist François Houle fronted a one-off all-star tentet at the VECC Thursday night. Houle, a mainstay of festival programming since arriving on the West Coast in the early 1990s, was commissioned two years ago to write a large-scale piece for the VIJF's 20th anniversary. This time, he selected six Vancouver players, including trombonist Jeremy Berkman and violinist Jesse Zubot (whose own trio, ZMF, opened), plus three out-of-towners – American French horn player Tom Varner, Swedish reeds player Fredrik Ljungkvist and Jon Ballantyne. It was an absorbing, hour-long set, as the pieces swayed from these grave, highly managed scores (Varner's tentatively titled Heaven and Hell: The Combo Platter) to jazz tunes (by fabled soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy) to Houle's own bare-bones improvisational strategies. The colours were often terrifically beautiful, with the combination of Varner, Berkman and Zubot adding a level of depth and ambiguity to the otherwise familiar palette. And while many of the soloists stood out (trumpeter J.P. Carter, for one, or Ljungkvist, who's keening, seething tenor saxophone was especially vivid), bassist Tommy Babin was the linchpin: rugged and exact and tying everything marvellously together. The Vancouver International Jazz Festival continues at more than 20 venues through Sunday. There will also be free performances on various stages Saturday and Sunday at Concord Pacific Place and on Granville Island.

Calgary's Creative Brain Gain

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - David Ebner

(July 3, 2007) In a downtown Calgary church, about 1,000 music fans sit at attention and soak in the sounds of Cat Power, the indie rock queen - born Chan Marshall - who made her first visit to the city to open a fledgling new festival. A couple songs in, after rapturous applause, a fan shouts the collective appreciation: "Thanks for coming here, Chan." Calgary, a remote outpost that sits 1,000 kilometres from Vancouver and 3,500 from Toronto, is not a typical stop on tours for names such as Cat Power - artists who are critically acclaimed but still garner fairly small audiences. But with the unprecedented energy boom still rolling strong, the town's ever-expanding citizenry - now greater than one million - grows increasingly hungry for cultural electricity regularly found in larger centres. Sensing this potential, Zak Pashak, the 27-year-old owner of Broken City, a music club, figured last fall that he should try to bring a "few good bands" to town, with the general idea of starting something akin to South by Southwest, the famous festival in Austin, Tex. The result: Sled Island, a four-day independent music and arts festival. Headlined by indie heroes such as Cat Power and Spoon, and underpinned by a host of local talent, it appeared like a mirage on dry rolling prairie. From June 27 to 30, an estimated 6,000 people took in shows scattered at eclectic venues across Calgary, from two churches to the Royal Canadian Legion No. 1.

"Isn't Sled Island a little bit magical?" asked singer Dan Vacon of The Dudes, a top Calgary act, between songs at the sweaty and packed legion. "Isn't this great? Aren't you just a little bit proud of your city?" The crowd was. And there was a palpable sense that Calgary is becoming a blossoming creative centre where its best artists don't feel they necessarily need to leave to grow. For both bands and cities, festivals such as Sled Island and SxSW seem to be a special spark, providing a stage for ambitious artists and a draw for cities looking to bring people in and showcase themselves. "You get to play this high-profile thing, where the press is and a lot of people who are rabid music fans are," said Britt Daniel, Spoon's lead singer. Spoon is from Austin and has played SxSW often, watching the festival and city grow in a kind of symbiosis. Sled Island's emergence has been stunningly quick. Even as Pashak started to pursue the idea, only a handful of people were ever really involved, with a core group of three or four doing most of the work to put the whole thing together - an effort headquartered in Pashak's own kitchen. For Pashak, it is about building a better Calgary by bringing Cat Power to the people and by delivering a local band, Jane Vain & The Dark Matter, as the opener, which played to its biggest audience ever.

"It does a lot for local bands," said Jamie Fooks, the band's singer. "It gives them the opportunity to play with these big acts. That's pretty cool. I don't think we would have been able to hook up with a Cat Power show alone. I'm pretty grateful for the whole festival." Calgary is often seen through the stereotype of the gruff oilman and his quotidian tastes. Pashak, whose family lineage stretches back to Calgary's founding in the late 1800s, wants to help create a new image for his hometown. He is the son of a college professor, Barry Pashak, who was a rarity in Calgary in that he served two terms as an NDP MLA in the provincial legislature. His mother is Jackie Flanagan, a prominent local arts patron.  After immersing himself in the college radio scene at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Pashak returned to Calgary and opened Broken City three years ago. It was an instant hit, filling a void left after mainstays of the 1990s - the Republik and the Night Gallery - had closed. With Sled Island - an actual place in northern Alberta - Pashak pictured a cultural wonderland and beyond music he brought in other offerings, such as actor Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live and Daft Punk's Electroma, an experimental film about the journey of two robots. "Mostly," Pashak urged guests in the festival guide, "please take the time to explore and love this city." Shawn Petsche, who works for Pop Montreal, a similar festival in that city, was impressed how quickly Sled Island came to life. "People in town seem to be getting behind Calgary musicians and independent music being played in the city," said Petsche, who helped with Sled Island operations. "At the end of the day, a room full of people celebrating music-making is pretty damn significant." For Mark Hamilton, lead singer of local act Woodpigeon and guest curator of Sled Island, Calgary is coming into its own. He sees growth like Sled Island helping to "lessen the creative brain drain Calgary's always been a victim of," a general reference that most recently brings to mind the name of Leslie Feist, a Calgarian who first went to Toronto and then Paris as her music career exploded. "In some ways it feels as though the city's on the brink of becoming an important player in national - and international - art and music, and there's no need for any of us to strike out to Toronto or Montreal to make that happen any more," Hamilton said. "I think the reason that's going to hold true is because Calgary's suddenly home to some of the best artists in the country. It's almost becoming cool to be from here. That's the biggest surprise."

71 Generations Of Making Music

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Li Robbins

(July 3, 2007) Many of us can't trace our family lineage beyond our great-greats. Malian musician
Toumani Diabate, on the other hand, can go back a jaw-dropping 71 generations. What's more, in each of those generations, a male Diabate has played the kora, the 21-stringed instrument typically translated to Western audiences as "harp-like."  But the 71st-generation Diabate is the only one to collaborate with musicians as disparate as Bjork, Ali Farka Toure, Roswell Rudd, Taj Mahal and the Spanish flamenco "supergroup" Ketama. Diabate speaks with pride about these collaborations, and about his status as first kora player to win a Grammy Award (which he did in 2005 for In the Heart of the Moon, with the late Ali Farka Toure). But he demurs at the suggestion he's breaking from the previous 70 generations of tradition. "It's true I'm not playing exactly like my father," he says, speaking by phone from Amsterdam. "But he wasn't playing exactly like his father either." Diabate was born a griot, a hereditary position conferring the role of storyteller, keeper of history and genealogy through music. Or as he puts it: "Griots are the memory of the Mande empire." It's a memory with a long reach, including hundreds of songs and dating back to the 13th century when the Malian king Sundiata ruled much of West Africa. For Diabate, born in 1965, life as a touring musician has provided irresistible opportunities to share aspects of that memory with audiences of other cultures. But he would never have had the impact he has were it not for his virtuosic playing, his technique that would seem almost an impossibility - bass lines, accompaniment and solos flying simultaneously from his fingers.

On his current tour, he's showcasing another kind of kora sensation - kora as backed by big band, the innovative and majestic Symmetric Orchestra. Diabate explains that the band hopes to achieve a kind of inversion of notions of tradition and modernity. "If we take a sound from 400 years ago, we take the arrangement from today. If we compose a new song today [for the band], we use an arrangement from hundreds of years ago. So you see it is the past meeting the present - for the future." It's a meeting that has been taking place for about a decade of Friday nights at the outdoor Hogon club in Bamako, where the band is adored. Everyone comes to the Hogon - locals, dignitaries, fans from across Africa and around the world, the crowd erupting when the Symmetric launches into the rollicking signature tune "Toumani," heralding the kora player's arrival. Diabate describes the regular Hogon gig as the Symmetric's "laboratory." "We have musicians coming to play from the Ivory Coast, from Senegal and so on, and they are all superstars in their own country. What we are doing is trying to rebuild the Mande empire. This music has a history, a geography and a legend." Even with the addition of Pee Wee Ellis's horns on the group's 2006 recording, Boulevard de L'Independence, the jazz, salsa and funk influences sound unquestionably African, the perfect vehicle for Diabate's kora in unfettered solo flight. As "lead," he parcels out his usual bass lines to electric bass, accompaniment to rhythm guitar. He hasn't lost sight of the instrument's one-man-band capacity though. His first solo kora album since 1986's seminal Kaira is completed and awaits release.

But for now there is Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra, as it is officially known, plus ongoing collaborations, most recently with Bjork on her latest, Volta. Bjork, who Diabate refers to as "a wonderful lady," travelled to Bamako for a week of recording together. "I was surprised to know that Bjork was listening to my music somewhere, listening to the kora. You know she's very special, a pleasure to know. "She wasn't, 'oh yeah I'm a big superstar.' She was really quiet and nice, and went around Bamako without any bodyguards." Diabate doesn't hesitate to single out the collaborator who has ultimately meant the most to him, though. "Playing with Ali Farka Toure was really special, really good for me. He was a great musician and a great person, a big character. Meeting him for the first time it was as if you had known him for 20 years."  In another kind of symmetry, these days Ali Farka Toure's guitar-playing son is playing with Diabate's 15-year-old kora-playing son ... the dawn of the 72nd generation. Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra performs at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto Thursday, as well as shows in Montreal Friday, Ottawa Saturday, Winnipeg Sunday, and Vancouver July 14.

Hy Zaret, 99: 'Unchained Melody' Lyricist

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 03, 2007) WESTPORT, Conn. – Lyricist
Hy Zaret, who wrote the haunting words to "Unchained Melody", one of the most frequently recorded songs of the 20th century, has died at age 99. Zaret died at his home Monday, about a month shy of his 100th birthday, his son, Robert Zaret, said Tuesday. He penned words to many songs and advertising jingles but his biggest hit was "Unchained Melody," written in 1955 for a film called Unchained. It brought Zaret and Alex North, the composer, an Academy Award nomination for best song. Zaret refused the producer's request to work the word "unchained" into the lyrics, instead writing to express the feelings of a lover who has "hungered for your touch a long, lonely time." The song was recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Lena Horne, U2, Guy Lombardo, Vito & the Salutations and Joni Mitchell, who incorporated fragments into her song "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody." An instrumental version was a No. 1 hit in 1955 for Les Baxter, while a vocal version by Al Hibbler reached No. 3 the same year.

But most baby boomers remember the song from the Righteous Brothers' version. The record, produced by Phil Spector, reached No. 4 on the Billboard chart in 1965, and was a hit again 25 years later when it was used on the soundtrack of the film "Ghost." In all, it was recorded more than 300 times, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which listed it in 1999 as one of the 25 most-performed musical works of the 20th century. Among other songs Zaret co-wrote were "My Sister and I," a hit in 1941 for Jimmy Dorsey; "So Long, for a While," the theme song for the radio and TV show "Your Hit Parade"; "Dedicated to You"; and the Andrews Sisters' novelty song "One Meat Ball." "He had some big, big hits," said Jim Steinblatt, an assistant vice president at ASCAP.  In later years, Zaret had to fend off the claims by another man, electrical engineer William Stirrat, who said he wrote the ``Unchained Melody" lyrics as a teenager in the 1930s and even legally changed his name to Hy Zaret. Robert Zaret and Steinblatt both said the dispute was resolved completely in favour of the real Zaret, who continued to receive all royalties. Steinblatt said Stirrat died in 2004.

Beverly Sills, 78: Soprano

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Verena Dobnik, Associated Press

(July 03, 2007) NEW YORK–
Beverly Sills, the Brooklyn-born opera diva who was a global icon of can-do American culture with her dazzling voice, bubbly personality and management moxie in the arts world, has died of cancer, her manager said. She was 78. It had been revealed just last month that Sills was gravely ill with inoperable lung cancer. She died about 9 p.m. last night, said her manager, Edgar Vincent. Beyond the music world, Sills gained fans worldwide with a style that matched her childhood nickname, Bubbles. The relaxed, red-haired diva appeared frequently on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Muppet Show and in televised performances with her friend Carol Burnett. Together, they did a show from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera called Sills and Burnett at the Met, singing rip-roaring duets with one-liners thrown in. Long after the public stopped hearing her sing in 1980, Sills' rich, infectious laughter filled American living rooms as she hosted live TV broadcasts. As recently as last season, she conducted backstage interviews for the Metropolitan Opera's high-definition movie theatre performances. Sills first gained fame with a high-octane career that helped put Americans on the international map of opera stars.

Born Belle Miriam Silverman, she quickly became Bubbles, an endearment coined by the doctor who delivered her, noting that she was born blowing a bubble of spit from her little mouth. Fast-forward to 1947, when the same mouth produced vocal glory for her operatic stage debut in Philadelphia in a bit role in Bizet's Carmen. Sills became a star with the New York City Opera, where she first performed in 1955 in Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus. She was acclaimed for performances in such operas as Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, Massenet's Manon and Handel's Giulio Cesare, and the roles of three Tudor queens in works by Gaetano Donizetti. Her 1958 appearances as Baby Doe would become among her best known, in a tale of a silver-mine millionaire who leaves his wife for Baby Doe and eventually dies penniless. "I loved the role," Sills wrote in her 1976 autobiography. "I read everything that had ever been written about her ... I was Baby Doe."

Saxophone Player Boots Randolph Dead At 80

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Joe Edwards, Associated Press

(July 3, 2007) NASHVILLE, Tenn. –
Boots Randolph, a saxophone player best known for the 1963 hit "Yakety Sax," died Tuesday. He was 80. Randolph suffered a cerebral hemorrhage June 25 and had been hospitalized in a coma. He was taken off a respirator earlier Tuesday, said Betty Hofer, a publicist and spokeswoman for the family. Randolph played regularly in Nashville nightclubs for 30 years, becoming a tourist draw for the city much like Wayne Newton in Las Vegas and Pete Fountain in New Orleans. He recorded more than 40 albums and spent 15 years touring with the Festival of Music, teaming with fellow instrumentalists Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer. As a session musician, he played on Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender," Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman," Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree" and "I'm Sorry," REO Speedwagon's ``Little Queenie," Al Hirt's "Java" and other songs including ones by Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash.

He had his biggest solo hit with "Yakety Sax," which he wrote. "'Yakety Sax' will be my trademark," Randolph said in a 1990 interview with The Associated Press. "I'll hang my hat on it. It's kept me alive. Every sax player in the world has tried to play it. Some are good, some are awful." "Yakety Sax" was used on the TV program The Benny Hill Show more than two decades after the tune was on the charts. "It rejuvenated the song," Randolph said in 1990. "So many people know it from the show." He also was part of the Million Dollar Band on the TV show Hee Haw. Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph in Paducah, Ky., and grew up in the rural community of Cadiz, Ky., where he learned to play music with his family's band. He said he didn't know where or why he got the nickname ``Boots," although his website at the time of his death suggested it was to avoid confusion because he and his father shared the same first name. Randolph began playing the ukulele and then the trombone but switched to the tenor sax when his father unexpectedly brought one home. He graduated from high school in Evansville, Ind., then joined the Army and became a member of the Army Band. After his discharge, he played primarily jazz at nightclubs for $60 a week. He finally landed a recording contract with RCA in Nashville in 1958 and also was hired as a musician for recording sessions.

Randolph had his own nightclub in Nashville's Printer's Alley for 17 years, closing it in 1994 because of declining business and to spend more time with his family. He played regularly at other nightclubs before and after that. He had lived in Nashville since 1961. Randolph had 13 albums on the pop charts from 1963 to 1972. His other single hits included "Hey, Mr. Sax Man" in 1964 and ``Temptation" in 1967. "Every time I pick the horn up, it's more intriguing to me," he said in 1990. "It satisfies my desire to do whatever I do." "I think I probably get better because I work so much," he said at the time. "You get to a point where you can be lackadaisical or nonchalant. But I'm not like that. I worry if I play a tune bad or my horn is not working right." Survivors include his wife, a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.


Q-Tip Gets Back To 'Work' With New Single

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.

(July 3, 2007)
Q-Tip plans on celebrating Independence Day with a bang this year by offering "WorkItOut," the first single from his new album, as a free download. The cut is available beginning today (July 3) from Q-Tip's MySpace.com site. Its accompanying album, "The Renaissance," is due in the fall via Motown.  "The Renaissance" features a live band and, with the exception of Common, Outkast's Andre 3000 and D'Angelo thus far, minimal collaborations. "Sometimes guests don't really warrant an appearance," Q-Tip previously told Billboard.com about the record.  Q-Tip says in a statement that "WorkItOut" is emblematic of the new album's sound: "thought-provoking, dance-friendly, fun and last but not least, hip-hop."  In related news, look for the artist guesting on the track "Kids With Words" on the new Wu-Tang Clan album, "The 8 Diagrams," due in the fall via SRC Records.

Drumming Great's Trio Gets Funky

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Entertainment Reporter

(June 28, 2007) Fusion, the amalgamation of jazz and rock that flowered briefly during the 1970s, has survived despite being thoroughly disparaged by jazz purists and largely ignored by rock fans. But there is no denying the form has attracted some breathtaking players.  One such is 65-year-old drumming great Jack DeJohnette, who led his current outfit,
Trio Beyond, in a virtuoso set Tuesday night at the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square. Filled out by guitarist John Scofield and organist Larry Goldings on the Hammond B-3, the group came together to pay homage to a similarly arranged trio spearheaded by drummer Tony Williams in the 1970s. Formed in 2003, Trio Beyond has one album, the double live CD Saudades, from a 2004 show in London.  That disc provided an early backbone to the program, as the expert threesome seamlessly worked its way through Goldings' organ-prefaced original "As One," Larry Young's old-style rock-laced "Allah Be Praised" and the funky, group-composed title track.  Reaching beyond the trio's own recorded repertoire, DeJohnette then wowed the full house by inserting a long, exhilarating solo workout into a cover of Ornette Coleman's "The Invisible."

Bob Dylan - Recipient of the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award

Source: Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

(July 4, 2007) Montréal - The
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is proud to announce the awarding of the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award to American singer and song-writer Bob Dylan. As per the artist's request, the Prize will be presented to him backstage by the Founding President and Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the Festival, Alain Simard and André Ménard.  Legend… icon… voice of his generation—and beyond. Bob Dylan is one of those rare artists for whom conventional accolades will not suffice. Almost 50 years into a career, with a higher profile than he’s had in decades, the man, the writing and the voice are timeless… and timely. Bob Dylan’s latest, Modern Times, went to #1. A habitual Nobel Prize nominee for literature, he is studied in university curricula and from the orchestra seats at his concerts. Tonight at 7:30 p.m., at Salle Wilfrid‑Pelletier, PDA, as part of the Pleins feux General Motors series. The Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award is in bronze, and was inspired by a self-portrait that Miles Davis presented to the Festival in 1988. With this award, created especially on the occasion of its 27th edition, the Festival wishes to showcase quality and musical innovation, as well as the author-composer-performer's undeniable influence on the international pop music scene.


Cracking Down On Pirates Of Montreal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(July 04, 2007) MONTREAL – In a recent visit to Canada, Arnold Schwarzenegger said
Montreal has a reputation worldwide for being the video piracy capital of North America. The Governator's views are something Vince Guzzo knows first-hand.  The executive vice-president of Montreal-based Guzzo Cinemas says he knows just how far some are willing to go to record movies. Guzzo says one man was recently caught illegally recording a film in one of his Montreal-area theatres with a camcorder rigged inside a motorcycle helmet. All he had to do was lift up the visor. "The real problem is once you do catch them you can't do anything to them right now," Guzzo said. "We expel them and call the police, but the police will sometime say `Maybe we'll be there in a few hours.'" Some movies being released over the next month are expected to come with extra security attention, in particular the new Transformers movie out Wednesday, the next Harry Potter film set for mid-July and The Simpsons Movie due out at the end of the month. And as Hollywood prepares to launch its summer blockbuster movies, theatre owners are armed with a new anti-camcording law aimed at stopping movie piracy.

It amends the Criminal Code to make recording a movie without permission a crime, punishable by up to five years in jail. It was a visit from Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, that prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal government to get going on film piracy legislation. In particular, Montreal has garnered a reputation as being the camcording and movie piracy capital of North America. Gary Osmond, part of the anti-piracy team at the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association, says it's hard to figure why Montreal has become so popular for pirating, but access to soundtracks in both French and English makes the product more lucrative. "Our challenge now is to communicate that to law enforcement across the country and they have the tools necessary to be able to respond to our calls," said Pat Marshall, vice-president communications for Cineplex Entertainment. Catching the pirates in the act is also a problem. Movie theatres have invested money in night-vision goggles and random backpack checks. They also train staff and use metal-detecting wands. "But when they turn the lights off, it's very difficult, even with night-vision goggles, to spot anyone," says Osmond.

Putting Words In Women's Mouths

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Mark Lepage

(July 2, 2007) NEW YORK — 'It seems like you break your children's hearts no matter what you do." Words not to live by but wincingly absorb, and they come at a defining moment in
Evening, the lush meditation on mortality starring Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, and their real-life daughters, who play their mothers as young women.  That is more than celebrity weight, it is emotional mega-tonnage. While Spider-Man, zombie pirates and exploding helicopters reassure us that this is indeed summer, producers have assembled Evening for Oscar candidacy. They had to meet that cast with equal creative force, so, in the rarest of filmic extravagances, they actually had the screenplay written by writers. Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham joined Susan Minot in adapting her novel Evening, the story of Ann Lord (Redgrave), drifting in and out of consciousness on her deathbed as she recalls a fateful weekend 50 years before when lost love and tragedy set the arc of her future life. Her two daughters, Constance (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette) try to piece together their mother's secret while grappling with moments of truth in their own lives. That last line, a tuning fork of narration, was Cunningham's. Sitting in a Park Avenue hotel room, smoking American Spirits, he says, "It's the only thing I wrote late in the game once Natasha became involved. We realized we had Natasha and Vanessa in the same movie, and there wasn't really a scene of any substance between them."

Substance is the obvious watchword here. Redgrave spends most of her screen time horizontal, recalling a blueblood wedding in 1950s Newport and a love triangle involving her (played by Claire Danes), the male-ideal Harris (Patrick Wilson) and the emotional Buddy (Hugh Dancy). The bride, Lila, is played by Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl, who shows up in the final reel like a closer coming into the ninth inning of a playoff game. "That was happenstance," Cunningham says. "Mamie was cast first. For quite some time nobody thought about casting Meryl. And then it came up. Why don't we ask her? She talked to Mamie about it. She's a good mother. She said, 'First let me see if that would be okay with Mamie.' " It was. For all the complicated structural points and heavy life choices, this is a story of mothers. There was synchronicity with Cunningham's own life narrative, although not happily so. Cunningham's mother was "was very ill when I got the call [to adapt]. Which contributed to my desire to do it." Most people would have fled in the other direction, but Cunningham "just felt [it was] too big a coincidence to ignore. The fact that I was helping my own mother through something not unlike something the character played by Vanessa is going [through] - okay, gods make your will known, all we mortals can do is obey."

Then there is synchronicity of theme. Cunningham wasn't just chosen from a Google search: Evening hums on obvious parallels with Cunningham's own celebrated novel The Hours - multiple timelines, flashbacks, generational parallels, sexual confusion, even (in a sense) suicide.  The complex time frame "is more work, but it's what I'm drawn to. I'm interested in multiple stories that take place over time. This is a huge world. Not the best world, but the biggest. I'm not so sure that the 19th century model of the 'one family that stands in for larger human questions' is quite sufficient anymore." Fine. Agreed. Let's make a movie. There followed the usual five-year attenuated film process. "I'm still a little bit astonished at how hard it is to get a movie made if there's no superhero in it," Cunningham says.  "I mean Spider-Man 3 is terrible, and it's still making a billion dollars. That's not true of these $10-million movies."  No - the expensive stuff here is thematic. Streep tries to counsel someone by telling her, "We are mysterious creatures." Does she mean women? "People," Cunningham insists. "Absolutely. The fact that most of the characters are women, I hope, will not serve to get us classified as a women's movie. That's my big dread."

His dread will be realized, but not because Cunningham didn't try to escape the preconceived. A gay writer - or a gay man who writes - he takes it as a duty "to do whatever I can to help complicate our collective sense of sexuality. I just know that the appellations gay, straight and you can throw in bisexual, are so general and vague as to be virtually meaningless." Perhaps. There is no similar confusion between his "duties as a citizen" and "duties as a writer." They are separate.  "As a citizen I have distinct political beliefs and a very clear sense of what's right and what's wrong on a political level. Fiction is the best means we have for helping one another to understand what it's like to be someone else. And if you take a moral stand as a writer of fiction, you automatically limit your world. "The lives of people who are not precisely you still matter. Women's lives matter to men, and men's lives matter to women. If you're a guy who's deeply uninterested in the lives of women, you should probably go see Spider-Man 3."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Tyrese & Anthony Anderson Star In Transformers

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(July 2, 2007) *With the summer blockbuster roster being full of sequels, it’s good to know that change is in the line-up. Make that transformation.   “Transformers,” the movie based on the very popular ‘80s cartoon and Japanese toy, opens this Tuesday, July 3rd in theatres nationwide. The huge cast including Shia LeBouf, Anthony Anderson, Tyrese Gibson, and John Voight, was recruited for the film to take on the epic story of a war waged on Earth between two robotic clans of the planet Cybertron: the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. And who better to take on the epic task than the director with a resume of epic proportions, Michael Bay.  “Finally working with Michael and seeing how he is on the set – he's a bit crazy,” Anderson said of the perfectionist helmer. “But to see Michael work and to watch him go through his process and to see the finished product, it shows that he knew what he was doing. To be a part of it was magical and great, and to see it the way that it came together just lets you know that he one of the best around.” Co-star Gibson agreed that Bay is good at what he does and was the right man for the job, even though the atmosphere was stressful at times.  “Michael Bay is intense; he is extremely intense all the time,” Gibson said. “If you can imagine someone holding a gun to your head for 12 hours a day, that feeling that you’re about to die any second, that’s the feeling you have. He knows what everybody is supposed to be doing and one mistake can mess up a shot. So he keeps everybody sharp. But you understand his process. But when an opportunity happens like that, you really have to go out of your way to make sure they like what you do in the movie. So it was intense.”

“Transformers” the TV show and the accompanying toy line were a big hit in the 1980s, however the film is expected to not only attract the Gen-Xers who grew up with the animated robot warriors, but to bring in the young crowd, too. “I grew up watching this carton and playing with the toys,” Anderson said. “But even before the film, my son had transformers. I would tell him how they used to make them back in the day. We can sit back and play with them together and I can take him to the premier and we can watch this together and watch me be a part of it. It’s just exciting all around for me.” Gibson also chimed in that he was a big fan of the show, not to mention all the cartoons that flourished on TV screens in the ‘80s, but agreed that some of the movie's differences might irk “Transformer” geeks.  “I grew up as a big fan of ‘The Transformers,’ ‘Thundercats,’ ‘GI Joe,’ ‘He-Man,’… ‘Care Bears,” he joked. “But I think any real die-hard ‘Transformers’ fan is going to figure out a way to not like the movie.” Both Gibson and Anderson admitted that their favourite Transformer was main iron giant Optimus Prime, who was voiced by Peter Cullen in the TV version. And both actors said they were more than excited to find out that Cullen had signed on to voice the character in the film.  “I was just as excited as everybody else was when they found out that they were casting Peter Cullen to be the voice of Optimus Prime. You can’t have anybody else be that voice,” he said. “It took me back and sitting there and watching the film, was just amazing.” “Transformers” opens tomorrow (07-03-07) nationwide. Also, you can catch Anthony Anderson in the new Fox drama “K-Ville,” about police officers patrolling the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Next up for Gibson is a tour in December called the “Shirts Off Tour.” He’ll be doing the worldwide tour as the group TGT, which stands for Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank, with an album from the trio coming soon.  For more on “Transformers,” check www.transformersmovie.com.

Transforming Shia LaBeouf

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

(June 29, 2007) HOLLYWOOD–The tired green eyes peering from beneath
Shia LaBeouf's swept-back hair look older than their just-turned-21 years. They seem cagey, like he's already seen things that usually take a few decades to process. He did have a rough upbringing, with a drug-dealing dad, a hippie mom and warring gangs in his Echo Park neighbourhood.  It's something director Michael Bay noticed about LaBeouf, too, when he was considering the L.A. native for the lead human role in Transformers, a blockbuster robot battle opening in theatres Tuesday. "I had only seen one of his movies, Constantine, and I thought, `He's interesting, but he looks so old,'" Bay said. A quick chat with co-executive producer Steven Spielberg and producer Ian Bryce set Bay to rights about LaBeouf. The kid is the young star of the moment, with more job offers than he seems to know what to do with and more female admirers than he could shake a stick at. Besides playing robot ally Sam Witwicky in Transformers, he's the heroic voyeur of Disturbia and the voice of the lead penguin in Surf's Up, both sizeable recent hits. He's just started filming the fourth Indiana Jones saga, in a role still to be revealed.

LaBeouf has also been in Bobby, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, I, Robot and the kidflick Holes, to list just part of his resumé.  No wonder he looks a couple of Red Bulls short of fully alert when he meets the press for some Transformers chat. But maybe it's just him being cagey. He's not giving much away.

Q: You're getting a lot of attention these days. People suddenly know who you are. How does that change your life?

A: It doesn't, really. I'm kind of isolated.

Q: How are you isolated?

A: Because I live in a place where it's not like all the spotlight, it's not like that. And I go to work every day just like a normal person and the people I work with are very isolated so it's very contained. You're not really in the world, you're on your own little island.

Q: Were you surprised by the success of Disturbia?

A: Oh yeah, supremely. Nobody expected it. We were the under-the-radar movie. (Transformers) was supposed to be the movie. Disturbia didn't have hype like that, so we just lucked out.

Q: Your hair is different now from how it was in Disturbia. Did you make a point of doing that?

A: No, it's just a different movie. You've got to find a different mask.

Q: Is that the Indy IV look?

A. Yeah I guess, pretty close. Some kind of version of something.

Q: How did you get the role in Transformers?

A: Just actors auditioning. I heard they were making it, I was super-amped they were doing it and I had been working with Steven (Spielberg) for Disturbia and somehow he got me in a room with Mike (Bay). Me and Mike hit it off, then we started doing chemistry tests with women and we found co-star Megan (Fox) and that was sort of when my auditions stopped.

Q: Were you a Transformers fan as a kid?

A: Yeah, all these new toys, I'm going nuts in my room. They got these new toys, they're fun.

Q: What were some of your favourite characters?

A: Triple Changers, Bumblebee and Soundwave ... they would come off Optimus (Prime), off the back, then you could put them back on Optimus. Optimus could transform.

Q: Were you one of those fans who asked Michael Bay and writer Roberto Orci why Soundwave isn't in the movie?

A: Believe me, we've had wars, me and them. There was a point where some of the script wasn't making any sense with the storyline of the cartoon and we were battling and I went, `Dude, this doesn't make any sense, guys,' and they were like, `I know, I know, I know.' But a lot of stuff you can fix after. You can go back in the editing room and start changing stuff ... but sometimes there's no time to have that fight. You've only got 80 days to shoot this whole movie. They shot Pirates of the Caribbean in 240. And we had more action.

Q: You've been building up an interesting body of work. Does that give you more freedom?

A: I think I work because I'm not trying to push that. I'll do what they tell me to do.

Q: What do you attribute your popularity to? I went to see Disturbia and these girls sitting in front were just there to see you.

A: Yeah, that's weird. I have no idea. (Co-star Fox chips in with an explanation: "I once saw Shea sleeping and he has this sweet little angel baby face.")

LaBeouf grins: "That's it! That's it!"

Heather Graham: It Isn't Easy To Go From Sex Symbol To Serious Actress

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(June 28, 2007) NEW YORK —
Heather Graham is wearing a dress by the downtown fashion label Imitation of Christ and the effect is like something you might call Imitation of Heather Graham. It's a wispy, peach-coloured number, a punkish concoction of oddly assembled fabric folds that in some places seem held together by sheer will, and, if we're being honest, would look more appropriate on a gal of 27. That's the magical age, as noted in an Esquire piece some years back, when a long list of women bewitched us with iconic roles (Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Liz Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer), and you might say it's the age of the Platonic Heather Graham. She was 27, after all, when she slithered into our collective imagination as the sexually ready-for-anything Roller Girl in the backstage porn drama Boogie Nights, and she has been frozen like Dorian Gray ever since. Sure, there have been other roles, but many of them riffed on that wide-eyed 27-year-old sizzle, and it's been at least five years since she has starred in anything big, and a TV show she headlined, Emily's Reasons Why Not, was cancelled after only a single episode aired last year.

And now here is Heather Graham, who demurs when you ask her age even though simple math shows it to be 37, shivering in a too-cold hotel suite wearing a borrowed dress that shows her arm flab and Versace shoes that pinch her feet, and she's promoting an inert little movie called Gray Matters that will perform so poorly in the U.S. it won't even be seen in Canada until the end of June, and then only in a straight-to-video release. Which is part of what makes Graham a case study in the challenges of transitioning these days from sex symbol to something more substantial. A few years ago, when the film roles started drying up, she took a risk and made her New York theatre debut in Recent Tragic Events, an offbeat comedy set on Sept. 11, 2001. The critics weren't kind: The New York Times review noted that, while she had a delicious presence, "her emotional range here seems limited to what would be, at best, two lines on a musical staff." She has no current plans to return to the stage.

"It's not my first love," she explains, having fiddled with the room's thermostat to jack the temperature. "To be honest, I love not having an audience. I know that sounds very weird and I'm sure this is not what actors are supposed to say, but I don't really like hearing people's reactions. I like to be in a bubble and I like to have a group of people around me, have the crew as a family. And I feel when you do a play you're really out there by yourself." It's hard to focus, she says, when there's so much going on. It's distracting to hear someone laugh, because then she wants to play to that person and try to extend the moment. This is a lifelong challenge. She has been practising transcendental meditation for about 15 years. "I'm trying to think less," she explains. She speaks fast, sometimes so fast that the words sound as if they have become unmoored and are racing ahead of her mind. "That's what I've been learning as I get older: Think less. Thinking a lot is not as productive as I thought it was when I was a kid, you know? Like, I'd be much better off to basically never think." She realizes how silly this sounds and she laughs, a self-conscious series of soft rat-a-tat exhalations that sounds like an angel jack hammering. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

The goal of not thinking is to react in a natural state, to be herself. Which, she says, reaching for the promotional point of this encounter, happens to be the theme of Gray Matters. Graham plays Gray, a thirtysomething New York ad executive possessed of an unusually strong relationship with her brother Sam (the Canadian cut-up Tom Cavanagh). When Sam falls for a hot woman named Charlie (Bridget Moynahan) and suddenly proposes they fly off to Vegas for a quickie wedding, Gray tags along for support. But a drunken smooch between the two women on the eve of the wedding (a scene that somehow made it to YouTube even before the film was released) sends Gray spinning into a frenzy of self-denial. "I related to this story because I've totally struggled with accepting myself, certain things about yourself you wish might be another way." Such as? Graham takes a long pause and says flatly: "I overpack." This is how a conversation goes with Graham, and it can throw you off your bearings if you're not careful. She'll make a comment that smartly sends up her ditzy reputation, and then the next moment reinforce that same image. She's asked how it feels to achieve her long-held dream of having homes in both Los Angeles and New York; does it reduce the urge to work as hard as she has in the past? "It's really weird," she answers. "It makes me think, okay, maybe if I dream really hard about world peace, would that happen?" She laughs, but she doesn't seem to be kidding this time. So what now? Where does she go from here? "When I think about my life, I think I want to do something that empowers women," she says. "I want to be part of entertainment and just do something that, you know, hopefully brings people something good."

To that end, out of necessity because she'd rather not sit around waiting for someone to cast her in a role that accords with her values, she has taken up the mantle of producer. She'll star in one that she has developed called The Accidental Virgin, which she describes as, "a sex comedy about sex," and maybe also in a darker film called Seymour's Last Role. There's also one about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 that killed almost 150 female workers. "I want to [play] the kind of woman that is just a sort of real, flawed, sexual, screwed-up, neurotic, attractive, not attractive - you know, just show all the different sides of being a woman in hopefully some sort of empowering kind of way. Which I don't think I always achieve, but I definitely want to."

'I Cried For A Whole Year Making This Film'

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

(June 29, 2007)
Michael Moore is the most talked-about filmmaker of the early 21st century, and his new film, Sicko, a scathing attack on America's privatized health system, will hardly calm the waters. His previous films, from the cute David versus Goliath stunt Roger & Me to the furious anti-George W. Bush screed Fahrenheit 9/11, have generated many weighty academic texts. Websites for or against him pop up like mushrooms, and his films are shown to journalism students as examples of excellence or as how-not-to guides. No one is neutral about Michael Moore. Meanwhile, Moore's "man of the people" persona has become so ingrained in our psyches that we forget he is the brand name behind hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales. As much as he fights it on screen, with his baseball caps, down-home patter and Wal-Mart attire, Michael Moore is very big business. Whatever his faults or conceits, the man still loves to talk - to anybody, anywhere - and, given how regularly he is excoriated by the media, remains remarkably patient.

I'm man enough to admit that parts of Sicko made me cry.  It's okay, it's okay to cry. I cried for a whole year making this film. I cried when we were editing it. When we filmed the section with the woman whose daughter died going from hospital to hospital because her insurer wouldn't cover emergency care, I cried for a week.

Is your fame becoming a liability in your films - does it, paradoxically, make it difficult for your subjects to speak with candour?

I've been slowly trying to take myself out of my films, but what happens when I try to do that is people look for me. I've realized that people appreciate my presence. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be cheered on by the crowds. But I made a decision with Sicko that the people in the film would make the film with me, that it would be a kind of group effort, because we're all in some way a part of the problem. There's something systemically wrong with the way we treat each other in the United States.

Shirley Douglas, the daughter of Tommy Douglas, was at the screening in London, your London, and she said she felt an immense sadness coming from the film, the sadness of someone, me, who realizes that his country has lost his way. But I still think it's possible to get the American soul back.

And you don't want to mess with Kiefer Sutherland's mother.

I know, I know! And did you know that Christopher Guest's grandfather helped create the British health-care system?

It's all become clear to me now - to fix the U.S. health-care system, we just need to ask Lindsay Lohan's grandfather!

How much time do you think you'll do for visiting Cuba in Sicko, and will we see pictures of you crying in the back of the paddy wagon?

Ha! No, you will not! I will do no time. I will pay no fine. I spent my teenage years doing test runs across the Michigan-Ontario border, in case the Vietnam draft got me. I am prepared. But, please, CIA, leave my family in Canada alone - the master of Sicko is not at their house!

The major criticism of Sicko in this country is that the film is naive about Canadian health care.

Well, let me stop you there. The film is not supposed to be a balanced portrayal of the Canadian system. That's for a Canadian director.

But if your depiction of one system is inaccurate, doesn't that jeopardize whatever arguments you make about your own system?

No. My job was to show Americans one basic truth about your system, and that is that if you need health care, you'll get it. I know that people in Canada have problems with their system, but your system believes that everyone gets a share of the pie - sometimes you get the first piece, sometimes you have to wait a little for your slice, but you still get a slice.

Are you offering free screenings to people without health insurance?

We've been talking about that, and setting up MASH tents outside the theatres.

Women tell me they have secret crushes on you.

Now that is scary! I was on the cover of the lesbian magazine Girlfriends, and that I can handle, but your friends clearly have alcohol problems!

You are a devout Catholic.

I dunno about "devout."

Practising, then. The Catholic Church is not exactly a bastion of social progress.

I go to mass and I believe very much in the teachings I was raised with, but I have serious problems with the church. The teachings of that good man Jesus have been very misused.

Your film shows how President Nixon was involved in the construction of the U.S.'s private insurer-driven health system. Is there anything that Nixon can't be blamed for?

I know! To think that the whole problem can be traced back to Nixon; I mean, it's like a novel. I'm worried now that I'll find out he's responsible for the Iraq war too!

Joel Siegel, 63: 'Good Morning America' Movie Critic

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(June 29, 2007) NEW YORK–Joel Siegel, a longtime movie critic for WABC-TV and Good Morning America who racked up five New York Emmy Awards for his insightful work, died Friday, the television station said. He was 63. The station said Siegel, who was famous for his weekly reviews, had been battling colon cancer. "Joel was an important part of ABC News and we will miss him," ABC News President David Westin said in a release. "He was a brilliant reviewer and a great reporter. But much more, he was our dear friend and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joel's family." Siegel was known for his sense of humour, movie acumen and sharp judgment. He never let an actor off the hook if the performance was lacklustre. "The appeal of Matthew McConaughey has long evaded me both as a pinup and as an actor," Siegel opined in his review of We Are Marshall," a 2006 film. "His constant ticks, bad hair and strained syntax as a coach fumble what should have been the tragic and inspirational story of the rebuilding of Marshall University's football team after a devastating plane crash." Dave Davis, president and general manager of WABC-TV, said Siegel loved to poke fun at uninspiring movies.

"No one had more fun writing about a bad movie than Joel," Davis said. ABC anchor Charles Gibson said Siegel knew how to tell a story. "He had an inexhaustible supply of stories – most funny, many poignant, all with a point or a punch line," Gibson said. Born in Los Angeles on July 7, 1943, Siegel graduated cum laude from UCLA. After college, he started writing for The Los Angeles Times, where he reviewed books. He landed in New York City in 1972 and worked as a reporter for WCBS-TV. He also hosted Joel Siegel's New York on WCBS Radio. Four years later he jumped to WABC-TV, cementing his reputation as a film critic over the next three decades. In 1981, he joined Good Morning America and became a regular as the network's entertainment editor, easily recognizable by his thick moustache and glasses. In addition to Emmy Awards, he also received a public-service award from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith; and the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award for general excellence in individual reporting. He survived by his son, Dylan, and wife, Ena Swansea.


Djimon Hounsou Prepares To ‘Get Some’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 28, 2007) *
Djimon Hounsou will follow up his 2006 roles in “Eragon” and “Blood Diamond” with a new action drama titled, “Get Some.”  The Benin-born actor will play a mixed martial arts coach and mentor to an Iowa native (Sean Faris) who moves to Orlando and joins a no-holds-barred "Fight Club"-style group for teens.  The movie will be the first project from new indie studio Summit Entertainment, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Principal photography is set to begin this month from a screenplay written by Chris Hauty (“Homeward Bound II”) and revised by Robert Munic and Gavin O'Connor. Hounsou, who earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination this year for Ed Zwick's "Blood Diamond," is currently dating Baby Phat fashionista Kimora Lee Simmons.

Latifah Wants To Re-Team With Steve Martin

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 28, 2007) *
Queen Latifah is set to star in a remake of the 1984 film “All of Me,” and is hoping to have its original star, Steve Martin, grace her updated version with director Adam Shankman.   “Adam was supposed to call him; I’m not sure if he called him yet to see if he was interested,” Latifah told MTV. “I definitely want him to know about it, and see what he thinks about [doing it].” Martin starred with Latifah in the 2003 comedy “Bringing Down the House,” which was also directed by Shankman. The actress says she’s been meeting with various screenwriters for the project, but “I haven’t decided which one we’re going to go with yet,” she says.       The original 1984 film, directed by Carl Reiner, starred Lily Tomlin as a dying millionaire who has her soul transferred into a younger, willing woman. But something goes awry, and she finds herself in the body of her lawyer, played by Martin.

Kinnear To Make Film In Toronto This Summer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(June 29, 2007) DETROIT – Filming starts in Toronto this summer on a movie based on the life of the late
Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. The film, called "Flash of Genius," will star Greg Kinnear (``Little Miss Sunshine") and Lauren Graham (``Gilmore Girls"). Shooting will take place in Toronto, the Detroit News reported today. Spyglass Entertainment describes the movie as a "real-life David and Goliath story" involving the Wayne State University professor. Kearns patented the wipers in 1967. He demonstrated the system to Ford Motor Co., which introduced cars with intermittent wipers in 1978. Other automakers soon followed. Kearns filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Ford and collected $10 million in 1990. Five years later, the U.S. Supreme Court let Kearns collect around $21 million from Chrysler Corp. for using his design. Kearns, who was acting as his own lawyer, was disappointed because the court didn't bar the company from continuing to use the wipers. He left the money uncollected for years. Much of it went back into other lawsuits against General Motors Corp. and around 20 other automakers. Kearns died of cancer in February 2005. He was 77.

Polley To Star In Sci-Fi Film Set To Shoot This Fall

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(June 29, 2007) Toronto -- Shooting begins early September in Montreal for the feature film
Mr. Nobody, which stars Jared Leto and Sarah Polley. The futuristic movie, about Nemo (the last mortal alive in Earth's future), is a €33-million ($47-million) co-production between Canada, France, Belgium and Germany.  The filmmakers - including Montreal's Christal Films - have already started the European leg of the movie shoot in Belgium. They will spend three weeks from Sept. 8 in Quebec.  Other Canadian actors in Mr. Nobody, written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael (The Eighth Day), include Clare Stone, Michael Riley and Emily Tilson.

Mos Def Is Absolute For ‘Zero’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 29, 2007) *
Mos Def has lined up his next film project. The rapper-turned-actor will star in and executive produce “Bobby Zero,” a feature from writing-directing brothers Markus and Mason Canter, reports Variety. Mos will play the romantic lead in the story of a down-on-his-luck social satirist who gives up his artistic aspirations to work at an advertising agency.  The talented bohemian and his agoraphobic girlfriend hit rock bottom after years of struggling as a couple. To make ends meet, Bobby goes corporate with the advertising job and is confronted by his past beliefs, stepping outside the box and discovering that there the world is not what he expected. Production is scheduled to begin in November from Los Angeles-based production company Duly Noted, which is also producing another Mos Def starrer, "Bury Me Standing."   Directed by Caran Hartsfield, "Standing," which begins production in August, co-stars Alfre Woodard in the story of four family members dealing with the murder of a 26-year-old relative.  Set in a lower-working class, African-American Philadelphia neighbourhood, the film examines how death becomes a catalyst for the bereaved to reassess their own life choices. Despite the heavy material, “Standing” is described as a comedic drama.

Casting Call For Everyone's Favourite Orphan

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Rebecca Dube

(July 2, 2007) The spunky redhead who inspired several movies, a beloved TV series, Canada's longest-running musical, a Japanese anime series, countless pigtails and a good portion of Prince Edward Island's tourism industry is making a comeback - and she might just be discovered on YouTube. Producer Kevin Sullivan, who made three
Anne of Green Gables movies and produced the TV series, is searching across Canada and the Internet for a young actress to play Anne Shirley in a prequel to his enduringly popular movie trilogy based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's books. Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, written by Sullivan, imagines Anne's life before she arrived in Avonlea. "A child who had that kind of flamboyant imagination had to have already created her own world out of a need to escape an unusual past," Sullivan says in a news release announcing his casting call. Aspiring Annes may mail in their audition videos the old-fashioned way, or submit them on YouTube. Judging from the plethora of Anne of Green Gables clips featured on the popular Internet video site - including a montage of Anne and Gilbert set to the tune of Hungry Eyes - the 99-year-old heroine is already quite at home there.  Besides winning a slew of awards, Sullivan Entertainment's Anne movies and TV series still rank among Canada's top-watched shows and have found vast international audiences. The miniseries, starring Megan Follows, garnered more than five million viewers in Canada, and the Road to Avonlea TV series, starring Sarah Polley, ran for seven years.

George C. Wolfe To Direct Jamie Foxx

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 3, 2007) *Jamie Foxx’s upcoming film “
Blood on the Leaves” will be directed by theater producer, director and writer George C. Wolfe, who last sat in the director’s chair for HBO’s critically-acclaimed drama, “Lackawanna Blues.”  Based on Jeffrey Stetson's 2004 novel, the Paramount Pictures film centers on a district attorney who grapples with feelings of revenge as he prosecutes a black history professor on trial for the murders of white men accused of crimes against blacks during the Civil Rights movement.   Foxx and his longtime partners Marcus King and Jaime Rucker King are producing through their Paramount-based Foxxhole company. Wolfe, who received an Emmy nomination for directing "Lackawanna," is also attached to oversee the upcoming Kanye West project for the big screen. As previously reported, the rapper/producer has teamed with Anonymous Content and New Line Cinema to produce a feature film inspired by his music. West also will appear in the movie, which will create a multi-perspective portrait of the United States as seen through the eyes of West and several filmmakers. Wolfe will oversee the creative process on the film.


Hey, Don't I Know You From That Other Show?

Excerpt from

(June 329 2007) VANCOUVER —
John Cassini is strolling down Smith Street with me. Really strolling, like we're having a nice, casual walk. We are, but it surprises me that Cassini isn't all hepped-up and bustling along. After all, he's got two major roles on the go, here in Vancouver. On the CBC drama Intelligence, he plays Ronnie, the guy who runs the Chickadee strip club for Jimmy Reardon (Ian Tracey), the central criminal character. He's Jimmy's right hand man, offering advice and watching his back. It's a full-throttle role, rich in tough guy theatrics but also in the little nuances that come with being the trusted adviser and friend to the boss. On CTV's Robson Arms, he's Yuri, the superintendent of the Robson Arms building. Over the two seasons, he's been in every episode. He's the guy who watches over the building and the tenants. Sometimes watching too closely and invading their living spaces when they're out. A ladies man of sorts, Yuri is a complicated dude.  He gives off hostility, particularly toward actually fixing anything in the building, but he's endearing in his singular foibles. That's two major roles on two series that shoot almost simultaneously here. The day after we meet, he's on-set at Robson Arms and days later, Intelligence starts production again. The fascinating thing about meeting Cassini in person is that there is no trace of Ronnie or Yuri in him. He's an actor, with two distinct roles, but he's his own man – a very good actor. At the end of our leisurely stroll, we end up at Tim Hortons for a chat. The forty something Cassini is Toronto-born. He's so Toronto that he says, “Everything good or bad that happened to me happened in Christie Pits,” referring to a park in central Toronto. An Italian-Canadian, he says his mother learned English from watching The Young and The Restless and General Hospital. “I always tell people that's why she's melodramatic,” he says.

He spent twelve years in L.A., getting steady gigs in movies, miniseries and network series. He had guest-star roles on NYPD Blue, ER and Profiler. He wrote and co-produced the movie Break a Leg (2006), which was directed by his wife Monika Mitchell. But, in Los Angeles, he kept getting hired for roles that took him to Vancouver, so he eventually moved here. He says it was just an accident that ended up on both CBC and CTV's most critically acclaimed series. “I was hired for Robson Arms but it took so long to get on the air that I was already doing Intelligence by the time it aired. Believe me, there was no master plan to have two great jobs in Vancouver. It gets very busy but I'm not complaining, I'd be an asshole if I complained about this situation.” The role of Yuri on Robson Arms truly intrigued Cassini. The fact that the building super was developed into a complex character thrilled him. “I couldn't do it as a shtick. Yuri's a funny guy but he doesn't just come in, make a joke and leave. Watch Yuri and you see that he's lonely, he's a bit damaged. Who the hell goes into other people's apartments and pokes around? Yuri is watching all these lives go on around him and you're forced to wonder about his life. There's poignancy there. That's the strength of Robson Arms. In a 22- or 24-minute story, you get comedy and something that's heartfelt. And it flows naturally, the writing is wonderful.” Yet he finds Yuri a demanding role. “ Robson Arms is technically demanding for me. Doing comedy, any kind of comedy, is technique. It's about specificity. Because I do Ronnie on Intelligence and also Yuri, I have to compartmentalize. When I'm Yuri I concentrate on that, use things to bring me into Yuri. I can use a music analogy. If I were a musician, doing Ronnie on Intelligence is a bit like doing a slow ballad. And then for Yuri, it's like doing Born to be Wild.” Cassini also remains in awe of Chris Haddock and the world he has created on Intelligence. “As an actor, you pray for this stuff. The characters are compelling, sometimes strange, but they're grounded. I can see these guys on Intelligence in everyday reality. I can see them in bars and cafés. Chris doesn't write melodrama, he writes what rings true. And, you know, I hope Chris gets all the praise in the world for what he's doing here. We'd only recognize the loss if he went off to work in L.A. In fact, we could all be working in L.A. I could work steadily in L.A., but I want to be here, in Vancouver, doing this.”

There's intensity about Cassini as he talks about Haddock. Cassini also had roles on Haddock's series for CBS, The Handler, a few years ago, and on Da Vinci's Inquest. He stops sipping coffee and eating his bagel. “I take my work as an actor very seriously. I work on my chops. I learn, try to get better. Chris is always giving me and the other actors a challenge. He's doing something utterly unique in television. Believe me, I've been at this long enough, and I know.” Not content with the two demanding roles in Vancouver, Cassini is also close to completing arrangement to make a movie in Toronto. “It's a coming of age story, set in Christie Pits. It's called Four Walls, and I'm writer and director. I'd call it “ Mean Streets meets Stand By Me.' I can guarantee you it's going to be authentic, because we're going to shoot it right there in Christie Pits.” I ask Cassini what the difference is between living and working in Toronto and the equivalent in Vancouver. “It's about pace. When I first moved here, I was searching for the pace of this city. Couldn't find it. Then I realized that Vancouver lets you create your own pace. For me, it's a city where I can let my shoulders relax. As a working actor, you're dealing with people, people, people, all the time. Here I can escape that a bit. Walk to the beach, enjoy the quiet with my family.” Then Cassini realizes what time it is. Suddenly he remembers, that, yes, he's actually busy, with lots of things to do. Two series to work on. He's bustling, ready to leave, and then gone down the street, walking faster than when we arrived. The pace has picked up.

Grey's Anatomy Star Says Racism Behind Firing

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(June 29, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Grey's Anatomy star
Isaiah Washington said racism was a factor in his firing from the hit ABC series after he twice used an anti-gay slur. Washington, who initially used the epithet during an onset clash with a co-star, told Newsweek magazine that "someone heard the booming voice of a black man and got really scared and that was the beginning of the end for me.'' He tried to make amends by expressing remorse and volunteering to enter a counselling program to understand how the confrontation got out of hand, he told Newsweek. "My mistake was believing that I would get the support from my network and all of my cast mates across the board. My mistake was believing I could correct a wrong with honesty and sincerity," he said in the interview posted online Thursday. "My mistake was thinking black people get second chances. I was wrong on all fronts," he said. His unwillingness to act like a submissive black at work was part of the problem, Washington said. "Well, it didn't help me on the set that I was a black man who wasn't a mush-mouth Negro walking around with his head in his hands all the time. I didn't speak like I'd just left the plantation and that can be a problem for people sometime," he said.

"I had a person in human resources tell me after this thing played out that ‘some people' were afraid of me around the studio. I asked her why, because I'm a 6-foot-1, black man with dark skin and who doesn't go around saying `Yessah, massa sir' and `No sir, massa' to everyone? "It's nuts when your presence alone can just scare people, and that made me a prime candidate to take the heat in a dysfunctional family," he said. ABC declined comment Thursday. In its one public statement regarding Washington, issued in January, the network said his actions were "unacceptable.'' Washington, who used the slur against co-star T.R. Knight during a confrontation with Patrick Dempsey, repeated the word backstage at the Golden Globes in January in denying the first incident. A public apology to Knight and others followed.

Rogers Offers To Sell Two Stations

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson, Media Reporter

(June 29, 2007) A flurry of takeovers in the Canadian television sector over the past year has prompted two more stations to go on the block.
Rogers Communications Inc. told Canada's broadcast regulator that it will sell OMNI stations in Vancouver and Winnipeg in an effort to clear the way for its $375-million purchase of the CITY-TV network. However, it may not be enough to satisfy the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which has suggested in documents that further asset sales could be required. Rogers purchased CITY-TV this month, after CTVglobemedia Inc. was ordered to sell the network amid concerns that its takeover of CHUM Ltd. would give it too much control over five large Canadian markets. CITY-TV, the largest piece of CHUM's conventional television operations, has stations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto. Federal rules limit broadcasters to owning one station per market, in any given language.

In order to buy CITY-TV, Rogers has offered to sell its two OMNI religious stations in Vancouver and Winnipeg within the next 12 months to comply with those rules. However, Rogers wants to keep its two OMNI stations in the Toronto market, arguing that those channels operate on licences for ethnic channels, which do not fall under the single-station rule. Similarly, Rogers plans to argue that it should also be allowed to keep recently acquired ethnic channel licences for OMNI in Calgary and Edmonton. But the regulator indicated yesterday that it has concerns about the Toronto stations. While those channels carry programming in several languages, they also fill out their schedule with reruns of English shows, such as Law and Order and The Simpsons. The regulator said the strategy could face scrutiny "despite Rogers' assertion that its ethnic stations do not raise any issues." Alain Strati, vice-president of business and regulatory affairs at Rogers, said the OMNI stations use the English programming to attract ad revenue, which helps support the ethnic programming.

"It's the engine, so to speak," Mr. Strati said, adding that Rogers believes the station is a diverse service since the programming includes such offerings as Russian talk shows and Bollywood movies. A hearing into the deal has been scheduled for Aug. 29. Several analysts speculated earlier this month that the two Toronto stations may need to be sold, given their English programming. The CRTC also said the size of the deal warrants a closer look at those channels. Industry observers are watching the hearings closely, given the CRTC's recent ruling that forced CTVglobemedia Inc., parent company of CTV and The Globe and Mail, to sell CITY-TV in order to have its purchase of CHUM's other radio and TV assets approved.  That ruling has sent a signal to the industry that the regulator is taking a tougher stance on the acquisition of additional stations. "I think they are looking at the issue of multiple-channel ownership over all, after what happened with the CTV and CITY-TV process," Mr. Strati said.


Producer Blasts Toronto For Ignoring Our Idols

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(June 29, 2007)
Canadian Idol producer John Brunton says it's "disgraceful" that Toronto residents don't show more support for homegrown contestants. Three Toronto competitors were eliminated on Wednesday's Idol results show on CTV, leaving just three in the Top 18. More people audition for the singing show in Toronto than in any other city, Brunton said, yet no one from here has made it to the Top 10 since the first season when three contestants accomplished the feat. "I'm not really supposed to do this. I'm supposed to be impartial," Brunton said yesterday in a news release. "But as a born and bred Torontonian, I'm fed up with the lack of attention and respect paid to the bright, young singers from Toronto. They deserve more. It should not be a disadvantage to be a Canadian Idol competitor from Toronto." Regional voting can play a key role in a contestant's success. Contestants from the East Coast, Quebec and Alberta, for example, frequently fare well in the competition. There are three remaining competitors from Toronto and one from Hamilton.

Taraji P. Henson Hustles Into’ ‘Boston Legal’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 3, 2007)  *“Hustle & Flow” star
Taraji P. Henson has joined the cast of David E. Kelley's legal comedy-drama "Boston Legal” as a regular.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, Henson will be introduced later in the season as a high-powered corporate litigator out of the New York offices of Crane Poole & Schmidt. John Larroquette, who joined the series as a regular last month, will play Carl Sack, a senior partner from the New York offices who transfers to Boston. Sack brings in Henson’s character to help wrestle more political sovereignty within the firm. Henson next stars opposite Don Cheadle in "Talk to Me," due in theatres July 13. She also plays the mother of Brad Pitt’s character in the upcoming film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”


She's At The Top Of Her Game

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(June 30, 2007) Ann-Marie MacDonald may be playing the Pope in one scene of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls – which opens next Tuesday in a Soulpepper Theatre production – but she's never claimed to be infallible. "I always assumed that my life would consist of working hard, being brave, making mistakes and suffering," says MacDonald on a break from rehearsals. "Well, I'm trying to get away from that now." This marks the first time in more than six years MacDonald has acted in a play, and she gleefully allows that "it's really fun to be back on stage again." It's not that the protean MacDonald hasn't been busy during that time. She finished her second mammoth novel, The Way the Crow Flies, wrote a new play (Belle Moral) for the Shaw Festival and welcomed two daughters into the life she shares with her partner, director Alisa Palmer. The influx of activity and vitality has transformed MacDonald, who admits that "from a selfish point of view (the children) are keeping me young. They're giving me a second life, a life that isn't always about work." Born in 1958, MacDonald's career began with a burst of successful television and film performances in the 1980s, followed by a notable career as a playwright and stage artist, writing and performing in everything from elegant whimsies like The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls to the dark operatic tension of Nigredo Hotel. Still, it wasn't until she shifted gears into writing fiction that she achieved worldwide fame – but at a considerable price.

Fall On Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies may have made her celebrated and wealthy, but they ate up almost an entire decade of her life.  These novels were rich, multi-layered studies of abuse and suffering that galvanized readers everywhere, but they came from the deepest recesses of MacDonald's psyche. "Those two books were all-consuming, devouring every aspect of my life, filling my brain every day, every night. I had to tell those stories, but I didn't realize what the toll would be until I had finished them." If she knew in advance how painful the process would have been, would she have gone ahead anyway? "Oh God," she sighs, "would we do anything if we knew what it would cost us? Would we be born?" She pauses, then looks up, clear-eyed. "I probably would have done it anyway." But she's perfectly clear there are no immediate sequels on the horizon. "I have no desire to disappear into a piece of fiction right now, because the children are too young and I'm having too nice a time with them." A smile brightens her face. "Our elder daughter did a ballet recital the other day and it was so exciting. I've always been one of those boring lesbians – don't put me in ballet, no pink, nothing like that my whole life. "Well, having gone through all those wars and fights, now at 48, I can say it's all been worth it, because my daughters can do and be whatever they want. Maybe today, it's soccer, maybe tomorrow, it's a princess on point.

"I can look at her and say, `I fought for your right to be a ballerina in your own terms.' " All of this ties in with the play MacDonald is doing at the moment. Top Girls was originally written by British feminist author Caryl Churchill in 1982. "It came out of Thatcher's England," elaborates MacDonald, "at the height of second-wave feminism and there's nothing warm and fuzzy about it at all. The play begins with a wildly theatrical surrealist dinner party in which famous women from history and literature (including MacDonald's Pope Joan) all get drunk and reveal they have all ultimately suffered in the same way at the hands of a male-dominated society. "And then we move into the story of a woman who's climbing the corporate ladder in a very patriarchal world," explains MacDonald, "and God, she's paying a price!" When the question is raised if the play might be dated, MacDonald bristles slightly. "It's no more dated," she insists, "than King Lear or 12 Angry Men. I don't think this play would attract that question if it wasn't written by a woman about women. It's about women who are saying, `We can do it all' and then asking, `But what's the price of it all?' " MacDonald recalls "that moment in the '80s when feminism became hyphenated. And I finally said, `I am un-hyphenated. My feminism is huge, it's inclusive and I'm not any particular brand.' " But 25 years later, she thinks Churchill's script still has a lot to offer an audience.

"There's still a war being waged on women, on children. That brings us back to this play. There's this sense that we're supposed to be satisfied now and that everything is okay. It's not.  "Religious fundamentalism is the No. 1 threat, the real boogeyman, and it's terribly scary and nobody's safe in that environment." But MacDonald turns for comfort to her children. "There's two more people in the world who you love and who love you back. And the hugs and snuggles are really, really great." No wonder that she has an answer ready when asked if there's one stage role she's still anxious to tackle. "If I'm going to be honest," she says, "I'd love to play Peter Pan."

Canada's Martin Leaves, Drowsy's Numbers Droop

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(June 29, 2007) NEW YORK — Only a little over a year after scooping up five Tony Awards, the Canadian-spawned musical comedy
The Drowsy Chaperone is stumbling as it tries to expand beyond New York, running into indifference in London's West End and a serious box-office slide in its continuing Broadway engagement, even as it lays the groundwork for a tour that will kick off this September in Toronto. The Broadway box office has dropped about 20 per cent, from its average weekly gross of more than $800,000 (U.S.), since the show started previews in April, 2006 – according to figures provided by the show's producers – taking in less than $600,000 a week since the middle of May. The show has an estimated weekly running cost of $450,000, meaning it is still turning a profit, but not nearly what it was during the heady days of last winter, when more than $1-million flowed into its coffers every week. The box-office dip coincides with the replacement of Toronto's Bob Martin, the original star and co-writer of the show, with John Glover, best known as Lionel Luthor on TV's Smallville, prompting suggestions that Martin was more of a draw than originally suspected. Although he was a Broadway unknown, much of the New York publicity surrounded Martin's salty charm as Man in Chair, the sad-sack narrator who brings a fictional 1928 Broadway show to life in his dowdy apartment by playing the original cast recording for the audience. Martin was nominated for a Tony Award for best actor in a musical. He left the Broadway production to star in the West End staging, which opened last week at the Novello Theatre. Critics applauded him in London, with Matt Wolf of the International Herald Tribune writing “it's Martin's show.”

But as a little-known property in a crowded West End field, Drowsy is having trouble regularly filling its 1,000 seats. And producers there chose not to emphasize Martin in their marketing, since he will leave London on July 10 to return home to Toronto for the expected birth of his first child, before launching the tour at the Elgin Theatre on Sept. 19. Back in New York, the show's producers say Drowsy will weather the tough competition over the next couple of months, in a year when Broadway has a large number of good tickets to popular shows, and emerge stronger in the fall after family-friendly musicals Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan have closed. “I think we've had our worst week behind us,” said Kevin McCollum, the lead producer. “Tourists are in town right now, the New York aficionados saw it. We're pushing out to Jersey now and we're getting more and more tourists who didn't see it the first year, catching up on last year's shows.” Drowsy's drop is the largest among the three shows nominated for last year's best-musical Tony and still running. Jersey Boys has been taking in more than $1-million a week and packing houses at 100-per-cent capacity since it won the top prize. The Color Purple has enjoyed 90-per-cent houses and regularly taken in more than $1-million. Last week, Drowsy was 68-per-cent full. But Drowsy's backers, who earned back their initial investment last November, remain confident it will run for a long time in New York. “I'm very bullish on the show,” said McCollum. “Would I love to be doing a million a week? Absolutely. I'm doing six [hundred thousand], 550 – I'm happy. But I'm also seeing a trend that, come fall, as there's less inventory out there, we will pick up a lot.”

Still, filling Martin's shoes is a challenge. “Our show is really about an everyman,” noted McCollum. “Part of the magic of Bob is not knowing who Bob is. You put somebody like Robin Williams in there, it skews it, it becomes Robin Williams playing a record, it's not Man in Chair.  “So we have a tightrope to walk, and we look at it every day. … We're not chasing celebrities, but we are definitely talking to people who really love our show, and we're seeing if there can be an opportunity for them to be in it, if it doesn't change the whole dynamic of the show. … We might have some announcements soon,” he added, “but I can't really say anything at this moment.”

Look To Lear And Learn, Stratford

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 03, 2007) STRATFORD-UPON-AVON - The Royal Shakespeare Company's production of
King Lear, which closed here last week, was simultaneously one of the most inspiring and most depressing nights that I have ever spent in the theatre. That sweepingly contradictory statement will take some explaining, but – in the end – you'll see what I mean. To begin with, this wasn't just any King Lear. It marked Sir Ian McKellen's return to the company where he had done some of his most important work after an absence of many years, during which he became a worldwide superstar. It also united McKellen with Trevor Nunn, one of the great directors of the English-speaking theatre. Two giants of their art, in the full maturity of their careers. Is it any wonder the expectations were high? But for once, they were met. This was the greatest production of Lear I have seen in a half-century of theatregoing. Notice, I didn't necessarily say the greatest performance and not because McKellen was anything short of brilliant. Still, it would be impossible to displace the memories of Paul Scofield, William Hutt, Christopher Plummer and all the other giants I've been fortunate enough to see play the role. Each had their unique virtues, as did McKellen.

He was a monarch initially of singular strength, who ventured into a madness burnished by such bittersweet irony that it truly took your breath away.  And when he reached that final impossible scene where hope and despair walk hand in hand, he balanced it as deftly and profoundly as I have ever seen it done. Yes, McKellen had the stamp of greatness on him, but that's not why this production raised me to such heights and hurled me to such depths. The major reason was Nunn's overarching vision of the play, which was realized by an acting company with the resources to fulfill it every step of the way. Nunn's achievement was to embrace the play as a whole and to deliver it as such.  When asked by Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro how he felt he could convey the full force of the play's many levels, the director answered: "I hope just by playing what's there." It's a long evening (three hours and 40 minutes) but without damaging cuts, Shakespeare's universe emerges in its full and artful balance. Good and evil are playing towards checkmate from the first scene where the noble France and the opportunistic Burgundy reveal their true selves in how they treat Cordelia after she loses her inheritance. Nunn boldly makes his first act last nearly two hours, until the Fool is shockingly lynched onstage, providing the bleakest of intermission curtains as well as the inspiration for Lear's later line, "And my poor fool is hang'd!" As the Earth swerves off its axis in the play's final scenes and it looks as though evil will triumph, Nunn has prepared us for it well. We end with a world that must be rebuilt from the ashes of despair – a concept we can painfully comprehend in our post-9/11 society. A brilliant, searing, thought-provoking production of King Lear. It's easy to see why it left me so inspired, but why did it cause me to become so depressed as well? Because it made me realize how far from this excellence we currently are at the Stratford Festival. The kind of directorial intellectual rigour and superb execution from the company that Nunn and the RSC command is impossible to visualize in this final year of the Richard Monette regime.

One needs only look at this season's Lear, in which the potentially brilliant Brian Bedford was allowed to direct himself, surrounded by a cast who often sounded like they didn't know what they were saying, costumed like giant Jacobean playing cards stiffly moving from place to place. There have been times in the past 50 years when we have equalled or surpassed the RSC. This is not one of those moments. Let these two Lears placed side-by-side serve as a wake-up call to an organization that is about to undergo a total changing of the guard. The time for transformation is now. Let it be as complete and sweeping as it needs to be.

Obituary: William Hutt, 87, Soldier And Actor

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Sandra Martin

(June 27, 2007) TORONTO — A man who could command a stage in any country and who chose to make his career in Canada, William Hutt was a formidable presence at The Stratford Festival since its founding in 1953, appearing in myriad roles from Prospero, Lear and Falstaff to Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. For fans, he made Shakespeare accessible, speaking in his homegrown voice rather than adopting plummy tones from across the Atlantic. For actors, he was a mentor, a friend and an avuncular presence, showing them how to inhabit a stage without hogging the limelight. And he did it all with generosity and panache. The stage was his home, and no stages were more familiar to him than those at Stratford where he performed in 130 productions over 39 seasons.  “This is a historic moment in Canada arts,” Richard Monette, artistic director of the festival said in an interview. “It is a cause of mourning for this loss and also a cause of great celebration because of his legacy. He was a great classical actor and he essayed all the great roles. He was equally at home with crowds as well as kings, he had a great range, everybody in the audience could relate to him; whether they were society people or farmers, he could appeal to them. He became effortless in his greatness.”

William Ian deWitt Hutt was the middle of three children of Edward deWitt Hutt, a magazine editor and his wife Caroline Frances Havergal (nee Wood). His mother suffered from septicemia after Bill's birth and was soon pregnant with her third child. Consequently, he spent long periods of time with an aunt and uncle in Hamilton. “My aunt belonged to Christ Church and they were doing a Christmas pageant. I was only 4 or 5 years old, but I wanted to be in it,” he said later. He had only one line — “Beads for sale” — which he delivered looking directly at the audience, and at that moment he fell in love with performing.  During the Depression, his father's magazines failed and he was forced to sell insurance, a job he “loathed,” and to move his wife and children into a home belonging to her family. Young Bill attended Vaughan Road and then North Toronto Collegiate Institutes, performing occasionally in school productions including a role as a police man in the Pirates of Penzance. More than six feet tall and a loner, he was socially awkward as a teenager. That's when he realized that he was bisexual. Homosexuality was morally taboo and illegal in the 1930s, which increased his sense of isolation from his family and his peers.

He did very poorly in high school and left without graduating in 1941 to enlist in the army and the 7th Light Field Ambulance Unit. He was 21, and unlike many young men who dash off to war deluded by visions of glory, he “had no intention of shooting anybody,” as he explained in an interview in his Stratford living room on Friday afternoon.  After going overseas, he saw a production of Arsenic and Old Lace in London with Sybil Thorndike and Lillian Braithwaite that enthralled him, but it was his experience as a medic that imbued him with a spiritual appreciation of humanity that he would draw on later as an actor. “You see a lot of death and dying and the one thing you realize is that the cheapest commodity on the market is one human life.” He won the Military Medal for bravery and was promoted from corporal to sergeant after he volunteered to set up a first aid centre under heavy mortar fire just north of Cassino in Italy. He never liked talking about his heroism, explaining that “you just do what needs to be done, you don't think about it.”  When he returned to Toronto in 1946, he marched into Exhibition Stadium and was told that his parents were sitting in the section of the stands marked H. When he saw his mother for the first time in five years, she looked at him blankly across a morbid divide of devastating experience, and said nothing, not even his name. “It haunted me for a while,” he admitted on Friday afternoon.

He realized that he “had to get on with my life” so he enrolled in Trinity College in the University of Toronto, which gave him a high-school equivalency based on his war service. He performed at the Hart House theatre, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949.  By then he had already gained experience in summer repertory and a season with Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. He also directed Little Theatre Groups throughout Ontario and adjudicated for the Western Ontario Drama League from 1948-52. When he heard that the late Tom Patterson was launching the Stratford Festival in 1953, he claimed he had to look the place up on a map. Although he thought Mr. Patterson was “out of his cotton-picking mind” he signed on and spent most of the next decade serving an apprenticeship in supporting roles such as Sir Robert Brackenbury and Captain Blunt in Richard III and Minister of State in All's Well That Ends Well in the festival's inaugural season and Froth in Measure for Measure, Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew and Leader of the Chorus in Oedipus Rex the following year, when he became the first recipient of the Tyrone Guthrie Award.  Still, he was not an overnight sensation, waiting until after he was 40 to land his first major role at Stratford — Prospero in The Tempest — in the Festival's 10th season in 1962. The following year he dazzled critics and audiences with his sexually ambivalent portrayal of Pandarus in Troilus and Cressida. Although the stage has been his mainstay, Mr. Hutt has also appeared in film and on television, notably as a port-soaked Sir John A. Macdonald in the 1974 CBC TV production of Pierre Berton's The National Dream, a performance that earned him both a Genie and an ACTRA award. He also played the father in Robin Phillips film of The Wars, the First World War novel written by his late friend, Timothy Findley. Generally he disliked the disjointed “bits and pieces” approach of film-making, complaining that it was antithetical to the process of, developing a character and fleshing it out with other actors in the immediacy of a continuous theatrical performance. Nevertheless, he recently starred in six episodes of the television series Slings and Arrows, playing an aging actor performing Lear.

People were surprised when he was cast in the female role of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in 1975, but he made the character his own. He said he learned “stillness” from a comment from director Robin Phillips: “Lady Bracknell moves through a room without disturbing one speck of dust.” Her towering feathered hat perched on top of his 6-foot-2-inch frame made it awkward for him to move and he resolved “never to move on stage, unless it improved on stillness.” What he wanted to share with the audience was the fact that “thought conveys itself” through the stillness that precedes movement. In 1979 he played the fool to Peter Ustinov's Lear, making way for the British actor's celebrity turn on the Stratford stage in a role that Mr. Hutt had already played twice. But it was Mr. Hutt's tragic death-haunted fool that drew the raves and according to backstage lore, Mr. Ustinov was “shaken” by his supporting actor's greatness, never thinking that “such an actor was here on this continent.”  He had a dry spell at Stratford under John Hirsch, who was artistic director from 1981 to 1985, and only cast him in one role. He fared better under John Neville, but truly enjoyed a renaissance when Richard Monette became artistic director in 1994. By then Mr. Hutt had become heavily involved in the Grand Theatre in nearby London, where Martha Henry was artistic director from 1988 to 1994, and had appeared at the rival Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake in Man and Superman in 1989.

When Mr. Hutt received a Governor-General's Award for lifetime achievement in the Performing Arts in 1992, he couldn't accept in person because he was performing in A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room at the Grand. The following season he had three major roles at Stratford, Falstaff in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, diplomat Harry Raymond in Timothy Findley's The Stillborn Lover (a play that Mr. Findley had written for Mr. Hutt and actress Martha Henry; Stratford reprised it in 1995 as a 75th birthday present for him), and James Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey Into Night.  About this time, people began asking when he would retire from the stage. He blamed himself for starting the rumour after he performed in The Tempest at Stratford in 1999 and mentioned that he wanted to take a year off. That same year Canada Post issued a stamp celebrating the Festival with an image of its famous thrust stage superimposed with an ethereal depiction of Mr. Hutt as Prospero with his arms outstretched and a wistful expression on his face. And the following year the city of Stratford renamed the Waterloo Street Bridge in his honour. Instead of taking a final bow at Stratford, he added a new venue to his repertoire by agreeing to play the poet Spooner in Soulpepper's remounting of Harold Pinter's No Man Land in 2003, the first time he had been on a Toronto stage in nearly two decades. “Hutt's Spooner is a miracle of economy, delivering every ounce of the text with an efficiency that makes his performance almost terse in the play's first act,” said Kate Taylor, then theatre critic for The Globe and Mail, before he “masterfully delivers Spooner's final proposal with an expansiveness that leaves one speculating about the desperation beneath and so closes the play.”

The man who lured Mr. Hutt to Toronto was Soulpepper impresario Albert Schultz. A member of the Young Company when Robin Phillips was artistic director at Stratford, Mr. Schultz had played Edgar to Mr. Hutt's desolate monarch in the Festival's 1989 production of King Lear. Mr. Hutt returned to Toronto and to Soulpepper in 2004 to play Vladimir in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. During rehearsals he told The Globe's Ian Brown “most of my dark moments now centre around just how many more years I am going to be granted. When I turned 80, the heart specialist — because I have a bit of a heart problem — said, ‘well after 80 it's a bit of a crapshoot, you know.'” By then he had a bad back dating from an injury he incurred back in the 1950s when, as a minor player in The Merry Wives of Windsor, he jumped into a laundry hamper and jolted his spine.  Although Mr. Hutt had officially retired from Stratford at the end of 2005 with his poignant and masterful performance as Prospero in The Tempest, leaving the audience with the final words, “Let your indulgence set me free,” he agreed to come back for one role this year as a farewell gesture to artistic director Richard Monette, in Diana LeBlanc's production of Edward Albee's play, A Delicate Balance. In March, he went for a series of medical tests and was diagnosed with anemia which turned into acute leukemia. He withdrew from the play, offering “my most profound apologies for the problems and inconvenience I'm sure it will cause.”  And then he prepared for what he told me was his final project — death — of which he was determined to be the “project manager.” With landscape gardener Matthew Mackay, the man who has shared his home since 1973, he chose a cemetery plot and decided on his epitaph: Soldier and Actor. After a stay in hospital he went back to his beautiful home on the banks of the Avon in Stratford, which he has owned since 1971, and visited with family and friends, including Mr. Schultz. “Bill was extremely brave and generous in preparing those near to him for his final exit. And yet today it seems unthinkable that he is no longer among us,” he said in a statement. On Tuesday Mr. Hutt decided it was time to go back to hospital. That same afternoon Michael Therriault, who once played Ariel to Mr. Hutt's Prospero and is currently getting raves as Gollum in the English production of Lord of the Rings, cancelled a performance to fly home to see him, but sadly he arrived a few hours too late.


William deWitt Hutt was born in Toronto on May 2, 1920. He died in hospital in Stratford Ontario on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 of acute leukemia. He was 87. A funeral is being planned for St. James Anglican Church in Stratford.


A Righteous Nation, A Nightmare Of Hell

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People
by Roy MacGregor, Viking Canada,
344 pages, $35

(July 01, 2007) My first impression of Canada, as a boy growing up in the northeast United States, was the contrast between the Canadian towns (spruce, well maintained) and the American towns (ratty, neglected) in the regions separated by the Niagara River. The Dominion of Canada, in this boy's eyes, was clearly a righteous nation. That memory was revived by my reading a chapter in Roy MacGregor's
Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People. "The Shrinking of the World" describes two border towns facing each other – Coutts, Alta., and Sweetgrass, Mont. Coutts, MacGregor observes, is "sparkling," with well-paved streets and trim lawns. Sweetgrass is "rundown, depressed." Decades pass, it seems, and the contrast holds. Wide areas of the United States are afflicted with decay, while Canada remains presentable from coast to coast. MacGregor does deal with the "hollowing out" of two provinces, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, and their proliferating rural ghost towns. But then one of the book's lessons is that few generalizations about Canada are safe.  If anyone is positioned to pull off such a daunting task as painting the "portrait" of our nation, it's the Ottawa-based MacGregor. He's has been writing about Canada for decades, in the pages of Maclean's and various newspapers, currently The Globe and Mail. His store of good will is obvious, along with his refusal to serve ideological agendas.

He is a formidable writer, with a great eye for detail. Here is a description of a Saskatchewan landscape: "The snow was crisp and fresh fallen under blue skies, the odd lasso of loose snow swirling in gusts across the open fields. At one turn in the road a single coyote, grey and sleek, sat on a small knoll of field staring at the traffic going by." (I like that "staring at the traffic.") He also has a fine sense of irony and a narrative touch that makes storytelling look easy. Two of the most memorable episodes in the book involving MacGregor are a shipwreck in James Bay, and an incident in an Italian restaurant during the winter Olympics, wherein MacGregor and other Canadian sportswriters learn a lesson in patriotism. These incidents rarely fall in his lap, by the way. In classic journalist fashion, MacGregor courts embarrassment and frustration by putting himself where he shouldn't necessarily be. For example, he accompanies a grief-stricken Quebecker and his son, desperately trying to get into a locked Montreal Forum to pay their last respects to Rocket Richard. MacGregor's reward is a moving vignette and a telling statement of Quebec's devotion to the great hockey player. So it's no surprise that Canadians is unfailingly readable and filled with incisive commentary. But does the book accomplish what it sets out to do? A fair warning of the difficulty of the task comes early, when MacGregor recalls the late Bruce Hutchinson's 1942 book, The Unknown Country. That book represented the first attempt to take a "snapshot" of Canada, somewhat along the lines of the American journalist John Gunther, a popular author of the era who produced such books as Inside Europe and Inside U.S.A. Hutchinson's book was immensely popular. It was also seriously flawed.

Here's MacGregor, describing Hutchinson's Canada: "French Canadians are pipe-smoking, good-hearted, simple country folk; the Japanese in British Columbia are breeding so quickly he finds no hope of their assimilation over time." Now The Unknown Country, for years a bestseller, can be found only on the dusty shelves of second-hand bookstores. Others have since tried to follow Hutchinson's example by travelling across Canada and reporting their findings, including the late Walter Stewart, a feisty and beloved investigative reporter, but clearly no Alexis de Tocqueville. The results of these travelogues have been mixed – so much so, it's a good question whether the travel across Canada in your motorcycle or Winnebago method has had its day. MacGregor, in effect, follows the method in his own book, but only because he's already travelled to just about every corner of the nation.

Macgregor concedes that Canadians have been collectively navel-gazing for so long it's become a joke. (Whither the Canadian identity?) Still, the contradictions of Canadian life tease the thoughtful observer. MacGregor presents his own list early in the book: "Canadians have two languages but rarely speak them both; they have two official national sports but hardly ever play one, lacrosse; they fret over other provinces' separation threats and race to threaten separation themselves; they use Ottawa as both capital city and swear word . . ." It is a long list. Three major contradictions, however, MacGregor tends to skirt. The first is the contradiction between Canadians' legendary politeness and their national obsession with the most violent of major sports, hockey. MacGregor acknowledges this contradiction by quoting novelist Roy MacSkimming, who calls hockey the "shadow side" of the Canadian psyche, and also by quoting the late Hugh MacLennan, who called hockey the counterpart of Canadian self-restraint. "To spectator and player alike," MacLennan wrote, "hockey gives the release that strong liquor gives a repressed man." Why the need for such a release? That MacGregor doesn't really explore this question is curious not only because he knows hockey inside out, but also because he also shows this display of normally repressed anger emerging in a different context. The book's oddest chapter deals with the 1991 Citizens' Forum on Canada's Future, a panel established by then-PM Brian Mulroney after the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. The commission, chaired by newspaper editor Keith Spicer, would travel the land and listen to the voice of the common folk. What resulted, according to MacGregor, was a prolonged coast-to-coast blast of inchoate rage at Canadian government and politicians. "The ordinary Canadian was in an absolute shitfit about the state of the country," MacGregor writes.

But why? Surely it wasn't solely due to constitutional squabbles on high. MacGregor observes that Spicer's complainants were really only concerned with two things – health care and hockey. Yet he remembers the time as apocalyptic, a mood shared by Spicer, who actually termed the spirit of the nation "a pessimist's nightmare of hell." Well, I lived through the year 1991, and certainly bad things happened – the Blue Jays lost the American League pennant to Minnesota – but no mass suicides or bloodletting occurred, as I recall. Another point at issue is the contradiction between a Canadian province whose licence plates read "Je me souviens" (I remember) and a nation as a whole determined to forget. "I can't pretend to understand Quebec," MacGregor writes, echoing Hutchinson's 1942 statement, "I do not pretend to understand Toronto." This chapter shows signs of being cobbled together in haste. MacGregor does point out that history, as a psychic force, is huge in Quebec. MacGregor also quotes John Ibbitson, journalist author of The Polite Revolution: Perfecting the Canadian Dream, stating that the flood of immigration in recent years has "swamped" the history of old Canada. This seems to me to be a formula for trouble, if only because history, thrown out the front door, has a bad habit of crawling in the back window.

What does it mean, for example, that Canadians in the 19th century were more religious than Americans, and yet traditional religious belief has almost no presence in the pages of MacGregor's portrait of early 21st century Canada? There is some discussion in the book of the lingering emotional effects of "Calvinism," but that's it. The question is not whether this change is good or bad, but whether any country can survive psychically without some sense of connection with its past, some feeling of true continuity underlying all its changes. Lacking that feeling, individuals go mad. So do countries.  Finally, there is a contradiction between Canadians' deep attachment to a wilderness landscape and the reality that we live in one of the most highly urbanized nations in the world. Here MacGregor displays a surer touch, partly because he was raised in Algonquin Park. His writing always comes alive when this aspect of his life is raised. He has no trouble, for example, deftly dismissing Northrop Frye's thesis that Canadians have always been terrified of the wilderness. (It was the city that MacGregor's parents were terrified of.) Still, Canadians are also uncomfortably aware that their landscape lacks the connected layers of past civilizations almost palpable in every European street corner. Most of Canada's land seems empty by comparison, despite the traces of aboriginal cultures and the presence of nature.

Faced with an equally "empty" landscape, Americans filled it with their national myths of manifest destiny – Davy Crockett and the rest. Canadians have no such myths. This may explain why such Canadian intellectuals as Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis concentrated on great theories of communication. These theories downplayed content and emphasized form and process, as if in reaction to a landscape that overwhelmed individual objects.  "It has often struck me that Canadians are more comfortable in their own skin when they're outside their own country," MacGregor writes. In context, he is referring to Canadians abroad celebrating their Olympic teams, but his statement has wider application. It is a blessing, rather than a curse, that Canadians are marginal in the world, and not the heroes of their own grand narratives, like Americans or many Europeans. Liberated from the psychic burden of that role, Canadians are free to cultivate awareness, which is a very portable commodity, and travels well. This was certainly the lesson of McLuhan and Innis.

Star literary critic Philip Marchand appears weekly.

Barrie Bares His Soul In Heartfelt Staff Email

Excerpt from www.thestar.com

(June 29, 2007) Toronto's most-popular morning man gave his friends and colleagues quite a wake-up call yesterday. First
Andy Barrie, host of CBC Radio One's Metro Morning, gathered his staff to tell them that he had recently been diagnosed with "early-stage'" Parkinson's disease. Then, the American-born announcer and interviewer, who came to Canada in 1969 during the Vietnam War, related the news to all CBCers in an email (reproduced below). "Disabled, but not unable. I love my work, and friends in the know have told me that the PD hasn't affected it," he wrote.  Barrie, 62, told the Star yesterday that he had no further comment on the situation and that he wanted the email to speak for itself.

From: Andy Barrie
Date: June 28, 2007
Subject: Note from Andy

Brother & Sister CBCers ...

We just had a staff meeting at 99.1, and I shared with our crew what I'd like the folk who weren't there to know, too ... About a year ago, I started to notice that my walking wasn't working the way it should, and that my handwriting, never a winner of prizes for penmanship, was getting even worse. "Shuffling gait" and "handwriting" were my keywords in Google, and what came back sent me to the neurologist. After a couple of months of tests, the diagnosis came back. I recently learned what I'd now like to share with all of you: I have early-stage Parkinson's disease. I say "have" as opposed to "suffering from" or "afflicted with" because neither's true. For the most part, it's just the walking and the handwriting. I say "just," because Parkinson's is degenerative, so it will get worse, sooner or later. Likely later, I hope much later. Parkinson's disease is totally unpredictable, and virtually every case is different. The rate of progression varies with every patient, with some symptoms appearing in some people and not at all in others (I'm among the 30% who don't have the tremor most of us associate with the disease).

There are lots of theories but no one actually knows what triggers Parkinson's. What causes the symptoms is a little clearer. The specialized cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine start dying off. Dopamine controls the behaviour of the neuromuscular system. As its level is lowered in the body, normally automatic functions like walking are impaired. Because a few people have asked, Parkinson's was not responsible for The Cough (which has now been mostly beaten back. It turns out it was caused by post-nasal drip). But I digress ...  However there's one PD symptom that does need mentioning – the muscles of the face can sometimes take on an expression that can look either pissed-off or not-at-home. Of course sometimes I am p.o.'d or not there. If you're not sure, ask. All of this was a lot worse before the 1960s when the discovery of L-Dopa introduced a whole family of drugs that help maintain dopamine levels and slow the progress of the disease. But they're not a cure.  There's only treatment now, and as time goes by there's no knowing how the symptoms will progress. Michael J. Fox went seven years before he finally revealed his early-onset Parkinson's. I read Michael's book, and concluded I didn't want to make this a secret. So I'm now coming out as a guy with a disability. Our colleague Ing Wong-Ward has told us that some day all of us will be in some way disabled. For me, it's come sooner.

Disabled, but not unable. I love my work, and friends in the know have told me that the PD hasn't affected it. I've been at Metro Morning for 12 years now. Jane, Jennifer, Susan and I have all agreed that we want to go for three more. I might be cutting down on those nights on the town, and be a little slower racing back during the news from Ooh La La. But unless or until I have to abandon those 4 a.m. wake-ups, I hope to go on waking up everyone else. I've been taking my meds, working out with a trainer twice a week and even with the sudden loss of my brother in March, I've managed to stave off depression, which is sometimes a side effect of Parkinson's. But while I haven't been depressed, I've certainly been distracted. So if I've occasionally seemed otherworldly, this is the other world I've been living in. Over 100,000 Canadians have Parkinson's. Most people diagnosed are over 55, so there will be a lot more of us as the population ages. PD is not contagious and it's not fatal. But it doesn't go away by itself, and it does get worse. So as optimistic as I want to be, I'm realistic too. The years ahead, on-air and off, will be a challenging ride. (If you'd like to know more about Parkinson's, www.michaeljfox.org is a good place to start – and it carries the encouraging message that someone diagnosed today has a very good chance of living to see a cure). My families have been wonderful – both the one at home and the one here. I've taken so much of your time with this because I thought it was the best way to get the story straight, and because it gave me an opportunity to educate others about Parkinson's as the last few months have educated me. Starting next week, I'm taking off for a good chunk of the summer, before I get back behind the mic in August. Till then, thanks for absorbing all this, for any advice you'd care to share or any questions you want to ask, and for being, all of you, such very human beings.


Master P - The Uncle P Interview with Kam Williams

Source:  Kam Williams

Hip-Hop Entrepreneur Reflects on God, Family, Money and Maturity: Born on April 29, 1967,
Percy Robert Miller, aka Master P, was the eldest of five children raised in a housing project in New Orleans’ Third Ward. On his way to being designated one of America’s 40 Richest People under 40 by Fortune Magazine, he got his start in 1994 by selling a self-produced album, “The Ghetto’s Tryin to Kill Me,” on his own label, No Limit Records, and right out of the trunk of his car.  When major music companies came a calling after they got wind of his success even without the benefit of a major distribution deal, P opted to sign with Priority Records in order to maintain complete creative control. By thus retaining complete ownership of his masters, he was able to become the first hip-hop artist to achieve a net worth in excess of a $100 million, and later $300 million. This savvy approach would serve him well as he blossomed as an entrepreneur, a path which had him parlaying the profits of his burgeoning financial empire into new ventures in order to diversify his holdings. Besides producing other rappers, including his sons Romeo and Young V, he has invested in everything from clothing lines to fast food franchises to auto parts to publishing to real estate to toys to sports management to phone sex companies to gas stations to telecommunications to, of course, movies.  Percy and Mrs. P, Sonya, and their kids live in L.A. Here, he talks about his new movie, Uncle P, which was recently released straight to DVD.

KW: Thanks for the time, P.

MP: No problem, no problem.

KW: What inspired you to make this movie which seems semi-autobiographical?

MP: Yeah, it’s about growing, and making changes, and knowing when you have to take steps in your life. Sometimes, you have to change the way you think to grow.

KW: I know that Romeo’s your co-star in Uncle P. Were any of your other kids in it?

MP: Romeo’s sister is in the film, just in the beginning of it. She’s definitely an up and coming actress who’ll be getting some little girl roles.

KW: Were you estranged from one of your sisters in real life, like your character in the movie?

MP: No, it was based on an uncle of mine, who was like a total fish out of water, and had to go take care of some kids. This was a message I really wanted to put out there because so many movies suggest that black males aren’t family men.

KW: And what would you say is Uncle P’s message?

MP: You really have to deal with whatever your situation is and make the best of it. That’s the message that I really wanted to get out there for the families. And it’s also about seeing your dreams come to life.

KW: I know you’re a family man, how many kids do you have?

MP: I have seven.

KW: God bless you. You’re the role model for black businessmen everywhere. How did you develop skills in dozens of fields?

MP: You know what, I credit God, and family, and knowledge. I have a book coming out in September called “Guaranteed Success.” It’s a wonderful book. I want kids to understand that anybody can make it as long as they have the knowledge. That’s why Romeo is going to college. Knowledge can lead to other avenues. You have to find out what your purpose in life is. You can have a U-Haul with all this money and jewels, but you can’t take that with you. You have to have a purpose in life. My purpose in life ain’t about me, it’s about building generational wealth with my family. That’s why I’m sending my kids to college. I want them to have a better life and better opportunities than me. I want them to be a step up and to be able to do other things. I want them to work hard, because it’s a competitive world we live in, and there’s always someone else out there trying to come up with the next great idea. I want to show kids how to diversify and to teach them that we may come from a hip-hop world but we can still go to Wall Street and build equity.

KW: Isn’t Romeo also going to play basketball at USC?

MP: Yeah, but he’ll also be studying business and film.

KW: How’s the recovery coming in your hometown, New Orleans?

MP: There’s great progress being made, everybody’s coming together, man. I have a program call www.TeamRescueOne.com, which is doing a lot of things in the community. It’s all about everybody coming together, because I don’t care how much you’ve got, it’s never enough, because there are so many families who lost so much. It’s going to take us a little while, but it’s going to be great again in the future.

KW: What advice do you have for kids who want to follow in your footsteps?

MP: Believe in God and in hard work. Believe in yourself, because that will really help in taking what you’re trying to do to the next level. And it’s important to remember that nobody can do this by themselves. But if you’re going to be in this business, be the boss of the company.

KW: In this movie you’re constantly being stalked by fans. How much does that happen to you in real life. Can you go to the mall or a movie theatre without being mobbed?

MP: I have those problems sometimes, but in Los Angeles they see so many celebrities, they don’t go as crazy as people do elsewhere.

KW: A friend of mine who promises not to stalk you, Jimmy Bayan, wants to know where in L.A. do you live?

MP: Beverly Hills.

KW: What aspect of entertainment do you enjoy the most, rapping, acting, or something else?

MP: I think the acting is what I enjoy the most. Making movies, and being able to play different characters.

KW: And do you like being an entertainer or a businessman more?

MP: You know, being a businessman is so important because, like I said before, it’s a generational thing for me and my family.

KW: Do you think that there will be a movement away from the curse words and the misogyny in the wake of the Imus firing?

MP: Yeah, I think it’s about growing and maturing.

KW: Well congrats on making Uncle P, it is definitely a refreshing change of pace and a sign that you’ve matured considerably since from some of those flicks you made early on, like Foolish.

MP: Oh, it is. And it’ll definitely show people that you can’t judge a book by its cover. We really can grow, if we put our minds to it. I’m not afraid to say that I was once a part of the problem. Now I’m trying to be a part of the solution. And, just like you said, that’s what growing up is all about.

KW: I appreciate your honesty, and thanks again for the interview, P.

MP: Thanks, man.

This Hollywood Beauty Uses Her Brain, Too

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Special To The Star

(June 30, 2007) Close your eyes and think of what the stereotypical Nintendo gamer looks like and you'll likely conjure up an image of a tween boy tapping away on a Nintendo DS handheld system. Instead, imagine a 40-year-old Hollywood movie queen. Nintendo's Europe division has chosen Moulin Rouge star Nicole Kidman as the new face for its upcoming game, Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day, the latest in a popular series that challenges players to complete mental exercises and other brain-sharpening puzzles. "I've quickly found that training my brain is a great way to keep my mind feeling young," says the Australian actress. Nintendo has recently gone to great lengths to broaden the appeal of video games with its Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii marketing campaigns. Dawn Paine, marketing director of Nintendo UK, says, "The Brain Training phenomenon is sweeping the globe, enjoyed by over 10 million people from grandparents to Oscar-winning actors. We believe that Nicole Kidman's leading role in the campaign and the revelation of her DS Brain Age will surprise and excite people all over Europe."

"YOUTUBE" OF VIDEO GAMES: If you're a budding game maker and are looking for feedback, additional team members or shameless self-promotion, Kongregate (www.kongregate.com) is considered the world's first "Web 2.0" social networking site for game developers. Similar to YouTube – where anyone can uploaded videos, comment on them and set up free profile pages – Kongregate is a community-driven portal that currently offers more than 800 user-made computer games that anyone can play, rate or chat about. The site lets visitors select games by genre, such as "Action" or "Role-Playing," or by clicking though top 10 lists. In case you're wondering, at 177,247 plays, The Fancy Pants Adventures, by DrNeroCF, remains this week's highest-rated game. The youngest of the 325 contributing developers is just 13 years old. Registration is free, but required to upload your games.


Canadians Get U.S. Comedy On The Web

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(June 28, 2007) Web surfers in Canada will soon be able catch up on some of their favourite American comedy TV series via the
Comedy Network website, and eventually their cellphones. Under a deal announced Wednesday, CTV gets exclusive broadcast and digital rights – including broadband, video-on-demand and mobile – to the entire Comedy Central program slate in the U.S. and will be able to provide the content on any number of platforms. The Comedy Network, a division of CTV, already broadcasts several American shows that also air on the Viacom-owned Comedy Central, including South Park, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Sarah Silverman Program and Reno 911.CTV is redesigning the Comedy Network website to make room for the new programming and expects to have the shows available for streaming in the next few weeks. When the initiative is complete, Canadian-based web surfers who log on to Comedy Central's website will be redirected to the Comedy Network site, where the content will be available. Clips, shorts, ring tones and other online content created for the shows will be made available in the next few months, said CTV.

Streisand Awarded France's Legion Of Honour

Source: Associated Press

(June 28, 2007) PARIS —
Barbra Streisand performed her first-ever concert in France this week — and was rewarded with a medal of the Legion of Honour. French President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded the medal to Streisand in a ceremony Thursday, the first time he has bestowed the honour since taking over from Jacques Chirac last month. “You are the America that we love,” said Sarkozy, who is seen as more U.S.-friendly than Chirac. “Women like you ... do a lot to bring our two peoples together.” Onlookers included French crooner Charles Aznavour and actor Alain Delon. Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia, went to Streisand's sole concert in France, at Paris' Bercy stadium Tuesday. Streisand told Sarkozy, a conservative, that he reminded her of former U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Clinton, “who appreciated art and recognized the importance of the arts in the world.” “I am deeply honoured to be joining the playwrights, heads of state, artists and leaders who have accepted this honour before me,” Streisand, 65, said in a statement. “I leave with a sense of inspiration and responsibility as an artist to always reflect the truth and as a citizen to try and create a world of justice, compassion, equality and peace -- one with a little more music and a little more joy.” Created by Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century, the Legion of Honour is France's elite national merit society. Although foreigners cannot be officially inducted into the Legion, they are routinely made honorary recipients. Recent honourees include Jerry Lewis, Valentino and Norman Mailer.


Serena Overcomes Injury To Advance In London

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 3, 2007) *There are no words strong enough to describe what
Serena Williams did Monday on Centre Court at Wimbledon. You just had to see it to believe it. In a fourth round match against Daniela Hantuchova, Williams was up a set and tied 5-5 in the second set at 30-15 when her left calf stiffened up and she buckled to the grass in tears. For the next seven minutes, she winced, grimaced and screamed out in pain as the trainer tried in vain to help. When ESPN2 returned from a commercial break, somehow Serena had summoned the strength to not only stand, but attempt to continue playing. The following 11 minutes were painful to watch, as Serena’s injury had taken the velocity and sting out of her serves, and kept her from getting to balls that would have otherwise been returned with ease. But even through her pain, Williams was able to actually serve some aces, which ignited the supportive crowd at London’s All England Club. Although Serena fans understand that she is never to be counted out, this situation appeared impossible to overcome.  But then, it began to rain. 

Trailing 4-2 in the second-set tiebreaker, Serena was two points away from having to endure a third set when the skies opened up and play was suspended by the chair umpire.  During the nearly two-hour rain delay, Serena's mother and coach, Oracene Price, said she advised her daughter to stop playing. But the younger Williams sister used the time given by Mother Nature to receive treatment with ice and massages. She also drank a lot of liquids. When the rain stopped, Williams returned to the court with both legs taped underneath sweat pants to keep her muscles warm, and began to chisel her way back into the match.  Still wincing in pain, and stretching out her calf between during every break in action, Serena lost the first five points and ended up losing the second set 6-7, but she began to move better and hit more aggressively, while Hantuchova grew erratic and seemingly shaken by the unusual circumstances. Needless to say, Serena did what she always does -- found a way to win.  Daniela Hantuchova was unable to beat a severely injured Serena, losing 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-2. Serena’s official injury was announced by the WTA Tour as a spasm-induced left calf strain. There’s no telling if she’ll be healthy enough to sustain a fifth round match against rival Justin Henin in pursuit of her third Wimbledon title. Venus, who was present in the stands for her sister’s entire ordeal, had a dramatic victory of her own earlier in the day with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 win over Akiko Morigami. In a match suspended by rain on Saturday, the three-time Wimbledon champion also found a way to win despite facing 23 break points, committing 14 double-faults and trailing 5-3 in the third set. Venus’ next opponent is Maria Sharapova.


10 Things Every Fit Person Does

By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, eDiets Contributor

Do you ever wonder what fit people do differently from those with excess fat? If you think they were born with the special gene to release fat, and you were born with unfavourable ones which promote the storage of fat, think again.  While genetics does play some role in where fat you store fat, recent studies show you have the ability to overcome genes and express the positive side of a gene. At any given time, a fat cell can swell or shrink, depending more on your lifestyle (eating and physical activity) than your genes.  Since the gene theory no longer holds the weight it was once thought to, where do the differences in attaining a fit body begin?

If you had the chance to spend 24 hours with a fit person, you would observe several key things that they do differently than the average sedentary one. Read on to understand -- and ultimately incorporate -- decisions fit people make regarding exercise, eating and recovery in order to live in a lean, healthy, strong and fit body.

1. Sleep well and wake up naturally. Many fit people arise without an alarm clock feeling energized, rested and hungry. They have set fitness goals and a plan to achieve them. People who are fit fall asleep easier, have more quality sleep and require less sleep than someone who is unfit. Lack of sleep is strongly associated with obesity. Sleeping helps the body repair, rebuild and recover.

2. Get prepared. Fit people pack their gym bags the night before, have clothes laid out for exercise, toiletries packed for a shower, clothes for work and an appointment in their planner for physical activity. They regard their workout appointments as highly as any other business or social commitment.

3. Exercise in the morning. Morning exercisers have the highest compliance rates and are more likely to stick to their program. As the day passes, they have a feeling of accomplishment and pride which is reflected in their food choices, behaviour and stress management. Morning exercise is the best way to start your day and ultimately influence many other positive decisions throughout your day.

4. Plan meals. People who are fit and lean have set eating times, plan their meals around their workouts and know what they are going to eat and when. Initially it takes a little work to figure out healthy meals and snacks, but they do not leave eating to chance. Finding yourself headed to the buffet or driving through for fast food in a famished state is a formula for disaster.

5. Rebound from setbacks Fit people do not let one missed workout turn into two or three. They get right back to their next workout and use the added rest to work even harder. They also don’t let one slice of pizza or cake derail their efforts. They move on to the next healthy meal knowing they exercise, sleep and eat well so they can have the occasional indulgence or missed workout without it affecting them negatively.

6. Make lasting lifestyle and behavioural changes. Fit people have become fit over time, not over night. They empower themselves with information about fitness and eating, and adopt one new habit at a time until it's no longer something they work on, but instead something that is part of their daily routine.

7. Separate the psychology of success from self-help snake oil. People who are fit do not fall prey to the quick magical “solutions” to health and wellness. They know living longer, stronger, leaner years is a lifelong process, and they reap the benefits daily. They know if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

8. Lose weight and keep it off. Fit people know dieting alone is not enough to achieve long-term fat loss. Exercise plays a large part in keeping pounds off. With regular exercise, they are likely to keep the weight off for life.

9. Use positive self-talk. People who are fit use positive self-talk. They don’t beat themselves up with negative sayings such as “I am fat” or “I am lazy”. Instead, they say “I am strong,” “I am powerful,” “I nourish my body” and “I am thankful to be moving my body.”

10. Set and accomplish goals. Fit people have a realistic goal in mind when they train. For some, it's being a certain size or having a particular waste measurement. For others, it's competing in an event or fundraiser that is near to their heart, like walking for breast cancer or cycling for leukemia. When one goal is accomplished, another is set and there is a deliberate plan to achieve the result.

If you want to live in a lean, fit, strong, unstoppable body, you should choose one of the 10 components listed above and decide to tackle it. Once you have tackled one, move on to the next. Over time, the more of these habits you incorporate, the more living in a fit body will become an everyday reality, and you'll love the reflection that stares back at you in the mirror.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Marian Wright Edelman: Activist for children's rights

"You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day."