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October 18, 2007

Good fall day!  The chill is definitely in the air but I love this time of year. 

I checked out the fab
Jully Black at Supermarket this past Monday.  Recommendation: go and pick up this CD - it's very HOT and so is our Jully!  Check out pics in my PHOTO GALLERY!

Have you marked your calendar yet for 
Kayte Burgess' Farewell Party on Sunday night?  She's moving to Atlanta and wants to celebrate with friends and family before she checks out!  Check the details for this special night below!

There is so much news so I will let you get right to it! 



Kayte Burgess Official Send Off, Release and Appreciation Party - Sunday, October 21

Have you heard the
Kayte Burgess track ‘Call You Out’ on FLOW 93.5?  Yes?  Well, the track is from her sophomore album called Checked Baggage.  And Kayte wants to have a party to celebrate its release on October 16, 2007 – available everywhere!  Come and celebrate with us at the official online and retail release party on October 21, 2007 at Harlem!  And guess what else!? 

This is also Kayte’s birthday
AND an official send off as she makes the big move to Atlanta to capitalize on opportunities that have materialized!  The night will consist of a showcase of the new material with DJ Carl Allen spinning all night.  And in thanks, Kayte will be giving 5 copies of her album away!

Checked Baggage saw Kayte criss-cross the continent from Toronto to Los Angeles to New York City to record nearly 50 tracks for this independent full-length release. Tracks feature collaborations with Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Tribe Called Quest), Joel Joseph and Adrian Eccleston (Nelly Furtado), 2Rude and Graph Nobel among others.

In Toronto , Kayte has backed up Lionel Ritchie (on Canadian Idol) and Al Green and opened for Divine Brown in addition to performing at dozens of profile concerts as a solo artist and as part of ensemble units over the last eight years.   

Come to Harlem on Sunday - a special night in more ways than one! 

Harlem Restaurant
67 Richmond St. E. (Church and Richmond) 
10:00 pm


Richard O'Brien, 59: BamBoo Co-Founder

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

(October 16, 2007) It is a testament to the resonating power of
Richard O'Brien and the BamBoo that both are fondly remembered five years after the nightclub and its renowned upstairs patio were closed. More than just a bar, it was a Toronto landmark that helped usher in the Queen St. W. that we know today.

O'Brien passed away from neurological complications Sunday. He was 59.

A one-time freelance writer who worked for the CBC and TVO, O'Brien and partner Patti Habib created their outpost of bohemian cool in 1977 and enjoyed almost 25 years of introducing new flavours to this city, from being the first Toronto restaurant to serve pad Thai to introducing cutting edge programming that helped shine a light on reggae and world beat music.

As actor and friend Catherine O'Hara says in the introduction to the BamBoo cookbook, the 'Boo was "the hip guardian of Queen St. W. ... It's the U.N. of groove. It's an oasis, a loveboat, a desert isle, a Caribana float."

It was O'Brien who really helped push the music forward, and was generally known to live a loud and gregarious life.

He suffered a debilitating stroke in the late '90s and was told by doctors that it would severely curtail his life. It was then that musician Brent Titcomb and his family befriended him and helped him through his recovery, as part of a tight circle that surrounded him in later years.

"Richard never heard `no.' He was an eternal optimist and he went on to achieve and do things that were pretty amazing.... He didn't bemoan his circumstance. He never got depressed. In fact, he expressed gratitude, at times saying that (his medical difficulties were) the only thing to stop him from his rambunctious lifestyle ... he was an incredibly generous person and was able to extract the positive from anything."

An example of his indomitable drive was his attempt to recreate his restaurant on Toronto's Harbourfront in 2003. While he was successful in getting Bambu by the Lake off the ground, it never caught on like the original bar.

A resident of the Toronto Islands, O'Brien's last project was fighting for improvements to the waiting areas for the island ferries.

There will be a private funeral home visitation for family and friends tomorrow, before cremation. A public remembrance is planned. Condolences can be sent to richard.obrien@wardfh.com.

Brampton A New Hotbed For Talent

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(October 14, 2007) All roads lead to Brampton. That may be the city's unofficial motto, but in terms of famous people, it's the paths leading out of Brampton that bear examining as Canada's Flowertown is fast becoming the epicentre of Canadian celebrity culture.

Just like the confluence of star power that in the late '80s and '90s centred on Scarborough – which produced such diverse bright lights as Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, The Barenaked Ladies and Paul Tracy, just to mention a few – Brampton is the hometown or residence of a new wave of celebrities who will likely only further shine a light on this suburban city of 400,000. Is Brampton the new Scarborough?

"I'm the original B-town representer, I feel," said
Russell Peters, on the line from Johannesburg, where he's touring. When he became the first comedian to sell out the Air Canada Centre earlier this year, his graffiti-styled backdrop even had the "all roads" motto written on it as a shout-out to his hometown. The world might even get a glimpse of more Brampton culture, as Peters has signed a development deal with Fox for a sitcom about his life "10 to 15 years ago, and just where I was at that time, working in a mall, in a shoe store, living in my parents' basement, pretty happy being broke."

So basically, life when you were still in Brampton?

"You bet. Sadly we can't base it in Brampton, or any Canadian city because the Americans won't get it. But there will be Brampton references, don't you worry," Peters said, sounding like Myers before he transplanted Wayne (Wayne's World) Campbell's life from Scarborough to suburban Chicago.

Peters may be the O.B. (Original Brampsta), but he isn't alone. In this new young TV season, there is no more memorable new TV sidekick than
Tyler Labine's character in Reaper. Over three episodes, his Bert "Sock" Wysocki character is already more memorable than the star of the show, whether he's killing time by wrapping his hand in duct tape or handling an aggressive dog by whacking it with a car door. He's also from B-town, as some like to call it.

And there are fewer actors in the world hotter than
Michael Cera: his current film, the bromantic teen comedy, Superbad, has already raked in more than $100 million, and he also has a role in the upcoming – and already much-buzzed-about TIFF fan-favourite – Juno. But when he's not in L.A., what does the nerdy girls' latest heartthrob like to do? Head home to Brampton to chill out with his folks. Other notable Bramptonians include Paulo Costanza (Everything's Gone Green, Joey), superheroic twin actors Shawn and Aaron Ashmore (Iceman in the X-Men movies and Jimmy Olsen on Smallville, respectively), comedian Scott Thompson and author Rohinton Mistry. As well, there are transplants like singer Keshia Chanté – currently the face of Ontario tourism and a recent guest on TV's Da Kink In My Hair series – who splits her time between Brampton and New York City.

So in an exponentially growing city often known for its high Indian population – Bramladesh and Brownton are two nicknames – it's obvious Brampton is having a moment, at least one that comes from the reflected glory of its citizens' success shining back. But no one is sure what to attribute it to.

"It's not like I grew up with an abundance of culture growing up in Brampton," says Labine, 29, on the line from Vancouver, where he's busy shooting Reaper. "It's hard to quantify. I guess I may have the local YMCA to thank a little bit, I did a few years of drama classes there, which is really just parents dumping their kids off and saying, `Go into this room with this teacher. Do something other than hanging out.' Me and my brothers did that, like, once a week for two years."

And to add to the list, Labine says that
Kiefer Sutherland also attended his junior high. ("There was a big picture of him in the principal's office. They wanted to make sure we were all very aware of the fact.")

"I used to joke around at the Indie Arts festival saying that Brampton is the next Brooklyn," says Richard Marsella, a.k.a. Friendly Rich, a musician and composer who, for the past seven years has been putting on the Brampton Indie Arts Festival (www.biaf.ca) every February. "Brampton is a fine place to do work and produce stuff. People leave you alone, it's moderately quiet ... There's a lot of contributing factors."

Marsella, who now lives in nearby Georgetown and admits that Cera sightings are now in vogue in his hometown, is more concerned with finding ways for young people to remain in the city, as opposed to decamping for Toronto or elsewhere.

Of course, the irony with any story that looks at the geographical origins of celebrities is that to attain their success, they likely had to leave. Sometimes, it's that drive to leave that really fuels their success.

"I found the whole place completely sterile and every weekend I'd go into Toronto and I'd feel like it was exciting. Nobody really played music there, back in the '80s," says acclaimed singer/songwriter and Broken Social Scene member
Jason Collett, who was born in Bramalea, which was merged into Brampton in 1974.

"As far as what makes people go on to become famous, the only thing I can think of is that it's a microcosm of Canada in a small sense. The geography is so spread out you hit the ceiling so fast; you have to leave the country to get celebrated elsewhere.

"You have to go where the work is, and then you become successful, and then people are like, `Oh yeah, he's from here. Let's celebrate them.' But you work in obscurity until that point. I left Brampton when I was 17, partly because I wanted more."

And so, despite the efforts of Tyler Labine's principal, those who chase fame and get it aren't necessarily known for their hometown, leaving Bramptonians rather modest about the city's success at fostering success. When he was contacted, Labine's reaction was typical: "Who else is from there? I'm curious."

Raul Midón Upbeat In Tempo And Tone

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(October 15, 2007)
Raul Midón is a no-frills virtuoso.

Standing before simple black drapery, guitar in hand, bottle of water tucked into a satchel on his hip, the singer/songwriter put on a mesmerizing show at Harbourfront Centre Saturday night.

It was the 41-year-old New Mexico-born, New York-based musician’s fifth appearance here in three years, but his first as a headliner. Clad in sneakers, denim and sunglasses and armed with tunes from a brand new disc, A World Within A World, he was greeted by a welcoming roar from the audience of about 300.

He began with the socially conscious folky-pop “Pick Somebody Up,” his versatile, soulful tenor urging, “Take a stranger out of danger/Help someone to understand/That revolution is no solution/To the tragedy of man.”

Next came “All Because Of You,” a straight R&B ballad that would not be out of place on a Brian McKnight disc.

Midón is a jazz and Latin-inflected one-man band who sings and scats while slapping out percussion, chords and bass lines on his guitar and occasionally imitating trumpet solos with his mouth.

The former studio musician — a first-call backup vocalist for the likes of Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Julio Iglesias — is also an engaging showman who introduced songs with revealing anecdotes.

He told of pausing the recording of his latest disc to take a three-night gig in Monte Carlo, because “the money was so good” and of the challenges of making said disc, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2005 debut State of Mind.

“Basically with the first album you go through your entire catalogue of songs....... Then with the second record you got nothing.”

Daunted, but not undone, Midón crafted a disc as wondrously eclectic and penetrating as his first. The highlights include, “Song for Sandra,” about the blind-since-birth singer losing his mother as a child; the anthemic and self-explanatory “Peace On Earth” and the encouraging “Save My life”: “Love is going to save your life/Everything will work out right/As long as you’re prepared to try again.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if the hopefulness Midón engendered led some sated attendees to skip church the next morning.

On the downside: with the new record just weeks old, he took too long to get to songs from his first album, resulting in one frustrated man yelling for “State of Mind” halfway through the hour-long set. And shame on whoever was responsible for the “mix-up” that Midón said meant no CDs available afterwards for sale or signing.

But the evening is best summarized by the sentiments a woman shouted when he responded to the crowd’s ravenous appeal for an encore.

“You make us happy!”


Mideast Peace Gig Cancelled Over Threats

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(October 15, 2007) JERUSALEM – A peace concert promoting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was called off Sunday after threats were made to Palestinians supporting the event.

The New York-based
One Voice organization had planned to hold simultaneous concerts in Tel Aviv and the West Bank town of Jericho, with Canadian rock star Bryan Adams in lead billing.

The Jericho concert was called off last week due to security concerns, including threats to blow up the West Bank office of One Voice, said group founder Daniel Lubetzky. On Sunday, the Tel Aviv concert was cancelled in solidarity.

"Our mission is not to entertain ... It is to mobilize moderate voices," said Lubetzky, a New York businessman. "If we have to postpone, we have to postpone.''

Organizers of One Voice aim to collect a million signatures from Israelis and Palestinians calling for their leaders to negotiate a final peace settlement by October 2008. The concert was meant to support the signature campaign, with those attending the event – free of charge – required to sign the petition.

Many Palestinians have harshly criticized the organization, which they say is weak in defending Palestinian demands, including the right of return for refugees to the lands they left, or were forced to flee, following the Israeli-Arab war in 1948. Leading Palestinians who initially supported the event have also distanced themselves from it.

Around 600,000 Palestinians and Israelis signed on to support the organization's call for negotiations to begin between both sides. It also has received support from Hollywood stars such as Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Rhea Perlman, Danny de Vito and Jason Alexander.


Soul For The Whole Globe

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

(October 14, 2007) There are no short answers when it comes to the music and muses of West Coast singer/songwriter

Take the origins of her stage name, for instance.

"I was living in Australia in 2000," begins 34-year-old Tara Donald on the phone from her Vancouver base. "I'd just started a weekly performance night at a hostel that I was living at, exchanging my performance for free accommodations.

"There were so many Taras there I was like `How am I going to differentiate myself?'"

An aboriginal Australian musician suggested his favourite figure from Buddhism, Green Tara.

"I thought, that's so great, because I'm from green British Columbia and nature and the environment and my songs are often tagged with a bit of social commentary, although I'm not trying to take on the role of a goddess in any way – but she's also the goddess of compassion and that's a big message in a lot of my music as well."

On her new album Global Baby, to be released with a trio performance at Cameron House on Tuesday, GreenTaRA fuses reggae and soul with sassy Jill Scott-style ruminations about love, life and historical figures such as anti-abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The adept guitarist taught herself to play at 15 and hit the road at 19, living in New Zealand, Australia, and Florida while training for opera and performing with blues bands and gospel choirs. Like her 2003 debut Music for a Mixed Nation, the new CD also deals with identity.

"I've considered myself as a global baby, not only because of my travelling, but because of my heritage – Cherokee, African and Caucasian," she explains.

"Being adopted and being mixed race I've spent a large part of my life just trying to figure out who I am and where I fit." Even given a simple question about how many siblings she has, her answer is "I've got about 20 if you count them all up, but that's because I'm from one of those ridiculously modern, broken-several-times families.

"I've met my biological parents and that doubled up the siblings."

But it's all fodder for her music.

"Every experience I've had has led to either the creation of a song or the development of a gift, or an ability – from my artistry my ability to think analytically and book my own tours.

"We tend to focus on the differences between each other and what's become apparent to me in this quest to figure out who I am is that we are more the same as human beings than we are different, among races, or as men and women."

This Jewel Shines On

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

October 13, 2007) Mention the name "Jewel" and snippets of the singer/songwriter's lilting voice – perhaps crooning "Who Will Save Your Soul," will likely float through your mind.

But what exactly has Jewel Kilcher been up to lately? After all, it's been a while since the 2006 release of Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, her last album with Atlantic Records.

It turns out she's been pretty busy, writing, performing (she'll be at Casino Rama on Friday), acting and driving a race car, as well as taking on some philanthropic causes and spending time with her boyfriend of nine years, rodeo champion Ty Murray.

She's also been busy in Nashville recording her as yet unnamed seventh album, which, during a recent telephone interview, she shied away from calling "country."

"Oh, it's just a Jewel record. It won't sound like a dramatic departure to any of my fans who have been seeing me live for all these years," said the three-time Grammy nominee, noting she wrote the entire album.

"It's still storytelling the way all my records have been. I've just really had a big influence and a big respect for country music all my life. Just growing up on a ranch in Alaska, I guess."

Expounding on the idea country music is currently "the only format where a singer/songwriter can actually be themselves," the singer feels her lyric-driven music suits the current country music genre well.

"This is a record I've been wanting to make my whole career and have been just frustrated because my label wouldn't ... They didn't understand the country music for what it was."

Past experience is perhaps the reason behind the 33-year-old's current indecision over whether to go independent or choose a new label for the new album.

"If I can find a good label, I'd love that. I still think it can be a good partnership but I certainly wouldn't want to go back to the type of situation I was in. We'll have to see."

Between recording sessions and live performances, fans may also have spotted Jewel on TV. Although she has multiple acting credits, including a role in the 1999 Ang Lee film Ride With the Devil, the singer said she was about 26 when, after realizing the importance of making time for a personal life, and her dislike for the often lengthy auditioning process, she decided not to aggressively pursue an acting career.

That said, she did host the USA Network's talent search show Nashville Star. Then, along with Murray and a bunch of other celebrities, she climbed into a racecar and "had a blast" speeding around the track for ABC's reality series Fast Cars & Superstars – Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race.

No matter what else is going on in her life, though, Jewel says she's continually writing, both songs and poetry.

But unlike her previous two books, A Night Without Armor and Chasing Down the Dawn, don't look for her current collection of love poems to hit store shelves anytime soon.

After becoming an ambassador for the charitable foundation Virgin Unite, Jewel spoke last June before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Youth Homelessness on an issue that "is close to my heart because I was homeless for a about a year. It's something that nobody can understand – what it's like, unless you've been through it."

Though homelessness and her own Clearwater Project (which she's been working on for about 10 years) are favoured causes, the singer was quick to add, "I've never liked to be didactic and tell people what to work for."

The singer says she's tried to navigate her career in terms of what would make her a better writer and has, for the most part, eschewed the "distracting lifestyle" of celebrity.

"I've just tried to do whatever I could to keep myself alive on the inside, to keep writing well," she said. "Plus I grew up on a ranch in Alaska, it's not like I ever dreamed to be in the party scene anyway."

Madonna Signs $120M Contract

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

October 12, 2007) NEW YORK – Madonna's $120 million recording and touring contract with Live Nation Inc. gives the concert promoter the opportunity to tap into concert, recording, merchandising and other lucrative revenue streams. But don't discount the role that lowly ticket fees play.

The pop superstar's deal to abandon Warner Music shows how far Live Nation is willing to go to break the hammerlock Barry Diller's Ticketmaster has on online concert and sporting ticket sales.

Ticket buyers may be annoyed by the $5 or more in convenience and delivery fees tacked on to every ticket ordered online or over the phone, but they've proven to be a gold mine for Ticketmaster, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Regulatory filings show that Ticketmaster's revenues jumped 14 percent to $1.1 billion in 2006 and generated almost a 25 percent operating profit margin for the nation's largest seller of tickets.

Live Nation, whose 160 venues include House of Blues and Fillmore locations, Nikon at Jones Beach in New York and London's Wembley Arena, currently is Ticketmaster's largest single generator of ticketing fees. But Live Nation has signalled it wants to bring the fee revenue in-house when its Ticketmaster contract expires in 2008 for most of its locations and in 2009 at the House of Blues venues.

Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino has made no secret of his desire to use the company's relationships with artists to get into related businesses. He has talked about selling T-shirts, parking passes, VIP party passes, secondary tickets and DVDs as well as broadcasting shows live. And gaining direct access to fans through ticket sales is seen as a crucial building block to collecting other profit related to the event.

Rapino said Live Nation owes its window of opportunity to the rise of the live show as a profit driver – instead of the records and CD sales as in previous years. "Thankfully for our business, the center of that pie has really become the live show now," he said in September at a Goldman Sachs conference.

The possibility of having Live Nation as a competitor drew a bring-it-on response from Diller, chairman and chief executive of IAC, whose holdings also include the HSN home shopping network as well as Internet businesses including LendingTree, Citysearch, Evite, Match.com and the Ask.com search engine.

"We've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our infrastructure. Let someone else make these investments and get into ticketing," Diller said at a New York conference in September. "It'll be good for us and interesting for them.''

About 22 percent of all event tickets are now sold online and they are expected to generate sales of $4.9 billion this year, according to Jupiter Research retail analyst Patti Freeman Evans.

But a greater number of sellers won't automatically translate into lower prices or fewer fees for customers, she said. That's because tickets are not wholly commoditized, and sellers who tack on bonuses like limousine rides, dinner or other goodies are aiming to capture a segment of the market from customers willing to pay more, Freeman Evans said.

Among the top shareholders of Live Nation, based in Beverly Hills, Calif., is L. Lowry Mays, founder of Clear Channel Communications and its CEO for 30 years until 2004. Mays owns 5.4 percent of the company, according to Capital IQ, a unit of Standard & Poor's.

For its part, Ticketmaster has made its own moves to get closer to the fans. It has bought fan management Web site Echo Music and music sharing Web site iLike.com, as well as artist management company Front Line, which includes in its portfolio the Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett and Paris Hilton the singer.

"There's a whole host of things we've been engaged in and organizing and thinking about for the past year," Diller said last month.

Madonna's management told Warner Music Group Corp. last week that the 49-year-old pop singer would accept Live Nation's offer after the record company refused to match the deal, a person familiar with the confidential contract negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Under the proposed deal, Madonna would get a signing bonus of about $18 million, an advance of about $17 million for each of three albums, stock, and an agreement for Live Nation to exclusively promote her tours.

To try to fend off the Live Nation deal, Warner pursued a partnership with Ticketmaster that would have enabled the record company to offer a spectrum of touring services to Madonna, the person said.

Diller is no stranger to the world of Hollywood. He's credited with the creation of Fox Broadcasting Company and the network's motion picture operations. He also spent a decade as head of Paramount Pictures Corp., as well as working at ABC Entertainment.

Meanwhile, the rise of a secondary market for tickets has brought new players to the industry, including eBay subsidiary StubHub and Tickets.com, which is owned by Major League Baseball's Advanced Media LP.

StubHub is on track to sell its 10 millionth ticket in a matter of days, spokesman Sean Pate said. This year alone, it should sell more tickets than the total of all tickets sold in the years since it was founded in 2000. Last year, its biggest yet, StubHub sold 3.3 million tickets. In February it was bought by eBay.

As a reseller, StubHub and others are taking over what used to only be done by scalpers on the street.

Ticketmaster, which sells tickets for promoters, sports teams and venue owners, is less free to pursue the secondary market since any reselling activity should not infringe on the profit-seeking of its clients, whose main goal is to accurately price tickets the first time around in order to maximize profit.

Still, Ticketmaster hopes to push back against the rapid growth of StubHub with its own resale service, called Ticket Exchange, and Ticketmaster Auctions. As of mid-2007, Ticketmaster reports a 130 percent increase in the number of tickets sold through Ticket Exchange and a 59 percent rise in the number of online auctions conducted.


Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(October 12, 2007) LONDON — It's a very hot early evening in June, and about 100 people have gathered in the dark interior of the Salvador Dali gallery on the south bank of the Thames. There is champagne and hors d'oeuvres, and lots of gossip about the music industry – this being what's known in music circles as a “showcase gig,” whose bald aim is to generate buzz before an album's public launch. So no one is here to see Dali's Snail and the Angel or Profile of Time. Instead, they're here to witness something slightly less surreal, but only just: two young Canadian singers, identical twins, whose untrained voices twine in pure harmony and whose idol is Mario Lanza.

Take that, Dali.

Ryan and Dan Kowarsky – who, operating from their beachhead in England, have since that June evening become known to a legion of teenage girls (and their moms) across Europe by their nom de chanson, RyanDan – take the stage. One of them begins to sing, but it would take a member of the family, several of whom have flown in from Toronto for this show, to tell which one: “I tried to hide from you, but I failed/I tried to lie to you, but I failed …”

The song is Like the Sun, the single from their self-titled debut album, which hit stores on this side of the Atlantic on Sept. 27, and will be released in Canada in early November. The music is lush, overcooked, the kind of thing you might hear while browsing in a shop devoted to scented candles. But their voices are lovely, and the brothers are as cute as two buttons on a cashmere cardigan.

Universal Music is giving them an almighty push – they've appeared on no end of radio programs and celebrity and cooking shows, and in newspapers across Britain, a media blitz possible only in media-saturated England, and part of the reason the duo chose this country, rather than Canada, as their launching pad. And it becomes clear at the Dali gathering, as their voices soar together, why the record company is backing them so heartily: You can just hear that song playing in the background of a thousand Christmas or Hanukkah dinners, drowning out festive family fights.

Three months later, on a wet September afternoon, the twins walk into a bistro (no, this is not the first line of a joke) for this interview. The bistro's in Chelsea, and, coincidentally, will be the scene a few days later of an altercation between Chelsea Football Club players and paparazzi. I say coincidentally because, in an odd twist, one British newspaper has noted the resemblance between Ryan and Dan and a Chelsea star named Frank Lampard: square jaw, chiselled features, lightly tousled dark hair. Clearly, the British tabloids have latched onto the photogenic Canadian twins.

It's a good thing they're wearing different-coloured shirts (Ryan's in white; Dan's in black). Otherwise, they'd be indistinguishable, right down to their attitudes (friendly, earnest). Apparently, when they were toddlers in Toronto's Forest Hill neighbourhood, their mother used to paint Ryan's toenails red to tell them apart. Or was it Dan's?

The Kowarskys are in a particularly bouncy mood at our meeting: They have just found out that their album has debuted on the British charts at No. 7, which causes Dan to say, with barely contained glee, “We're beating 50 Cent!” They are 27, after all, and beating down a rapper must count for some street cred, even in the classical-pop world.

It's an odd musical world that RyanDan inhabit: They're signed to the classical/jazz arm of Universal, but they're not classically trained, and they don't sing classical music. They don't strictly sing pop, either, but instead exist in the same melodious, orchestra-accompanied, in-between world that's proved such a lucrative home for artists as different as Celine Dion and Il Divo.

“It's very different from a lot of the music out there,” says Dan. “A lot of people compare us to Il Divo, but it's different from that, too …” Before his brother's even finished, Ryan adds, “It's a mix of pop and classical. We have beautiful orchestration under pop melodies, but with two-way harmony.”

Whatever you want to call it, the RyanDan juggernaut is steaming on, thanks to the commitment of the twins (one of whom says, with pleasing earnestness, “We're very goal-oriented”), their pull-out-all-the-stops record company, and a management team that also handles Shania Twain and Jamie Cullum. That management team organized a showcase for the twins last year at retro London nightclub, the Pigalle, which led to offers from three record companies. Their album was recorded under the auspices of producer Steve Anderson, who has also worked with Kylie Minogue and Paul McCartney.

Since landing in London a year ago, RyanDan has barely paused for breath. Along with that rigorous, ongoing tour of British radio and TV stations, there have been trips abroad – including to Australia (a showcase gig at the Sydney Opera House) and Hong Kong (the Peninsula Hotel). They'll be in Canada at the beginning of next month to launch the record there.

Back in Canada, where it all started. If this were a 1940s movie – and the twins' retro sensibility suggests they might like that – the wind would rip the pages off a calendar to reveal our heroes' beginnings in Toronto: a father who is a cantor by day and an opera singer by night; an uncomfortable year living apart when their parents split up; childhood years spent singing together, everything from Queen to the Bee Gees to Mario Lanza.

Mario Lanza? The mid-century American opera singer derided by purists for his schmaltzy tone? The man brought down in his prime by his attraction to excess? It seems an unlikely choice for such squeaky-clean youngsters.

“To me, he's just one of the greatest vocalists who ever lived,” says Ryan.

“There's just something about his voice – the power, the emotion,” says Dan.

I told you they were retro. They also are in awe of the microphone they were able to use to record RyanDan – it was originally Frank Sinatra's – and the same studio's mixing board, which was once used by the Rolling Stones. The Lanza connection is important, though: The one thing he could never be accused of was under-emoting, and emotion is central to the RyanDan ethos. When they recorded the song Tears of an Angel for their terminally ill niece, Tal, who has since died, they made sure the studio was dark and filled with candles.

“I think a lot of artists out there –” Ryan begins.

“I was just going to say the same thing,” Dan interrupts.

“– get caught up in the technical aspect,” Ryan continues, “trying to make their voice sound a certain way, and they lose the emotion.”

Whoa, back up. Dan agreed with Ryan before Ryan even spoke. Does that happen often?

“All the time,” they say, in unison.

This connection also helps their singing, they agree, allowing them to anticipate each others' vocal shifts before they happen. And, let's face it, the good-looking identical-twin thing doesn't hurt as a marketing tool, as their chosen name attests.

Still, it is not without some hesitation that they go down that path, perhaps because they've only just escaped boy-band purgatory. (They were in a pop trio called b4-4 that was nominated for a best-newcomer Juno in 2001 – Nickelback won – and which disbanded five years later.) “We didn't want people to say, ‘This is the next gimmicky thing – identical twins,' ” Ryan says.

Dan adds, “At the same time, we're never going to get away from that, and some people are fascinated by it, but we don't want it to get in the way. We want it to be about the music.”

Still, their admittedly beautiful voices might not have carried them this far had they looked like Shrek and Fiona. As a marketing executive from their record company, Mark Wilkinson, told Music Week magazine, “The type of person we're targeting is the factory girl on Coronation Street, but also the woman that owns the factory. It is mass market for people who enjoy uncomplicated adult pop music, who enjoy melodies, who like their music emotional, and who like their artists to be good looking and fanciable.”

The wild-eyed housewives appear to be circling already. Recently, as the twins were leaving the recording studio, they heard a scream, turned around, and found two middle-aged women getting out of a car, shrieking their names. The women had just bought the RyanDan CD, which the twins duly signed for them.

“That was weird,” recalls Ryan, who might want to give Tom Jones a call.

It is the fate they've asked for – nay, worked for like beasts of burden, like donkeys with golden voices. “We've wanted this our entire lives,” says Ryan. “Nothing's going to get in the way of that.”

When the twins were 17, they walked into the headquarters of Sony Music in Toronto to drop off a demo CD. As they were pestering the receptionist to show it to someone, anyone, in power, two of the label's top executives walked by. Ryan and Dan sang for them on the spot – Show Me the Way to Go Home, hardly a showstopper. It was enough, though, and they were signed, and their boy-band career launched: Along with nabbing that Juno nomination, the b4-4 trio, which included the twins' friend, Ohad Einbinder, recorded such singles as Get Down and Go Go.

But ultimately they wanted something more meaningful, a fan base that actually listened to the music as well as swooning. So they struck out on their own, made the switch to a more adult sound, moved to London a year ago, found an apartment, and embarked on what they hope will be their program of world domination.

The twins will return to Canada early next month to launch the album, which will involve performing small showcase gigs in Montreal and Toronto. It will also mean a much-needed visit with family and friends in Toronto, a city they still consider home – and where they own a house together. They might also drop in on one of their new famous friends: After hearing them sing at a charity concert, Goldie Hawn invited Ryan and Dan to visit her at her Ontario cottage in Muskoka.

In the meantime, the swooning's not likely to die down. For the record, Dan has a girlfriend and Ryan doesn't. Or perhaps it's the other way around?

The Buzz Around Bulat

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(October 15, 2007) Sometimes a picture doesn't tell a story. I walk into a bar on Toronto's College Street looking for the gal with corn-silk hair and a floppy hat. Her name is Basia Bulat (BAH-sha BOO-lat), a folky young singer-songwriter who makes music that is stylish and sober, and I have only her album photograph to go on. Where, oh where, is the blank-faced blonde with the funky dark bonnet?

Turns out Bulat, 24, is not what I expected. She's of sunny disposition, wearing a cheery frock - "my debutante dress" - and with no droopy cap. "No," she says when asked if the hat was a signature accessory. Turns out the idea to don it for the album cover was the idea of her friend Howard Bilerman, the record's producer. "I made a joke with him that for my next record, it's going to be his face, in that hat, in the exact same pose," she says with a laugh The album is Oh, My Darling, a debut collection of unpredictable love songs that are woodsy and formal at once. The rushing I Was a Daughter starts with double-quick clapping and brooding strings, before slowing down for a line about early love - "We gave our hearts away before we knew what they were." An affair's crests and traps are what the sweeping Snakes and Ladders is about. And on Little Waltz, the warbling Bulat laments: "I learned how to dance, but I never showed it to you."

Though the material is often lush and instrumentally involved, you can imagine Bulat presenting the material solo. But that's all you can do, imagine, because she's committed to the musicians with whom she tours and records.

"I could stand up there with a guitar or an autoharp or a piano and just sing, but that would be really lonely," she explains. "The reason I play is to be with friends." The Toronto-raised Bulat picked up her bandmates from "all over" - some at the University of Western Ontario in London, others in Montreal where she spent a couple of summers learning French. Her percussionist is brother Bobby. "I've known him all my life," she says with a chuckle.

When someone new arrives on the scene, it's natural to compare them to more established performers, for reference. In the case of Bulat, names like Joni Mitchell and Leslie Feist are being thrown around (perhaps too carelessly). For an upstart, the associations are flattering, but also a little uncomfortable. "Everybody wants to be known for who they are," Bulat says. "But that's something that will come with time."

Bulat's in a bit of an odd place. There's a buzz about an album on a small label (Hardwood Records) but with a major distributor (Universal Records). The hype about a record made with modest intent - "something to share with friends and sell at my shows" - was unexpected.

"It's strange now," says Bulat, more thoughtful than wide-eyed at the commotion. "Nobody knows me when they hear my songs. They don't know my story."

As for her work, she's fascinated about a transformation. "It's not just my photo album any more," she says, referring to fans who hear the record, as well as the people who recorded it with her. "Now it's anybody's photo album, and they'll put any pictures they want in it."

After the interview, Bulat is spotted walking by the window of a record store where she'll play a few songs later. "Look," she says to her publicist, "there's my poster." With that, she walks into the store, where nobody recognizes her. Not without that hat, anyway.

Basia Bulat, opening for Final Fantasy, plays Winnipeg today; Regina tomorrow; Edmonton Wednesday; Calgary Thursday; Vancouver Oct. 20; and Victoria Oct. 21. She headlines in Canmore, Alta., Oct. 25 and Saskatoon Oct. 26.

Ian Rankin Teams With Margaret Atwood For PEN Canada Fundraiser

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(October 15, 2007) There are 5,400 kilometres and one big ocean between Toronto and Edinburgh. But thanks to the miracle of fibre-optic cable,
Ian Rankin's burp comes through not so loud, but very clear, over the telephone line from Scotland.

It's early on a Friday evening in the Scottish capital and Britain's most popular mystery writer is taking a brief break from two of his favourite things – drinking beer and playing music (in this case, an import CD by Canadian band Patrick Watson: “It's excellent!”) – to speak with a Canadian interviewer.

Rankin's a well-off bloke – his reported net income in 2005 was more than $2-million – and has been for quite some time. He lives with his wife and two sons in a mansion in Edinburgh where, were it a Japanese city, he'd have the stature of a “living national treasure.” (J.K. Rowling is a neighbour.) Indeed, earlier this year an Edinburgh brewery produced a limited-edition ale, 5,000 bottles, in Rankin's honour, and included a “secret” ingredient. “Since it was a crime beer, I wanted the ingredient to be blood,” he says, chuckling. “But there were health and safety issues apparently, so we settled on a pinch of ginger.”

Yet for all the fame, acclaim and wealth, Rankin, 47, admits, “I still spend money on exactly the same things I spent money on when I was 19. I spend no money on clothing, no money on male beauty products. I spend a lot of money on CDs and a lot of money on beer.”

Rankin is currently replenishing his beer budget. He recently released
Exit Music, the 18th and ostensibly last novel in his immensely popular series about the adventures (and prodigious alcohol consumption) of Edinburgh Police Detective Inspector John Rebus. Already a bestseller in Britain, Exit Music has just been released here, to ecstatic critical notices. On Wednesday, its author pays a brief visit to Toronto where he and Margaret Atwood (Together! On-stage for the first time! One night only!) are the stars of a benefit on behalf of PEN Canada as part of the 28th-annual International Festival of Authors.

Rankin says he's “hurriedly rereading some of [Atwood's] books … so I come into battle fully armoured.”

But he needn't worry: Atwood's a fan of both Rebus and Rebus's creator. “He is a good guy and does good works, the PEN evening being just one of them,” Canada's most famous writer said recently.

She's been to Edinburgh several times and, in fact, lived there for a year in the late seventies, so she's acutely conscious of the way “Rankin combs through the city” in the Rebus novels. “I also love the way Ian weaves ye olde bits o' lore into the mysteries, as well as his foregrounding of current Scottish political scandals and issues and types of corruption.” To her mind, the Rebus novels “are as unabashedly Scottish in their treatment of manners and mores and language as Maigret is unabashedly French – and Agatha Christie is unabashedly English … and Dashiell Hammett is 1920s and early '30s American.”

Atwood noted that Exit Music ties in nicely with the mandate of PEN, which is to protect the right of free expression and defend suppressed writers worldwide. The novel, set in late November, 2006, contains one attempted murder and two successful ones, including that of dissident Russian poet Alexander Todorov who's visiting Edinburgh as a guest of PEN and the local university. Just before he's killed and his body dumped on a deserted, rain-soaked street, Todorov gives a reading at the Scottish Poetry Library – “a real place,” Atwood remarked.

The Rebus series – or at least the series readers have known since its 1987 debut – is coming to what Rankin calls “an enforced retirement” because right from the beginning he conceived John Rebus as a character who would live in real time. In the first novel, Knots and Crosses, Rebus is 40 and, according to Scottish law, a police detective has to retire at 60. Once Rankin started doing the math two or three years ago, he realized he'd have to bid Rebus adieu in 2007.

Rankin claims he has “no plans to write another book with Rebus as the main character.” Indeed, for the next 18 months, he'll be consumed with writing the libretto for an opera, working up a graphic novel for DC Comics and expanding a novella into a full-fledged heist book. But afterward? He laughs. “I think Rebus might go to a human-rights lawyer and plead for raising the retirement age to 70, or maybe to Strasbourg to appear before the European Court of Human Rights.” (Amusingly, a member of the Scottish Parliament recently suggested that the retirement age should be raised, if only to permit Rebus's return to active duty!)

More seriously, Rankin is thinking of writing a novel, the first in a series perhaps, featuring Rebus's younger female associate, Siobhan Clarke. If so, “the retired Rebus could be a secondary character.” At the same time, Rankin admits to “having a hesitation” about centring a book on Clarke: “As a rule, men don't write well about women in crime fiction,” he asserts, whereas “I can name any number of women crime writers who have men as their main characters and do it well.”

Rankin includes himself as one of the failures in probing the female psyche – but he believes he's getting better at it. “Through sheer force of personality, Siobhan's gotten under my skin and now she's in a position where I could give her her own platform.

“Of course, it could be shit. But at least I feel confident enough to try it after all these years.”

Ian Rankin and Margaret Atwood appear onstage Wednesday at Toronto's Premiere Dance Theatre. The event is sold out. Rankin will also be doing a signing at Toronto's Indigo Books on Bloor Street at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Meet Miko: She Wants To Make Her 'Mark' In Country

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(October 16, 2007) *On August 13th a black woman named Miko Marks sang the National Anthem as part of the pre-game festivities for a preseason show down between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos.  While the game itself may not have counted for much, the opportunity to perform on national television certainly meant a lot to country music singer Miko Marks. 

Marks is attempting to do something that has never been done before.  She is trying to become the first commercially successful female African American country singer.  Have you heard of her?  It's likely that you have not unless you happened upon her at a small country music venue or while she was out on tour with the Bill Picket Rodeo.  Our Lee Bailey had the chance to sit down with Marks and the first thing on his mind was "Why country music?"

 "At first, I would say I don't know," admitted Marks.  "But the thing about it is I started writing my own songs and when I would show them to people they would say 'Oh, well that sounds country' or 'that sounds folk-country' or 'soul country.'  Country was always in the midst of people's comments and I said: 'Oh, well why not do something that's naturally coming out of me instead of forcing myself into a genre that may not be a comfortable fit?"

 Fitting in is something that is essential for commercial success in the entertainment industry. Often times if a record exec cannot place an artist into a promotional 'box' that artist is likely to fail, but Marks isn't concerned about that.  She knew what she wanted to be a long time ago.

 "I attended Grambling State University in the early 90s and I started listening to a lot of the back woods radio stations and I found myself drawn to the storytelling of the music.  So I thought I had some stories of my own that I would like to share and maybe I should start writing my own songs.  I picked up the guitar and taught myself to play and country came out of that whole working process."

Get more Miko here.

Ursh And Tameka Tell All To Essence

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 16, 2007) *Usher and his bride Tameka Foster grace the new November cover of Essence magazine and speak candidly about the roller-coaster ride that carried them toward the altar and, soon, parenthood.

"Ours is not a typical love story, but it is a true one," Usher tells writer Joan Morgan. "Tameka and I have been fortunate enough to go through the thick of it in the beginning. We've had that opportunity to huddle up as a team, to make sure that we're clear and speak as one voice."

Usher and Tameka, who are expecting a baby boy in the coming months, say they were stunned that the announcement was met with such negative press.

"It was like, wow," says Usher, who just celebrated his 29th birthday Sunday. "[Getting married] and having a child is something that everyone should celebrate. What's happened to us as a culture and a people?"

Foster, 37, said she was even hated on by folks closer to home.  

"Thank God I didn't listen to my girlfriends," she says. "Usher was my road dawg. I'd seen him love, and I'd watched him date women who were not worthy of him. He was so sweet, going out of his way to cater to their every need. And I'd see them not even be grateful."  

She adds that their love is based on complete openness – something she hasn't experienced in her romantic life before.  

"I feel totally uninhibited with Usher," Foster says. "I've never been in a situation with anyone, even as far back as high school, where there were no secrets. I know I can tell him anything and he's not going to judge me. I can finally share my dreams. And because of that, I know that man loves me."

Read more excerpts from the article here.

Eric Clapton - Tales From A Great Survivor

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Larry Mcshane, Associated Press

(October 16, 2007) NEW YORK — Clapton is Good.

The second "o" is critical. In the 1960s, when London graffiti proclaimed "Clapton is God," the brilliant British guitarist was descending into a personal hell.
Eric Clapton traded a heroin addiction for alcoholism, suffered disastrous love affairs, contemplated suicide while armed with a bottle of vodka, a gram of blow and a shotgun.

The guitar deity has long since surrendered to a higher power: At 62, Clapton has 20 years of sobriety, a happy marriage and three young daughters. It's a good time to consider an extraordinary life, as the rock Hall of Famer does with Clapton: The Autobiography.

Unlike many rock-star efforts, this one includes no Zeppelin-esque tales of debauched groupies or ghostwritten revisions of musical and personal history. Clapton delivers a brutally honest and unsparing look at his life, near-death and recovery, interspersed with tales from an unparalleled music career.

Clapton, sipping a bottle of water in an office at National Public Radio in New York before doing a radio show, said he deliberately shied away from the usual type of celebrity memoir.

"I wouldn't even know where to begin, to do that," Clapton explains. "I don't even know what that means, to be honest with you. Celebrity has lost whatever meaning it did have. I really tried to find out for myself where I'd been."

Initially, Clapton planned to sit down for a series of interviews about his life, leaving a collaborator to handle the tweaking and organization. But a perusal of the first manuscript led the guitarist to get more hands-on.

"I realized this was not what I wanted to do at all," Clapton says. "So I rewrote that, and then I thought, 'I'll have to write this myself.' " Clapton's six-string inspiration, Robert Johnson, sang of a single hellhound on his trail; Clapton had a whole pack nipping at his heels until a second trip through rehab changed his life in 1987. Johnson was dead by the age of 27, and there was a time when Clapton was convinced that his life wouldn't last much beyond that.

"I entertained that notion when I was young and I was trying to identify with those guys," Clapton says of Johnson and other legendary bluesmen. "That is kind of a built-in fantasy that goes along with addiction, a way of justifying my need to get stoned: 'Well, that's what my heroes did.' "

Through it all, Clapton created an indelible musical legacy that spanned genres while inspiring generations. The autobiography's chapter titles provide a road map through his life's work: "The Yardbirds." "Cream." "Blind Faith." "Derek and the Dominos."

Clapton, from his early days with the John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, quickly assumed a position in the centre of the music universe. He hung out with the Beatles and the Stones, jammed with Muddy Waters and Duane Allman, influenced Stevie Ray Vaughan, Derek Trucks and untold thousands of other guitarists.

He confesses, without embarrassment, that he can't remember all of what happened.

"My memory of the late sixties right through the early eighties is severely hampered," Clapton says. "I wrote from what I could remember, and I needed nudging, too."

Clapton's book is not totally devoid of tabloid-worthy material. He recounts how Mick Jagger once stole his girlfriend - an Italian model - setting off homicidal fantasies in the late 1980s.

"I went on a rampage, mentally," Clapton recalls. "I wanted to kill him. I spent quite a long time plotting ways to undermine or just do away with [him] - the kind of mad fantasies a drunk in recovery can have."

He also delves into his romance with Pattie Boyd, who wound up with Clapton after her split with Beatle George Harrison. Their star-crossed affair made her the muse for some of Clapton's most memorable songs, including Layla and Wonderful Tonight, before the romance gave way to recriminations.

Clapton recalled a recent Sunday-morning trip to his local grocery store, where Boyd's new memoir, Wonderful Tonight, was excerpted in the British press. The page-one headline jumped out as he grabbed the paper: "ERIC CLAPTON'S DRINKING KILLED MY MARRIAGE."

"The headline editor chose to castigate me quite strongly," Clapton says with more than a touch of British understatement. "I'm in the local shop, and I'm thinking, 'Are the neighbours watching me read?"' Clapton greets his guest alone, without an entourage or stylists or publicists. He wears glasses, and his hearing is failing. His hair is cut short, with a bristle of beard rising from his face. In a T-shirt and jeans, Clapton is unpretentious and open - reflective in one instant, laughing in the next.

In his writing, he referred to diaries that he'd kept during the eighties. The musings, squirreled away in an attic for years, brought back painful memories. Clapton recalled that most of his writing came with a pen in one hand and a drink in the other.

"I was having delusions of grandeur," he says with a self-deprecating laugh. "I thought I had something worth saying. That's what drink can do - give a deluded view of my self-importance.

"So once I got fuelled up on my amount of alcohol for the day, it would have been easy for me to devote of couple of hours writing down mad thoughts. These days, I don't think I would give myself the time."

These days, his time is otherwise occupied. Besides family life, Clapton remains involved with the Crossroads treatment centre that he founded nearly a decade ago in Antigua -- a huge benefit concert was held this past summer. And while he plans to cut back on live shows, Clapton has no plans for retirement.

"I can't stop touring, and I won't," he says emphatically. "I believe I have a responsibility to play for people."

Over the decades, Clapton has seen an assortment of friends and colleagues die, from Jimi Hendrix to George Harrison, from Duane Allman to Bob Marley, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Muddy Waters. Asked how he managed to survive, Clapton has a ready answer.

"I've always assumed it was really because I hadn't gotten my act together," he replies, laughing loudly. "Maybe I'd better not get it too good, because then it will be time for me to check out.

"I'm glad it worked out that way. I still don't feel like I've got it right. I'm still working on my sound."

What? Eric Clapton is still working on hitting the right notes?

"Yeah," he replies, his laugh filling the room. "Still trying to get the right amp."

Neil Young: Chrome Dreams II

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

Chrome Dreams II (Reprise/Warner)

(October 16, 2007)
Neil Young has clearly decided he's gonna go out fighting till the end, and that is good news indeed.

He's arguably been more consistent for the past 15 or so years than the popular record would have it, but there's been a definite refocusing of Young's scatter-prone creative energies since the stately near-death ruminations of 2005's Prairie Wind, likely his best album since Ragged Glory or Harvest Moon.

Not sure if it's On the Beach, exactly, but Chrome Dreams II does have the easy, engaging flow of the finest Young albums. And even if it didn't, it would still have a couple of the almost 62-year-old Young's prickliest rockers in years to recommend it: The gritty, 18-minute tangle "Ordinary People" and the fuzz-toned garage-band lark "Dirty Old Man," which might be the best, balls-out-stupid Neil Young rocker since "F-----' Up," and grooves with a reckless punch few musicians 30 years his junior can muster these days.

Luckily, these tunes come shored up by a couple of other meaty if slightly less memorable proto-grunge jaunts of the Crazy Horse variety, "Spirit Road" and the 14-minute "No Hidden Path." Quieter moments find Young in good form as lonely lover ("Beautiful Bluebird"), gospel-blues balladeer ("Shining Light"), children's choirmaster ("The Way") and philosopher ("Boxcar"), the latter's "que sera sera" musings on the nature of human existence rendered slightly ambiguous by a backdrop of eerie, low harmonies.

A career-spanning band that features Ralph Molina (Crazy Horse), Ben Keith (the Stray Gators) and Rick Rosas (the Bluenotes) assumes the appropriate slouch throughout, and Young's lyrics, often preoccupied here with the interconnectedness of human lives, have become alternately sharper and sweeter over the past few years. Not the dawning of a new era by any means, but a solid compendium of everything Neil Young does well.

Top track: "Dirty Old Man." Raine Maida could never pull this off. Hilarious.

The Boss Gets Political

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

(October 16, 2007)
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band stormed through Toronto last night, jamming the Air Canada Centre with raw and powerful rock `n' roll energy – par for the course – and a sense of urgency we haven't seen from the Boss since the heady days of his first conquests.

Though the trappings were vintage – the totemic, sing-along rock ballads evoking a noble American working class under siege, the swept-back hair and steel-eyed grimace, the crunchy mass guitar orchestra (Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt on an assortment of rare electrics, and Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, on a Gibson acoustic Jumbo), the meticulous drum patterns of Max Weinberg and the soaring sax of Clarence Clemons – the mission was distinctively political in design and deadly serious in execution.

That's not to say he served up less than was expected. Springsteen clearly gets a kick out of exciting a big crowd and fronting a killer band. And at 58, he still packs a solid musical punch. His guitar solos last night were lucid and edgy, his vocal pitch spot on, his voice still commanding, his energy unrestrained.

But the infectious joy that used to enliven his performances with the E Street Band – the exultation they all found in exercising their collective muscle as they evoked an epic American soundscape – seemed reserved last night for the more pressing purpose of providing a sharp focus on the message in the material contained in their new CD, Magic.

Like the dissembling showman to whom he alluded in the song's introduction – "This song's not about magic," he said, "it's about tricks" – Springsteen is using his clout as a proven and beloved arena rock star to reach an audience that has, till lately, shown little interest in songs with a political message. The show, which opened with a monstrous carnival calliope rising upstage and Springsteen's voice in the darkness hollering "Is there anybody alive out there," a line from the first song, "Radio Nowhere," really came alive for him when the new material – "Magic", "Last To Die," "Long Walk Home", "Livin' In the Future," "Gypsy Biker," "The Devil's Arcade" – bubbled up from the cauldron of past hits and glorious favourites.

These new songs, imbued with fearful imagery of an America lost to marauding warlords, larcenous carpetbaggers and political psychopaths, are among the most potent and portentous of his long and fruitful songwriting career. The loathing and hopelessness they contain seemed all the more bleak last night, juxtaposed with such enduring crowd-pleasers as "The Promised Land," "The Rising" and "Badlands," which kept the crowd on its feet for most of the almost three-hour show.

Whether the message reached them is hard to assess. Many in the audience already knew most of the lyrics and sang along. And with a couple of exceptions, the new songs – all of them given specially dramatic lighting effects and video treatments on the large screens that hung on each side of the stage – prompted a mass sit-down, perhaps denoting a form of worship or meditation.

"It's so beautiful being in Canada," Springsteen, shouted during the introduction to "Livin' In The Future," a song "about what's happening in America now – rendition, illegal wiretapping, the abuse of civil rights and . . . if we sing about it, maybe they'll hear us on the other side of the border."

We can only hope.

Yolanda Adams Update

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya Yarbrough

(October 17, 2007) *
Yolanda Adams, one of the biggest names in gospel music is giving everyone else credit, in a matter of speaking. The Grammy-winning singer has become the face for a new kind of money card, the Columbia Card Systems International's Visa mobile debit card.

Adams will appear in the TV, radio, and print campaign for the custom-branded debit cards, kicking off this month, and she'll be branding her own debit card, too.

Though a singer by trade, Adams proclaims herself a businesswoman also, and recently told EUR's Lee Bailey that this opportunity is as much a good idea for her as the card is a good idea for consumers, naming the card's safety and convenience as a selling point for the new debit card alternative.

"Because I travel so much, I know the detriment of leaving your card somewhere or having a receipt that has your number on it," Adams said leading up to the card's safety features. "This card will protect you every time you use it or every time you disengage it. No one, including yourself, can use the card until you activate it again. It's a safety mechanism. And this is a great way to teach young people to save money and be financially sound."

Adams also explained that in addition to the card's fraud prevention, it can also be used to raise funds for organizations, charities, and churches.

"In order for me to put my name with a brand, it has to do what I believe, and I believe that [this card] is safe; I believe that it's user friendly; and I believe that it's family oriented. And when people see me, the first thing they think about is truth - because that's what I do. I speak and I sing truth. So they want to know, 'How truthful is this? How can this enhance my life? How can this make my life more convenient? And that's my job: to go into the cities, to go into the churches, and visit different organizations and let them know about the convenience, the safety, and the ease at which you can actually use this particular card."

With the CCSI campaign launching, Adams is also gearing up her clothing line, Yolanda's Clozet. The femme fashion is designed for "long" women. A tall beauty herself, Adams wanted to provide a fashionable clothing option for tall women and those with long limbs.

"We are in the process of choosing a manufacturer right now, and we will definitely be available on the Internet by the spring of 2008," she said.

"We can finally say, 'Here's a product especially for longer consumers.' I know how difficult it can be to find dresses, blouses, skirts and things that are long enough - that are fashionable," she added.

Also on Adam's to-do list are a few upcoming CDs. The singer just finished a Christmas album, the first on her new label Columbia Records, due in stores October 17. Then she is preparing to head to the studio at the first of the year to begin work on her next album.

"I have a new (record) home and I'm very excited about that, and I'm very excited about this Christmas album," she said. "It's called 'What a Wonderful Time.' I got a chance to work with Michael Powell, and of course Gordon Chambers and a lot of my friends who I think are absolutely wonderful."

As if these projects weren't enough, Adams is also holding it down on the airwaves as the host of a syndicated morning show via Radio One and the Yolanda Adams Radio Network.

"The great thing with inspirational radio is that you get a chance to touch people at a place that other folks don't get to," Adams said. "And I get a chance to perform on the weekends, so I get the best of both worlds."

Still, with all this keeping her busy, the singer says that the most important job is to be a good mom to her six-year-old daughter Taylor - for which she's doing all this good work.

"I want to be there for the scrapes and to hug her and congratulate her on straight A's and things like that because that's what's important," she said of maintaining quality time with her young daughter and joked, "I'm a businesswoman and all business that's going to increase Taylor's trust fund, I want to hear about it."

Keep checking www.yolandaadams.org for the latest on Adams and all of her upcoming projects.



Rakim, Ghostface, Ali Team For 'Live!' Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 12, 2007) *
Rakim, Ghostface Killah and Brother Ali will rock the mic on the first ever Hip-Hop Live! Tour, a 19-city jaunt that will feature the emcees backed by the live band, Rhythm Roots Allstars. "I did a show with the band and it was a good mesh. I enjoyed it, the fans enjoyed it. So they hollered at me for this year's show," Rakim tells Billboard.com.  The tour launches Oct. 29 in Los Angeles and is scheduled to wrap Nov. 21 in Philadelphia.  Meanwhile, Rakim is due to drop a new album, "the Seventh Seal" via his own G&E Trust label, but the O.G. rapper has yet to announce a release date. "The number 7 has a lot of significance. The 7th letter of the alphabet is G -- that stands for God. There are 7 continents, 7 seas. The 'Seventh Seal' deals with that and also some revelations in the Bible," explains Rakim of the album title. "Some call it the end of the world but for me it's the end of the old and the beginning of the new. By me naming my album that, I'm using it metaphorically in hip-hop. I'm hoping to kill the old state of hip-hop and start with the new."


Common Finds New 'Ground' For The People

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 11, 2007) *Rapper
Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn in Chicago, has announced the launch of The Common Ground Foundation, Inc., an effort dedicated to the empowerment and development of urban youth through education. "I always believed that if we started with the youth then we would be planting the seeds for our future to blossom," says the socially conscious emcee, who stars opposite Denzel Washington in the upcoming film, "American Gangster."   Additionally, The Common Ground Foundation supports and focuses on AIDS/HIV prevention programs targeted towards youth and young adults, reaching beyond our national borders to serve communities throughout Africa.  Common also recently wrapped filming on "Wanted" with co-stars Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie, and David Ayer's "The Night Watchman" starring Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker.


Jenny Craig Joins Latifah Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 11, 2007) *Weight loss company
Jenny Craig has signed on to co-sponsor Queen Latifah's Trav'lin Light Tour. Both parties will use the sponsorship to increase awareness about the health risks associated with obesity and to promote Jenny Craig's "Healthy Curves are Beautiful Curves" campaign. "Queen Latifah is a tremendous performer with broad appeal that spans genders and races," says Jenny Craig's CEO, Patti Larchet. She's also a powerful role model for women's self-reliance and self-esteem. We are proud to help bring her talent to America." Latifah is not currently participating in the Jenny Craig Weight Loss Program, but "she believes it is one of a range of ways people can reduce their weight and thereby enhance their health," the company said in a statement.


Ky-Mani Marley Radio Tops Charts

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(October 11, 2007) *The volume on
Ky-Mani Marley’s latest album Radio has been pumped up. The disc which was released on September 25, has debuted in the number one spot on Billboard’s Reggae album chart. Radio which is the third album for Marley (his previous releases were The Journey and Many More Roads), given the artiste his third appearance on the Billboard reggae chart. Marley’s Billboard chart statistics date back to the year 1999 when The Journey peaked at number seven on the reggae album chart. Many More Roads stalled at number seven in 2001. The set picked up a nomination for Best Reggae Album at the Grammy Awards the following year. And in related news, Marley’s reality show Living the Life of a Marley will premiere on BETJ on October 26.


Edmonds Looks Back

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds
Playlist (Mercury/Island Def Jam)
(out of 4)

(October 9, 2007) The 48-year-old divorced dad of two has settled comfortably into his middle years with a cover album of James Taylor, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan tracks. Acoustic guitar figures prominently on this decent but unremarkable effort, which is a nod to some of the acclaimed songwriter's early influences. Pick it up if you're an all-weather fan of his quivering vocals, or always wanted to hear his rendition of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."  Just make sure you're in a contemplative mood. Top tracks: Originals "Not Going Nowhere" and "The Soldier Song" show Babyface to still be a methodical, sentimental storyteller, reassuring children of divorce and lauding fallen soldiers, respectively.


Chaka Khan

Funk This (SonyBmg)

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

It takes a while to get into
Chaka Khan's new album, her first in 10 years. The funk-laden instrumentation and heavy choruses on the first couple songs overwhelm her overwhelming pipes and make it difficult to ascertain what she's singing amidst the screeching and growling and stunning guitar solos. Fortunately, tunes like "One for All Time" and "Angel" allow her to tell stories, building to a crescendo over subdued R&B arrangements. At 54, the Chicago native is self-assured and powerful, able to hold her own against newbies like Angie Stone, Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige (who makes a guest appearance). This disc includes tasty Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell covers and a fab duet of "You Belong to Me" with Michael McDonald – another sorely missed voice. Hope she's planning a tour. Top track: Prince's "Sign of the Times" – brings back a great song, with escalating riffs from her erstwhile hit "I'm Every Woman" and new choruses related to her philanthropic endeavours with autistic and at-risk kids. A.I.

Versatile Cole On Display

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(October 17, 2007)
Keyshia Cole Just Like You (Geffen/Universal) Keyshia Cole has an incredible voice – husky and honeyed, said to evoke "heartbreak without the histrionics" – and the 26-year-old California native should be a bigger star than she is. Perhaps this follow-up to her 2005 debut, The Way It Is, will address that. From club bangers to ballads, Just Like You is a gripping package of songs about being on the wrong side of love. I don't get the constant comparisons to Mary J. Blige though; Cole displays far more versatility with her style of hip-hop-infused R&B. Top track: "Let it Go" is a hot, sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves tune that samples Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" and features verses from Missy Elliot and Lil' Kim.

Lenny Kravitz To Perform At Grey Cup Halftime

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 17, 2007)
Lenny Kravitz is going to rock the Grey Cup next month. The American artist was introduced as the halftime performer during a news conference in Toronto today. The Grey Cup is set for Nov. 25 at the Rogers Centre. Victoria pop star Nelly Furtado performed a three-song set during last year's Grey Cup halftime show in Winnipeg. American group the Black Eyed Peas headlined the 2005 show in Vancouver while Canadian icons The Tragically Hip entertained the crowd in Ottawa in 2004. Kravitz's eighth studio album "It Is Time For A Love Revolution" is due out early next year.

John Legend To Launch His Own Label

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 17, 2007) *R&B singer
John Legend is about to jump into the business side of the music industry with the launch of his own label through Atlantic Records. Titled HomeSchool, the imprint's first artist will be British singer/rapper/songwriter/producer Estelle, a West London native who has drawn comparisons to Lauryn Hill, according to Billboard.com. Estelle's debut album, titled "Shine," is due for release on Feb. 12 with Legend as its executive producer. Producers on the project include Wyclef Jean, will.i.am, Swizz Beatz and Mark Ronson as well as Legend, who also has a cameo in the "Wait" video..  The first single will be the track "Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)," while Kanye West makes a guest appearance on "American Boy." Cee-Lo is also featured on one of the tracks. Asked about other artists on the HomeSchool roster, Legend tells Billboard.com that no one else is signed yet and the label is non-exclusive. "This isn't a blanket imprint. There will be some artists a label partner may like and some they don't. I'm doing this one at a time."  As for his own next album, Legend says he has three songs in the can (one of which features will.i.am) for an expected release date of summer 2008. In the meantime, he's just returned from Zanzibar and Tanzania where he shot the video for his latest single, "Show Me."

Keith Sweat Readies Holiday CD

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 17, 2007) *
Keith Sweat wants to heat up your winter with his first collection of holiday music, titled "A Christmas of Love."    The veteran R&B crooner offers nine selections, including the classic "The Christmas Song," as well as "Under The Tree," "Once A Year" and "It's Christmas Again" – all co-written by Sweat.   'A Christmas of Love' is due Nov. 20 at retail outlets and online at www.rhino.com. In the meantime, Sweat continues to host his own syndicated radio show, The Sweat Hotel, which currently airs in 19 markets across the country.


Farrow Lights A Torch For Those Suffering In Darfur

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(October 11, 2007) Last June, filmmakers trailed Mia Farrow as she travelled to refugee camps in the Darfur region of Sudan to shoot a documentary, Darfur: On Our Watch, that aims to prick the world's conscience about the horrors unfolding there.

Since then, the 62-year-old actor/activist has been back twice, most recently a month ago to light a mock Olympic torch that was carried from Darfur through countries ravaged by genocide, including Chad and Rwanda. The symbolic flame is a direct poke at China, a country that the actress and many others say should not be allowed to host the 2008 Olympics because of the billions it pours into the purchase of Sudanese oil – funds that, in turn, finance the janjaweed militia, which has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million.

“The torch was carried by a child first and it was passed from survivor to survivor, with the flame honouring all those who have been lost and all those who still suffer,” explains Farrow, reached by phone at her farm in Connecticut.

“We went to a school where 5,000 Rwandan children were killed. They were told to go there for safety, but it turned out [the government] gathered them there to kill them more effectively,” says Farrow, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef and made her first trip to Darfur in 2004.

Since then, she has been back seven times. And she says she returns for one reason: “It changed the way I needed to live my life,” says the actress, who has 15 children, 11 of them adopted from poverty-stricken regions.

“To this day, I can't find words to describe what was going on in Darfur in 2004 and what the camps are like today,” she adds. “And that's despite the best efforts of our aid agencies, who are putting their own lives at risk to help [people] the rest of the world is ignoring. A despair has settled into the camps. In 2004, there was great hope. When we'd arrive in vehicles, people would chant, ‘The UN, the UN is coming.' Now, it's: ‘No one is coming.' ”

Darfur: On Our Watch airs tonight on CBC and is the first of a new documentary series called Doc Zone. Farrow agreed to be part of the project because she wants to show the human faces behind the conflict.

“They are wonderful people. When I go back, I see the worst human beings can do to each other. But I also see unbelievable courage. These are good parents, good people who are doing their very best only to survive and protect their children under the most deplorable circumstances. You and I have never been tested under these circumstances. I hope I'd be fit to wash their feet,” says the actress, who has appeared in more than 40 films, including Rosemary's Baby and former partner Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters. (Farrow separated from Allen after he had a sexual relationship with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, whom he later married).

For the past decade, Farrow's career has taken a back seat to raising her brood (as a single mom, she adopted six more) and her humanitarian work. A huge amount of her time is also spent on her website, www.miafarrow.org, which focuses on the political and human rights atrocities under way in Darfur. “I set it up because it was an information tool that I was hoping to find in 2004 when I scoured the Internet for information and I couldn't find anything.”

Each time Farrow goes back to Darfur, she interviews men, women and children, and posts their stories on her website, which gets up to 40,000 hits a day. In the documentary, she speaks to a woman named Toma, who describes running from the militia with her child on her back. “They chased me. They shot me. They killed my baby. When I tried to get up, they hit me again,” the woman says into the camera. “They took me back to camp and kept me for three months. I became pregnant in Chad. I gave birth, but the child died. My sister and I were beaten and raped daily by 30 to 40 men. I would cry and nobody in the world came to help me.”

Farrow says the people's plea is primal: “I'm terrified. Protect us. Save us.”

Despite the suffering she sees each visit, Farrow says she has not given up hope. “You can't look into a child's face and hope this won't end. When I first started talking about Darfur – they'd say Dar-where? Lately we're seeing an unprecedented civic response.” One she hopes will lead to a rapid UN deployment of well-trained, well-supplied troops and fully qualified civilian police.

“As a parent, I think we have to represent [the problem] for our children. Show them through actions the importance of true humility, a sense of responsibility and respect. It's not enough to simply say this is the way things should be.”

Big Fat Greek Wedding Star Granted Rare Access To Acropolis

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Derek Gatopoulos, Associated Press

(October 13, 2007) ATHENS, Greece — Nia Vardalos, star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” stood under a big reflector on Saturday, filming a new romantic comedy among the dramatic ruins on the Acropolis.

The scene will appear in “
My Life in Ruins,” also starring Richard Dreyfuss, and follows a decision by Greek authorities to relax their ban on any commercial use of ancient sites.

Authorities vetted the script for historical accuracy and convened a panel of senior archaeologists to give final approval.

“Imagine how I feel being here shooting a movie ... I can't believe things like this can happen to me,” Vardalos said late Friday before the Acropolis shoot.

Released in 2002, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was a surprise international hit and earned Vardalos an Oscar writing nomination.

On Saturday, dozens of tourists gathered round a tiny set to take pictures of Vardalos. The 45-year-old Canadian actress plays a tour guide and has already been filmed at Delphi and Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic games — a big deal for a girl brought up Greek.

Director Donald Petrie denied suggestions the script was watered down to secure access to ancient sites, saying restrictions to protect monuments were obvious.

“If the script had had a paintball war in ancient Olympia, I think they would have said no,” he said.

“The only major restriction for us is that we treat the sites as they are. We don't bring in fake Roman columns,” he said, smiling.

The love interest for the film is Alexis Georgoulis, an actor in a local television series.

“It's a romantic comedy, and we wanted a Greek actor who was experienced but not necessarily well known internationally,” Vardalos said. “We found Alexis Georgoulis. He's a great kisser, a great actor and a great guy.”

Dreyfuss said he had always wanted to come to Greece and was enjoying his time here.

“This (movie) is about the ever present possibility of love,” Dreyfuss said.

“My Life in Ruins” is the first major project helped by the Hellenic Film Commission, recently created by Greece's Culture Ministry to lure international filmmakers to Greece.

Keeping It Real. Well, Sort Of

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(October 12, 2007) In the ever-growing category of offbeat film ideas, how about this: a story about an introverted young man named Lars who orders a plastic sex doll, gives her a name (Bianca), and pretends that she's entirely real?

A sex doll, you say. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. That should be fun.

No, no. Here's the rub, so to speak.

Lars keeps his prurience stealthy throughout: She's anatomically correct, but there's hardly a bare breast to be seen.

As far as the viewer knows, he doesn't have sex with her. He's a little too bottled up emotionally for that. He and Bianca don't even sleep in the same room. But otherwise, she's his girlfriend. Lars feeds her, dances with her, gives her a back story (she is the daughter of a missionary, half-Brazilian, half-Danish). He evens quarrels with her.

Moreover, the entire community – Lars lives in a small town – rallies round him. They love Lars so much that they're willing to become accomplices to the fiction that Bianca is real. So when he sits in church with her on a Sunday morning, she's treated like just another devout parishioner.

Sounds like a dead-cert Academy Award winner, no? No. But then along comes
Lars and the Real Girl, the new feature starring Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling – it comes to theatres early next month – and one's reflex cynicism escapes like air from an inflatable doll. Somehow, the whole thing works rather well. So well in fact, that whispering about possible Oscar nominations has already begun. Gosling for best actor, Bianca for best-supporting. They'd attend the awards together, of course. Rumour is that Bianca has not yet picked her designer.

That Real Girl does work may have a lot to do with the way the filmmakers approached what is in part a comedy – with utter seriousness.

I don't know if they went so far as to give Bianca her own trailer during the shoot in Southern Ontario, last winter. But director Craig Gillespie, his actors (also including Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner and Patricia Clarkson ) and crew apparently did everything but, handling the life-sized Bianca as if she were in fact a living, breathing part of the cast. She had makeup. She was carefully lit. She was treated with star deference.

Of course, it helped that the script was by Nancy Oliver ( Six Feet Under), a writer who knows her way around delicate subject matter. On the set, as director Gillespie explained during his recent visit to the Toronto International Film Festival, there were several silicone Biancas (in case of accidental damage or defective parts). They were ordered from precisely the same kind of mail-order company used by Lars, an otherwise normal, mild-mannered, hard-working, churchgoing young man. When the shooting wrapped, Gillespie and Gosling each kept one Bianca as “souvenirs.”

“We were very careful never to make Bianca the butt of the joke,” Gosling, 26, explained in an interview at TIFF last month. “There's an innocence to it that you have to try and maintain. It's like a kid who loves his teddy bear or another stuffed animal.”

Gosling himself, growing up in Cornwall, Ont., owned just such a stuffed toy. “But my story isn't nearly as interesting as my friend's,” he says. “He had one and he was obsessed with it, completely in love with it, in a pure, non-sexual way. And then it got lost and it was like a death. He was heart-broken. And people rallied together to help find it and they put a missing-person's notice in the newspaper. So with the Lars film, if you can get past the idea that it's a sex doll, you can relate to it, I think.”

Gosling says it was Oliver's script that drew him to the project. Since earning the Oscar nod for Half Nelson, he says, there are more scripts landing at his door. But their quality isn't necessarily any better. “That's why a project like this is so special,” he says.

Was he concerned that he might be staking the next step in his career on a sketchy premise, a first-time director and a taciturn leading lady?

“No,” he says. “I knew Craig would do a great job because I said to him, ‘How are you going to shoot Bianca?' and he said, ‘I'm going to shoot her as though she had a nudity clause in her contract.' And he honoured that down the line.”

Gosling says he also knew that in every scene, he was “walking a challenging line” between making his attachment to Bianca credible and making the whole enterprise seem ridiculous. “And I had to discover for myself where that line was in every scene. It's not a comedy. It's funny, but it's also serious.”

There were no other films that he could really use for guidance. Other movies might have the same spirit, such as 1950's Harvey with Jimmy Stewart, about a man whose best friend is an invisible, human-sized rabbit. Or Tom Hanks's Cast Away (2000), in which a man marooned on a desert island develops a relationship with a volleyball named Wilson. Or perhaps various Hal Ashby films.

But more than anything, says Gosling, the Lars sensibility owes something to films made by one of his cinematic heroes, Gene Wilder. “He's my Marlon Brando. There's something about his ability to break your heart, and to make you laugh at the same time, that very few people can do. Bill Murray can do it, too. They're two of the greatest actors of all time. We associate being dramatic with being good, but simply being dramatic is too simple for them. They get bored. They see things from many different angles.”

Gosling says he's happy with his performance in Lars “but, like anybody – a writer, an athlete – you look back and always see things you could have done better. This would be my favourite movie if I weren't in it.”

If you meet Ryan Gosling in person, you will immediately notice that he is mature beyond his 26 years, focused, engaged, very present in the moment. His parents, working-class, were Mormons, though the young Gosling rejected the faith early, as he rejected school. “I didn't really want to be a kid,” he says. “I didn't like the idea that people could arbitrarily tell me what to do because they were adults and I had to listen. I was very anxious to start working and take care of myself.”

This attitude, predictably, did not endear him to school officials, and by the time he was 10 or 11, Gosling was being given home education by his mother. He initially trained as a dancer, wanting to impress his older sister, Mandi, who also danced. At 12, he auditioned for a show he had never seen before, the All New Mickey Mouse Club, and beat 17,000 other aspirants for a spot. He moved to Florida, then to Los Angeles, and lived for two years with Justin Timberlake's family. Performing, it turned out, “was a way to break the chains of childhood.”

At first he danced, then he sang, then started to act, “which I realized was a much better job.” He had no formal training, just a lot of on-set experience, starting with TV series ( Young Hercules and Breaker High) as well as films: The Slaughter Rule, Murder by Numbers and Remember the Titans. He first attracted serious attention in 2001, when he played a Jewish neo-Nazi in The Believer; it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

“That was the turning point for me,” he says, “because until then, I had only worked for money. I didn't care about it. It was just a job. It had never occurred to me that you could have a job that you liked. My father never had a job that he liked. He worked in a paper mill, then in sales.” (Gosling lost contact with his dad after his parents divorced in the mid-1990s. He “would rather not talk about it,” but he doesn't even know if his father, who lives in Cornwall, has seen his films.)

The Believer was the first role I had that I would have done for free. And once I had that experience, I wanted to do it again, if I could. But I still think of what I do as a job, not an art. It's easy. Everybody acts and can act. With the right director, [Ken] Loach, [John] Cassavetes, they can take anybody and make them an actor. It's been proven. I don't know what art is, but I'm pretty sure it's not something you get paid to do.”

He's paid far more than he is worth, he says. “It's like robbing a bank.” Or as he told one interviewer, “You know how department stores have these things where, if you win, you get 10 minutes and go in and take anything you want from the store? That's basically what I'm doing. I'm running in and just trying to grab as many characters as possible before they pull the plug on me.”

Although his performance as a crack-addicted teacher in Half Nelson catapulted his career to another level, his life in L.A. is relatively simple. He watches a ton of films, he knits scarves (he learned how while shooting Lars), bakes, plays jazz guitar, drops in on the Moroccan restaurant, Tangine, that he co-owns in Beverly Hills. He lives in a rented apartment downtown. “I don't need the responsibility of a house in Malibu, and I don't want to be in a position of having to make a movie to pay for a lifestyle.”

Gosling is now in Pennsylvania shooting The Lovely Bones, based on Alice Sebold's novel, “a dark and beautiful work,” in Gosling's words, about a father haunted by the death of his young daughter. After that, he's hoping to direct a project set in Uganda and focusing on child soldiers. He co-wrote the script, and has already been to Uganda to begin preliminary casting. “Funding is difficult,” he concedes, “but I think audiences will find these kids way more interesting than any Hollywood actor.”

His success, Gosling says, is finally enabling him to take on assignments that are meaningful to him, and “to get to a place that will allow me to make my own decisions.”

“Just as you wanted to do as a kid?”


The Art Of Saving Seats

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(October 12, 2007)
Saving seats at a movie theatre is something you learn early in life, like buying popcorn.

But then something happens that makes you wonder if you had it all wrong. Here's the drill, as I thought I knew it:

Saving one or two seats is fine. Three is pushing it. Four or more is trouble.

You need to leave a jacket as a marker so people know.

Ignoring this protocol leads to anarchy, as my 17-year-old son Jake and I discovered Sunday. We tried to save five (5) seats with two (2) jackets. We were wild and reckless. But we were trying to be helpful.

We were at the 7:15 p.m. screening at the Varsity Cinemas of Michael Clayton. We got there early and chose a side row at the very back that had seven seats. I was in the aisle seat and Jake was next to me. The other five seats were vacant. I went off to the washroom.

When I came back, Jake was staring at his Game Boy, busily fighting something in The Legend of Zelda. He barely looked up. There were jackets on two of the seats in our row. A man entered the row and went to an empty seat by the wall.

Jake looked up from his Game Boy. "Sir!" he said to the man. "I think that seat is saved!"

"You think it's saved?" the man said. "Are you saving five seats?"

"I dunno," Jake said. "A lady asked me to save them for her."

The man got up and went to another row. He was annoyed.

"Why did you agree to save five seats?" I asked Jake. "Is she here with her entire family?"

"I dunno," Jake said. "She put those jackets there and said, `If anyone asks, these seats are saved.'"

"But did she want five seats or two? There are only two jackets."

"I dunno."

While we were talking, another man climbed over the back of our row to claim the seat next to the wall. The seat the other guy had just vacated.

"Sir," Jake said, "I think that seat is saved."

"There's nothing on it," the man said. He held his ground.

A man in his 70s arrived. He seemed lost. I don't think he goes to movies much. He slid into our row and sat on one of the seats with a jacket on it.

"Sir," I told him. "That seat is saved."

"What do you mean, it's saved?" he asked.

"There's a jacket on it."

"There is?"

He looked beneath him and saw the jacket. He kept sitting.

"That jacket means it's saved," I told him. "It's movie-theatre code."

"Well, where am I supposed to sit?" the man said, more surprised than upset. "The theatre is almost full. And I need two seats, because my wife is coming."

I suggested he move one of the jackets over. That would clear two spaces, since Jake and I had an empty seat next to us. But the guy by the wall piped up again and said that wouldn't work because he was saving the seat next to him for his own spouse.

The elderly gent's wife arrived. "Where are we going to sit?" she said. "The seats are filling up. Whose jackets are those? Where are those people?"

"I dunno," Jake said.

"I dunno," I said.

I suggested the elderly gent sit in the single seat behind our row, which is normally reserved for wheelchair patrons. I didn't think anyone would mind. His wife could sit in the single seat next to ours.

They grumbled and sat down.

Just then, the woman who had asked Jake to save the unspecified number of seats returned, accompanied by a man, bearing a huge container of popcorn.

"I'll bet you thought we were never going to return," she said, smiling.

"I dunno," I said, as the movie started.

If only she knew.

Tyler Perry Pops The Question: 'Why Did I Get Married?'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -

(October 12, 2007) *Playwright-turned-screen adaptor/director Tyler Perry has another comedic drama for fans. His latest film, "Why Did I Get Married" opens in theatres nationwide today.

It's another big screen adaptation of one of Perry's stage plays that's about the trials of marriage, and what happens to one family when a sexy temptress (Denise Boutte) comes on the scene. 

The film follows four married couples who meet in snowy Colorado for their annual reunion and begin to contemplate their choice to marry when one couple's infidelity is revealed. As described by film house Lions Gate:

"Over the course of the weekend, husbands and wives take a hard look at their lives and wrestle with issues of commitment, betrayal, and forgiveness as they seek a way forward."

"Why Did I" stars and ensemble cast made up of Perry, Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White, Jill Scott, Malik Yoba, Richard T. Jones, Tasha Smith, and newcomers Lamman Rucker, Sharon Leal and Boutte. Perry told reporters that he was very excited about the cast and what the contrast of major draws and new names brought to the film, which he considers his best movie so far.

"First of all, I love breaking new faces. As I was writing the movie, the cast just came together. I just write it and surrender it. Denise really pushed for the role and I’m so glad she got it. And Janet and I were talking a week or so before we started. Jill auditioned and was perfect ... it just all worked out," he said.

"I try to grow in every film. The way the story was told was really unique and using the camera the way that I did was very different for me. For me I really stretched it a little bit. And having an amazing cast like this, really made the movie come alive because everybody brought their own personality to it."

Tasha Smith, who previously teamed with Perry in "Daddy's Little Girls," agreed that the film's parade of stars was key in the film being a successful project.

"I think there was a lot of camaraderie amongst the cast. We all just hit it off and the friendship was built day one. We all genuinely love each other," she said, though her character spews venom.

"I was going through a divorce when I was filming this movie. So I think (you see) a little bit of my ex-husband and other ex-relationships I probably put in there to help me to deal with some of the frustrations that my character had."

The film's star Janet Jackson may have asked herself about her nuptials on more than one occasion. She admitted that she personally hasn't quite figured out the secret to marriage as a two-time divorcee, but was apparently quite compatible and well-matched for the film, Perry said.

"Janet was very adamant going in [that] she wanted [it to be] an ensemble piece. I thought, 'Why don't we change this?' and she said, 'No, it's all there. It's perfect for me.' She's very fair that way," he said. "I think the biggest hurdle was getting over Janet Jackson as you're watching the movie. But if you watch it for longer than 15 minutes, you realize that Janet is not Janet. She's Patricia. She is the character, so she totally surrendered to it."

Jackson admitted that surrendering to the character wasn't that difficult, as she found a lot of herself in the hard-nosed, overly perfect Patricia.

"There was really no time to prepare for the role," she said. As a matter of fact, Perry brought Jackson on board just days before beginning shooting. "A lot of my friends call me their therapist and they come to me looking for advice. I must be doing something right because they keep coming back, but I'm not very good at looking into my own world and looking at what's wrong and trying to fix those things."

Singer Jill Scott, who just released her latest album "The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3," also slipped easily into her character. The neo-soul star likened prepping to act to that of prepping to sing.

"I don't know that it's really different," she said. "When I write a song, I tap into the emotions and the feeling and I use the emotion to write the words. It's the opposite when I act; I tap into the words to find the emotion. But [Tyler] gave us great words; he gave us great lines to say. The thing I had to do, all of us had to do, was tap into the places where you're wounded and you reveal them and that's it."

Most of the cast praised Perry on his words and his commitment to addressing serious issues in the African American community. He's known to take on tough and, at times, uncomfortable subject matter, and in "Why Did I," Perry touches on the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease among women of color.

"One thing I love about Tyler Perry and his writing is that he addresses things that a lot of times in our community, we're afraid to address," Smith said. "He keeps it real; he keeps it honest and that's why it made it really easy for us, as actors to say those words. Those are words that we've experienced or are thinking and we don't always say it, so we got an opportunity to do that."

"I think a lot of people shy away from the pressure and the responsibilities of being role models," Rucker added, "but I think that it's very important that you have a cast - not only as actors and human beings, but characters - that are intelligent, highly trained, mature, and loving people, so we are setting and example to some degree. So if that's the type of people and the type of characters we are, I found it impressive that we were modeling at least certain types of behaviour that people would listen to and will emulate. He does a great job."

"We continue to see the same reflection again and again," Scott compared. "Everybody's in some kind of drug war or where everybody is some kind of negative something. But to see people that are established and are married and are working at it ... that's a reality for a lot of us."

Perry, accepting the accolades, told reporters that he finds it important to show all aspects of the African American community.

"There are so many expressions of who we are as African American people and I want to cover it all," he said. "I don't think you can lock us into one little box and say, 'This is who we are.' These particular people happen to have all gone to college, so this story will represent that side of who we are as a people. I'll be going in a lot of different directions, but what you won't see is a lot of negativity. I won't do that."

For more on the film, check out www.whydidigetmarriedthemovie.com.  

She's A Boy Wins Top Prize At Vancouver International Film Festival

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(October 12, 2007) Vancouver director Gwen Haworth's autobiographical feature She's A Boy I Knew is the big winner at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival. The film won two awards Friday night: the People's Choice Award for the Most Popular Canadian Film and the Women in Film & Television Vancouver Artistic Merit Award. Using archival footage and animation, the movie documents the filmmaker's transition from being Steven Haworth to becoming Gwen Haworth. The film had its world premiere at VIFF (which wraps up Friday night).

Other audience awards went to Persepolis (named most popular international film) and Garbage Warrior (named most popular international non-fiction film).

The Swedish film The Planet won the inaugural Climate for Change Award, worth $25,000. The filmmakers visited 25 different countries to compile evidence that the planet is in poor shape – and warns that humans may soon outstrip the earth's ability to sustain life. The jury used phrases such as “artistic mastery” and “the power to mobilize” in describing the documentary.

The award for best Canadian feature went to Vancouver director Carl Bessai's Normal – which examines the effects of a fatal collision on family members and other survivors.

Up The Yangtze won the best Canadian documentary award. The feature-length film follows a cruise ship up the Yangtze River, examining the lives of its crew members – and their families, who are being displaced because of the Three Gorges Dam.

“I am totally honoured,” director Yung Chang told the Globe and Mail from Montreal, where he lives. “It's a very meaningful award.”

Up The Yangtze sold out three screenings at VIFF. In a statement read out at the awards ceremony, Chang wrote: “My apologies to the 200 people in line that I had to turn away at the theatre.” (They'll have their chance to see the film next spring, when Up The Yangtze will be released theatrically in several cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Victoria.)

And Anna McRoberts was named most promising director of a Canadian short film at VIFF for her 12-minute short The Windfisherman. It's about a man who lives in Gust Town, the windiest town in the world, and “fishes” for things that have blown away.

Carrie Meets Her Match

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Amy Verner

(October 15, 2007) It's a good thing the Balenciaga runway show last week sewed a floral seed in fashionistas' heads: Previews of costume designer Patricia Field's vision for
Sex and the City: The Movie have Carrie Bradshaw in a garden of garish patterns, not to mention peculiar silhouettes, punk accessories and - quelle surprise - sky-high heels.

Photos of the Manhattan production are circulating online, and from what we've seen, this movie has flop written all over it - from a rabbit-eared neckline to a droopy chapeau. Samantha is looking less stylish than overstyled, Charlotte's duds are dull and Carrie is still drowning in quirk. And everyone is suffering from a serious addiction to belted waists.

When you're talking about a film that has as much potential to direct spring trends as the Milan and Paris collections, that's as worrisome as letting Pippi Longstocking into your closet.

The movie starts with, well, we don't know how it starts. Plot details are scarce on what adventures await the ensemble cast (played by
Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis).

We do know that at one point the gals stroll arm-in-arm down Madison Avenue, wearing their smiles like old hats. They're in front of shoe boutique Walter Steiger (pray tell, what happened to Louboutin and Blahnik?).

Charlotte (Davis) looks like a hybrid of Jackie O. and Katie Holmes in her precious Upper East Side white dress and oversized glasses. Carrie (Parker) sports a white vest and trousers with a pink shirt and black cravat - a gender-bending outfit softened by big hair and peep-toed pumps. Miranda's (Nixon) metallic dress shows that the lawyer has a luxe side and Samantha (Cattrall) has gone head-to-toe red in a belted power suit seemingly inspired by 1980s Thierry Mugler (It bag candidate No. 1: a patent red Fendi). Her hair post-chemo is lovely and full of lusty possibilities. Then winter comes. As Carrie steps through snow, her hair is a dreary mousy brown and her look du jour is an odd pairing of a lumberjack coat, argyle knee socks, fuchsia-striped scarf and strappy - possibly YSL - stilettos (It bag candidate No. 2: a metallic Chanel).

Along the way, Carrie gets an assistant, played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. The actress has gone from American Idol contestant to Dreamgirl to Vogue muse to this. It's clearly a demotion, and it's reflected in her clothes. Going boho - trench coat, fringed back, purple plaid boots - is not as flattering as going glam.

At some point, something big appears to happen (proceed to the next paragraph NOW if you don't like spoilers): Carrie can be seen wearing a Vivienne Westwood wedding dress with turquoise feathers in her hair - but she's not exactly a bird of paradise. At least her elegant entourage has been spared bridesmaid misery by couture gowns - non matchy-match - worthy of a John Singer Sargent portrait.

Unfortunately, the clothes are, once again, wearing the women. (Although it is not as bad as the scene where Carrie wears a floral dress, the skirt of which can best be described as a tulip on top of a pencil.)

Curiously, the only one spared such outrageousness is Miranda, who, for once, looks smoking hot. Has motherhood finally made her embrace her womanly side? Did she leave law and learn to relax?

Shawn Hewson, a judge on Project Runway Canada (airing on the Slice network), agrees that she's the sole exception to the sea of silly style. "She looks modern and chic, but Carrie's cute and flamboyant look is like flogging a dead horse. I would have thought she's outgrown that by now." (Incidentally, one shot captures her carrying Vogue's popular Age Issue).

Sarah Jessica Parker now dresses better than her character, Hewson says. "Carrie has gone nowhere."

Perhaps Field's kookiness, which looked so fresh on cable, does not translate onto the big screen. Think back to the Devil Wears Prada: No one could understand why Anne Hathaway's character looked like she had been attacked by Karl Lagerfeld.

Sure, these are costumes and there's no need to restrict the characters to Gap basics (Sarah Jessica Parker attempted that in real life already). And fine, fashion is a fantasy. But people are eager to buy into the fantasy too.

Go ahead and see the flick, but approach the ensembles of the ensemble cast with sartorial scepticism. And if you have some money left over after the movie ticket and the popcorn, we do recommend It bag candidate No. 3: an Eiffel Tower-shaped purse already available for sale on Field's website ($375).

It's a totem of a city where the women are timelessly chic and the kisses are more legendary than the sex.


Wardrobe wonders

Drapery dresses

Skirts that look like they've been fashioned from curtains suggest to fans that they can recycle their fusty upholstery and be on trend.

Shocking shades

From flowers to accessories, red and fuchsia are a love match on the set thus far.

Little beau peeps

No matter the season, toes are poking out of killer pumps.

Knee highs

On two occasions, Carrie has been snapped wearing hosiery that stops shy of her hemlines.

Svelte belts

The belted waist is now as indispensable as an It bag.

Affleck's Directing Debut A Crime Thriller

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

October 15, 2007) NEW YORK – Fresh off his directorial debut, Ben Affleck says he's found his calling.

"In the beginning part of wanting to be a director was just a natural extension of acting," said Affleck, whose movie "Gone Baby Gone" opens Friday. "But now this feels like what I am, or what I want to be, it's so satisfying and exhilarating.

"In fact, the central preoccupation of my life right now is trying to find another movie to direct," he told the New York Times for a story in Sunday's editions.

Affleck co-wrote the script and directed "Gone Baby Gone," a crime thriller set and filmed in Boston about the search for an abducted four-year-old girl.

He told the newspaper he included as many locals as he could in the film, people plucked off the street or discovered in bars, even for speaking roles. One woman was cast as a beer-drinking smart-mouth after approaching him and saying, "I should be in your movie."

"I wanted something raw and authentic and even a little scuffed up," said Affleck, who grew up in the area. "People go to the movies to see something they can't get otherwise, and I thought this was a chance to take you somewhere that you couldn't otherwise get to the Boston you never see in the movies."


Roger Moore Gets Star On Hollywood Walk

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(October 12, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Best known for playing James Bond on the big screen,
Roger Moore now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of an address that includes the spy's signature 007. Moore, 69, received his permanent spot on Hollywood Boulevard on Thursday, accompanied by friends and family. Moore made seven Bond films, starting with "Live and Let Die'' in 1973 and ending 12 years later with "A View to a Kill." The British actor paid homage to the number of women he kissed on-screen while adapting Ian Fleming's leading man. "Sadly, I had to retire from the Bond films," Moore said. ``The girls were getting younger or I was just getting too old.'' Moore has done some acting since leaving the Bond franchise. He has raised funds for UNICEF in underdeveloped countries and received a Commander of the British Empire award from the British government in 1999. He also was awarded a knighthood in 2003 for his work with UNICEF. Moore's star sits in front of 7007 Hollywood Blvd., an ice cream parlour that claims to be the birthplace of the hot fudge sundae. Pierce Bronsan is the only other actor who played Bond on the big screen to receive a star on the Walk of Fame.

Another Something New For Sanaa Lathan

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 11, 2007) *On the heels of landing such on-screen love interests as Simon Baker and Julian McMahon, actress
Sanaa Lathan has booked a role opposite stage and screen star Matthew Broderick in the upcoming film, "Wonderful World."  According to Variety, the independent feature centers on a depressed, divorced and unemployed father who finds solace in his Senegalese roommate's sister. Production is scheduled to begin Oct. 19 in Shreveport, La. under writer/director Joshua Goldin.  Lathan recently starred as the lover of Julian McMahon's character Christian Troy in "Nip/Tuck" and last appeared on the big screen giving interracial love a chance in the 2006 film "Something New," opposite Baker. She also has a starring role in ABC's forthcoming adaptation of the 2004 Broadway production of "A Raisin in the Sun," for which she received a Tony nomination.

Fuqua To Direct Oliver Stone's 'Escobar'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 11, 2007) *
Antoine Fuqua has signed on to direct Oliver Stone's production of "Escobar," one of two rival films currently in the works about notorious Colombian cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar. The other film, "Killing Pablo," is director Joe Carnahan's adaptation of the Mark Bowden book about the hunt for Escobar. Javier Bardem and Christian Bale are attached to star, reports Variety. No actors have been mentioned yet for Fuqua's "Escobar," which is based on the book "Mi Hermano Pablo," written by Pablo's brother Roberto Escobar Gaviria. Gaviria served as his brother's accountant and confidant. His company, STL Holdings, committed the life and literary rights of the Escobar family.  Awareness of Escobar as a film subject increased last summer via HBO's original series "Entourage," which based much of its storyline around a fictional movie, "Medellin," about the drug lord's rise to power.  "Escobar was Robin Hood, a saint to some, and the devil to others," Fuqua told Daily Variety. "He's a fascinating study in contrasts... He came from the wrong side of the tracks with nothing, but when he died was worth $3 billion... He was one of the most successful criminals we've ever seen, and that's why I find him such a compelling subject for a movie."  Production is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2008 in Colombia and Puerto Rico.

Patrick Swayze Pilot Could Be Filmed Here

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Hollywood Reporter

(October 16, 2007)
Patrick Swayze has been tapped to star in A&E Network's drama pilot The Beast. Travis Fimmel is co-starring in the show. The Beast centres on an unorthodox but effective FBI veteran (Swayze) who trains a new partner (Fimmel) in his hard-edged, psychologically clever style while being pursued by a secret internal affairs team. The pilot is set to start shooting at the end of November or the beginning of December, likely in Chicago or Toronto. Swayze, best known for his role as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, next appears in the films Christmas in Wonderland and Powder Blue. Fimmel, who starred in ABC's Tarzan, next appears in the movies Ivory and Surfer Dude.

EUR Film Review: Michael Clayton

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(October 16, 2007)  *Although attorney Michael Clayton (
George Clooney) has been with Kenner, Bach and Ledeen for 17 years, he's never made partner.   Ironically, despite being low man on the totem pole, he still enjoys a certain grudging status, since the nature of his work makes his services invaluable to the prestigious Manhattan law office.   You see, as the firm's fixer, Michael's job involves mopping up other's messy situations by any means necessary, even if that might sometimes mean breaking the law. For example, when a wealthy client is involved in a hit-and-run accident, he's quickly called-in to devise the best strategy to keep the story out of the press.   But nothing in his checkered career has prepared him for the chain of events about to unfold in the wake of the apparent mental breakdown of Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), a colleague defending a billion-dollar class action suit against U-North, an agro-chemical company accused of manufacturing cancer-causing chemicals. After six years as the lead lawyer on the case, Edens inexplicably did a striptease while mumbling incoherent flibbity-jibbity to himself during a deposition being conducted in Milwaukee.   So, the firm's managing partner, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), rushes his reliable "fixer" to Wisconsin to do damage control. For full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.


'Stay Tuned' Has Never Meant So Much

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(October 10, 2007) At regular intervals we all need to be reminded that about 90 per cent of television is about delivering eyeballs to advertisers.

Remember this – when the U.S. networks first unveil their slates of new fall programming every May, at the so-called “upfronts,” they're doing it for advertisers and buyers at ad agencies. They unveil those shows to TV critics in July. Finally, they present the shows to viewers in September. That's the hierarchy.

Television is a commercial endeavour. The fact that drama or comedy of any merit gets made is actually remarkable. You can have your favourite show and develop affection for characters, but if the advertising dollars aren't there, your feelings count for nothing.

But right now, the biggest drama on TV isn't a cop show or a medical show. It's the attempt by you to dodge the commercials. It used to be that you'd go to the fridge, check the answering machine or maybe even change the channel for two minutes. Or you taped shows on a VCR and fast-forwarded past the commercials. Now, thanks to digital video, you can skip the commercials with greater ease and, worse for the TV industry, you might be watching a show days after it, and its ads, aired.

Just last week the magazine Advertising Age revealed its list of the top-earning shows.

Grey's Anatomy is at the top, as the most expensive show on network TV. It costs $419,000 (U.S.) for a 30-second spot. Last year it cost $394,000 to reach viewers of ABC's Desperate Housewives. That was the top amount.

For this new TV season, Grey's Anatomy is followed by NBC's Sunday Night Football ($358,000); Fox's The Simpsons ($315,000); NBC's Heroes ($296,000); Desperate Housewives ($270,000); CBS's CSI ($248,000); and CBS's Two and Half Men ($231,000). There's a tie for eighth: CBS's Survivor: China and ABC's Private Practice, the Grey's Anatomy spinoff, each $208,000 per 30-second spot.

What does this tell us? Several things, actually. First, it costs a lot to advertise on Thursday nights. That's because, as ad buyers see it, viewers are making choices for what they'll buy on the weekend. And you thought it was because Thursday night was a nice night to stay in and watch TV. Sunday night is also important for advertisers because men – especially young men who don't watch much TV – watch NFL football and often several animated shows on Fox later that night. Some unshaven guy on a couch, idly wondering if he should buy a new razor, has enormous power.

However, by the end of this TV season, the system could go haywire. Advertisers and the TV networks have agreed on a new system. Instead of ad prices being based on the number of overall viewers, the key component will be the number of people viewing during a commercial break. The methods used to gather ratings numbers will now include viewer numbers for the commercial breaks and, further, count a portion of those viewers who might see the commercials days later thanks to the use of digital video recorders.

According to Advertising Age, the networks are fully expecting the new data to indicate that at least 5 to 10 per cent of viewers aren't watching the commercials at all. That's when advertisers will wonder why they are paying so much.

Still, some series are safe from the expected crisis. The amounts paid to advertise on Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives are small when compared with American Idol – the cost of a 30-second commercial varies from $500,000 to more than $700,000, depending on whether it's beginning its run or close to crowning a new winner.

Even Fox's 24 can manage to charge $300,00 per 30-second spot and it is far from being a No. 1 show. That's because the fast-paced action and endless twists and turns mean that viewers aren't willing to change the channel or wait a few days to see it.

Idol is live, and talked about the next day. 24 is so perversely full of twists that it requires close attention. There's the solution for the networks – grab viewers for every second of a broadcast by making it totally compelling viewing.

JumpTV's Outgoing CEO: 'I've Let The Shareholders Down'

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

(October 16, 2007) Facing criticism from analysts over its slumping stock price, JumpTV Inc. chief executive officer Scott Paterson said he feels like he's let shareholders down and suggested yesterday that the Internet broadcaster went public sooner than other companies would have.

His comments came as JumpTV announced it will hand the CEO reins to Jordan Banks, the former head of eBay Canada, in November. Mr. Paterson will stay on as executive chairman, while JumpTV president Kaleil Isaza Tuzman is leaving, but will have a seat on the board.

The moves raised concerns among analysts, including one who told Mr. Paterson on a conference call that a 53-per-cent drop in the shares this summer is an indicator of "the house being on fire."

"Maybe it's time to change tacks dramatically," said Michel Del Buono of Scion Capital LLC. "The fact that Kaleil is leaving to go do something else - whatever that might be - is a strong indicator in my opinion that things ain't looking too hot for him to make a few million bucks on this. Which is the reason people are into these things in the end. So what's going on?"

Mr. Paterson responded that the company went public early in its evolution, a strategy that has been tough.

"We went public, relative to most businesses, on a premature basis," Mr. Paterson said. "Our strategy was that it was a new category, and that being public and having the profile when you are a consumer-facing business could help.

"Until our stock really got hurt in the past few months, I would argue that it really was the right strategy," he added.

Mr. Paterson also said he hasn't been talking to institutional investors enough in recent months.

"I actually feel that I've let the shareholders down a little bit in that I've done very little marketing of our story to institutions, whereas in the first few months after the IPO was quite active in that regard."

JumpTV went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in August, 2006, at $5.50 a share. After hitting $9.71 in January, the shares have lost 75 per cent of their value.

The company rebroadcasts local television channels from around the world over the Internet and has 90,000 subscribers. Mr. Paterson called JumpTV a "concept stock" that takes time to develop.

Investors have become increasingly concerned about whether it can turn a profit. After launching with a subscription model, JumpTV has moved to a mix of ad-supported free content and paid channels. Mr. Paterson said this will help it make money faster.

Analysts asked Mr. Banks, who previously sat on JumpTV's board, what he will do differently.

"I think it's way premature to give you a list of things that I'm looking at changing," he said.



HBO Gets A Piece Of The Roc

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 11, 2007) *Former "Roc" star
Charles S. Dutton has inked an exclusive overall deal with HBO which calls for him to act in and direct series, movies and miniseries projects for the cable network. "HBO has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with 'Roc' Dutton, and we are looking forward to teaming up with him on other exciting ventures," said Michael Lombardo, president of the programming group and West Coast operations. Dutton's first partnership with HBO was his 1997 directorial debut, "First Time Felon." He went on to helm the acclaimed HBO miniseries "The Corner," for which he received an Emmy for best director. He has also made guest appearances on HBO's drama series "The Sopranos" and "Oz."  The actor most recently directed episodes of Showtime's "Sleeper Cell," for which he was nominated for a DGA Award, and the upcoming Lifetime movie "Racing for Time," in which he also stars.


CTV Yanks Plug On Star Daily

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Columnist

(October 13, 2007)
Star Daily, one of several Canadian clones of Entertainment Tonight, has suddenly gone off the air. On Thursday, 22 employees of the show – a staple of the specialty Star channel – were given notice they have lost their jobs. The last show was telecast Wednesday. The decision to kill the show was made by CTV, which recently took over Star and 17 other specialty channels from CHUM. The show has the dubious distinction of being the first victim of the takeover – which will make people nervous at other channels. It came as no surprise to insiders who were aware that Star Daily had perilously low ratings – only about 7,000 viewers – especially compared to CTV's daily eTalk, which draws close to 400,000 viewers. "It was a case of two similar shows," says Jordan Schwartz, vice-president and general manager of CTV's entertainment group. "We went with the one that made a priority of Canadian content." Most of those who lost jobs were at the level of production assistants.


Will Smith's 'Hitch' Adapted For Small Screen

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 15, 2007) *
Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment is making moves to adapt its 2005 blockbuster film "Hitch" into a television series. The actor will not reprise his role as a professional "date doctor," but will serve as executive producer of the half-hour single-camera comedy series with Sony Pictures TV. The small screen version is expected to be pitched to networks in the coming weeks, reports Variety. The project is part of Overbrook's overall push into cable television. Other shows on its development slate include "Uncle Rudy," a family comedy starring Big Boi of the hip-hop duo OutKast; "Raw Materials," a relationship comedy for ABC; "Almost," a supernatural drama for A&E; "Gimmee Twenty," a special starring investment guru Mellody Hobson, at ABC News; and an untitled project for FX.  In April, Overbrook struck a deal with BET for "The Cipha," an animated hip-hop series about rappers with superpowers. It's scheduled to premiere in 2008.  During the past year, cable has been a major priority for Overbrook. It had been focused primarily on broadcast TV, where it landed its first series, the comedy "All of Us."


The Hour, CityLine Hosts Win Geminis

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 17, 2007) CBC personality George Stroumboulopoulos and CityLine chat maven Marilyn Denis were among the winners Tuesday at the
Gemini Awards for lifestyle, children's and youth programming.  Stroumboulopoulos was named best host or interviewer for his work on CBC's The Hour, which also won best talk series. CityLine, meanwhile, was lauded as best lifestyle/practical information series, with an award also going to Denis for her work as host on the CHUM Television show. Season 1 of Canada's Next Top Model (Temple Street Productions) was crowned best reality program. Bathroom Divas: So You Want to Be an Opera Star (Kaleidoscope Entertainment) was named best general/human interest series. Skyland picked up the prize for best-animated program or series while Wapos Bay nabbed the trophy for best children's or youth fiction program. The Gemini for best preschool program or series went to Backyardigans. Tuesday's awards marked the second of three nights of industry Gemini galas. On Monday, the Geminis for documentaries, news and sports were handed out. Wednesday is the gala for drama, variety and comedy. The main Gemini show is to be held in Regina on Oct. 28.


Adrienne Clarkson Found In Translation

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

October 13, 2007) When Shakespeare wrote about how in our lives we all play "many parts," it sometimes seems like he was thinking about Adrienne Clarkson.

The elegant 68-year-old woman who sits above Spadina Ave. in the offices of the Institute of Canadian Citizenship has certainly had a varied career.

Scholar, teacher, journalist, host, producer, writer and Governor General: just some of the many roles Clarkson has played over the years. And now she's ready to add one more.


This Wednesday night marks the opening of Pleiades Theatre's latest show at the Theatre Centre, a co-production with the National Arts Centre. It's called Dying to be Sick – a world premiere translation of Molière's Le Malade imaginaire – and it's credited to the new writing team of Clarkson and John Van Burek.

But there's a third name not officially listed who played an important part behind the scenes to bring this work to fruition: Bill Glassco.

The founder of Tarragon Theatre, who died in 2004, was a close friend of both Clarkson and Van Burek.

He also helped draw the latter into his distinguished career as a translator when he enlisted his help to work on the famous series of plays by Michel Tremblay that brought that author's work to English Canada.

And Glassco had also suggested the same kind of partnership to Clarkson.

"Bill said to me about 25 years ago," she recalls, "that it would be interesting for the two of us to work on bringing a classical French work to the stage. Every summer, we'd get together and toss some ideas around, but nothing ever came of it."

But then, at Glassco's funeral, Clarkson met up with Van Burek and, as he remembers, "She said if there was ever a project we could work together on, she'd be glad to try."

Not long after, Van Burek told her he wanted to begin a new version of Le Malade imaginaire (Molière's satire on the medical profession and the ultimate hypochondriac) and, before long, they were working away.

"John would do a rough translation," explains Clarkson, "and then I'd work on it and the two of us would sit at a table acting it out to each other. If it still sounded good, even with actors as terrible as us doing it, then we knew we were on to something.

"We're very different people," she laughs, "but there's no time for ego when you're creating something together and so even though we'd often disagree at first, we always came to an amicable resolution."

"Adrienne has a terrific eye and ear," says Van Burek admiringly. "She comes to it with a fresh eye and ear. She knows how to write and she knows how to speak."

What he may not have known at the beginning of their relationship was how precious the French language and the whole issue of translation was to Clarkson.

In her 2006 autobiography, Heart Matters (just reissued in paperback), Clarkson writes movingly of how she wanted to learn French as a child, but was forbidden to do so because it was only taught in Catholic schools and her family wasn't Catholic.

"It's amazing how something like that can stick with you for so many years," Clarkson says. "It made me want to learn French even more and by the time I finally went to France to study it, I knew it would become a special part of my life.

"We are a country that speaks two languages and to deny anyone the right to learn both seems as wrong to me now as it did back then."

Van Burek takes the theme further: "We also both feel that translation is like the Krazy Glue that holds this country together and this was the perfect thing for the two of us to be doing."

But despite all the contemporary subtext both find in the script, they also want to make it clear this is a translation and not an adaptation. It's Molière's words from start to finish, just given a fresh and breezy English twist by Clarkson and Van Burek.

"We're not setting it in Forest Hill or anything like that," sniffs Clarkson, indicating her disdain for productions that would do things like that, "but the feeling of the lines should still be modern."

"We wanted something that was freshly Canadian," adds Van Burek, "and so we're keeping a fair bit of French in it as well."

Talking to Clarkson, it's obvious that working in the theatre has been a sort of lifelong dream of hers.

As a child, she couldn't wait to go to Stratford to see James Mason play Oedipus and, when recalling Paul Scofield's King Lear, she calls it "Unforgettable – one of those nights that was indelibly branded on my brain."

Her own favourite play is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. "Every time there's a production of it done where I'm living, then I'm there – amateur or professional, Stratford or university. And do you know what's strange? I don't think I've ever seen a bad one. Somehow, the play itself always comes through."

And that's what Clarkson hopes will happen with Dying to be Sick.

"We're still the `Me Generation,' you know, and this script is about a man who cares about himself so much that he lets everything else in life go down the drain," she smiles. "And we've all met people like that.

"I think this is one of those plays that will touch people, but still give them a lot of laughs."

Gore: Award Puts Focus on Global Warming

Source:  Associated Press - By Seth Borenstein And Lisa Leff

(Oct. 12, 2007) PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — For years, former Vice President Al Gore and a host of climate scientists were belittled and, worst of all, ignored for their message about how dire global warming is. On Friday, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their warnings about what Gore calls "a planetary emergency."

Gore shared the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists. This scientific panel has explained the dry details of global warming in thousands of pages of footnoted reports every six years or so since 1990.

Gore, fresh from a near miss at winning the U.S. presidency in 2000, translated the numbers and jargon-laden reports into something people could understand. He made a slide show and went Hollywood. His documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won two Academy Awards and has been credited with changing the debate in America about global warming. For Gore it was all about the message.

"This is a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face now," he said Friday at the offices of the Alliance For Climate Protection, a non-profit he founded. "The alarm bells are going off in the scientific community."

Despite a live global stage, Gore did not take questions from reporters, avoiding the issue of a potential 2008 presidential run. His aides repeatedly say he won't enter the race. Gore donated his share of the $1.5 million prize to the non-profit.

"For my part, I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honour and the recognition from this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency," Gore said in brief remarks. "It is a planetary emergency and we have to act quickly."

In announcing the award earlier in the day in Oslo, Norway, Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the prize was not a slap at the Bush administration's current policies. Instead, he said it was about encouraging all countries "to think again and to say what can they do to conquer global warming."

Gore is the first former vice president to win the Peace Prize since 1906 when Theodore Roosevelt, who by that time had become president, was awarded. Sitting Vice President Charles Gates Dawes won the prize in 1925. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter won it in 2002 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

Gore, who learned of his award from watching the live TV announcement — hearing his name amid the Norwegian — was not celebratory Friday. His tone was sombre. He spoke beside his wife, Tipper, and four Stanford University climate scientists who were co-authors of the international climate report. Outside the building, schoolchildren held a sign saying, "Thank you Al."

For years, there was little thanks. From the late 1980s with his book "Earth in the Balance," Gore championed the issue of global warming. He had monthly science seminars on it while vice president and helped negotiate the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that called for cuts in greenhouse gases.

"When he first started really working on the climate change issue, I remember he was ridiculed in the press and certainly by political opponents as some kind of kook out there in la-la land," said federal climate scientist Tom Peterson, an IPCC co-author. "It's delightful that he's sharing this and he deserves it well. And it's nice to have his work being vindicated."

Since his loss to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore put aside political aspirations and become a global warming evangelical. He traveled to more than 50 countries. He presented his slide show on global warming more than 1,000 times. He turned that slide show into "An Inconvenient Truth."

The film won praise but also generated controversy. On Wednesday, a British judge ruled in a lawsuit that it was OK to show the movie to students in school. High Court Judge Michael Burton said it was "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact" but presented in a "context of alarmism and exaggeration." He said teachers must be given a written document explaining that.

More than 20 top climate scientists told The Associated Press last year that the film was generally accurate in its presentation of the science, although some were bothered by what they thought were a couple of exaggerations.

Gore's movie was deeply personal. It was about him after losing the 2000 election and about his travels, and he talked about the changing climate in a personal way.

"He has honed that message in a way that many scientists are jealous of," said University of Michigan Dean Rosina Birnbaum. She was a top White House science aide to Gore and President Clinton. "He is a master communicator."

Climate scientists said their work was cautious and rock-solid, confirmed with constant peer review, but it didn't grab people's attention.

"We need an advocate such as Al Gore to help present the work of scientists across the world," said Bob Watson, former chairman of the IPCC and a top federal climate science adviser to the Clinton-Gore Administration.

Watson and Birnbaum, who regularly briefed Gore about global warming, described him as voracious, wanting to understand every detail about the science. Birnbaum recalled one Air Force Two journey with Gore and the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Gore was such a consummate scientist that he would keep asking and asking and asking deeper and deeper questions until at one point Jim Baker of NOAA and I ran back to our seats to go back through textbooks to get the answers," Birnbaum said. "It was both exhilarating and exhausting to be part of his science team."

Scientists and Nobel committee members said it was not a stretch to award the Peace Prize to Gore and the scientists. Studies by national security experts say a hotter world with changes in water and food supply can lead to wars and terrorism.

"We're already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa," said Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator.

The man who beat Gore in 2000, President Bush, had no plans to call Gore to congratulate him. But spokesman Tony Fratto called it "an important recognition" for both Gore and the scientific panel.

Some in the shrinking community of global warming sceptics and those downplaying the issue, were dubious, however.

"I think it cheapens the Nobel Prize," said William O'Keefe, chief executive officer of the conservative science-oriented think tank the Marshall Institute. O'Keefe, a former oil industry executive and current consultant to fossil fuel firms, called Gore's work "rife with errors."

As he was leaving the alliance's office, Gore was asked whether the Nobel would quiet climate naysayers. He said the award would help the cause of fighting global warming overall: "I hope we have a chance to really kick into high gear."

Borenstein reported from Washington. Leff reported from Palo Alto. Science Writer Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.

On God, Two Johns, And Human Nature

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(October 13, 2007) NEW YORK —
Ann Patchett knows this is going to sound odd, but it's true, so here goes: About seven or eight years ago, in the middle of working on what would become her breakout 2001 novel Bel Canto, she awoke suddenly at two o'clock in the morning, shook her husband from sleep, and told him she'd just spoken to God.

"I dreamed that God came to me and said He wanted to save the world again, and this time he was gonna adopt a kid - to prove that anybody could do it if they were well raised," said Patchett the other morning over breakfast at a midtown hotel. She was flying home to Nashville in a few hours, and was dressed for travelling, in black jeans and a casual sweater. "He said, 'In fact, I'm gonna get two kids, and whichever one turns out the best, I'll use that one.' And I said, Wouldn't it be so awful for the kid who didn't get picked? And God said to me: He's still God's son. I mean, even if he's not the saviour of the world, it's still a good spot!' "

If it sounds like the slam-dunk premise of a good new book (not to say a new Good Book), it took Patchett years of start-and-stop work before she found a suitable translation of the dream: There was something odd about writing about God.

Eventually, in what became her exhilarating new novel, Run, set in Boston, she dropped the actual deity and substituted a John F. Kennedy-style politician, which in Boston is pretty much the same thing.

The God, if you will, of Run is Richard Doyle, a former Boston mayor, who has three sons: the wandering Sullivan, born of his late wife Bernadette; and Tip and Teddy, black men granted Kennedy clan names when they were adopted as young boys into the white Doyle family. One snow-blind winter's evening, during an argument with his father, Tip absentmindedly steps off a curb and is narrowly saved by a woman who darts into the street and body-checks him out of the way of an oncoming SUV. His saviour winds up in hospital and her 10-year-old daughter, having no other place to go, takes refuge with the Doyles, setting in motion a tumultuous 24 hours.

In that sense, Run echoes her other novels, from The Patron Saint of Liars (1992), which centred on a pregnant woman who leaves her husband to live in a home for unwed mothers; to The Magician's Assistant, about a woman who discovers the mother and sister of her partner after his death; to Bel Canto, which threw together South American terrorists and a group of hostages in a mansion for a months-long siege.

"I think everybody really does have some theme that they keep going back to, no matter how hard they try," she says. So why is this theme so important to her? "It's just somehow at the centre of my heart, what is compelling to me" - she gestures at a waiter who has just passed by - "the idea that the waiter could be the most important person in my life.

And unless I'm open-minded to the waiter, I would miss that. You never know who you're gonna meet, you never know who's gonna change your life, and you have to stay open to those possibilities.

"Either that, or my parents married off and I had a lot of step-siblings. If you like that answer, that would work, too." She laughs. Patchett, 43, is generous with her humour but there is a whiff of caution to her manner, and she has a faint tightness in her face that makes her look from some angles like the actress Emily Watson. (More movie star comparisons: she has the verbal exactitude and endlessly patient tone of Laura Linney.)

The reception for Run has been largely enthusiastic: The Globe's reviewer wrote, "Only a gifted imagination can steep this family brew as plausibly and gracefully as she does." But not everyone has embraced the book. During breakfast, Patchett is still smarting from a dismissive review published two days before in USA Today, and while John Updike had some very nice things to say about her other books in his New Yorker review, he didn't much care for Run.

"But you know what?" says Patchett philosophically. "Jonathan Safran Foer said to me once, a bad review by John Updike in The New Yorker is still a pretty damned nice thing. And it's true, it makes me feel serious and arrived, and if I'm gonna have somebody have me for lunch, I'd just as soon it be Updike."

The few influential poor reviews don't much seem to have affected the reading public's affection for her or the book. The night before this breakfast, Patchett held court at a standing-room-only Barnes & Noble reading on the Upper West Side. (Indeed, they had to close the door to the glassed-in room because more people kept trying to squeeze in.

"It was like a Dickens novel, people pressing their little noses against the glass," Patchett giggles.) Tomorrow, Run will debut in the eighth spot on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list.

Updike's chief complaint, which echoes comments Patchett has received on other books, is that she depicts the world not as it is but as she would like it to be - or, as he phrased it: "everybody is nice, given half a chance."

Sometimes, this interpretation can lead to people misreading her work.

"I feel like I'm writing political novels. I am often told I'm writing heart-warming novels about family. I remember when one of the best reviews of Bel Canto came out, it says: The greatest love story ever told. And I thought: Damn, I thought I was writing a book about the intersection of wealth and poverty."

Still, Patchett doesn't see Updike's criticism as a legitimate complaint. "Most of the people that I know, and certainly all the people that I love and am close to, are really good people," she says. Indeed, the geography of her personal life reinforces this: her husband's ex-wife lives a couple of miles away, and often visits to share in the joy of Patchett's four-month-old step-grandson, who lives about three blocks away.

"You know, I feel so strongly that I am one lousy little novelist - 'lousy' as in 'small'- in a huge number of present-day novelists and dead novelists, there are so many good books out there. Everything is covered. I am one chip in all the work. And if I was writing the only novel of the year, maybe I would think: God, I really need to represent some of the hideous aspects of human nature. But they're fine, they're covered, and I can put my chip in what interests me, not because I think I'm gonna change the world and not because I'm trying to create a world the way I want to see it, but it is actually the way I feel about the world. I have tremendous faith in human nature."

Patchett grew up Catholic, though she hasn't been to Mass in years because, she says, "It's really boring. It's pitched to a third-grade level. I keep saying, I'm looking for Advanced Placement Catholicism."

Still, she says, "I think Catholicism was fantastic for my work. I spent my childhood praying to giant carved pieces of rock. On my knees every day saying my little prayer beads - it's a ridiculous religion! It's all about fantasy. Grow up reading Butler's Lives of the Saints and believing it! Believing if you take your last piece of bread and crumble it up and give to the birds, all those little birds will go and bring back one piece of wheat - I love that! I love those stories. I love the idea that impossible things can happen. When people say to me: there's a big element of magic realism in your books, I think: No, there's not. It could happen, it could happen.

Even now, "I really had a belief system, and I think that's a great thing to have if what you do is make things up for a living," she says.

"There's still some level in which that's my mythology. I had a mythology, and I think that for a lot of people growing up, their mythology is just television."

Billy Crystal Wins Twain Humour Award

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(October 12, 2007) WASHINGTON – Carl Reiner, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg have all won it. Now, to borrow a famous movie line he wrote,
Billy Crystal is having what they're having.

The comedian, actor, Broadway star and Yankees fan's many talents and passions were celebrated Thursday night at the Kennedy Center as he accepted the 10th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

"Does this mean I have to retire now?" Crystal asked as he cradled the award, a bust of Twain. "Usually when someone is given an evening like this, they're way too dead to say thank you.''

Rob Reiner, who directed the Crystal movie "When Harry Met Sally," credited him with the lasting success of the famous restaurant scene in which Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm. Afterward, a woman cracks, "I'll have what she's having.''

"Billy Crystal wrote that line," said Reiner, thanking his friend for granting cinematic immortality to his mother, Estelle Reiner, who delivered it.

The director was among the parade of Hollywood glitterati who reminisced about working with Crystal, though the honouree appeared particularly moved when New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, looking dapper and relaxed in a gray suit, took the stage.

"Honestly, you and I had pretty good years," said Torre, whose job status is uncertain after the Yankees were eliminated in the first round of baseball's postseason. "Yours is finishing up a little bit better than mine.''

Thursday's ceremony was taped for broadcast Nov. 12 on PBS.

Crystal, 59, came to prominence as Jodie Dallas on the comedy series "Soap," as the first openly gay character on network television. He starred on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1984-85 season, when he was best known for his caricature of "Latin lover" Fernando Lamas (``You look mahvelous''). He also impersonated Howard Cosell and Sammy Davis Jr., among many others.

"He's got a great ear and a great eye for people," Robin Williams said.

Success in movies followed, peaking in the late '80s and early '90s with "Sally" and "City Slickers." Later, Crystal helped bring out the lighter side of Robert De Niro in the mob comedies ``Analyze This" and "Analyze That.''

"He was so generous," De Niro said. "Not many people get Billy Crystal as a straight man.''

Williams said Crystal, whose recent successes include the Tony-winning one-man show "700 Sundays," keeps improving with age.

"He's gotten better and better, kind of like a good cheese,'' Williams said. "Or a Cabernet. But since I've gotten out of rehab, I'll go with cheese.''

Crystal's humour rarely shocks or offends – one reason he's been so successful as host of the Oscars. But his friends say he has a darker side.

"He can be edgy," Williams said. "If he wanted to be, he could be really nasty. But he chooses to be kinder, because it's more him. And he loves people.''

Doris Lessing Wins Nobel For Literature

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Matt Moore And Karl Ritter, The Associated

(October 11, 2007) STOCKHOLM — British writer
Doris Lessing has won the 2007 Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy said Thursday, citing her “scepticism, fire and visionary power” in dozens of works, notably her classic The Golden Notebook.

Ms. Lessing, who at 87 is the oldest person to win the Nobel Literature prize, could not be reached to be told of her award, the academy's permanent secretary Horace Engdahl told The Associated Press. Her agent, Jonathan Clowes, said she was out shopping in London.

“We are absolutely delighted and it's very well-deserved,” Mr. Clowes said.

Ms. Lessing was born to British parents who were living in what is now Iran. The family later moved to Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe. She dropped out of school at age 13.

She made her debut with The Grass Is Singing in 1950. Her other works include the semiautobiographical Children Of Violence series, largely set in Africa.

Her breakthrough was the 1962 Golden Notebook, the Swedish Academy said.

“The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work, and it belongs to the handful of books that inform the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship,” the academy said in its citation announcing the prize.

Her other important novels of include The Summer Before Dark in 1973 and The Fifth Child in 1988.

Ms. Lessing is the second British writer to win the prize in three years. In 2005, Harold Pinter received the award. Last year, the academy gave the prize to Turkey's Orhan Pamuk.

“When you look at my life, you can go back to the late 1930s,” she told The Associated Press in an interview last year. “What I saw was, first of all, Hitler, he was going to live forever. Mussolini was in for 10,000 years. You had the Soviet Union, which was, by definition, going to last forever. There was the British empire – nobody imagined it could come to an end. So why should one believe in any kind of permanence?”

Ms. Lessing's family moved to a farm in southern Rhodesia in 1925, an experience she described in the first part of her autobiography Under My Skin that was released in 1944.

Because of her criticism of the South African regime and its apartheid system, she was prohibited from entering the country between 1956 and 1995. Ms. Lessing, who was a member of the British Communist Party in the 1950s, had been active in campaigning against nuclear weapons.

The literature award was the fourth of this year's Nobel Prizes to be announced and one of the most hotly anticipated, given the sheer amount of guessing it generated in the weeks leading up to award.

On Wednesday, Gerhard Ertl of Germany won the prize in chemistry for studies of chemical reactions on solid surfaces, which are key to understanding such questions as why the ozone layer is thinning.

On Tuesday, France's Albert Fert and Germany's Peter Gruenberg won the physics award for discovering a phenomenon that lets computers and digital music players store reams of data on ever-shrinking hard disks.

On Monday, Americans Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies and Briton Sir Martin Evans, won the prize in medicine for groundbreaking discoveries that led to a powerful technique for manipulating mouse genes.

Prizes for peace and economics will be announced through Oct. 15.

The awards – each worth 10-million Swedish kroner, ($1.5-million Canadian) – will be handed out by Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

The Legend Continues

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

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
(out of 4)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Rating: Everyone
Price: $39.99

(October 13, 2007)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is an adventure game about magic and sword fights and dungeons full of fierce monsters. It is also one of the most sweet-tempered games ever released. It is almost always charming, and on those rare occasions when it is not charming, it is cracking a joke. Anyone who dislikes this game is sour.

Like all the Zelda games, this one stars a little elf named Link, who dresses like Robin Hood and is brave beyond his years. As the action begins, we have just come to the end of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which was a big hit on the GameCube. Link and Princess Zelda are sailing on a pirate ship, minding their own business, when a ghost ship pulls up alongside and takes Zelda away. In the ensuing flap, Link falls overboard.

He wakes up on an island, where he meets a friendly fairy who promises to help him find Zelda. He explores the local village and learns his best hope is to team up with a sailor. So, after a few errands, which give him a chance to learn how to use a sword, he and Captain Linebeck are out in the open water, aboard Linebeck's boat.

The plot and the setting, and much of the play mechanics themselves, are boilerplate Zelda. The first few encounters with monsters are easy but thrilling, and the first few puzzles are also easy but thrilling. Link must find keys that open great oak doors – to find the keys he must pull the right switches in the right order. Or he must kill the rat that is running around with a key in its mouth. Or he must figure out where all the torches are. Sometimes the puzzle challenges involve logic, sometimes it's a twitchy tests of reflexes, and sometimes they require a photographic memory.

The lucky news for people without photographic memories is that the game allows us to scribble notes on our maps.

So if we have to shake a big tree later on, we can scratch a big "X" on it to help us remember. If a sign gives us cryptic advice, we can keep staring at its words even when we are miles away.

It's a clever use of the DS interface, and it somehow makes the whole business feel more like actually following a treasure map. In real life, if we were a magic elf, we would totally scribble our notes just like this.

The game's real triumph is in the play controls. We use the stylus to move Link around. To make him spin in a circle with his sword out, we just draw quick circles around him. To slash at a monster, we draw quick lines separating the elf from the beast. To launch a precision strike, we simply tap the monster. It is astonishing how quickly it comes to feel like second nature.

We have never played a game with this control scheme, but within moments we realize we never want to go back to joysticks and buttons. It is a delight.

The adventure itself is fun and light-hearted. Captain Linebeck is a coward and a moron, and there is much pleasure in making him look bad. The fairy is relentlessly upbeat. The monsters are all a bit Muppety.

Link doesn't even have a nose – that's how light-hearted the thing is.

'Women In Hollywood' Honoured

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Cidoni, Associated Press

(October 16, 2007) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Some of Hollywood's leading ladies gathered Monday at a magazine ceremony marking the achievements of six actresses and a director.

Guests at
Elle magazine's annual “Women in Hollywood” celebration Monday night included 14-year-old acting newcomer Keke Palmer and 82-year-old screen legend Lauren Bacall.

“It's great that the focus is on women, who are functioning, who are all working, who are productive,” Bacall told The Associated Press. “I've always been in favour of that, and I've always known that women are capable of going as high as they want to go.”

The seven honourees were: director Julie Taymor ( Across the Universe), and actresses Bacall, Diane Lane ( Unfaithful), Kate Bosworth ( Superman Returns), Jennifer Connelly ( A Beautiful Mind), Amy Adams ( Junebug) and Scarlett Johansson ( Lost in Translation).

“There's this idea (Hollywood) is this deep, dark place. In reality, I think that it's a reflection of society in general,” said Johansson, 22, when asked how she has avoided running into the kind of trouble that has hit Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

Like Johansson, Diane Lane, 41, started her career early on (as a teen in 1979's A Little Romance). Over the decades, she has seen improvements for Hollywood women of all ages, she said.

“There's a lot more opportunity for young women, and that's great, and I like to think that I was there to help pave a few stones,” Lane said. “It's wonderful to have all the different stages of a woman's life acknowledged and appreciated.”

Each honouree, perhaps not coincidentally, has at least one major movie coming soon. Amy Adams has two: the Disney romance Enchanted and the action-drama Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. She said both films are spoils of her 2005 Oscar nomination for Junebug.

“The opportunities that it presented are really fantastic,” she said of the Oscar experience.

The honourees are profiled in November's Elle magazine.

Ondaatje, Vassanji Top GG's Short List

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(October 16, 2007) Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and M.G. Vassanji are among the acclaimed writers in the running for this year's
Governor General's Literary Awards.

Ondaatje and Vassanji, both based in Toronto, are having a particularly good month. Their inclusion on the Governor General's fiction short list comes on the heels of being named finalists last week for the lucrative
Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Ondaatje's novel is called Divisadero while Vassanji's is The Assassin's Song.

Rounding out the Governor General's fiction short list is David Chariandy of Vancouver for Soucouyant, Toronto's Barbara Gowdy for Helpless and Montrealer Heather O'Neill for Lullabies for Little Criminals.

Atwood, meanwhile, is up for a poetry prize for her volume The Door: Poems. Her competitors include Dennis Lee, who is probably best known for his poem Alligator Pie.

Among the non-fiction nominees is Globe and Mail journalist Stephanie Nolen, who received a nod for her book 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa.

Eva Wiseman of Winnipeg, meanwhile, was shortlisted in the children's literature category for Kanada. The honour comes the day after the book won the $1,000 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

This year's Governor General's Literary Awards are worth $25,000, up from $15,000. The increase is intended to celebrate of the Canada Council's 50th anniversary.

The winners will be announced Nov. 27.

English language Governor General’s Literary Awards finalists

- David Chariandy, Vancouver, “Soucouyant”
- Barbara Gowdy, Toronto, “Helpless”
- Michael Ondaatje, Toronto, “Divisadero”
- Heather O’Neill, Montreal, “Lullabies for Little Criminals”
- M.G. Vassanji, Toronto, “The Assassin’s Song”

- Margaret Atwood, Toronto, “The Door: Poems”
- Don Domanski, Halifax, “All Our Wonder Unavenged”
- Brian Henderson, Kitchener, Ont., “Nerve Language”
- Dennis Lee, Toronto, “Yesno: Poems”
- Rob Winger, Ottawa, “Muybridge’s Horse: A Poem in Three Phases”

- Salvatore Antonio, Markham, Ont., “In Gabriel’s Kitchen”
- Anosh Irani, Vancouver, “The Bombay Plays: The Matka King and Bombay Black”
- Rosa Laborde, Toronto, “Leo”
- Colleen Murphy, Toronto, “The December Man”
- Morris Panych, Vancouver, “What Lies Before Us”

- Rodrigo Bascunan and Christian Pearce, Toronto, “Enter the Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent”
- John English, Kitchener, Ont., “Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Volume One: 1919-1968”
- Stephanie Nolen, Johannesburg, South Africa (formerly of Montreal), “28: Stories of AIDS in Africa”
- Karolyn Smardz Frost, Collingwood, Ont., “I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad”
- Bridget Stutchbury, Woodbridge, Ont., “Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World’s Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them”

Children’s Literature, Text
- Hugh Brewster, Toronto, “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose: The Story of a Painting”
- Christopher Paul Curtis, Windsor, Ont., “Elijah of Buxton”
- Iain Lawrence, Gabriola Island, B.C., “Gemini Summer”
- John Wilson, Lantzville. B.C., “The Alchemist’s Dream”
- Eva Wiseman, Winnipeg, “Kanada”

Children’s Literature, Illustration
- Wallace Edwards, Yarker Ont., “The Painted Circus”
- Joanne Fitzgerald, Orton, Ont., “The Blue Hippopotamus,” text by Phoebe Gilman based on a story by Joan Grant
- Jirina Marton, Toronto, “Marja’s Skis,” text by Jean E. Pendziwol
- Dusan Petricic, Toronto, “My New Shirt,” text by Cary Fagan
- Duncan Weller, Thunder Bay, Ont., “The Boy from the Sun”

Translation (from French to English)
- Sheila Fischman, Montreal, “My Sister’s Blue Eyes”
- Robert Majzels, Calgary, and Erin Moure, Montreal, for ``Notebook of Roses and Civilization”
- Rhonda Mullins, Montreal, “The Decline of the Hollywood Empire
- John Murrell, Calgary, “Carole Frechette: Two Plays: John and Beatrice; Helen’s Necklace”
- Nigel Spencer, Sherbrooke, Que., “Augustino and the Choir of Destruction”

Click here for a complete list of nominees.


Quebec Artist Wins Sobey Award

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(October 16, 2007) HALIFAX — Quebec artist
Michel de Broin is the 2007 winner of the $50,000 Sobey Art Award. De Broin, 37, lives and works in Montreal and Berlin. He is represented by Galerie Pierre-Francois Ouellette Art Contemporain and was selected from among five shortlisted candidates from across Canada. The jury panel for the award says de Broin's work “raises questions of the body and society while engaging sculptural tradition.” The panel describes it as “highly individual, inventive and original.” The Sobey Art award, announced Monday in Halifax, goes to contemporary artists under 40 years of age who have shown work in a public of commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated.


Concert Only Begins To Honour Bradshaw

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(October 12, 2007) The
Canadian Opera Company yesterday announced it will hold a special free concert on Nov. 1 in memory of its late general director, Richard Bradshaw, featuring the COC orchestra he led along with vocal stars Russell Braun, Adrianne Pieczonka, Robert Gleadow, Joni Henson, Robert Pomakov and Krisztina Szabo and others.

Tickets will be available in person only at the Four Seasons Centre box office starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. And the chances are that if you show up at 8:30 a.m. that day, you'll be out of luck.

It should be a great occasion, which should provide at least a partial answer to a question that seems to have bewildered the institution he shaped and prodded.

The question: how should the COC honour the memory of this great man, whose shockingly sudden death has left a huge hole in the Canadian arts community?

That is just one of a bewildering set of problems the leader-less opera company is trying to cope with.

Last week, when the company opened its season, planned in detail by Bradshaw, the curtain went up on The Marriage of Figaro right on time, as if nothing had happened. There were no speeches, no acknowledgment that something major had happened.

The rationale was that Bradshaw would not have wanted any tribute; he would have been impatient to get on with the show.

But many of us in the audience felt queasy about opening Bradshaw's season in the opera house that Bradshaw built without a word about our loss. Surely someone could have taken the stage and said something brief before Mozart's overture.

Tonight, when Verdi's Don Carlos opens, Bradshaw's absence will be even more strongly felt, because this was one of his pet projects, and because this would have been the first night this season that the exuberant maestro was in the pit.

This is rare for Toronto, but in Bradshaw's case, the public has a need to mourn, honour and celebrate the man who showed us that opera can be a thrill-ride, and dared us to help him realize the dream of building an opera house.

It's classy that the COC is not using the Nov. 1 concert as a fundraising vehicle, even though it still needs to raise another $10 million to pay off its building. But since there is one performance only and a mere 2,000 tickets, this event cannot satisfy the city's appetite. Few of the 17,000 opera subscribers will be there.

What about long-term recognition? There is, of course, the space in the building that is named the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. But already there is a move afoot for a gift to last.

Barney Danson, once a federal cabinet minister in the Trudeau era, is quietly exploring the idea of commissioning a bronze bust to be placed in the lobby of the Four Seasons – and raising the money for it.

"A lot of people who feel we owe him so much would want to contribute," says Danson, a huge admirer of Bradshaw.

Whether the COC board would approve remains to be seen. But personally, it would make me feel better walking into that place and feeling gloomy about the giant who doesn't live there any more.

A Gay Old Time Sure Isn't What It Used To Be

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(October 13, 2007) NEW YORK–On a summer night 32 years ago, I sat watching
The Ritz on Broadway and laughed 'til tears streamed down my face.

Earlier this week, I caught the revival of the same play that the Roundabout Theatre is presenting at Studio 54.

There were still moments when I laughed uproariously, but more often I sat there merely smiling – and a lot of the time I was thinking, "What had caused the change? Was it me? The play? The production? Or the 32 years in between?"

The answer is probably "all of the above."

A farce set in a gay bathhouse where the hero is hiding from a trash-talking Mafioso was probably a lot funnier before two things: AIDS and The Sopranos.

Back in 1975, there wasn't an STD that couldn't be cured with some sort of antibiotic and even though The Godfather films had kept the Cosa Nostra firmly in our minds, it always seemed like they were in a mythical kingdom, not our own backyard.

But then men started dying from a mysterious virus that wound up killing millions of people. And although AIDS's fingerprint on the North American landscape isn't as strong as its once was, the rest of the globe is now suffering as well.

(You think all of that is a thing of the past? Some studies estimate at least 40 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV/AIDS.)

And on the Mafia front, well, once we all welcomed Tony Soprano and his world into our homes for six seasons and witnessed the darkly amoral landscape they inhabited, it got a bit harder to laugh at cartoon goombahs as they made deathbed demands to rub out their son-in-law.

The intervening years have also made the whole world more gay-savvy (Will & Grace, anyone?) and while it once may have been enough to pronounce the phrase "chubby chaser" to bring down the house, it now takes a little more imagination.

I'm willing to bet director Joe Mantello, who staged this revival, was aware of all these problems, because he's compensated by pulling lots of rabbits out of his capacious theatrical hat.

The "talent show" staged in this bathhouse as a climax to Act II is now full of hysterical tips of the hat to Broadway favourites from the 1970s and, until you've seen one frantic actor play the entire chorus of white-gloved hands that opened Pippin, singing "Magic to Do," you haven't lived.

Rosie Perez is also deliciously toxic as the Spanglish spitfire, Googie Gomez, who complains about never getting to play "one of the f---king Trapp kids" in The Sound of Music as she fights a never-ending battle with one of her shoes.

And the final whammy of three mismatched guys dressed up like the Andrews Sisters still provides a substantial comic punch.

But when the script by Terrence McNally takes over, things get a lot slower and less glorious.

McNally has always admitted he was trying to write a classic Feydeau-styled farce, in which situations are carefully set up to allow for an ultimate explosive comic payoff.

But McNally must think we don't have the patience to wait for our laughs and so he fills the prep period with lots of gay banter that was fresh 35 years ago, but now seems like the kind of stuff Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes would have flung back at their writers with orders to make it snappier.

Yes, when the farcical plot machinations of The Ritz finally come together, with doors slamming and desperate people racing all over Scott Pask's stunning three-storey set, it provides a healthy dose of merriment.

But when the actors take their curtain call to the disco beat of "Last Dance," it seems more darkly ironic than lightly nostalgic.

Because for too much of the evening, the shadows of the past have stifled the laughter of the present.

Stratford Festival Snags Callow, Funding

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(October 12, 2007) The theatre gods were smiling on the
Stratford Festival yesterday.

Not only did the organization receive a welcome infusion of cash for a much-needed capital project, but one of the finest actors in the English-speaking world made certain his presence there next season.

The federal heritage department awarded a grant of $355,000 to the festival and
Simon Callow confirmed he would appear there in the world premiere of his latest show.

The federal contribution will enable Stratford to convert the old Army Navy building, adjacent to the Avon Theatre, into a fully equipped rehearsal hall able to handle musical theatre productions, which are being moved exclusively to the Avon as of next season.

Stratford purchased the structure in 2002 with just such a scheme in mind but needed the additional funding to proceed with its plans.

On the acting front, it had been previously announced that Callow would write a play for the festival, but his appearance in it next season wasn't a done deal until this week.

Called There Reigns Love, it takes a psychoanalytical look at Shakespeare's sonnets and, in Callow's words, "liberates the poems' meaning, laying bare an unparalleled history of obsessive love, perhaps the greatest account in literature of the devastating course of Eros."

Callow, best known to North American audiences for his film work in Shakespeare in Love and Four Weddings and a Funeral, will be directed by former artistic director Michael Langham. There Reigns Love gets an extremely limited run from July 11 through Aug. 3.

Stratford formalized the rest of the season's cast, most of which had been revealed before in the Star.

Highlights include Christopher Plummer and Anika Noni Rose in Caesar and Cleopatra, and Brian Dennehy in All's Well That Ends Well and a double bill of Hughie and Krapp's Last Tape. Ben Carlson is Hamlet, Evan Buliung and Irene Poole are in The Taming of the Shrew, Jonathan Goad and Leah Oster in The Music Man, Bruce Dow and Trish Lindstrom in Cabaret, Martha Henry in The Trojan Women, Yanna Mcintosh in Palmer Park and David Ferry in Moby Dick.

The season opens on May 26 with Des McAnuff's production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Gareth Potter and Nikki M. James.

Varied bill for Soulpepper's 10th Season

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

(October 17, 2007) After enriching the theatrical life of this city
immeasurably during the past nine years, Soulpepper Theatre Company plans to raise the bar higher with the 10th-anniversary season it announced yesterday.

The 13 productions include three revivals of previous successes and 10 new shows, ranging from Shakespeare and Congreve, to Lorraine Hansberry and Jean Anouilh.

Two fascinating casting duos highlight the season. Real-life mother and daughter Dawn Greenhalgh and Megan Follows appear as the combative parent-child duo in Marsha Norman's Pulitzer prize-winning drama 'night, Mother.

Albert Schultz and Diego Matamoros will play the slovenly Oscar and neurotic Felix in Neil Simon's hit comedy The Odd Couple.

Classical comedy continues with As You Like It, directed by Schultz, and The Way of the World (with the National Arts Centre of Ottawa), directed by Peter Hinton.

Some sophisticated modern works light up the program as well, with Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon, directed by Joseph Ziegler, and a double bill of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy, both staged by Jim Warren.

The dramatic side of the season comes to the fore with Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Weyni Mengesha and season opener David French's Salt Water Moon, with Ted Dykstra at the helm. Kenneth Welsh will appear in his one-man version of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood.

And the three revivals from previous Soulpepper seasons will be Uncle Vanya, directed by László Marton; Top Girls, directed by Alisa Palmer, and A Christmas Carol, directed by Michael Shamata.

Subscriptions go on sale Nov. 5. Call 416-866-8666.


Jamaica Is Seeing A Renewed Influx Of All-Inclusive Accommodations

Source: www.vacationaccess.com - By Melanie Reffes, Contributing Editor

(September 1, 2007)
Jamaica experienced a record-breaking year in 2006 with more than three million arrivals, including one million from the U.S. alone, but it’s not resting on its laurels. Last year roughly 1,000 new rooms were added to the island’s inventory, with another 1,200 planned for this year. Over the next five years, Jamaica expects to see another 15,000 rooms added. With arrival numbers soaring through the roof, it’s no wonder hotels are being built at lightning speed.

This year’s JAPEX, Jamaica’s annual tourism exchange meeting, featured a number of Spanish-owned all-inclusive chains that are currently building more rooms on the island. Collectively these properties represent the largest transformation in the history of the Jamaican tourism industry, with aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at attracting visitors from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Eastern Europe, as well as North America.

Most of these properties are concentrated along the island’s north coast, For example, the Riu group has two resorts in Negril - Club Riu and Riu Tropical Bay- and another in Ocho Rios.

In the town of Lucea, the Fiesta Hotel Group has broken ground on the first phase of its Grand Palladium resort, which will open at the end of the year.  In the Montego Freeport area, Fuerte Hotels is building two all-inclusive properties as part of the Secrets brand targeted to the adults-only market. Managed by AMResorts, the 350-suite properties will open in 2009. They represent the first foray into Jamaica for Fuerte, which already manages resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.  

Elsewhere, Iberostar in May opened the first of three resorts when the 350-room all-inclusive Iberostar Rose Hall Beach made its debut next to the Ritz Carlton Golf and Spa Resort in Montego Bay, about 20 minutes from the airport. The all-inclusive beachfront resort will be the company’s first property in Jamaica. Phase One, which cost $200 million, includes three restaurants, a cigar bar, infinity pool, an 800-seat theatre, and tennis courts. When complete, the $850 million project will add a total of 950 rooms to Rose Hall in Montego Bay. 

Further east along the coastline, the five-star all-inclusive Gran Bahia Principe near Runaway Bay opened earlier this year with nearly 600 rooms, seven restaurants, five bars, a disco and an amphitheatre. The Pinero Group complex known as Hotel Bahia Principe is scheduled for completion in 2009 with a total of 2,000 hotel rooms, making it the largest property on the island. “Apart from our size, our stand-out feature is the way we target families by not separating adults and kids as they do in other all-inclusive resorts,” says Vanessa Cardoso da Silva, sales manager for the resort. 

The Spanish chains aside, indigenous growth is also occurring in most of Jamaica’s individual properties and major resort chains. For example, Half Moon in Rose Hall introduced a new spa earlier this summer. Costing $4 million, the project has transformed the resort’s signature villa, Fern Tree House, into a 68,000-square-foot sanctuary for the mind and body. Guests at Half Moon can get more than $1,000 in credits when booking the Summer Break Villas package valid through Dec. 15. 

Also in Rose Hall, the Palmyra Resort & Spa is the island’s first luxury beachfront residential community, sitting on 16 acres of pristine waterfront. The Sabal Palm and Silver Palm buildings, the development’s first phase, will open later this year. Nearby is The Shoppes at Rose Hall, a new, $600 million shopping complex with a diverse mix of stores from luxury to duty-free as well as several gourmet restaurants.  

Jamaica’s two all-inclusive powerhouses—SuperClubs and Sandals—also aren’t resting on their laurels when it comes to expansion. SuperClubs this year unveiled plans for its second Rooms resort. Located in the former Negril Inn on the famed seven-mile beach, the renovated property will open on Dec. 15 with 70 rooms, including family suites, a pool, hot tub, restaurant, gym and conference facilities.

“Since launching our first Rooms in Ocho Rios, we have been actively looking for additional opportunities to expand this affiliate brand,” says John Issa, SuperClubs’ executive chairman. “The central tenet is to broaden the hospitality options by proving a convenient base for independent travelers looking for affordable getaways.” The new Rooms will operate on a Continental Plan (breakfast included) and will market to singles, couples and families. 

In other Super Club news, after a $20 million facelift, Breezes Runaway Bay reopened earlier this year with a new low-rise 30-room block facing the western beach, which was the clothing-optional beach prior to renovations. The major overhaul also included expanded veranda suites with plunge pools, wireless Internet in all rooms, new restaurants, two freshwater swimming pools, wedding gazebos and a revamped spa. To celebrate the reopening, the resort is offering 30 percent off rack rates starting at $183 per person.

Jumping on the “mancations” bandwagon, Breezes Runaway Bay recently introduced a “Halftime with the Guys” package, starting at $999 per person for a four-night stay, The package includes ATV off-road lessons through the jungles of Ocho Rios, golfing at the resort’s 18-hole course, sampling Jamaican cigars, a tour of the Appleton rum factory and passes to neighbouring Hedonism 3 for late-night entertainment. All-inclusive rates are based on double-occupancy and a three-room group booking. 

Next door to Breezes in Runaway Bay, FDR Resorts is offering free nights for families staying at either Franklyn D. Resort & Spa or the Pebbles Resort. Guests who arrive through Dec. 20 and book a minimum of five nights get one night free. For those planning a wedding at the resort and traveling with 10 or more adults, the “Honeymoon on the House” package includes a free stay for the newlyweds in an oceanfront two-bedroom honeymoon suite. 

For its part, Sandals is upgrading and refurbishing most of its resorts in Jamaica, even those that are fairly new. On the island’s unspoiled south coast, the European Village at Sandals Whitehouse unveiled its first Fine Arts Gallery for those interested in enhancing more than their tan. Live art auctions and art enrichment lectures are offered to guests. Ten new St. James River Suites debuted in April at Sandals Royal Caribbean. At Sandals Negril, 25 River Suites opened June 15 in two categories, including the Penthouse Ocean’s Edge, a one-bedroom suite with a 42-inch plasma TV screen. Suites in both properties include four-poster mahogany beds, spacious bathrooms with hot tubs, and a pantry where a dedicated butler can stock the room with snacks and drinks.

Sandals Montego Bay, the original Sandals property, now features a new portfolio of suites that evoke Jamaica during the glamorous 1950s. Designed by Edward Durrell Stone, who also created Radio City Music Hall and the Museum of Modern Art, the Bay Roc hotel was once the tropical playground of the fabulously wealthy. “When [Sandals Chairman] Butch Stewart first purchased the Bay Roc in 1981, many of the cottages were unavailable to us since they were still privately owned,” says Horace Peterkin, general manager. “We’ve finally been able to acquire this enclave of cottages and have refurbished them to deliver the level of luxury that guests of Sandals have come to enjoy.”

Sandals Montego Bay’s Bay Roc Villas are available in eight categories, with the top two offering butler service and VIP airport transfers. Two Prime Ministers suites set the gold-standard for luxury with a sprawling sundeck, grand bedrooms and marble walk-in showers. The six Presidential suites sit on a stretch of shoreline with stone patios nestled on private lawns. “After you spend time in these villas, you can almost feel what travel was like in the heyday of the 1950s,” Peterkin says. 


Parker Shooting To Rebound For Opener

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

(October 16, 2007) A slow start to an NBA pre-season is nothing unusual for
Anthony Parker, who is not alarmed by his lack of production through the first three games.

His coach won't get too upset, either, but there will come a time when the
Raptors' starting shooting guard will have to produce as he did last season.

Parker, one of three incumbent starters for the Raps, was a non-factor in a trio of European exhibition games. But history suggests that is not going to have an impact on how he starts the regular season.

"Right now I'm not overly concerned, because he was like this last year and we know how he started," Mitchell said yesterday of Parker. "We have a track record with Anthony."

In games against the Boston Celtics and two European club teams, Parker was the forgotten man on offence. In 67 minutes covering those three games, the 6-foot-6 Parker took only 12 shots, making five. He was just 1-for-4 from three-point range and got to the foul line for only two shots – hardly the kind of production the Raptors need from the 32-year-old.

"I just have to make a concerted effort to move around and get into open spaces a little more, just be more aggressive," said Parker.

Parker's production last season far surpassed what he has done thus far. In 73 starts, he averaged 12.4 points – third best on the team behind Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford – and 33.4 minutes per game. He was a 44.1 per cent shooter from three-point range, the beneficiary of a Toronto offence built around outside shooting.

"You'd like to see them all playing at a certain level, but the most important thing is that they're there by opening night," said Mitchell.

One thing that may be hampering Parker is unfamiliarity with some of his starting teammates. Andrea Bargnani takes up much more space on the perimeter than Rasho Nesterovic ever did, and the revolving door at small forward makes it difficult for a shooting guard to get comfortable.

Parker downplays the Bargnani factor, but watching them each try to find enough space behind the three-point line in the few minutes they've been on the court together does lend some credence to the point.

"I don't think it clogs it up," said Parker. "We just have to have our spacing and understand what each other's roles are."

The one part of Parker's game that hasn't suffered is his defence. He remains a solid one-on-one defender and, like the rest of his teammates, is making an effort to improve his rebounding. He averaged 3.9 boards per game last season but needs to improve that number to increase his impact on the court.

"(I have to) just try to make a more concerted effort to get in there and rebound, both offensively and defensively," he said. "It's tough because you don't want to give up fast-break points by trying to get rebounds.

"But that's something we all, as a team, make an effort to do."

Wendel Clark - Post-Game Bodycheck

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Nancy J. White, Living Reporter

(October 16, 2007) You'll never see
Wendel Clark on a mountain bike or jogging down a country lane. For that matter, you'll rarely catch him in his home gym.

"I hate working out," confesses the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain who retired in 2000.

But you may well spot him on a tractor or up a ladder, at his farm. And you'll likely find "Captain Crunch," not known for his on-ice gentility, toting a cup of green tea – part of his health regimen.

The hard-charging winger's advice? "Everything in moderation."

Retirement can change a guy's perspective, especially after years of gruelling games and battered body parts.

"There's not a lot of research on what happens to athletes physiologically following their careers," says Tim Taha, lecturer in exercise physiology at the University of Toronto. "They train very hard then suddenly stop."

They, like the rest of us mere mortals, must squeeze exercise into busy schedules, spur themselves on without teammate camaraderie and, no longer burning thousands of calories, cut back their diets.

But a retiring professional athlete has spent most of his or her life in top physical shape. "It's part of who they are," says Paul Dennis, player development coach with the Maple Leafs. "To put on extra weight, feel lethargic and not good about yourself – they're not used to that. To lose their fitness would be a real culture shock."

With the puck in play on a new hockey season, three former National Hockey Leaguers talk about staying fit after the final horn blows.

Casually dressed, Wendel Clark sits in an Air Canada Centre hallway before a promotional event. Always a fan favourite, Clark, 41, now does public relations work for his former team as well as for some corporations and charities.

"I'm at about 200 functions a year," he says. "I've had rubber chicken dinner every way you can cook it."

Dinner is his main meal. Actually, his only meal. He tries to avoid breakfast and lunch to keep his weight down. Then he eats what he wants in the evening.

"I know I do the opposite of what nutrition books tell you. But I do what my body reacts well to doing."

Fifteen years of aggressive pro-hockey took a bodily toll. Clark ticks off enough injuries to fill a medical textbook – two broken feet, two broken knees, separated shoulder, back problems, neck wear and tear, concussions, two broken hands.

"If I'm too heavy, everything flares up," says Clark, who played at 200 pounds and now keeps his weight below 215.

Although he skips meals, he drinks a lot of straight green tea – touted for such health benefits as cancer and heart disease prevention. He takes a liquid general vitamin supplement and one for joint protection.

His father has Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, a neurological disorder that can lead to muscle weakness and wasting, and Clark carries the gene. For that, "the less weight I carry, the better," says Clark.

He doesn't keep to a rigid routine on his home gym equipment. Rather, Clark, who grew up on a Saskatchewan grain and cattle farm, prefers the physical labour of maintaining his 40 acres north of Toronto, where he lives with his wife and three children. He also plays 40 to 50 rounds of golf a summer, he says.

But no hockey. "My body doesn't like hockey much. It's the reason I retired at 33. My body said, enough. I was 33 going on 63."

And now?

He laughs. Some days 33. Some days 63.

"Moderation is now the big word," he says, heading off to sign autographs.