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October 25, 2007

Lots of Halloween happenings around town this weekend so watch out for those not so little goblins out there! 

And look who's starring with Halle Berry in her new film
Things We Lost In the Fire as her son, Micah Berry, Toronto's own Ivan Berry's son!  Check out under FILM NEWS and look for some pictures. 

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



Jill Scott Gets Real

Source:  Universal Music Canada

On the heels of a successful box office movie ‘Why Did I Get Married’ and a new CD project entitled
The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3 Jill Scott proves that she's hasn't missed a beat. Jill Scott is big on collaborations and her new album is no exception. Leroy Hutson, for example, co-wrote four of the tracks, while Adam Blackstone, Andre Harris, and Vidal Davis also pitch in on songwriting duties. But this is still Scott's show, a fact verified by her powerful, often smouldering vocal performances on every track of the album.



Source:  www.jillscott.com

She is an artist with an abiding, deep commitment to lyrical honesty and musical integrity. Simply put, if Jill Scott feels it, she writes and sings it. While vivid imagery, metaphor and analogy are her stock in trade, there’s no pretense, no hiding. She’s upfront, in-your-face always real, using her own distinctive poetry to breathe life into words, digging inside to bring forth the accompanying emotion. It is that authenticity that has endeared Jill Scott to everyday music buyers who hear what she’s saying through her music and respond according. Folks who know the rough and tumble of life, love right, love wrong, passion misspent, passion fulfilled, lonely nights and empty days and everything in between declare, ‘Yeah, girl!,’ ‘Go ‘head on!’ and ‘I feel ya’. And in the tradition of the four albums that precede it, The Real Thing is another cause for celebration for those who live for the real.

Commenting on her latest, much-awaited Hidden Beach CD – which features production work by Scott Storch (DMX, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ja Rule), Jill’s musical director Adam Blackstone (The Roots), Carvin “Ransum” Haggins & Ivan “Orthodox” Barias (Musiq, Chris Brown, Mario) and JR Hutson among others – Jill says, “I thought the last album (2004’s Grammy-winning “Beautifully Human,” Words & Sounds, Vol. 2) was more peaceful, an affirmation… On the new record, I feel aggressive about what I want, need and desire and you can hear it in my vocal choices, in the tracks. I’d say in a way, it is a sequel to “Beautifully Human” but it’s grittier, sassier than the last one. I’m feeling gutsier, I’m feeling much more bold, free. In many ways, it’s closer to my first album. My original concept was to show different women – you know, like the housekeeper, the stripper, the congresswoman - but as I started writing and recording, I started taking on all these characters. I put myself in each woman’s place…and found that it became more about me, all of it, with the envy, the anger, the frustration, the loneliness, the joy, the passion and the rapture.
And that’s what makes it juicy…”

Juicy, indeed. The first single, “Hate On Me” (one of the FILL IN NUMBER ON
ALBUM cuts Jill wrote for the album), with its powerhouse production is edgy, intense, exemplifying the kind of work for which Jill is known. “I’m reminded of the biblical scripture, ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper.’ I realized that there are people who are gonna be haters. That never affected me until I started noticing it, seeing that there were people…family, friends…who were angry to see me revealing my blessings, wishing they were me. I had to let go of some people in my life because of that. It’s been healing for me to say I’m still gonna be me, to say to those people, ‘go right ahead, whatever you say won’t change my destiny.’ We spend too much time ‘hating’ the hater. If I’m mean to shine and glow, I will. That’s what the song is saying…”

Jill – who has her first major starring role in Tyler Perry’s fall 2007 “Why Did I Get Married?” movie – agrees that many of the tracks on THE REAL THING have an autobiographical ring.
The smooth’n’mellow “Wanna Be Loved” is an example: “I want to be appreciated, liked for who I am, respected. The song reflects that aching yearning I have to be loved and I know that’s what all people want…” The midnight love-flavored slow jam “All I” is about “being in a lonely marriage. There has to be a level of passion in a relationship. As a wife, you can become the
‘good girl’ and your love life can get really repetitive, sex can be very clinical. I’m saying [inside a marriage] I can still be your ‘nasty’ baby…”

Never one to shy away from truth, “Just A Song” is straight up, no-holds-barred honesty. “That’s a difficult one for me because the track was produced by my then-about-to-be-ex-husband. I got insanely honest when I recorded it. Everything that has gone on with us from my perspective in is in there. It’s hard for me to listen to it. I did the best I could to write in images but there’s some anger in there. It hurts to hear it and I know it hurt him when he heard it. But if you deal with an artist, the good, the bad and the ugly is going to come out in the music. I do feel a sense of responsibility: I don’t believe that words that get me up in the middle of the night are meant to be hidden – it’s an artist’s duty to share and affirm, to celebrate every human condition. I’m a writer, that’s what I do and I want the people who hear “Just A Song” to listen to what it is I’m saying, to feel the intensity in every line…”

Jill’s “Come See Me” evokes lyrical comparisons with Marvin Gaye’s classic “Distant Lover” from his “Let’s Get It On” LP which – much like THE REAL THING – dealt with topics of fire and desire, joy and pain. The soulful poetess accepts the comparison gladly (“I love the way Marvin was willing to look at his life”) noting, “My song is about distance, about being far away from someone who gives you great pleasure. It’s almost like a plea. I love the line that says ‘I know it’s hard over there’ because it has more than one meaning! I write stories where some things are clear…and some you don’t get until the fifteenth listen!”

Ever provocative, Jill uses “How It Make You Feel” (CHECK CORRECT SPELLING) to pose a thoughtful if jarring question: “What if,” she asks, “every black female disappeared? That’s a question to the world but particularly to black men. I love to talk to my brothers, not at them not to them. Think about it…how would it be if black women vanished tomorrow?” Expressing female bravado is yet another ingredient in this multi-faceted artist’s musical palette and two songs come to mind. The rock-oriented title track, like the interlude “Breathe” are what Jill terms “crotch-holding songs! With ‘The Real Thing,’ I’m like smellin’ myself…and ‘Breathe’ reminds me of the storytellers in rap and hip-hop, LL, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nas so it’s like I’m going to be cocky right now!”

Erotic love, the reality of sex and sensual satisfaction form the basis for a number of cuts and memorable interludes that have been an integral part of Jill’s recorded work since her groundbreaking 2000’s “Who Is Jill Scott?” Words & Sounds Vol. 1, which earned Jill four Grammy nominations, including a Best New Artist nomination. With its Southern hip-hop feel, “Do It Babe” (featuring Slim) is “a request to keep it up, the keep the intensity you had before, to rock with that.” The highly-charged, heavily percussive “Epiphany” is, Jill says, “explicit without being vulgar. The tricky thing about sex is that it’s so explosive physically and everything seems right at the time but the moment – and I mean the moment – after, you’re left with a longing…especially if you want more, like I do!” Equally explicit: “Crown Royal On Ice” which Jill declares is her “favorite piece of writing on the album. In R&B, sometimes people just say things just to be sexual or to be nasty but they’re not necessarily poetic. . I wrote this as one consistent stream of consciousness, as one sentence. There are harsh words, soft words, lots and lots of images…”

On the same tip, “Celibacy Blues” – reminiscent of the jazz style of the late, great Billie Holiday (whose “God Bless The Child” was one of the highpoints of 2006’s Al Jarreau/George Benson project “Givin’ It Up” and a featured cut on “Collaborations,” Jill’s 2007 collection of tracks on which she’s appeared as a guest artist and recorded with others) – was inspired by a year-long self-imposed period of sexual abstinence that Jill experienced. “I had my feelings hurt and I said, ‘just let me pull back and focus on myself.’ I know a lot of women who did that and they go to God, they become celibate, they want to wipe all that hurt away. But it’s hard. I know we are sexual beings but that’s not to say you have to act on every urge. Personally, I need that chemical, spiritual connection [from sex] and I prefer it with someone I love. During the time I was celibate, it was blue, a lot of mind over matter where I had to stay away from situations that I could get in that were trouble…” With its cosmic, futuristic sound, “Imagination” is “part of the celibacy thing,” Jill explains, “what it would be like, he most lovely love-making I could imagine where we’re not controlling ourselves, we’re on a wave. It’s just ‘wow’…you know, I don’t want to bite your face off but I appreciate the raw passion…”

And, indeed, passion as expressed through her music has been the essence of what has made Jill Scott one of the most important artists of the new millennium. The North Philly native became part of the international music consciousness with the release of “Who Is Jill Scott?” Words & Sounds Vol. 1, which achieved double-platinum status and earned her NAACP Image Awards, trophies from both Billboard and Soul Train and the honor of sharing the stage with Aretha Franklin for VH1’s Divas Live. She graced magazine covers (and was voted among People’s 50 Most Beautiful for 2001), contributed editorials and blessed the national television stages of Oprah, David Letterman, Jay Leno and “The View.” After touring the world, she released a real, live album with some new cuts, 2001’s “Experience: Jill Scott 826+” which spawned the Grammy-nominated “A Long Walk.”

During the ensuing three years, Jill stayed busy, touring consistently, directing a video for Hidden Beach labelmate, trombonist Jeff Bradshaw, appearing on “Sesame Street” in celebration of its 33rd year. Her original compositions were featured on the soundtracks for “Brown Sugar,” “Rush Hour 2,” “Down to Earth,” “Kingdom Come” and the “Red Star Sounds” compilation. Jill made her primetime sitcom debut with a four-episode run on UPN’s “Girlfriends,” starred in Showtime’s “Cave Dwellers” and crafted a book of poetry, entitled simply, “The Minutes, The Moments, The Hours” (St. Martin Press). Reflecting on her accomplishment-filled career, she says, “Honestly, I didn’t expect anything when I did my first record. I just hoped and so far I am floored with the things. I’ve been able to do as a writer and vocalist. I’ve learned a lot…”

With the 2004 release of “Beautifully Human,” Words & Sounds, Vol. 2), Jill experienced a continuation of the acceptance and recognition she enjoyed with her first two albums; the anthemic standout cut “Golden” reflected her life experience, “After taking time off, I felt like I was just living my life like it was golden – it was as if I could polish it, like I could walk past a mirror and just marvel at it. So when I heard the track for the first time, the words just came to me and all I could do was just write them down.” The album was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Album and won the Best Urban/Alternative Performance Grammy for the single “Cross My Mind.”

After another stint on the road, Jill began working on THE REAL THING in 2006, stopping during the procees to appear in the Dakota Fanning movie “Hounddog,” in which she plays Big Momma Thornton, the artist who originally sang the Elvis Presley hit. “I’m normally on the road for a year and a half at a time and in between recording projects, I like to live so I have something to talk about. I might be gardening, clubbing real hard…and then when I feel the juice, the force telling me it’s time to record, I do that. I’m fortunate to be with a record label that understands my creative process. I started at the beginning of 2006 and I declared I was done in June 2007.”

THE REAL THING is filled with impactful cuts that will resonate with Jill’s loyal existing audience – and beyond. There’s “I Don’t Know” which Jill describes as a song based on “seeing someone and being blown away by them, not knowing why you connect with them but you do.”

The real life experience of “being the woman and being the ‘other woman,’ feeling extreme pain and extreme happiness” is expressed with “My Love.” A lament for a man who’s ‘disappeared’ “Insomnia” is a song Jill wrote “when I was around twenty, when I was feeling that kind of desperate, sad longing you feel for someone that you can’t get out of your head”; while “Whenever You’re Around” is an ode to “the loneliness that can exist inside of a marriage which is the worst kind, when stay in a marriage for the sake of staying there.”

Summing it all up, “Let It Be” is “for the critics. I say, whatever it is, let it be that, if it’s be-bop, hip-hop, if I stretch my wings and sing country, don’t say I’m an R&B singer singing country, say I’m a singer, period. The great artist Salvador Dali one of my favorites and you could watching his life change as you saw his art. That’s how I feel about my music. It’s an evolution.”

While the consistent theme of Jill’s latest work centers on relationships, she’s says, “I’m not oblivious to the realities of what’s going on in the world. I just felt it necessary to delve into some other things with this record and create a connection with people. What makes this record any different? Well, it’s me, sexy, harsh, simple…and growing.” Indeed, indeed.


Jully Black: Making Her Own Destiny

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

(October 21, 2007) After the pre-dawn wake-up call, morning radio is typically a cakewalk for pop artists: a few minutes of frivolous banter with perky announcers who spin snippets from their latest disc and help them chat it up.

That was pretty much the start of
Jully Black's recent Tuesday – when her sophomore disc Revival went on sale.

The morning after the CD release at Supermarket, she was up at 6 a.m. and live on 99.9 Mix FM by 8:03 waxing irreverent with hosts Mad Dog and Billie.

Black was chock full o' zingers, along the lines of this revelation about the hunky co-star in the video for her new album's lead single, a remake of Etta James' "Seven Day Fool:" "Good thing his breath didn't stink, he got real close."

Half an hour later, she strode down the halls of Standard Radio's headquarters to 1010 CFRB for an interview on The Bill Carroll Show.

That's when things took an interesting turn.

Black, 29, who stands 5' 11," has an Amazonian bearing, bolstered by a formidable handshake and brash, ‘round the way girl demeanour.

Clad in sunglasses, a grey knit dress, matching boots and purple tights, she took a seat opposite the provocative news-talk jock, BlackBerry in one palm, chamomile tea in the other. Carroll opened with the revelation that he initially balked at having her on the show, because hers was "not really the kind of music I listen to," but acquiesced after hearing the album.

Black smiled indulgently.

Then the host wanted to know why the singer's current bio identifies her as being from Toronto, instead of the Jane St.-Finch Ave. area where she grew up.

If Black, who now resides in Markham, was taken aback, she didn't show it, retorting instead that she's going to start denoting her origins as Mount Sinai – the hospital where she was born.

Everybody laughed. But Carroll stuck with the `girl from the hood' theme. "Our family came from Scotland, we were poor, but not as poor as you were," he said.

Black's exasperation was palpable. Her divorced mother, she patiently explained, made a decent living at General Motors, but with nine children, they pinched pennies, without ever going hungry.

"I think everyone should buy a place in the 'hood and raise kids there and let them appreciate what they have. When I went to Bangladesh a few years ago I realized that Jane-Finch was like Bel-Air."

The conversation finally turned to music. Black heeded Carroll's request for an a cappella sample with a few stirring verses of "At Last."

"That's how you know someone can really sing," said Carroll.

Was there ever any question?

Black began singing in church at age 7. She attended Oakwood Collegiate for its music program and got her professional start recording hooks for rappers like Choclair and Kardinal Offishall.

She's a multiple Juno nominee whose 2005 solo debut This Is Me landed her opening acts slots for A-Listers, such as Jay-Z, Usher and Black Eyed Peas. She also starred in the Princess of Wales Theatre version of `Da Kink in My Hair and as a celebrity reporter on eTalk.

And no less than Beyoncé's manager-dad Mathew Knowles touted her abilities to the Star a few years ago – "Before she even opened her mouth, I knew she was a star." Yet her career has never reached the heights of her redoubtable alto.

With a slate of TV appearances ahead, there was barely time for a mid-morning snack and this interview. She bowed her head in prayer before biting into a sandwich.

"I just think that it wasn't my time," she said of past disappointments. "If I'm to be honest and say my life is anchored in faith, then I just have to keep going. I'm not saying it doesn't get frustrating, but every time something doesn't happen for me, I'm going to study and research it and be 10 times better."

IF BLACK'S EFFORTS don't pay off, Revival is not to blame. It's a tight, expertly assembled collection of mostly up-tempo songs that succeed in being both retro and contemporary. Black co-wrote all the tunes (save the Etta James cover), which have a more mature outlook than previous efforts.

"Music is therapy for me," she explained. "Every song is real; if it's not about me, it's about someone I know, or it was on the news."

(That personal approach is responsible for the record's one misstep, "Catch Me When I Fall" about the death of Black's sister from liver failure in 1990, a maudlin ballad which stalls the momentum.)

The key to the crack live instrumentation which supports Black's raspy belting is producer and Black Eyed Peas drummer Keith Harris.

"We're like Bonnie and Clyde, like Ike and Tina – without the abuse," she said. Harris has been identified as Black's boyfriend. She simply says "he is a very special man" and that they have "a strong friendship."

With a huge push from Universal Music, Black wraps up promotional duties this week and begins rehearsals for a Canadian tour, which hits the Mod Club Nov. 9.

"We're going platinum plus," she declared, rising to attend to the business of selling her record.

"Don't get it twisted. This is not a hobby any more."

Mario Reveals Mother's Drug Addiction

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(*R&B singer
Mario had MTV cameras shadow him this summer to chronicle his efforts to save his mother from a crippling drug addiction.

"I Won't Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom," which aired on the music channel last night, followed the artist and his mother, Shawn Hardaway, as she struggled to kick her dependence to heroin.

"It's a documentary showing the relationship with my mother, and her obstacles that she had to overcome as an addict, a drug addict. She was addicted to heroin most of her life — she's clean now," Mario told The Associated Press in an interview this week.

Hardaway, a pianist, was Mario's early inspiration to delve into music, he said.

"She had a lot to do with me acknowledging music in the first place. She kept good music around," said Mario. "She was the person who encouraged me to do those talent shows, and ultimately allowed people to see my talent."

But his mom's addiction kept him from fully celebrating his various professional achievements. And it was her addiction that caused his childhood to be cut short.

"I was about nine or 10. I remember seeing needles on the dresser, and her with like — I can't remember if it was a belt — something around her arm and she was just like, sleep on the bed," said Mario. "That was the first time I ever noticed anything weird and after that it was just, I guess, her personality and her mood swings, and that type of thing. And just her not being around for long periods of time."

Hardaway's journey toward sobriety began with an on-camera intervention attended by her famous son, her boyfriend, a close family friend and an interventionist. When offered the chance to get clean, she accepted the challenge and is now nearly four months drug free, says Mario. 

The intervention was sparked by the singer's decision not to support his mother's lifestyle anymore. He said the camera presence was very difficult at first.

"I didn't want people to see how I was sometimes aggressive with my mother, or sometimes I would have to raise my voice or I would say things that I really didn't mean," he said. "It was really difficult but it got to the point where I felt like the camera was almost like a book. I was telling a story. I was releasing all of these feelings that I had inside for so long."

He said that both he and his mother hope their story is one that others can relate to.

"I was kinda surprised because I didn't know so many people had gone through the same thing," he said. "It kind of uplifted me a little bit more. And I really felt good about it. And I feel like it's gonna help to save some lives."

South African Reggae Star Killed In Carjacking

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Marius Bosch, Reuters

(October 19, 2007) JOHANNESBURG — Gunmen shot and killed South African reggae star
Lucky Dube in front of his son and daughter in one of the highest-profile murders in the country, police said on Friday.

Dube, 43, was killed in an apparent carjacking attempt on Thursday evening and police were searching for three suspects, police spokesman Eugene Opperman said.

“They allegedly tried to take his vehicle, but then shots were fired and he was fatally wounded,” Opperman said.

The murder of South Africa's biggest-selling reggae singer cast a pall over the national mood a day before the country's rugby union team face England in the final of the World Cup.

Some callers to radio stations said the South African team should play wearing black armbands as a sign of mourning for Dube.

Opperman said the singer was attacked in Johannesburg's Rossettenville suburb. Police earlier said he was dropping his son off when the attack took place.

Dube's killing is one of the most high-profile killings in South Africa, which has one of the world's worst murder rates.

The number of rapes, carjackings and assaults also are high, with some of the most violent types of crime rising last year despite efforts to beef up police forces.

Dube recorded more than 20 albums in his career and won over 20 awards locally and internationally. His first album, released in 1984 with the title Rastas Never Die, was banned by the country's apartheid government.

"Lucky wasn't just big in South Africa, he was big in Africa and the rest of the world where he had a huge fan base. He was a fantastic ambassador for South African music, because he was always out there promoting South African music and reggae music around the world," said Gallo Music chief executive officer Ivor Haarburger.

According to Dube's website, the singer had just completed a month-long tour of the U.S.

During his career he performed across the world and shared the stage with music stars such as Sinead O'Connor, Peter Gabriel and Sting among others.

Paul Boateng, Britain's ambassador to South Africa, told Talk Radio 702 he was shocked by Dube's death. “Both my wife and I are big fans ... It is a great loss to music internationally.”

Writer In Shock After Rescuer Dies

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 24, 2007) Canadian mystery novelist
Maureen Jennings says she's in "delayed shock" after being rescued from powerful Florida currents by a stranger who drowned in the rescue effort.

Although still shaken, the Toronto writer said yesterday that she's full of admiration for the bravery of two good Samaritans who rushed to her aid when a leisurely morning swim suddenly turned harrowing earlier this week.

"Physically I'm all right, but yes, it's been very difficult," Jennings said by phone from Cocoa Beach, Fla., her voice halting occasionally with emotion.

"I just want to replay it (in my mind). It's so flukey, you know. If I hadn't gone in at that moment and if he hadn't been walking by at that moment, etc., etc., etc., etc ..."

Fred (Ted) Hunt of Burwick, Me., 51, was found floating in the water after rushing into fierce waves to save a floundering Jennings on Monday morning.

The mystery writer says she was swimming with her husband, photographer Iden Ford, when a strong riptide kept her from returning to shore. Ford managed to get to land and call for help.

Jennings – who admits she's not a very strong swimmer – said passersby Hunt and another man, Qemal Agaj, rushed into the waves.

"He didn't hesitate, he just whipped off his shirt, jumped into the water and I could see him and he looked like a very strong swimmer," Jennings recalled of Hunt, describing him as a husky man.

But the two men struggled against strong currents to push her to shore, and Jennings says that waves soon overtook them. Agaj let go and seemed to get swept away, she said.

Rescue workers rushed in to retrieve the floundering Agaj, who was brought in with a blood pressure of 200, but Hunt was nowhere to be seen. Lifeguards later retrieved his body.

Jennings expects to return to Toronto this weekend.


Soprano Bids Toronto A Cool, Warm Farewell

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Classical Music Critic

(October 20, 2007) The soprano who thrilled 600 million people at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana more than a quarter of a century ago has decided it's time to sing goodbye.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa returned for her eighth – and final – visit to Roy Thomson Hall last night, in the company of pianist Warren Jones.

Her appearance, surrounded by a capacity-plus crowd filling all the seats, plus extra places right on the stage, was less of a regular classical music recital than a mutual, warm thank-you session between audience and performer.

The golden, creamy voice that has thrilled and enamoured both pop and classical music lovers since the late 1960s sounds a bit brittle now. The top notes are less piercing. The transitions from high to low and back again are less agile.

But one would be hard-pressed to guess from either the voice or stage presence that Te Kanawa is 63 years old.

The colours of the music were more muted. The dynamics less broad. But this great diva brought a lifetime of art to bear on each musical phrase – impeccably and elegantly backed by pianist Jones.

It seemed that there were two Kiri Te Kanawas on stage – that there had been a personality shift (or a big glass of wine) to go with the change of gown during intermission.

In the first half, devoted to a short Mozart cantata and art songs by Richard Strauss and Henri Duparc, this diva was all icy reserve. It was as if she were singing to us from behind a thin sheet of glass that threatened to shatter if she made too bold a move.

But in the second half, Te Kanawa dived into English- and Italian-language repertoire that raised the temperature. She also chatted amiably about her Toronto visits and the music she had chosen.

The single most meaningful event in the evening came when Te Kanawa sang the "Final Monologue" from Terrence McNally's play Master Class.

In the play, a middle-aged Maria Callas confronts herself and her art as she tries to teach a younger generation the art of singing. There was probably no irony in Te Kanawa delivering these powerful words:

"The sun will not fall down from the sky/ If there are no more Traviatas./ The world can and will go on without us./ But I have to think that we have made/ This world a better place./ That we have left it richer, wiser/ Than had we not chosen the way of art."

Improvising Musical Genius, One Key At A Time

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(October 20, 2007) For 15-year-old prodigy
Matt Savage, battling autism at a young age to become an accomplished jazz pianist has been an obvious claim to fame. But Savage says he has closed the book on the condition. He's not one to talk at length about how he might process music differently than do other older or non-autistic musicians.

Of course, there are still those determined to write the story of how therapy as a young boy helped turn Savage's difficulties - involving communication, and intolerance to loud noises - into musical brilliance. And inevitably high up on his bio is the fact that he was invited into the inner circles of such greats as Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner, jamming with them at age 8 or 9.

But it's a musical maturity beyond the prodigy or autism labels that he's after. "That would be a pretty good way to describe it," he says. "Sometimes I think of autism as a thing people say I have." As for his approach to his playing, he notes, "It's something fun. It seems to be inside me, and I just let it out with my fingers. I don't think about it much."

And while he may be able to do far more complicated math in his head than most of us can do on paper, don't assume that directly relates to how he plays. "Jazz musicians," says Savage, "need to know how to improvise." Above all, he stresses that his focus is on maturing musically, not on any special skills or mental processes. "The novelty about being a child prodigy isn't there any more."

The Matt Savage Trio (featuring an adult bassist and drummer) will be performing next Friday and Saturday at the Abilities Arts Festival, which runs Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, and showcases visual and performing artists with disabilities.

Musician's Hard Drive With Master Tracks For Album Seized At Border

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Gene Johnson, Associated Press

(October 17, 2007) SEATTLE — The guitarist for indie pop rockers
Death Cab for Cutie still expects to release his solo album in January even though federal border agents seized a computer hard drive containing the master tracks.

A courier was headed to Seattle-based Barsuk Records from a studio in Vancouver when U.S. Border Patrol agents seized the hard drive Sept. 19, Chris Walla said Wednesday.

“I don't know what red flag could possibly have gone up at the border,” Walla said in a phone interview from Portland, Ore. “It's so baffling to me.”

Walla said he had been in British Columbia working on the album called Field Manual. Barsuk needed the music to meet its production schedule, and a Hipposonic Studios employee volunteered to drive the mixed songs, on tape, and the original master tracks, on a computer hard drive.

Guards at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine let the courier keep the tapes, but seized the hard drive for examination by computer forensics experts, according to Walla and Hipposonic president Rob Darch.

Mike Milne, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said late Wednesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement forensics experts had examined it and decided it could be released.

“We have attempted to make two notifications to the importer to pick it up, that it's free to go, but we haven't heard back from him,” Milne said, adding it appeared phone messages were left between Sept. 19 and Oct. 1.

Walla said he believed the confiscation was random, but Barsuk and some music publications hinted that the seizure of such a politically charged album may have been more than a coincidence. The album includes songs criticizing the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war and the firings of U.S. attorneys by former attorney-general Alberto Gonzales.

“Interestingly, a strong political thread runs through the record's lyrics; Walla takes more than a few shots at U.S. policy, both at home and abroad, and challenges at least one senator to find the exit door,” said a statement on Barsuk's website. “For whatever reason, the drive has still not been returned.”

Milne brushed off any suggestion of political motivation for taking the hard drive.

“These guys don't even know who Death Cab for Cutie is, let alone that he's doing political music,” Milne said of the border guards.

Walla had the seized files on a backup hard drive on Vancouver Island, which was copied and shipped to Seattle. The lost time prevented Walla from finishing the album on time, but it's still expected to be released Jan. 29, Rosenfeld said.

Manitoba Musicians Tops At Western Canadian Music Awards

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press

(October 21, 2007) MOOSE JAW, SASK. — Music artists from Manitoba took home the most hardware at the
Western Canadian Music Awards presented Sunday night in Moose Jaw, Sask., capturing eight trophies.

Among them was country band Doc Walker who won Outstanding Country Recording and Outstanding Independent Album of the Year.

“It's always unexpected,” said Doc Walker's Dave Wasyliw.

In September, Doc Walker took album of the year honours at the Canadian Country Music Awards that were held in nearby Regina.

They dedicated their win Sunday night to leader singer Chris Thorsteinson's mother, who died last week, calling her the “backbone” of the band.

Other Manitobans who won were Romi Mayes for outstanding roots recording solo and songwriter of the year. The quartet Nathan — which had a leading five nominations — won outstanding roots recording duo or group for their album “Key Principles.”

“It feels great, cause we're just gonna continue to pump out what we do so if people are willing to put up with it,” said singer and guitarist Shelley Marshall.

“It's awesome, we're really happy.”

Not to be outdone, artists from British Columbia followed closely with six awards.

Joel Kroeker won outstanding pop recording and Jim Byrnes won outstanding blues recording.

Saskatchewan-born The Blood Lines made their home province proud, capturing the award for outstanding rock recording.

The awards, held at the Snowbirds Hangar 6, opened with a highly charged emotional presentation as Buffy Sainte-Marie was honoured with her induction into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

With a career spanning more than 40 years and numerous international awards, honours and platinum recordings to her credit, Sainte-Marie proudly remembered her roots.

“I'm very proud, very proud to be a working musician from Western Canada,” Sainte-Marie told the crowd, which gave her a standing ovation.

“I've had a lifetime of going back-and-forth from Canada, across Canada, through Canada and I'm so very proud of the traditions that are coming to light so that all Canadians might understand and appreciate the music that comes from this area.”

This year's awards ceremony saw Nelly Furtado, Diana Krall and Jann Arden all receive international achievement awards. All three accepted their honours via pre-recorded video.

The Western Canadian Music Awards recognizes and celebrates the best recording artists from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C. and the Yukon in 18 categories.

List of winners

Outstanding Aboriginal Recording: Leela Gilday, Sedze.
Outstanding Blues Recording: Jim Byrnes, House of Refuge.
Outstanding Children's Recording: Pied Pumkin, Pumkids.
Outstanding Christian Recording: Fresh I.E., The Warren Project.
Outstanding Classical Composition: Owen Underhill., Canzone di Petra.
Outstanding Classical Recording: James Ehnes, Barber Korngold Walton.
Outstanding Country Recording: Doc Walker, Doc Walker.
Outstanding Francophone Recording: Johnny Cajun, Johnny Cajun.
Outstanding Instrumental Recording: Moses Mayes, Second Ring.
Outstanding Jazz Recording: Kent Sangster, Obsession.
Outstanding Pop Recording: Joel Kroeker, Closer To The Flame.
Outstanding Rock Recording: The Blood Lines, The Blood Lines.
Outstanding Roots Recording, Duo/Group: Nathan, Key Principles.
Outstanding Roots Recording, Solo: Romi Mayes, Sweet Somethin' Steady.
Outstanding Urban Recording: Skavenjah, El Ritmo de la Vida.
Outstanding Album/Independent Artist: Doc Walker, Doc Walker.
Songwriter of the Year: Romi Mayes, Sweet Somethin' Steady.
Video of the Year: Kris Demeanor, I Have Seen The Future.
International Achievement Awards: Jann Arden, Nelly Furtado, Diana Krall.
Hall of Fame: Buffy Sainte-Marie, Queen City Kids.

Melodic Medication

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(October 21, 2007) Look down any bus, subway car or sidewalk and you'll see many a pair of slim wires dangling from earlobes, the telltale signs of our obsession with music.

We pipe it directly to our eardrums. We surround ourselves with it at home, in the car and while shopping.

We instinctively know our favourite song or the perfect piece to fit or change a mood. We pump up volume and tempo to get our adrenaline flowing. We look for slow melodies and easy harmonies to unwind after a stressful day.

Could it be that this is the ultimate in psychological self-medication?

Although most of us don't know why we choose to listen to a particular kind of music at any given time, we know it affects how we feel. And we know how and when to administer the right dose.

Filmmakers have worked the art of emotional manipulation through music from the days when the soundtrack came from a live piano or organ player in the theatre.

Consumer marketers know how to push these buttons as well. Next time you walk through Ikea, stop to listen how the ambient music is different in each department.

But this is nothing new.

Three hundred years ago, William Congreve wrote the now-immortal words in his play The Mourning Bride: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast/To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."

Two thousand years before that, Socrates sat down with his pupils Glaucon and Adeimantus to discuss how to create a good and noble human being. As recorded in Plato's Republic, Socrates stated that, "rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grace..."

Yet for all of history (and iPod playlists), the science of understanding the link between music and the brain is only in its infancy.

Thanks to electronic and magnetic brain-imaging equipment and sophisticated computer data analysis, a cutting edge of scientists is accumulating data that show precisely what is going on between the ear buds and the smile on our lips.

Last year, Montreal cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin published This Is Your Brain on Music, a lively book based on his research at the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University.

Last week saw the release of prominent American neurologist Oliver Sacks's latest opus, Musicophilia, a riveting compilation of his decades of work with people and music.

A former music producer and punk-rocker, Levitin indulged in such public scientific spectacles as attaching hundreds of electrodes to symphony orchestra conductor Keith Lockhart, five members of the orchestra, and a handful of audience members during a live performance last year.

Levitin's computer screen showed instant physical responses to changes in the music's tempo and pitch.

Sacks's approach is deeply personal, yet the accumulated weight of his experiences is even more compelling.

Somehow the issue remains abstract until someone places electrodes on your own head.

Deep inside a building on the Hamilton's McMaster University campus recently, I sat down in a soundproof studio while a research assistant placed a "cap" containing 128 electrodes on my head.

I sat facing a video monitor so that I could see the 128 lines of data being sent to a computer in the next room.

The slightest twitch of my head or the blink of an eye would send the steady lines into jagged paroxysms. "So try to stay as still as possible," I was instructed. Yeah, right.

I was about to hear sequences of two simple tones. In most instances, the second tone would be higher than the first. But then, without warning, would come a tone manipulated to sound like it was lower than the others.

If my brain worked like everyone else's, it would register the sound of something different as a sudden increase in activity. And, blinking aside, that's exactly what happened. As soon as the tonal pattern was broken, the jagged waves would appear once again on the video monitor.

THIS EXPERIMENT, and dozens like it, is being repeated several times a day in that room, mainly with infants and children, so that we can better learn how young brains develop.

The research is led by Dr. Laurel Trainor, the founding force of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind (MIMM).

Started in January 2006, it and the research institute at McGill University are Canada's contribution to unlocking the electro-chemical secrets of how our brains respond to music.

But the focus at MIMM is a bit different than in Montreal, as Trainor has included professors and researchers from other departments and faculties.

"This is an interdisciplinary effort," she says in her office, in which every flat surface testifies to the international conferences she has attended, or is about to visit, and to the reams of research coming out of MIMM and its counterparts.

"Because McMaster's music department is focused on education," says Trainor, "much of our research is aimed at helping improve how music is taught to children." She introduces Dr. Keith Kinder, director of the McMaster School of the Arts, who is keen on building on the institution's reputation in the music-teaching field.

In the course of a day, we also meet Dr. Ian Bruce at the Engineering faculty. As one of the world's experts on electronic signal processing, he is involved in trying to develop better hearing aids.

At the department of Mathematics, Dr. David Earn is honing the language used to compile, interpret and extrapolate research data.

McMaster School of the Arts professor David Gerry also has a part – both as teacher and student.

A professional flutist, Gerry is acknowledged as the world's leading flute teacher using the Suzuki-method (where students learn to play an instrument by imitation and repetition, in a group). His teaching travels regularly take him to Central and South America, where he realized that children from Latin cultures had a much more highly developed sense of rhythm than children in Ontario.

"It has to do with the more complex rhythms that are part of the music," says Gerry. Wanting to find ways to better teach rhythm here, the flute player looked into the research at MIMM and decided he wanted to be a part of it.

"There is so much we can learn," he says as he begins a year of post-graduate work with the institute. "I'm nervous about going back to school, but this is also very exciting."

As with Gerry, observation is at the roots of Oliver Sacks's insights. The son of a musician who still plays his father's vintage Bechstein grand piano, Sacks has always been curious about how our brains and music interact.

In Musicophilia, Sacks describes how his professional, neurological connection to music blossomed after he began working with immobile patients in a long-term-care hospital in the Bronx four decades ago:

"In 1966, there was no medication of any use to these patients – no medication, at least, for their frozenness, their parkinsonian motionlessness. And yet it was common knowledge among the nurses and staff that these patients could move on occasion, with an ease and grace that seemed to belie their parkinsonism – and that the most potent occasioner of such movement was, in fact, music."

In the course of 350-plus pages, Sacks shares the extraordinary stories of people whose personal worlds have been transformed by music – from a non-musical football player who became obsessed with classical music after being struck by lightning, to explaining the nature of musical "brainworms," those nasty little songs that get stuck inside our heads.

Sacks leads us inside the brain to show how and why we combine tone, rhythm and shape into the entity we call music. Along the way, we see how the brain has an almost miraculous ability to adapt to injuries and disease.

The most touching of Sacks's stories is also the most powerful example of music as medicine.

In 1985, British musicologist Clive Wearing, then in his forties, came down with a severe brain infection that left him with a memory span of a few seconds, condemning him to live every moment of his life as if it was his first.

Sacks tells in powerful detail how doctors and Wearing's wife almost gave up hope of giving back Wearing a semblance of meaning to his existence. It took years, but, in the end, salvation lay in reintroducing Wearing to the piano, which he had once played so well.

"The rope that is let down from heaven for Clive comes not with recalling the past, as for Proust, but with performance – and it holds only as long as the performance lasts. Without performance, the thread is broken, and he is thrown back once again into the abyss."

In essence, the melodic line and rhythm carry with them an inevitable momentum that engages our mind in special ways.

"Listening to music is not a passive process but intensely active, involving a stream of inferences, hypotheses, expectations and anticipations," writes Sacks. It's a tonic at once simple and complex that can soothe the savage breast – or straighten a ravaged brain.

Although neither Sacks nor Levitin nor Trainor would ever stoop to such a blunt conclusion, it seems increasingly clear that we are, each in our own way, experts in musical self-medication.

A more elegant summary belongs to Sacks: "Music, uniquely among the arts, is both abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or eternal, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation."

The Gospel According To Sinead

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop Music Critic

(October 21, 2007) "To me, this is a book of theology in musical form. I would like to write a book of theology but I don't know how to write books."

No, sir,
Sinead O'Connor shows no signs of lightening up in middle age. As unpredictable and artistically intense as ever, the fearless Irish singer/songwriter has taken it upon herself at 40 to compose an entire album interpreting Biblical scriptures as her own, subtle form of protest against these warlike times.

Not exactly commercial gold, then, is the double-CD set Theology. One disc features nought but that incomparable voice and acoustic guitar on new songs and religious-themed covers; the other's a full-band reprisal of the same songs (plus "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar!) lent a curious dub-Celtic flava by London producer RonTom. But commercial gold is the farthest thing from O'Connor's mind in 2007, if indeed it was ever on her mind, as Theology marks only her second, quiet foray into music-making since declaring herself retired, selling her instruments and becoming a full-time mother to her three (since four) children in 2003.

She was sick of celebrity and tired, she says, of feeling "like a square peg in a round hole," posting a statement on her website confessing: "I seek no longer to be a 'famous' person, and instead I wish to live a 'normal' life." Her attempt to cut herself off from the musician's life she'd known since her mid-teens, however, proved more difficult.

"It became apparent that everyone thought it was a joke when I said I'd get a different job," says the easygoing, unpretentious O'Connor, smoking the first of several cigarettes in her downtown hotel room prior to a gig last night at Massey Hall. "Wherever I went, people would just laugh at me, so it seemed like I needed to do something with my creativity.

"My family and my friends started getting nervous, too. They didn't want me to stop making music at all, so they started having chats with me saying: 'Why don't you go back and find the real reason you wanted to be a singer?' Then I realized that, at that young age, that what I wanted to do was this record." Religion, she realized, was the very thing that spurred her to make music. From the time she was seven or eight years old immersed in a typically Catholic Irish upbringing, she says, she'd entertained the idea of putting the scriptures to song while hearing their musical verses read aloud in church.

"I'd been kind of religious, anyway, because I was born into a religious country, but I'd also seen Fiddler on the Roof, believe it or not, and that just blew me apart," she says with a laugh. "It was a seminal point . . . The main character, Tevye, used to go on about the Good Book all the time and that made me start to read it."

Before O'Connor could write Theology, though, the longtime student of the Rasta faith cleared her head by making an album of classic reggae songs — many of them of a questing, spiritual nature themselves — with legendary Jamaican rhythm section Sly and Robbie, a couple of friends who don't make reggae albums with anyone who comes calling.

That record, 2005's Throw Down Your Arms, and a subsequent tour with Sly and Robbie (which included a transcendent stop at Kool Haus) convinced O'Connor she could, in fact, make music on her own terms, even in "the spiritual arena," if she so desired.

And thus followed the relatively swift genesis of Theology, an album its author stresses is not necessarily a religious album — O'Connor doesn't even like using the word "God" because "it puts people off" — but one that ponders and discusses various peaceful theological tenets that self-anointed religious crusaders often get wrong.

"The was my response to the world that I'm living in. Not just as a mother or a daughter or a singer or anything else, just as a citizen of the world. And the world I live in now, as I see it, is a war world. This war of terror or War on Terror or whatever is affecting the whole world in all kinds of different ways.

"There are wars within wars. And they're all being conducted by people who one way or another claim to be representing God, be they Christians or Muslims or whoever the hell they are.

"I'm a person who's in love with the idea of God," continues O'Connor, still dogged by the misunderstanding that her shredding of the Pope's photo on Saturday Night Live 15 years ago was a statement against religion rather than abuse in Catholic institutions. "And I feel it is the most maligned and libelled person or entity or energy in history, and that it is continually libelled by people who make war and say somehow that God supports what they’re doing. You always hear them lifting out bits of scriptures which somehow justify war or conditional love and how some people don't deserve it because they're X, Y or Z.

"So the idea was to kind of lift up the scriptures and show the opposite to be true, to show that how much it's a twisting to say that God somehow supports violence." So is the "spiritual arena" the only one in which O'Connor is interested anymore? She is, after all, playing mostly material from older albums, including her 1990’s chart-topping I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, on this tour.

This writer ventures that he'd like to hear Sinead O'Connor "rock out" on record one more time.

"Yeah. Me, too," she concurs, and lets slip a plan for the next album involving Jake Burns of the Irish punk stalwarts Stiff Little Fingers. "I haven't told him this yet or asked him, but I really want to work with him on the next record. I want it to be the polar opposite to this record. A lot of noise.

"I think our voices would work well together, too, but he's a most incredible guitar player. He'll fill a whole room with filthy noise but it looks like his hand isn't even moving.

"I thought I'd call the record Blasphemy."

Smokey Robinson: Smokey’s Back in Town!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(October 23, 2007) *Two years ago in May 2005,
Smokey Robinson made an appearance in the Bronx at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts.  Well, he’s back! And, he is slated to appear once again at the Concert Hall in Lehman College, located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY, on Sunday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m.

The last time Smokey appeared at the Bronx venue he packed the house.  Many ardent Smokey fans were disappointed to find there were no tickets left when they showed up at the Box Office the day of the performance to purchase last minute tickets.  There is no doubt that Smokey’s music is smouldering and definitely a hot ticket item, so for all of you readers who plan on making Smokey’s concert this year, call the Box Office at 718-960-8833 early.  Tickets are going for $85, $75, $65, and $55.00.

The Grammy Award winner, who once said he makes his music as a labour of love to his fans, is laboriously toiling to turn out another award winning piece.  Smokey has been hard at work in the recording studio cutting a new album.  Since it is still a work in progress, Smokey, who is a consummate artist when it comes to the creative process, has not yet announced a release date nor chosen a name for the album. 

Known as the ‘poet laureate’ of soul music,” many a fan has claimed to sweetly whisper to their significant other “Ooo Baby, Baby,”  I enjoy “Being with You” and raised up quite a “Quiet Storm” while listening to Robinson’s golden voice and smooth romantic delivery.  People have always gone into high drive when “Crusin” to the sounds and grooves of the Master Crooner.  In fact, some claim that music sung by artists like Luther Vandross and Smokey Robinson was instrumental in bringing future generations into the world.  Whatever the case may be, Smokey has certainly sold numerous records and brought in over $60-million plus sales to the record industry.  In fact, it was Smokey and artists like him who turned Motown Records into one of the largest Black-owned music corporations in the world.

For the gourmets among you, Robinson markets a special brand of gumbo known as  “The Soul is in the Bowl” under his company SFGL Foods.  In fact, he issued a gospel LP entitled “Food for the Spirit” in 2004.  He even appeared as a judge during “Billy Joel Week” on the popular American Idol show.   Robinson was honoured by Howard University at its 138th Commencement Convocation when they conferred on Robinson the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.  Usually this degree is conferred as a way of honouring a distinguished visitor's contributions to a specific field, or to society in general.

Smokey Robinson is only one of the incredible artists that will make an appearance at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts.  Some other artists include:  Danny Rivera, Saturday, October 27th at 8:00 p.m.; Tommy Olivencia, Saturday, November 17 at 8 p.m.; The Nutcracker By the Moscow Classical Ballet, Sunday November 25th at 6:00 p.m.; Christmas from Dublin with the Three Irish Tenors, Thursday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m.; Asalto Navideno, Saturday, December 8 at 8:00 p.m; The Messiah, Sunday, December 16th at 3:00 p.m.; Evita, Sunday, January 13th at 7:00 p.m.; The African Footprint Dance Company” on Sunday, January 17th at 4:00 p.m.; It’s All About Doo Wop, featuring Martha Reeves, The Elgins and Chantels on Saturday, January 19, 8 p.m; Brian McKnight and Tito Nieves, Saturday, February 16 at 8 p.m.; Forever Freestyle 2 with Lisa Lisa, Stevie B, et al on Saturday, March 8 at 8 p.m.; Legends of Salsa on Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m.;  Natalie Cole, Saturday, May 17 at 8 p.m., and Gladys Knight on a date yet to be announced.   These are only a few of the upcoming performances Lehman Center for the Performing Arts has on its roster for its 2007/2008 performance season.  For more information, call the Box Office at 718-960-8833 or check online tickets at www.lehmancenter.org.

The Gospel, According To Rock

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(October 23, 2007)
Kid Rock is many things, but when he meets a reporter in a hotel room, he introduces himself simply as "Bob," extending his arm for a proper handshake. He's in Toronto to promote the chart-topping Rock N Roll Jesus, his first new album in four years. Dressed casually in blue jeans, black cowboy shirt and trademark dark trilby, the American badass is comfortable in Canada. "Growing up, Windsor was pretty much an extension of Michigan," says Rock, raised in Romeo, a middle-class suburb of Detroit.

"Yeah, Hockey Night in Canada, and when I was 19, I used to come over to the bars."

Rock is in the middle of a massive press campaign that brings him to Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom on Nov. 3. He's on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine's Hot 2007 issue, and he got along famously with the host of CNN's Larry King Live earlier in the month. "Have a seat, my man," said the suspendered one. "Welcome to the show."

In addition to that interview - one that salaciously focused on Rock's former wife, Pam Anderson, the bodacious blouse-filler from Ladysmith, B.C. - the broadcast featured a tour of the musician's studio and substantial residence north of Detroit.

"I let the Larry King people into my home," Rock says. "I showed them around, which is something I always said I'd never do."

Through tabloid infatuation and his often outlandish public conduct, we know much about this peculiar rock star. But we don't know it all, according to the man himself. "I only let people see a certain side me," he says. "I don't know if it's good or bad, but I always try to keep a certain image up. At the end of the day, I give people want they want, which is this thing called rock 'n' roll."

Rock says he has received compliments on his CNN appearance - for his easygoing rapport with a pop culture-challenged man twice his age, and for his mature attitude regarding Anderson's sons as well as his own boy, 14-year-old Bobby Junior - but he's not sure of the impact. "I think people are going to come to my concerts because they want to hear the music, not because I was nice to Larry King."

Fair point. The rugged crowd he drew to his Toronto club gig might arrive at CNN only by mistake, on their way to The Jerry Springer Show. Buxom women in cowboy hats and urban hillbillies in ball caps whooped, whistled and guzzled cans of Coors Light by the mitt-full. Rock put on what King might call a doozy: older rap-rock anthems such as American Bad Ass shared a set list with greasy soul-rockers from the new album, including the title track, where the white-suited showman pitched himself as some sort of a juke joint messiah. "And you can see," Rock sang, with arms spread-eagled, "I practise what I preach."

A foul-mouthed, hell-raising, trailer-trash long-hair as the rock 'n' roll Jesus? Shoot, why not? "The album title is definitely about creating a rock revival," Rock explains. "But it's also about being the voice of working people. I think that's being a little unheard these days." In the gospel-like number Amen, which deplores greed, hypocrisy and soldiers dying, Rock says he wants to create a feeling that would rise during his concerts, "like a gospel church on Saturday night, while drinking beer and having a good time."

The idea of music as religion is not new - Jimi Hendrix envisioned an "electric church," though more as a psychedelic experience than a hooting keg party. An evening with Bruce Springsteen is Pentecostal in energy and near religious, in the best communal way.

Perhaps Springsteen was being overlooked by uber-record producer Rick Rubin, who offered career advice to Rock boldly. "He told me that, with all my genre-hopping, I was positioned to really step in and fill that great classic American songwriter and rock 'n' roll void that seems to be missing."

As Rock rises to the boozy pulpit, he does so with a profile that has never been higher. Plenty of publicity came when he stirred things up at last month's MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas, where he backhanded Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, a fellow former husband of Anderson. Assault charges are pending.

As for the reported offer for the bad boys to lace 'em up for a proper pay-for-view boxing match, Rock dismisses the likelihood. "I would knuckle up with anybody that I had to, but I wouldn't go out and make a mockery of myself."

Of course not. This past Sunday, a little more than a week after his stop in Toronto, Rock and members of his crew were arrested on charges of misdemeanour battery after allegedly putting the boots to a man at a Waffle House in Georgia. So much for the rock 'n' roll Jesus loving thy neighbour.

Rock maintains no relationship with Anderson, who has recently remarried. (Asked if he had any advice for her new hubby, Rick Salomon, the amateur filmmaker and former boyfriend of Paris Hilton, Rock says he does not, but hopes that Anderson's two sons are all right.) If the singer needs to speak to his ex-wife, he does so by putting out a song. Half Your Age, a country-tune kiss-off that's "pretty self-explanatory," according to Rock, referring to lines about finding someone new who is less a drama queen, and "half your age and twice as hot."

Looking beyond that scathing track, and a whole mess of political incorrectness and blunt vulgarity, the album hints at a maturing songwriter. The soulful Roll On has the 36-year-old singer looking back at his younger self and taking stock of his life. "It's a reflective song," he says. "I understand I can't drink and stay high my whole life, and that I'm gonna have to turn things around."

You'll notice that Rock speaks of changing his ways as a prospect, not a current state. He's single (his flirtation with Danish model May Anderson completed) and living life wildly rich. Rolling Stone reported strippers were shipped from Arizona to Rock's $12-million Malibu bachelor pad. In another interview, Rock revealed his drinking regimen to be "beer during the day, wine at dinner, whisky afterward."

It's not all booze and babes, though. The superstar singer will tell you that some of his very best times are spent at his northern Michigan mansion, with his son, family and friends. Musically, he defies easy categorization, with tastes covering rap-rock, new country, soul, hick-hop and classic rock. Album titles reveal his personas, Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp to Devil Without a Cause to Rock N Roll Jesus.

Rock isn't concerned about any confused perceptions. "Whatever people want to make me out to be, it's there," he says with a shrug. "There's enough information, for whatever they're thinking. They can make me out to be whatever they want."

Kid Rock performs in Vancouver on Nov. 3.

Just Be Yourself, Tori

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

(October 24, 2007)
Tori Amos sure does try to keep things interesting.  It wasn't enough that the U.K.-based North Carolina native recorded her current disc, American Doll Posse, as five distinct female characters (Isabel, Clyde, Pip, Santa and herself), she trotted out at least two of them for her concert at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts last night.

The singer/songwriter/keyboardist stalked onto the stage in a severe black wig and clingy emerald green dress, apparently as Pip, the persona denoting Dark Energy.

She also seems to be a naughty girl given to middle-finger salutes, something resembling one-armed push-ups and waving her behind to the audience while perched on all fours on the piano bench – all the while wailing like a banshee beneath the din of the rocking three-piece band on new tunes such as "Teenage Hustling."

I suppose the capacity crowd appreciated the schtick since they applauded heartily after each song; It's just that during the tunes, few feet, heads, or lips moved. Why so serious, folks?

After a costume break, Amos returned as herself, with crimson tresses and in a gold jumpsuit, and launched into "Big Wheel." Playing both keyboards and piano, she still had dominatrix appeal while showing measured vulnerability with her powerful little girl's voice.

After telling the crowd she'd be returning to Canada near the end of the tour, she delivered an improvisational ditty about perusing the children's section at Indigo Books with her 7-year-old daughter.

"What do you do when your daughter is smarter than you?" ran the refrain; the punchline was "Mummy, if Madonna wrote it, I can read it."

A tale told in jest, but Amos, whose music is given to feminist explorations – she is a savvy entrepreneur who owns her merchandise company and a partner in the firm that manages her – is doubtlessly nurturing that feistiness in her child.

The highlight of the two-hour set was the segment titled Tori & Bo (as in Bossendorf, her piano of choice).

No band, no kaleidoscope of lights, no tomfoolery; just a great voice and lyrics exuding political and moral strength. Amos knows how to have fun, but gimmicks aside, she is the real deal.


Lavigne Scores Big With Girlfriend

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(October 20, 2007) Mexico City -- Canadian singer
Avril Lavigne won the trophy for song of the year for Girlfriend at the MTV Video Music Awards Latin America in Mexico City on Thursday. Lavigne, 23, tried out her Spanish when receiving the award. "Hola, Gracias, this is awesome!" she told the crowd. Lavigne, a native of Napanee, Ont., who now lives in California, also won the honours for best international pop artist.

Jaheim Leaves Warner Bros. For Atlantic

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 19, 2007) *R&B singer/songwriter/producer
Jaheim has left his home at Warner Bros. Records to set up shop at Atlantic, where he's scheduled to drop a new album on Dec. 18. "This is a milestone project for me, which reflects on changes and growth in my personal and professional life. I produced and wrote half of the album. I'm just focused," Jaheim tells Billboard.com. "I'm with people that understand the market -- no disrespect to anyone over there [Warner Bros.]. At this point in my career, I need a company that understands and they [Atlantic] are taking me to a whole new level." Jaheim's as-yet-untitled label debut features the production talents of Babyface, R. Kelly, KayGee (Naughty By Nature), Jasper Cameron, the Clutch and Nat Adderley Jr. So far, Keyshia Cole is the lone guest artist on the set. The first single is titled "Never."  In addition, Jaheim can be heard on Atlantic's soundtrack to the new Tyler Perry film, "Why Did I Get Married?," released Oct. 2. He is featured on "DJ Don't (Remix)," alongside the late Gerald Levert. Jaheim also plans to go on a U.S. tour later this year.

Meshell Ndegeocello Hits The Road

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 19, 2007) *Singer/songwriter
Meshell Ndegeocello has just launched a 13-city tour behind her new album, "The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams."   The trek began Monday night (10/15) in Tucson, AZ, and continues tonight in Los Angeles with a full band that includes Oren Bloedow and Chris Bruce on guitars, Jason Lindner on keyboards, Mark Kelley on bass and Charles Haynes on drums. Released last month, Ndegeocello's latest studio effort features such veteran collaborators as Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Jack DeJohnette, Kenney Garrett and a host of other jazz names. "I've always dreamed about being in a group, being surrounded by musicians like in all those big bands I admired when I was a kid," Ndegeocello said in a press release. "When I play solo I'm often out front, and that's not the place I was really looking for."

Alicia Keys Booked For Nobel Prize Concert

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

Alicia Keys will be among the talent set to perform at the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Norway on Dec. 11, organizers announced Thursday. Other acts booked include Earth Wind & Fire, Melissa Etheridge, Annie Lennox, Colombian singer Juanes and Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall.  Etheridge was requested by former Vice President Al Gore, who is this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for their efforts to help spread awareness about man-made global warming. Etheridge won an Academy Award this year for the song "I Need to Wake Up," which featured in Gore's environmental documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." The singer recently released her ninth studio album, "The Awakening." "The Nobel Committee is pleased to welcome such a talented and eclectic group of artists for this momentous occasion," said Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Keys, a nine-time Grammy Award-winner, is due to release her third studio album, "As I Am," on Nov. 13.

Tupac Bodyguard Says He Was Undercover FBI

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(*A former bodyguard for
Tupac Shakur admitted Tuesday that he was actually an undercover FBI agent at the time of his employment, and not an informant as previously reported.  Kevin Hackie made the claim during a Q&A segment that followed a screening of the new documentary "Tupac: Assassination - Conspiracy or Revenge?" in Los Angeles. Hackie, who was employed as Tupac's bodyguard and part of the security detail for Death Row Records from 1992-1996, made the revelation in response to an alleged Los Angeles Police Department officer who was in the crowd and defended the department's investigation into Tupac's murder. In 2004, Hackie stated in a filed declaration that he had "personal knowledge" about Notorious B.I.G.'s murder and that people within Death Row offered $25,000 dollars to a law enforcement officer to carry out the slaying.  "Tupac Assassination - Conspiracy or Revenge?," available on DVD Oct. 23, examines alleged shortcomings of the Los Angeles Police Dept. in the murder investigation. The DVD also introduces new facts about the rapper's murder. Hackie claimed that former officer David Mack and a number of LAPD officers worked as "covert agents" for Death Row Records and that Shakur was murdered because Death Row CEO Marion "Suge" Knight allegedly owed Shakur millions in unpaid royalties.

Carl Thomas Has A Digital Sweet Tooth

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

October 24, 2007) *The state of the recording industry seems to be in constant flux these days.  Artists have far more options open to them than they have ever had and R&B singer Carl Thomas thinks that is a good thing. We ran into the Universal Records artist recently and here's what the man had to say about the wave of the future, digital everything!  "I'm a tech head. So I was a tad bit ahead of the game," Thomas told our reporter. "Before, the major record companies wouldn't accept what was going on. Early on everybody wanted to look at the Internet like a parasite and something that comes to sip life from projects. But it's really the wave of the future. Something like the iPhone."  According to Thomas, fearing our increasingly digitized world can be a hindrance to an artists' success and, he adds, that is something he simply is not going to do.  "You find a lot of individuals who will say 'Oh, I'm not getting that phone,' but the truth of it is, the iPhone is a prototype of what cell phones are going to all become. You can accept it now or you can accept it later." And Thomas has always been an accepting type of guy when it comes to circuitry.  Speaking of electronics, Carl Thomas' most recent set, "So Much Better," is getting rave reviews all over the Internet and features the cuts "2 Pieces" and "So Much Better." The CD is Thomas' first release on Jehryl Busby's Umbrella imprint.


Berry Says She's Ready For New Role Of Mother

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

(October 20, 2007) NEW YORK–For years,
Halle Berry has longed for a child of her own. But it was only when she played a mother of two in her latest film, Things We Lost In the Fire, that she was convinced it was destined to happen.

"I've wanted this for so long and I feel happier than I've ever felt before in my entire life," says the 41-year-old Oscar winner, who is expecting a child with her boyfriend of two years, Canadian model
Gabriel Aubrey.

"I knew from playing a mother in this movie and having two adorable, smart children around me all the time that I was meant to be a mother. It's no mystery that right after we finished the movie it manifested itself in my life because I think I subconsciously knew, `Yes, I can do this. I'm really, really ready.'"

The actress met Montreal-born Aubry, who is 10 years her junior, while they were shooting a Versace advertisement in Los Angeles in November 2005.

"Take it from me, he's a wonderful man and he will be a wonderful father to our child," she says.

They do not know the sex of the baby, but they have decided the birth will be in America, not Canada, although she says, "the baby will grow up in Los Angeles and New York, and Montreal as well."

In Things We Lost in the Fire, Berry is a young mother reeling from the sudden death of her husband (David Duchovny) in a random act of violence. She turns to her father's friend, played by Benicio Del Toro, in the hope he can help her and her children cope with their sudden loss, but she discovers he is facing a daily battle to stay off drugs.

The movie was originally written with a white actress in mind, but Berry wanted it so much she single-mindedly set about persuading the producers she should have the part.

"I so desperately wanted to be a mother when this script came into my life and I wanted to do it so badly because it gave me a chance to actually be what I wanted onscreen," she said. "Because it wasn't written for a woman of colour, I had the feeling I wouldn't be considered. But I kept dogging them and bugging them and asking for a chance, and they finally allowed me to meet the director."

Fortunately for her the director was Susanna Bier. "My first question to her was, `Do you care that I'm not white?' And she said, `Hell no, I don't care. I'm Danish. It doesn't matter to me at all,'" recalls Berry with a laugh.

Despite her current fame, life has not been easy for Berry, whose mother, an English psychiatric nurse from Liverpool, raised her and her sister after Berry's African-American father left home when she was 4.

A teenage beauty queen, Halle was diagnosed as diabetic when she was 19. She took insulin until a few years ago when, by changing her diet and exercise program, she weaned herself off the drug.

She survived an unhappy marriage to baseball player David Justice and a series of disastrous relationships – one former boyfriend sued her for $80,000 and another hit her so hard she became partially deaf.

Her second marriage, to musician Eric Benet, ended in 2003 after two years because he could not control his roving eye.

Berry's first acting roles were in TV series. Then in 1991 she convinced Spike Lee she could handle the demanding role of a crack addict in Jungle Fever.

She appeared in a number of films with varying success until, in 2000, she won Golden Globe and Emmy awards for portraying Dorothy Dandridge, the singer-actress who broke through racial barriers by becoming the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, in the HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which Berry also produced.

Then came the first of the three X-Men movies, the thriller Swordfish, in which she appeared topless for the first time in her career, and her Oscar-winning performance as a struggling waitress coping with a husband on death row and an obese child in Monster's Ball. Her most recent role was in Perfect Stranger with Bruce Willis.

Her pregnancy has caused her to put all plans for future movies on hold.

"I'm just focusing on a healthy pregnancy and learning all I can about motherhood and getting the stroller and crib I'm going to need and all that kind of stuff," she says.

"I want to keep working, but my dream is to become the mother I am dreaming to be and I believe I can be, so I'll probably be working on that for the rest of my life."

Deborah Kerr, 86

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(October 18, 2007) LONDON — British actress
Deborah Kerr, who shared one of cinema's most famous kisses with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity, has died, her agent said Thursday. She was 86.

Kerr, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Tuesday in Suffolk, eastern England, agent Anne Hutton said.

For many, she will be remembered best for that kiss with as waves crashed over them on a Hawaiian beach in the wartime drama.

Kerr's roles as forceful, sometimes frustrated, women pushed the limits of Hollywood's treatment of sex on the screen during the censor-bound 1950s.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated her six times for best actress, but never gave her an Academy Award until it presented an honorary Oscar in 1994 for her distinguished career as an “artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.”

She had the reputation of a “no problem” actress.

“I have never had a fight with any director, good or bad,” she said toward the end of her career. “There is a way around everything if you are smart enough.”

Kerr (pronounced 'car') was the only daughter of Arthur Kerr-Trimmer, a civil engineer and architect who died when she was 14.

Born in Helensburgh, Scotland, she moved with her parents to England when she was five, and she started to study dance in the Bristol school of her aunt, Phyllis Smale.

Kerr won a scholarship to continue studying at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School in London. A 17 she made her stage debut as a member of the corps de ballet in Prometheus.

She soon switched to drama, however, and began playing small parts in repertory theatre in London until it was shut down by the 1939 outbreak of the Second World War.

After reading children's stories on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, she was given the part of a hat-check girl with two lines in the film Contraband, but her speaking role ended on the cutting-room floor.

After more repertory acting she had another crack at films, reprising her stage role of Jenny, a Salvation Army worker, in a 1940 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, and receiving favourable reviews both in Britain and the United States.

She continued making films in Britain during the war, including one – Colonel Blimp – in which she played three different women over a span of decades.

“It is astonishing how she manages to make the three parts distinctly separate as characterizations,” said New Movies magazine at the time.

Kerr was well reviewed as an Irish spy in The Adventuress and as the tragic girlfriend of a Welsh miner in Love on the Dole.

She was invited to Hollywood in 1946 to play in The Hucksters opposite Clark Gable. She went on to work with virtually all the other top U.S. actors and with many top directors, including John Huston, Otto Preminger and Elia Kazan.

Tired of being typecast in serene, ladylike roles, she rebelled to win a release from her MGM contract and get the role of Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity.

Playing the U.S. Army officer's alcoholic, sex-starved wife in a fling with Lancaster as a sergeant opened up new possibilities for Kerr.

She played virtually every part imaginable from murderer to princess to a Roman Christian slave to a nun.

In The King and I, with her singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon, she was Anna Leonowens, who takes her son to Siam so that she can teach the children of the king, played by Yul Brynner.

Her best-actress nominations were for Edward, My Son (1949), From Here to Eternity (1953), The King and I (1956), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957), Separate Tables (1958), and The Sundowners (1960).

Among her other movies is An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant.

Other notable roles were in Beloved Infidel, The Innocents (an adaptation of the Henry James novella Turn of the Screw), The Night of the Iguana with Richard Burton and The Arrangement with Kirk Douglas.

After The Arrangement in 1968, she took what she called a “leave of absence” from acting, saying she felt she was “either too young or too old” for any role she was offered.

Kerr told The Associated Press that she turned down a number of scripts, either for being too explicit or because of excessive violence.

She refused to play a nude scene in The Gypsy Moths, released in 1968. “It was when they started that 'Now everybody has got to take their clothes off,”' she said. “My argument was that it was completely gratuitous. Had it been necessary for the dramatic content, I would have done it.”

In fact, she undressed for The Arrangement, even though the scene was later cut. “There the nude scene was necessary, husband and wife in bed together,” Kerr said. “That was real.”

She returned to the stage, acting in Edward Albee's Seascape on Broadway and Long Day's Journey Into Night in Los Angeles.

Her Broadway debut was in 1953, when she was acclaimed as Laura Reynolds, a teacher's wife who treats a sensitive student compassionately in Tea and Sympathy.

After a full season in New York, she took it on a national tour and recreated the role in a movie in 1956.

Kerr was active until the mid-1980s, with The Assam Garden, Hold the Dream and Reunion at Fairborough all in 1985.

She told the AP that TV reruns of her old movies have “kept me alive” for a new generation of film fans.

In 1946, Kerr married Anthony Charles Bartley, whom she had met as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force. They had two daughters and were divorced in 1959. A year later, she married Peter Viertel, a novelist-screenwriter, with whom she lived on a large estate with two trout ponds in the Swiss Alpine resort of Klosters and in a villa in Marbella, Spain.

Kerr leaves by Viertel, two daughters and three grandchildren.

Joey Bishop, 89

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jeff Wilson, Associated Press

(October 18, 2007) LOS ANGELES —
Joey Bishop, the stone-faced comedian who found success in nightclubs, television and movies but became most famous as a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, has died at 89.

He was the group's last surviving member. Peter Lawford died in 1984, Sammy Davis Jr. in 1990, Dean Martin in 1995, and Sinatra in 1998.

Bishop died Wednesday night of multiple causes at his home in Newport Beach, publicist and long-time friend Warren Cowan said Thursday.

The Rat Pack became a show business sensation in the early 1960s, appearing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in shows that combined music and comedy in a seemingly chaotic manner.

Reviewers often said that Bishop played a minor role, but Sinatra knew otherwise. He termed the comedian “the Hub of the Big Wheel,” with Bishop coming up with some of the best one-liners and beginning many jokes with his favourite phrase, “Son of a gun!”

The quintet lived it up whenever members were free of their own commitments. They appeared together in such films as the original Ocean's Eleven and Sergeants 3 and proudly gave honorary membership to a certain fun-loving politician from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, at whose inauguration gala Bishop served as master of ceremonies.

The Rat Pack faded after Kennedy's assassination, but the late 1990s brought a renaissance, with the group depicted in an HBO movie and portrayed by imitators in Las Vegas and elsewhere. The movie Ocean's Eleven was even remade in 2003 with George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the lead roles.

Bishop defended his fellow performers' rowdy reputations in a 1998 interview.

“Are we remembered as being drunk and chasing broads?” he asked. “I never saw Frank, Dean, Sammy or Peter drunk during performances. That was only a gag. And do you believe these guys had to chase broads? They had to chase 'em away.”

Away from the Rat Pack, Bishop starred in two TV series, both called The Joey Bishop Show.

The first, an NBC sitcom, got off to a rocky start in 1961. Critical and audience response was generally negative, and the second season brought a change in format. The third season brought a change in network, with the show moving to ABC, but nothing seemed to help and it was cancelled in 1965.

In the first series, Bishop played a TV talk show host.

Then, he really became a TV talk show host. His program was started by ABC in 1967 as a challenge to Johnny Carson's immensely popular The Tonight Show.”

Like Carson, Bishop sat behind a desk and bantered with a sidekick, TV newcomer Regis Philbin. Despite an impressive guest list and outrageous stunts, Bishop couldn't dent Carson's ratings, and The Joey Bishop Show was cancelled after two seasons.

Bishop then became a familiar guest figure in TV variety shows and as sub for vacationing talk show hosts, filling in for Carson 205 times.

He also played character roles in such movies as The Naked and the Dead (“I played both roles”), Onion-head, Johnny Cool, Texas Across the River, Who's Minding the Mint?, Valley of the Dolls and The Delta Force.

His comedic schooling came from vaudeville, burlesque and nightclubs.

Skipping his last high school semester in Philadelphia, he formed a music and comedy act with two other boys, and they played clubs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They called themselves the Bishop Brothers, borrowing the name from their driver, Glenn Bishop.

Joseph Abraham Gottlieb would eventually adopt Joey Bishop as his stage name.

When his partners got drafted, Bishop went to work as a single, playing his first solo date in Cleveland at the well-named El Dumpo.

During these early years he developed his style: laid-back drollery, with surprise throwaway lines.

After 3½ years in the Army, Bishop resumed his career in 1945. Within five years he was earning $1,000 a week at New York's Latin Quarter. Sinatra saw him there one night and hired him as opening act.

While most members of the Sinatra entourage treated the great man gingerly, Bishop had no inhibitions.

He would tell audiences that the group's leader hadn't ignored him: “He spoke to me backstage; he told me ‘Get out of the way.'”

When Sinatra almost drowned filming a movie scene in Hawaii, Bishop wired him: “I thought you could walk on water.”

Born in New York's borough of the Bronx, Bishop was the youngest of five children of two immigrants from Eastern Europe.

When he was three months old, the family moved to South Philadelphia, where he attended public schools. He recalled being an indifferent student, once remarking, “In kindergarten, I flunked sand pile.”

In 1941, Bishop married Sylvia Ruzga and, despite the rigours of a show business career, the marriage survived until her death in 1999.

Bishop, who had one son, Larry, spent his retirement years on the upscale Lido Isle in Southern California's Newport Bay.

Reese At Peace

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(October 18, 2007)
Reese Witherspoon follows a simple rule when choosing her next film. “I read the script and wonder, ‘Can I imagine this happening to me? Or happening to someone I know?' It's all about finding things that feel personal,” says the 31-year-old actress.

So how does the subject of torture fit into that mantra? Last month, Witherspoon was in Toronto to promote the political thriller
Rendition, which opens in theatres Friday and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival with great buzz. Co-starring her on-again/off-again boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal (they're apparently off again), the movie's title refers to the practice – legalized in the United States by president Bill Clinton in a pre-9/11 climate – of shipping suspected terrorists without due process to foreign prisons for interrogation.

Asked how this particular script felt “personal” to her, the recently divorced mother explains, “I imagined that this woman had a life very similar to mine,” says Witherspoon, who was born in New Orleans but grew up in Nashville. “She was a mother, with a small child. She's pregnant and vulnerable and really dependent on her spouse, and has that connection. I was struck by the idea of one day you just wake up and he's gone.”

At this moment, you wonder if she's referring to the “rendition” of her on-screen mate, or to the upheaval in her own life after splitting last fall from her husband of seven years, Ryan Phillippe. But you don't ask Witherspoon that question because it has been made clear that she won't discuss her marriage, her children or her relationship with Gyllenhaal.

Dressed in a demure Loeffler Randall black and navy scoop-neck dress and tiny black pumps, the actress with the flawless skin, strong chin and piercing blue eyes is not someone to be trifled with. During the interview, Witherspoon is battling a terrible head cold and sipping hot tea.

She prepared for her role as the grieving wife by “reading lots of stories” about rendition, although she adds that she didn't meet any families who experienced the separation.

The practice of rendition is “unsettling and shocking,” the actress says. “It really happens to people. Families are torn apart. Many families. And I was interested in putting a human face on it all.

“There's so much in this script I was drawn to,” she adds. “There's a love story between the husband and wife, and some teenagers. There is religious intolerance, the influence of religious cults, government red tape, and policy-making without any concern for what the populace wants.”

Rendition is a thriller from Gavin Hood, who directed the Oscar-winning foreign film Tsotsi. In Rendition, Witherspoon stars as Isabella El-Ibrahimi, the pregnant wife of an Egyptian American (Omar Metwally) travelling abroad who is detained after re-entering the United States and shipped off to North Africa, where he is tortured after a suicide bombing that kills a Central Intelligence Agency operative. The film's all-star cast includes Meryl Streep (a Condoleezza Rice type), Alan Arkin (a U.S. senator), Peter Sarsgaard (the senator's aid) and Gyllenhaal as a CIA operative who witnesses the torture of the captured American and tries to assess his guilt or innocence.

In the film, Streep's steely character is the one responsible for incarcerating the man. It was Witherspoon's first time working with the veteran star, whom she describes as “extraordinary” and “intuitive.”

But what struck Witherspoon about Streep's portrayal as a CIA head was that her character could easily sleep at night knowing she was ruining a man's life, but comfortable with that if there was a chance he was a terrorist, and she could get information out of him that could save hundreds – or thousands – of lives.

“From a political standpoint, there are practices going on that are absolutely unconstitutional,” Witherspoon says. “Holding people without charging them with a crime? And using every means necessary to extract information from them? Listen, I'm not a policy-maker. I'm not a politician and I'm not a lawyer. I'm an actor and all I can do is come at things from an emotional standpoint. And from an emotional perspective, it just feels wrong.”

As dainty as she is, Witherspoon has a backbone of steel. Hard-working and rigidly disciplined, she credits her upbringing with keeping her grounded and trying always to put her family first. Juggling a career with single motherhood “is a lot of hard work,” the actress adds.

“But I grew up with a mother who worked so I had a good role model,” says Witherspoon, whose mother, Betty, was a pediatric nurse and nursing professor, and father, John, was a lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

As soon as she wraps a press conference to be held later that day, Witherspoon says she is hopping on a plane for Los Angeles so she can be back in time for her daughter Ava's eighth birthday. “We're just having a small get-together,” says the mom, whose other child, Deacon, turns 4 next week.

Rendition is her first major release since 2005's Walk The Line. Witherspoon says she has deliberately kept a slower pace to spend quality time with her kids. “It's all about setting priorities. I try to do ‘away' as little as possible,” she says.

Her next comedy is Four Christmases, which she co-stars and co-produces with Vince Vaughn. Needless to say, the 2008 holiday film is shooting close to her home in L.A.

Root Having A Hoot

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Television Critic

(October 20, 2007) "It's true, I do have a few movies waiting in the bullpen," laughs
Stephen Root over the phone.

Pressed for more information, the character actor says, "Oh, there's Bob Funk – as crazy as its title – with Rachael Leigh Cook and a cast that can be best described as eclectic: Grace Zabriskie, Lucy Davis."

Then comes Mad Money with Diane Keaton "and Queen Latifah, Ted Danson, Katie Holmes – or should I say Kate, since she's now Mrs. Tom Cruise. A lovely girl, she arrived with food every morning."

And then Over My Dead Body, a ghost caper with Eva Longoria, Paul Rudd and Jason Biggs.

Also, there is No Country for Old Men, written and directed by the Coen Brothers and a cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin. Finally, two more: George Clooney's romantic comedy Leatherheads, which Clooney directed, plus the next Owen Wilson comedy Drillbit Taylor.

And TV viewers are still enjoying Root's weekly antics on King of the Hill – he supplies the voice of Bill, Hank Hill's sadsack neighbour, but he's also Strickland (Hank's boss) and Topsy.

"A favourite gig," Root says. "We come in on Friday and rehearse it just like a mini-play, then come into the studio, rehearse some more and then record it Wednesday night.

"If there are any ad-libs, Friday is the time after which the script is locked up. The humour is so wonderful, I look forward to doing it. Right now, they're considering whether to do another season after this – they have to make their minds up this early."

And for all his busy-ness, Root, who turns 56 next month, can still chuckle over being recognized in a store the other day for NewsRadio, in which he was the forever wacky Jimmy James. "It's all over the place these days in reruns," he says. "People may not have seen it when it ran because NBC plopped us around. But now it's a cumulative sort of thing."

Root says he's pitched comedy concepts to the networks with his partner Wayne Knight (Seinfeld's Newman) and actually sold a few, but none went into production.

"Sitcoms are in bad shape because the networks forgot how to make them," he says. "As little as a decade back, sitcoms dominated the prime-time line-up. I think there were too many featuring performers not used to the format. I always felt an audience could be a help. But if you're uneasy acting in front of people, well ..."

Root came to L.A. in the late 1980s after more than 15 years in theatre. "I did TV guest spots but almost always in the dramas like L.A. Law, Civil Wars, NYPD Blue. Lawyers, detectives, I was ultra-serious in those days. I think I must have hit every show then going strong. It was experience for me."

Root attributes his comedy skills to "all the years I invested in the theatre." Born in 1951 in Sarasota, Fla., he studied drama at the University of Florida before joining the National Shakespeare Company. He jokes he got his graduate training in the touring production of Driving Miss Daisy opposite veterans Julie Harris and Brock Peters.

"Every night we went on stage I'd learn something. I was young, so eight performances a week didn't faze me, but they'd been at it for decades. We did months of one-night stands and still they were polished and letter perfect every night. Now I've lost them – Brock passed on and Miss Julie had a stroke (in 2001) and her lovely voice is stilled."

It was over time that Root began specializing in comedic crazies. Strangest and funniest was the character of Milton Waddams in 1999's Office Space, a guy pushed around at work who develops a fetish for Swingline staplers.

His most trying time came in 2006 – Root was already co-starring in The West Wing as Bob Mayer when he was asked to take the role of terrorism adviser Richard Clarke in ABC's $40-million miniseries The Path to 9/11. The miniseries was shot here in T.O.

As Bob Mayer, he sported black hair, but as Clarke, his hair had to be white. "I flew across the continent and then back again regularly but each time I had to dye my hair again," Root recalls. "Playing a real person I had to be scrupulously fair and the whole miniseries was a warning that this type of terrorism could happen again."

"I'm lucky I can now pick and choose and not have to take every part offered. I'm certainly lucky never to have been typecast. I can play bosses but I don't want to be one. I just like getting these interesting but totally crazy parts. I've never been bored. Not yet anyway."

Joaquin Phoenix - All About Getting Outside His Comfort Zone

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(October 22, 2007)
Joaquin Phoenix has this reputation of being a pretty intense guy, and you know what? It's entirely deserved.

If you'd walked into his hotel room during last month's Toronto International Film Festival, you'd have encountered a gum-chewing, Evian-swilling, leg-pumping, face-twitching bundle of nerves. And he's a smoker, too: Dude had to have stubbed at least 10 smoked-down cigarettes into the makeshift orange ashtray his publicist provided.

But, finally, so what? At 32, the former Leaf Phoenix is one of Hollywood's best actors, young, old, black, white, whatever, and no one's going to begrudge the fella, who was the pill-poppin' Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and the gore-feasting Commodus in Gladiator, a little weirdness in the Great Weirdness that is TIFF. Phoenix was in town to promote one of the two films he's starring in this fall, Reservation Road, which came to theatres on Friday. Based on John Burnham Schwartz's best-selling novel of almost a decade ago, the movie explores the fallout from what its director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) calls "the one event we all dread as parents" - the violent death of a young child under mysterious circumstances.

Phoenix plays Ethan Learner, a bearded, plaid-shirt-wearing, Connecticut college professor who seems to have the proverbial all: a beautiful wife (the ever-radiant Jennifer Connelly), two cute, talented kids, a loveable dog and a great house on a leafy street. Then one evening one of those cute, talented kids is killed in a hit-and-run accident by Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) who, we learn, is a feckless lawyer, divorced and striving to hold onto the attenuating love of his own young son. Angered by the apparent inaction and ineptitude of the police in locating Arno, Learner becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer on his own and maybe, just maybe, meting out the sort of vengeance Clint Eastwood built his early career on.

Whatever its flaws - and there are a few - there's no denying Reservation Road is one superbly acted American movie. As George himself immodestly observed during his visit to TIFF, "we didn't have a single flaw in that cast. My preference as a director is to shape a story, then stand back and let an amazing cast go at it."

Which Phoenix certainly does. Initially, George - who cast Phoenix in 2003 as a television journalist for Hotel Rwanda - thought Phoenix "would want to play Dwight the perpetrator because it's more in the mode of the dark characters he seems to want to play. But then he said, 'No, I want to play Ethan.' "

For Phoenix, acting is all about "putting myself into a place that is completely uncomfortable and then building up my life around that." With Reservation Road, Phoenix came to the role of Ethan without the benefit of being, in real life, a husband or a father. And when it came time to shoot the film, he'd only read half of Schwartz's novel and the same of the script co-authored by Schwartz and George. In part, this was because "I find it very easy to learn dialogue and here I felt I shouldn't have my lines down. I felt I should be searching through those lines because my character was this guy with all these feelings who didn't know how to articulate them.

"My impulse as I go into a film is to try to shift away from those things that make me comfortable, the habits that I have. Because when you turn those things upside down, you're opening yourself up; you're going into a new way of life."

One gambit Phoenix did to become Ethan Learner was to grow a beard. "It's like losing five pounds," he explained. "It's not necessarily going to be noticeable to others but the feeling of it in your body is." Growing the beard enabled him to inhabit a character who's "slightly animalistic in a way. He's got some years, some knowledge, some wisdom, some strength. And now he's been completely emasculated."

Redford Targets Youth

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 24, 2007) ROME–
Robert Redford hopes his new film, Lions for Lambs, about U.S. military action in Afghanistan, will encourage American youth to "take command of their voice."

In the United States, "we have lost lives, we have lost sacred freedoms, we have lost financial stability, we have lost our position of respect on the world stage," the Oscar-winning filmmaker told a news conference yesterday.

"I can only speak for my own country, I cannot speak for other countries, but I assume it is similar in some countries," Redford, 70, said. "But the future is going to belong to young people and young people have to take command of their voice.''

Lions for Lambs, which follows six individuals over the course of an hour, is being shown out of competition at the Rome Film Festival.

In the movie, directed and starring Redford, two U.S. Special Forces soldiers are on a mountain ridge in Afghanistan. Meryl Streep plays a hard-bitten journalist who discusses the operation and U.S. government policy with a prominent U.S. senator, played by Tom Cruise. Redford is an aging, idealistic professor who meets with a bright, cynical student.

The war on terrorism saga also explores the issue of media freedom versus political power as Streep's character engages in edgy intellectual parrying with Cruise's senator.

Cruise said the movie "really ignited a huge flame and a lot of dialogue" at screenings at U.S. colleges, "which is what I think is what this kind of film should do.''

"Are (American youth) going to become politically active or are they going to move away from it because they are ... disillusioned and they don't respect it because there is no morality in leadership, so therefore they just move away to other things," Redford said. "If that happens we may have a continuation of what we have had."

Lions for Lambs will be in U.S. and Canadian theatres Nov. 9.

Shades Of Clint In His Daughter's Directing Debut

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

(October 24, 2007) Go ahead, make her day.  Tell
Alison Eastwood she directed her first movie Rails & Ties in the same no-nonsense manner as her father Clint, and she takes it as a compliment.

"I'd say I pretty much have a similar directing style to his," she says, settling her 5-foot-9 model's frame into a couch for an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

"I came in under budget and on time, and I do a little more than one take. He'll do a couple of takes. We both come from the school of not wanting to kill it.

"No matter how great an actor is, they start to become a little desensitized after a while if you keep doing the same lines over and over again – particularly if there's a lot of emotion. You really have to be careful that you don't burn these people out."

The actors appreciate the thoughtfulness and also notice the similarities. Rails & Ties co-stars Marcia Gay Harden and Kevin Bacon, who play a married couple struck twice by tragedy in the drama opening Friday, had both previously worked with Clint Eastwood.

"There's a sparingness in how Allison directs, like her father, that is very clean and very small," Harden says in a separate interview.

The fact that Alison would be at all like her father is something of a marvel, even if she does possess those lanky Eastwood genes and a smile like dad's, which she flashes a lot more often than he does.

Growing up in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., born 35 years ago to actor/director Clint and his first wife Maggie Johnson, a swimwear model, Alison seemed determined to do things her own way.

By her own admission, she managed to get into "a lot of trouble" as a kid in Carmel, an oceanside enclave south of San Francisco favoured by wealthy actors and artists.

She was arrested there once on a youthful drunk-driving charge, but then it's easy to annoy the authorities in Carmel. The town once had a law against eating ice cream in public, which Clint Eastwood famously repealed – much to Alison's delight – when he was briefly elected mayor.

When the time came for Alison to strike out on her own, she chose to go into acting and modelling (including a notorious nude Playboy spread), despite warnings from both her parents about the pitfalls facing celebrity offspring.

After debuting as a child star in her dad's films Bronco Billy (1980) and Tightrope (1984), she waited until 1997 before appearing onscreen again, playing an art student in the Eastwood thriller Absolute Power.

She turned a lot of heads for that latter role, but neither her beauty nor her family connections have made acting a cakewalk for her. Most of her roles have been non-starring ones in low-budget romantic comedies and dramas, some of them made for TV or banished straight to DVD. She makes no excuses.

"All the experiences, some good and a lot bad, I feel like they helped me a lot. I've done a lot of movies that were just money jobs, or things that you just wanted to do for work, and even those experiences help me a lot. Because you know what not to do and how you don't want things to be."

She learned many things ("No more nude pictures!") but chief amongst them was how much she appreciates a good story. That led her to wanting to direct, when she read the script by Rails & Ties screenwriter Micky Levy.

"People would always ask me, are you going to follow in (your father's) footsteps as both an actor and director? But it wasn't like, `Okay, I have to direct and that's my next step.' ... I found the script (for Rails & Ties) and it just inspired me."

It's the story of a Pacific Northwest nurse (Harden) and her train engineer husband (Bacon) whose marriage is torn by tragedy at home and work. The story is small, intimate and noteworthy for the chemistry between Bacon and Harden and the empathy for blue-collar lives. In other words, it's not the kind of movie you'd expect a Hollywood child of privilege to make. But Alison is an Eastwood, after all, and that's not a name synonymous with flash.

The only help she got from her father was a little nudge to Warner execs to get the film out in the Oscar heat of fall 2007, rather than the dead zone of next March. "I know my dad's proud of me, I know he genuinely likes the film and feels I did a really good job," she says.

"And that obviously is lovely, but I don't really care about the rest of the (Hollywood) bastards. I'm not into the whole Hollywood thing. I don't go out. I'm not a clubber. I'm not in the scandal sheets. I don't even live anywhere near Hollywood; I live almost an hour out of town. I just don't give a s--t."


Jeffrey Wright Treads Muddy Waters

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(*ComingSoon.com is reporting that
Jeffrey Wright has been tapped to play blues legend Muddy Waters in the upcoming Sony/BMG film "Cadillac Man." Written and directed by Darnell Martin ("Their Eyes Were Watching God"), the film follows the rise and fall of Chess Records, which launched the career of Waters as well as Etta James and Chuck Berry. According to the Web site, Matt Dillon will play Leonard Chess, who co-founded the label with his brother Phil.  While Phil focused on jazz, Leonard Chess honed in on roots music. He traveled the South taking in various blues scenes and selling records from the back of his Cadillac. Leonard went on to make Chess the greatest repository of black music during the 50s and 60s. It was under Chess’ tutelage that Muddy Waters’ electric blues sparked a revolution that led directly to rock and roll via fellow Chess artist, Chuck Berry. Filming is set to begin in January in New Jersey and Chicago.

Angela Bassett Can Handle The 'Truth'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 23, 2007) *
Angela Bassett will follow up her 2006 appearance in "Akeelah and the Bee" with a role in the upcoming legal thriller "Nothing but the Truth," which begins shooting this month in Memphis. The film stars Kate Beckinsale as a reporter who reveals the identity of a CIA agent and is sent to jail for refusing to reveal her source. Bassett plays the supportive editor-in-chief at her Washington newspaper. "ER" veteran Noah Wyle plays a lawyer placed in charge of defending the reporter. The Yari Film Group project also stars Matt Dillon, Alan Alda, Vera Farmiga, Harry Lennix and David Schwimmer.  Bassett and her husband, actor Courtney B. Vance, became the parents of twins in January 2006 through use of a surrogate.


Interview with Reaper's Tyler Labine

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

(October 23, 2007) The show may be called
Reaper, but these days it's the sidekick, not the star, who's getting the all the best lines on TV's buddy-comedy answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  As played by Brampton native Tyler Labine, Bert "Sock" Wysocki is a world-class goof, a charming yet cutting best friend to Bret Harrison's Sam. Labine, 29, is probably still best known in Canada for his role on Breaker High. But he has popped up in several shows, including Boston Legal and Invasion. These days, the recently married actor is enjoying kudos for his Reaper role. He chatted from the show's Vancouver set.

Q: What was your first reaction to the Reaper script?

A: When the Reaper script came in, they were asking to see me for like three weeks and it was like you've got to read this script ... so I read it and I feel bad saying this, but I was really surprised by how good it was ... and then at the end, it was like. `Oh yeah, Kevin Smith is directing the pilot and it shoots in Vancouver.' ... (and) I was completely floored that these two women (creator/producers Tara Butters and Michelle Fazekas) were writing this hour-long buddy comedy with guys, it just seemed like the right fit.

Q. Geeks are very hot right now. Do you consider yourself one?

A. I do, kind of. I was kind of a collectibles guy with toys, mostly. I was the kid who wouldn't take his toys out of the box saying, `This Optimus Prime doll is going to be worth a fortune in 20 years.' The more exposure I get to the genre stuff the more it seems I fit really well ... it makes for a really exciting acting environment.

Q. Where are you in the season?

A. We're just starting episode nine right now.... I kind of love shooting with a Canadian crew after spending seven years in L.A. Not that I'm knocking L.A. crews or anything, but coming back here because I worked so much as a younger actor in Vancouver, I get to come back and see all these people where life didn't stop when I left here ... I'm hanging out with all these people I knew when I was 16 and 17.... And I just like Canadian crews, I find that they're efficient and there's just a certain joy in the work that sometimes just gets lost in bigger crews and studios. But the cast, Bret Harrison, Missy Peregrine, Ray Wise, we're all just like a bunch of peas in a pod. Nothing but generous actors on the show, which is just a real actor's wet dream.

Q. You're getting all the best lines on the show. How you pulling that off?

A. I've been asked frequently what I'm doing to get all these great lines. I don't know, delivering them well, I guess. Who knows? It's totally akin with this kind of character.... He's the guy that can say and do anything, and doesn't register embarrassment or repercussions, or whatever it is that make people filter themselves.... (They're) encouraging ad-libbing to the Nth degree ... that's where a lot of the onscreen camaraderie comes with me and Bret.

Q. Any other projects on the go?

A. Thanks to this role, I'm getting a lot of scripts, but nothing that has really grabbed me yet. I have a new movie that my older brother (Cameron) wrote and directed, a new Canadian feature film that we shot with Telefilm money. They gave us close to a million. It's a weird one. My character is named Lewis Henderson and I have a very clear masturbation problem ... I'm very sexually dysfunctional. My girlfriend is a bit of almost like a beard, so she finds out and leaves me, so I start to spiral out of control, and I start to realize that it's not even the computer porn that I'm attracted too, it's the actual computer itself.... It's called Control Alt Delete.

Reaper airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Citytv.


Degree Is Stroumboulopoulos' Finest Hour

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 22, 2007) CALGARY -
George Stroumboulopoulos, the pierced, spiky-haired host of CBC Newsworld's The Hour, is getting an honorary degree from the University of Calgary. Stroumboulopoulos will receive the honour during a convocation ceremony next month. The university says the degrees are given to people who have made ``extraordinary achievements and done a great service to the community." The Hour, which features newsy topics as well as celebrity interviews, is in its fourth season. The University of Calgary notes that Stroumboulopoulos has also travelled to the Arctic, Sudan and Zambia to highlight various causes. Stroumboulopoulos says he is "totally stoked" to receive the honour, joking that he's glad to finally get a degree and not have to pay off a student loan.

Damon Wayans Headed Back To ABC

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 18, 2007)  *
Damon Wayans, who starred for five seasons on the ABC comedy series "My Wife & Kids," will return to the network as the lead actor in another family sitcom. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the as-yet-untitled show will be a bit edgier than "Wife" and star the comic as a recent widower who has to take in the 19-year-old stepson he never knew.  The project is ABC's second family comedy in development starring a black comedian after the sitcom deal with Cedric the Entertainer, who begins production on his show next week.  Wayans' project attracted interest from several networks before landing at ABC with a script commitment. Like "Wife," it will be written and executive produced by Wayans and Don Reo. Both had been looking to collaborate on a new project since "Wife" was cancelled in April 2005.

Larenz Tate Cast In NBC Pilot

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 23, 2007) *Actor
Larenz Tate has been cast in the upcoming NBC cop drama "Blue Blood," a Brett Ratner/Neil Tolkin production that had previously been set up at Fox. Based on the bestselling 2004 autobiography by New York cop Ed Conlon, "Blue" is an ensemble hour about a Harvard graduate who decides to return to the family trade – law enforcement – and becomes a rookie NYPD officer. Tate is set to play a character named Andre. It will mark his first network gig since CBS' short-lived comedy "Love Monkey." The actor currently has a recurring role on the FX cable series "Rescue Me." His credits also include the feature films "Crash," "Ray" and "Waist Deep." Tolkin wrote the pilot script for "Blue" and will executive produce with Ratner, who will direct the project for his Rat TV and 20th Century Fox TV. Shooting is set to begin this fall in New York.

Shirley Maclaine Joins Green Gables Movie

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 23, 2007) Actress
Shirley MacLaine has joined the cast of the Anne of Green Gables television movie. CTV says the Academy-award winner will play matriarch Amelia Thomas in the film, "Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning." MacLaine begins filming this week in southwestern Ontario and shoots through the end of the month. The "Terms of Endearment" star joins U.S. actress Barbara Hershey, who plays the grown-up Anne Shirley, and Hannah Endicott-Douglas, who plays the young Anne Shirley. The movie, a prequel to the original miniseries "Anne of Green Gables," is set to air on CTV in 2008. CTV says MacLaine's character pops up in Lucy Maud Montgomery's first novel but has been shaped into a principal character for the film. Thomas is a wealthy, powerful and unlikable widow who runs the prosperous lumber town, Marysville, N.B. After taking in her daughter-in-law Louisa Thomas, played by Rachel Blanchard, Amelia's miserable temperament is transformed for the better by imaginative and playful Anne Shirley.

Tyson Beckford To Host Bravo Reality Show

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(October 24, 2007) *Models
Tyson Beckford and Niki Taylor will team to co-host Bravo's "Make Me a Supermodel," a reality competition that will feature both men and women vying to launch their own modeling careers and pocket a $100,000 prize in the process. Based on a British series by the same name, "Supermodel" will feature 14 fresh-faced hopefuls living together in a New York City loft over a 12-week period, according to E! Online. Through the course of the show, the contestants will face various challenges designed to test their potential as professional models. The series, due to premiere early next year, is nearly a dead ringer for CW's Tyra Banks-hosted "America's Next Top Model," but instead of a judging panel deciding who leaves each week, the fate of "Supermodel's" contestants are left up to the voting public. Beckford broke onto the modeling scene when he appeared in the 1994 Polo Sport advertising campaign. He subsequently landed a multiyear contract with Ralph Lauren and worked as a spokes model for Polo Fragrances and Polo Sport.


Hannah Moscovitch Is Already Famous

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(October 20, 2007)
Hannah Moscovitch is all about contradictions.

She sits at the Luna Café, known for making some of the best coffee in Toronto – and drinks tea.

She was raised as an atheist – but remains "incredibly attached" to her Jewish heritage.

And while claiming to be "unbelievably nervous" about being interviewed, she proves to be one of the most forthcoming subjects you could ask for.

The 29-year-old playwright is at the start of what will prove to be a banner year for her. Next Wednesday night, Tarragon Theatre presents the world premiere of her play
East of Berlin and, early next year, Factory Theatre will be mounting a double bill of her SummerWorks successes from 2005-'06, Essay and The Russian Play.

She also has been commissioned to provide works for five other theatres as well as work on a radio series for CBC.

Some authors labour all their lives without reaching such a tipping point, but here is Moscovitch at the start of her career and already nicely famous.

"I'm very lucky," she shrugs, "what else can I say? I'm young and grateful for all the opportunities. I've got more than enough ideas. I'm just a little bit lacking in time."

Her parents are as good a place as any to begin unravelling "The Moscovitch Puzzle," because they certainly provided her with a distinctive upbringing.

"They were real left-wingers," Moscovitch explains. "Hippies, actually. Our house was a kind of commune until I was born. There were 13 people living in our house – and building bombs in the basement. Just kidding.

"But we did have a Food Share operation in the house where we shared what we made with the neighbourhood."

She describes her father as "a professor of social policy and economics in the Social Work department at Carleton" and her mother as "a feminist witch. No, really, that's what she did for a living. She also wrote non-fiction research books about things like `Women and Part-Time Work' and now she's finally got a real 9-to-5 job."

Their influence on their daughter was strong, because she recalls "arguing with my grammar school teachers that there ought to be more than one bathroom pass, otherwise it was unfair and cruel."

But her artistic side was already making itself felt and she also remembers "doing plays in the living room, selling tickets to my parents and forcing my brother and the cat into costumes."

When adolescence came along, however, it was not Moscovitch's finest hour.

"I didn't know how to do high school," she fumes. "I didn't get it. It didn't make sense to me. It was all about social. No one was really interested in learning, not even the teachers, really."

When asked to recall her lowest point, she thinks a minute, then delivers this:

"I remember one nightmare moment. I had an in-class 15-minute argument with my teacher as to whether fascism and communism were the same or different. I was being childish and passionate and I suddenly realized that everybody else in the class was bored and just hated me."

After graduation, she auditioned for the National Theatre School in Montreal, but when she didn't get in, "It set me on fire, so I went to Israel and worked on a kibbutz for four months."

Moscovitch admits to wondering at her motives. As she says, "I had no real goals then. When you're 18, all you can do is be 18."

Things were made more difficult by her heritage.

"My parents were atheists, which made things confusing. My father was very attached to Judaism, but my mother wasn't even Jewish. She's one of these atheists who doesn't get religion."

Moscovitch sums up her time in Israel by saying, "It's so complicated there," and shares the fact that "after four months, my feeling was, `Get me out of here!'"

So she returned to Canada, re-auditioned for the NTS and got in, only to discover that she was more suited to playwriting than acting.

"I don't think I was a very good actor. I had moments when I managed to pull it off, but I'm actually terribly self-conscious, which isn't the best quality for an actor to have."

After graduation, she moved to Toronto and, surprisingly, landed a job "at Teatro on College St. It was swank and snooty. All the other girls were so hot and I was fresh out of the hay from Ottawa."

She spent nearly five years there, waitressing on and off, while working on her playwriting as well as a degree in literature at U of T.

Her breakthrough came when her play Essay got rave reviews and packed houses at the 2005 SummerWorks Festival and then The Russian Play repeated it the next year.

But now, it's time for her first full-length play, East of Berlin, and the idea came to her quite directly.

"I was reading a book about the children of Nazis called The Legacy of Silence. If you've been handed that as your birthright, how do you manoeuvre through life?

"All of the children on both sides have had to come to an understanding of this. That's what fascinates me. The stakes of the Holocaust are the highest in our lifetime; that's why so much has been written about it."

She looks up from her tea, eyes blazing. "What's the fallout from all of this? How does it communicate to the next generation?"

There's no answer, but that doesn't seem to bother her. In Hannah Moscovitch's world, the questions are more important.

East of Berlin runs at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave., until Nov. 25. For tickets, call 416-531-1827.

Keith Cole Is Still No. 1

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(October 20, 2007) Queer artist
Keith Cole has made quite a splash as the flamboyant, acid-tongued emcee of Arthouse Cabaret, the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre fall season opener that closes tonight.

Mind you, it's nothing like the splash he made there three years ago at a fundraiser, during which he urinated onstage.

But the controversy it spawned – along with a brief flurry of international media attention – hasn't dimmed Cole's star on the Toronto theatre scene.

If anything, it made Cole a popular host and audience draw, with Cabaret playing to nearly full houses since its Sept. 25 debut.

"I have a million hosting gigs coming up," Cole notes. Among them: a retrospective of some of his 15 short films Dec. 2 at Cinemateque Ontario, organizing the queer Christmas pageant A Gay in a Manger, working with a performance art group called Fado and the February premiere of his latest short film, a 16-minute documentary on Buddies' Rhubarb festival, which showcases the works of young artists.

But not so fast.

People are still buzzing about Cole's live pee show three years ago.

While the beneficiary of the fundraiser, Fife House, publicly condemned him, Cole has his own take on what happened and what has happened to his career since.

"Basically, I'm backstage, the show was very long and it was becoming very tedious. My friend came backstage and he brought me a gin and tonic and he was like, `Keith, this is awful, please do something fast, people are dying out there,'" Cole says.

"I was like, okay ... and that's when everything went berserk," says Cole, who remains unrepentant.

The story, Cole says, has become a kind of "legend," told even by people who weren't there. One woman who was in the audience even threatened to sue Cole for messing up her shoes.

"I could have easily backed down and gone to my couch and just died. But I bucked up and pulled up my socks. A lot of people were, like, `You're going down,' but, if anything, everything went up," he says.

Cole is the first to admit the idea wasn't original; he was at the infamous Art Gallery of Ontario show in 1980 when Montreal dance artist Marie Chouinard shocked the audience by coming onstage and urinating into a bucket.

Which indirectly leads to one of Cole's biggest gripes about young performers trying to make it in Toronto's arts scene: They're not interested in learning from others.

"I know a lot of younger actors now in their 20s ... but they just want to be TV stars. They have no interest in live theatre. A lot of these young people, they don't go and see shows, they don't go and see plays," says Cole, a venerable 42.

"They just take classes in how to audition for a commercial, how to audition for a movie. They're just, `Why aren't I in L.A., why aren't I on CSI?'"

Cole also points to annual events like the Toronto Fringe Festival, where he was among a small cadre of organizers in its seminal years.

"As the years went by, I noticed that for a lot of people doing the Fringe, it was less about an idea or working things out onstage and more about, `I want casting directors to come, I want artistic directors to come,'" he says.

"But it never used to be that way. People just did it because they loved it. They took a wacky idea and maybe it was going to be a complete failure or it's going to be brilliant – I don't know – but the idea was, `It's the Fringe and I'm going to try it.'"

It is in the queer community he still finds the old-fashioned theatre values of respecting and supporting each other.

"In the queer community, I find we still pretty much take care of each other. Somebody will do something to help out or we'll just `put on a show' because someone's dog is dying or needs a new liver," Cole says.

"That's what I like about this community right now. There's still the odd backbiting. But I really do find that, like, 99.9 per cent of the people are supportive."

Toronto Actors Light Up Chicago Stage

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

(October 22, 2007) The Windy City's gain is our gain, too.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater has plucked two of Toronto's finest leading men – Adam Brazier and Juan Chioran – to star in its productions of Passion and Cymbeline (both now running through Nov. 11) and I think you're going to be thrilled to see what they come back to us with.

Barbara Gaines, the enterprising and astute artistic director of CST, has given each of our lads a considerable dramatic stretch and they have risen to the occasionally beautifully.

Take Brazier, for example. He's been great as a cute boy (Mamma Mia!), a naughty boy (Pal Joey) and a crazy boy (The Rocky Horror Show), but most of us have never seen him go deeply into pain and suffering.

That's what happens to him in Passion and he proves he's more than up for the task.

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1994 musical tells the story of the unattractive, needy woman Fosca, who becomes so obsessed with the vibrant young Giorgio (Brazier) that she will not rest until she possesses him.

Gary Griffin, the genius director responsible for The Color Purple as well as numerous stellar Sondheim revivals in Chicago, has cast Brazier opposite two of the strongest musical performers in this city.

Ana Gasteyer (of SNL fame) is delicately tortured as Fosca, forgoing the histrionics that other women have brought to the part and concentrating on the simple, shattered soul beneath.

And Kathy Voytko is brittle perfection is the beauteous, married Clara, who wants to keep her boy toy Giorgio as well as her family.

In between is Brazier, superb as a decent young man trying to go where his heart takes him, but not ready for the destruction that ensues.

Passion would be worth a trip to Chicago to see it on its own, but when you couple it with the production of Cymbeline running downstairs in CST's jewel box thrust-theatre, it's almost obligatory for a serious theatregoer to pick up the phone and make reservations now.

Cymbeline may be Shakespeare's oddest work, one of the so-called late "romances" that mix broad humour and impossible events with the underlying desire for reconciliation that runs like a river through the Bard's final plays.

But Gaines has taken all of the play's various elements and wrapped them up in a loving embrace, offering the whole package to us as a kind of Disney tale for adults.

There is laughter as well as tears; kindness side-by-side with brutality; hurting and healing in close proximity.

But above all else, it's a spectacular piece of storytelling, filled with the sheer joy of a narrative told well by a talented cast.

Chioran's sexy serpent of an Iachimo is front and centre in the proceedings, because Gaines wisely knows a villain can be more fun to follow than a hero. And her slightly Monty Python-esque approach to the show means that Iachimo carries more weight than normal, but Chioran is up to the task.

He's always been a fine actor, but in this production the mantle of "star" begins to sit on his shoulders. It's a comfortable fit and it augurs well for his welcome return to Stratford this summer.

From the rest of the large cast, I have to single out Chaon Cross, whose Imogen is as well spoken and heartbreaking as she is gorgeous. If the folks at Stratford were going to do a little cross-border shopping in exchange, she'd be a fine person to begin with.

Stratford Honours William Hutt

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

(October 22, 2007) STRATFORD–It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the best parts of the Celebration of the Life and Legacy of
William Hutt presented at the Stratford Festival Theatre last night came from the late Mr. Hutt himself.

When Hutt's inimitable voice roared through a taped audio recording of his Titus Andronicus, or video clips reminded us of his brilliant James Tyrone, all was well.

The legendary star of the Canadian stage died of leukemia at the age of 87 this past June and last night was Stratford's slightly belated attempt to honour him.

Maybe it was the fact that so much time had passed or that the event took place on a Sunday night in autumn, but less than half of the orchestra of the Festival Theatre was filled, and for much of the hour-long ceremony things were oddly muted.

Richard Monette began with a low-key if heartfelt series of tributes, including the observation that "Bill could carve his characters on a mountainside or on a cherrystone."

Martha Henry followed with a gentle, artfully assembled selection of lines she had spoken to Hutt onstage during their decades-long partnership and it made the years fly to remember all their pairings.

Brent Carver told a nostalgic saga of The Wars, Brian Bedford strongly delivered a melancholy sonnet and Adrienne Gould told a sweet story that stressed the sensitivity of the man, but you could almost hear Hutt in heaven snapping his fingers and asking "Doesn't anyone remember anything funny in my life?"

Tom McCamus and Peter Donaldson briskly sprang into action, and Donaldson recalled a game of one-upmanship he played with Hutt during the run of A Man for All Seasons, which ended on the night only five people gave Hutt a standing ovation and Donaldson asked "How many times are your family coming to see this?"

Hutt's great-niece, Olivia, sang his favourite song, "Bewitched," with a touching simplicity, and his good friend, Nancy Stotts-Jones, brought him to life with some winsome anecdotes.

But we were more than ready for his iconoclastic nephew, Peter, to shake things up with a long, ribald story about the penis he fought to wear while playing Caliban opposite Hutt's Prospero. His imitation of his uncle is uncanny and Hutt came to life once again.

Then he returned on video, with a series of edited clips from his onscreen appearances. Heartbreaking in Long Day's Journey Into Night, glacially moving in The Wars and blazing with intensity in the final season of Slings & Arrows, to prove that William Hutt did not go gentle into that good night.

For a few minutes we were reminded once again of the man's great artistry and the sound of weeping was heard in the theatre.

But it ended just the way Hutt would have liked. There was a close-up of him in his dressing room, rehearsing his final song from Twelfth Night and there was an almost unbearable melancholy to the way he sang "Our play is done/That's all one/And we'll strive to please you every day."

But then his eyes snapped open wide and with the hint of a smile he said, "Except Mondays. That's our day off."


Talking Back To The God He Grew Up With

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(October 20, 2007) Write a book about how there is no God and you'rebound to invoke the wrath of the religious. Write a book about your terror of God and religious readers will embrace you.

Shalom Auslander's memoir, Foreskin's Lament (Riverhead Books/Penguin Canada), is a story of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family, attending a yeshiva, observing all the Jewish laws and suffering what he calls 20 years of "theological abuse."

No longer an observant Jew, he still can't get over the notion God is going to punish him or his family or maybe even kill his dogs for writing this book, as blasphemous as it gets, while at the same time according God ultimate respect.

The wrath of a personal God hasn't yet befallen Auslander. But on his book tour, many others from different religions – Catholic, Mormon, Baptist – have expressed gratitude for telling their story.

"They have exactly the same issue," he says on the telephone. "I call it abuse. It's not like Santa Claus, where one day you realize it's not true. It's a serious thing to scare a child straight through their lives.

"I thought I was writing about a peculiar, unique screw-up. And then I hear from people who say, `I was raised Catholic and I can't get rid of it either.' "

After a reading in Albany, N.Y., he says, "Two very old men walked to the front, two Irishmen. One of them said, `I've waited my whole life to write about what it's like to be Catholic.'" Auslander had done it for him. But, the older man added, "Better you than me."

Shalom's story begins in early childhood and moves up through his teenage years, when he attended Jewish yeshivas, finally being sent to Israel, "the Oxford of f------upness."

This is Shalom, age 9, in his kosher home in Monsey, N.Y., having just devoured handfuls of biblically prohibited snack food while his mother was out of the house: "I was sick. I was diseased. I was a criminal. I was a Sodomite, an Amorite, a Hittite, A Sinite, a Givite. I was Cain. I was Esau. I was Lot's wife. I wondered what was taking God so long to punish me, to throw me under a bus with a pocketful of Slim Jims, to give me a heart attack mid-Moon Pie, and when I thought that He was – when I felt a stabbing pain in my chest (heart attack) or a sharp pang in my head (brain aneurysm) – I ran to the bathroom and forced my fingers down my throat, trying to regurgitate the sins I had already swallowed ... Afterward I went back to my bedroom, beat myself in the stomach with my fists, and rocked back and forth on the edge of the bed, holding a bag of Cheez Doodles I desperately, desperately did not want to eat."

The rollicking, often semi hysterical prose of Foreskin's Lament is the language one associates with hyperbole. But, insists the author, the perennially pot-smoking, shoplifting, porn scanning, masturbating and always God-fearing Shalom on the page is no exaggeration.

At one point, he considered using his autobiography as the basis for fiction, but he says, "I didn't think it would be believable in a fictional character, a guy living his life with this fear."

He was 34 when he began the memoir. He and his wife Orli had just discovered that they were expecting a child – a son who is now 3 years old. Nothing like pregnancy to raise anxiety.

A mistake at the hospital where prenatal tests had been done incorrectly predicted a high chance of the baby being born with Down syndrome.

Then the knowledge that they were to have a son sent Auslander into paroxysms of guilt over the foreskin question.

"I started to think, `How did I get here? How did I become this person, worrying about whether God was going to kill me?' They told me some crazy s---, and they told me that for 20 years."

Writing the memoir has been somewhat cathartic, says Auslander, who began writing when his job at an advertising agency led to introductions to editors and freelance writing career. But this book, following a story collection in 2005 entitled Beware of God, has not been a cure.

"I'm stuck with a real son of a bitch in my head. If he's real, then we've got a much bigger problem on our hands than if (Christopher) Hitchens (god is Not Great) is right."

Still, the fear of retribution has not ended. Whenever he hears bad news, "there's always going to be that knee-jerk reaction: This is my fault."

Angry, outrageous, incriminating, Foreskin's Lament is also a very funny book. If God has a sense of humour, Auslander might be in the clear.

Shalom Auslander reads tonight at the International Festival of Authors in Harbourfront's Brigantine Room at 8 p.m. Tomorrow, at 4 p.m. in the Brigantine Room, he is interviewed by Jonathan Garfinkel.

Unresolved Killings Focus Of Protest

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Staff Reporter

(October 22, 2007) It doesn't take a lot of people to make some noise.

Audette Shephard wore a freshly printed T-shirt bearing a picture of her son Justin, nicknamed Sheep Dog, as she bustled around the stage at Mel Lastman Square yesterday afternoon.

As she checked a list of invitees who hadn't shown up for the fourth annual rally of
United Mothers Opposing Violence Everywhere (UMOVE), she didn't care whether 100 or 1,000 people arrived for the three-hour event.

"We're going to make ourselves heard," she repeated as reporters, cameramen and photographers turned up.

Shephard kept the program of speeches and music moving forward, culminating in 10 minutes of noise.

Just after 3 p.m., the approximately 200 people in the square blew whistles, clapped and followed Shephard's chant of "Break the silence."

Police still don't know who killed Sheep Dog six years ago, said Toronto Police Chief William Blair before delivering his speech.

About half of the cases involving UMOVE members "are still unresolved."

According to Blair, that's because people who know something are reluctant to come forward.

The chief was hopeful that events like yesterday's rally can help, pointing out that the rate of solved murder investigations recently jumped by 20 per cent.

But there is still a long way to go. Blair reminded the crowd that "after the TV cameras go, there is still a lot of loss and tragedy."

It is this loss that brought out family and sympathizers of 21-year-old Markham resident Jonathan Chambers, found dead last March.

Friends gave Chambers' girlfriend, Danielle (who did not wish to use her surname), a T-shirt and a computer mouse pad bearing a picture of a smiling Chambers at his 20th birthday party in 2006.

"Events like this can't be bad; they can only help," said Danielle as she pulled on the shirt. She lives in Pickering with her family, including two brothers.

But she doesn't worry about them: "They are involved in sports and have good heads," she says.

"It's the other people I worry about," she said of youth who lack after-school activities.

Twelve-year-old Philip Grant and T'eyah Drummond were two among a dozen children who came out to sing in support of UMOVE.

"We're members of the Miracles From Heaven choir at our Church," said Philip. This was Philip's first rally.

T'eyah said, "I've been to lots of these," since Chambers, a cousin, was found dead on a roadside in Oro-Medonte Township.

Donna Cardozo, who also knew Chambers, drove down from her home in Newmarket in solidarity.

"It's the first time I've come to something like this," said the mother of a 14-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.

"My husband moved to Scarborough from Jamaica, and this was no longer the Scarborough he knew," says Cardozo referring to a break-in at their home before they moved. Most families don't have the option of moving.

Instead, they can try to do something about violence, just like Audette Shephard.

GuluWalk Rallies Support For Ugandans

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(October 21, 2007) In few words, Ugandan émigré Ben Amanyangole summed up
GuluWalk for its 1,000 participants as they prepared to leave the corner of Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave. E. yesterday.

"We should not have to walk for a conflict in a different part of the world every year," said Amanyangole, asking marchers to engage in a dialogue with politicians and business leaders to help eradicate economic oppression and violence around the world.

The crowd, spanning a variety of ages and ethnic and economic groups, had gathered to walk 12 kilometres to Metro Hall in solidarity with people displaced by two decades of war in northern Uganda.

Launched in Toronto two years ago, GuluWalk is named after Gulu, in Acholiland, the area hardest hit by civil strife in Uganda.

Last year, 30,000 marchers in 82 cities around the world raised $500,000 in aid for 1.7 million Ugandan refugees displaced by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

Refugee children in camps often have had to walk a dozen kilometres to school every day.

Torontonians Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward were inspired by their plight to create GuluWalk.

The money goes to four aid organizations.

"There is a need to get fresh water and medicine to the camps," said Bradbury.

Most walkers donned bright orange GuluWalk T-shirts, attracting encouraging honks from motorists.

It was the third GuluWalk for 16-year-old Julia Kavuma and two of her friends. Kavuma, who has "lots and lots" of family back in Uganda, first heard about the event when Bradbury and Hayward came to speak at her family's church.

While the aid helps many refugees, "We have to hope that it will soon be over," walker Peace Samwogerere said about the conflict.

CITY-TV Gets A New Toronto Home

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Matt Hartley

(October 23, 2007)
CITY-TV's iconic street level studios are moving.

The television station's new parent announced they will be leaving their long-time residence at 299 Queen Street West for a new location on Dundas Square.

Yesterday, Rogers Communications announced it had entered into an agreement to buy the Olympic Torch building at 35 Dundas St. East as the new home for CITY-TV and OMNI Television. The deal is expected to be completed next month.

"We think this building portrays the local, urban and diverse character of CITY-TV and OMNI Television," Rogers Media Inc. president and chief executive Tony Viner said.

Rogers Media bought the five stations that make up the CITY-TV network, including the Toronto station, from CTVglobemedia Inc. in June for $375-million.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ordered CTVglobemedia to sell the CITY-TV stations after it acquired them in a $1.4-billion takeover of CHUM Ltd.

CITY-TV ran its main operations from 299 Queen Street W., known as the CHUM-CITY building, after moving from Queen Street East in 1987.

The Queen Street location will continue to house CTVglobemedia's MuchMusic music-video channel.

Outing Dumbledore Sparks Fierce Debate

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

(October 23, 2007) Writer J.K. Rowling's revelation about the gay private life of a dead – and fictional – school headmaster in her popular Harry Potter series of books is conjuring both criticism from those who already wanted the books banned and calm acceptance from those who applaud her for not making it a big deal in the first place.

The Harry Potter series is already the most challenged series of publications this century, according to the American Library Association, and Rowling's outing of the beloved Albus Dumbledore at a reading at Carnegie Hall last week has only added to the furor.

The books have faced calls to be banned in Canada, generally on the grounds that they could lure children to the occult and witchcraft.

"There is a fairly strong history in this country of parents, usually with a religious background, challenging books that have gay or purportedly gay themes," said Franklin Carter, a researcher and editor for the Books and Periodical Council, which tracks and compiles an annual list about these challenges in Canada.

"So with this new revelation that Dumbledore is gay, it's entirely possible that people who were already predisposed against the novel ... for the occultism will just say here's another reason to ban it or to challenge it in our school libraries. I can see it happening."

After Rowling's reading in New York, one of the submitted questions was: "Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?"

She answered: "My truthful answer to you ... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay."

The statement drew a collective gasp, followed by a raucous ovation. Clearly astonished by the positive reaction, Rowling exclaimed: "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!"

The debate will continue when Rowling arrives in Toronto today as part of the International Festival of Authors. She is reading at the Winter Garden Theatre at 10 a.m.

The Potter revelation was happy news to Berit Kjos, a Christian author who has been critical of Rowling and of Christian leaders and youth groups who have embraced the series as allegories for religion.

"My first response was, `Thank you, Lord,' because this helps us show others that these books should not be used in the churches to illustrate Christianity. Because Dumbledore has been revealed as a homosexual, it helps me communicate my message," she said.

"It helps Christians who are concerned about the use of Harry Potter books in churches, because it makes it very clear that these books are not intended to be Christian, that Rowling isn't speaking as a Christian. She has introduced values that are contrary to the biblical message."

The reaction online has ranged from the astonished to the accepting. While some believe that the subtext was there for all to see, there are also many homophobic comments on message boards.

There are also many arguments about whether it is material to the story, because Rowling didn't codify Dumbledore's sexuality.

"While there's certainly a tradition of characters being outed by readers sort of filling in the gaps, this is different, " said David Townsend, a professor of medieval studies at U of T, and expert on the historical studies of sexual diversity.

Scott Dagostino, managing editor at Toronto's Fab magazine, scoffs at the naysayers, saying Rowling did a courageous thing by making it clear Dumbledore was once in love with the character called Gellert Grindelwald, something Dagostino says was long suspected anyway by canny Potter fans.

Rowling did nothing wrong in keeping Dumbledore's homosexuality subtle, Dagostino said.

"The thing I find amusing about the whole thing is that Harry Potter has been loathed by the Christian right from the get-go – they see it as indoctrinating children into witchcraft and evil.

"So saying that the headmaster of the children's school is a gay witch, that's pretty much their worst nightmare," he told The Canadian Press.


Steve Martin: A Man Of Letters

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 24, 2007) NEW YORK–The trend seems as plain as the nose on your child's face, or an arrow through your head. There's Madonna, Billy Crystal and Jamie Lee Curtis. Jerry Seinfeld, John Lithgow and Katie Couric. All celebrities. All parents. All authors of children's books.  Now Steve Martin has written one. But he doesn't have any children.   "I'm not sure why I did this. I don't know why an alphabet book popped into my head," Martin says of The Alphabet From A to Y, With Bonus Letter Z, a collaboration with New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.   "My idea was to write these rhyming couplets with the craziest images I could possibly think up, and then have Roz illustrate them."  The 62-year-old comedian has turned increasingly to the page in recent years, writing plays, novels and humour pieces. A memoir arrives in November.  From A to Y is a nonsense ride across time and rhyme, with highlights including "H" ("Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven/Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven") and "N" ("Needle-nosed Nigel won nine kinds of knockwurst/By winning a contest to see who could knock wurst").  Asked to name his favourite letter , Martin pauses.  "Gee.''  "`Gee,' as in `giraffe'?"  No, "`Gee,' as in `Gee, whiz.'” The Associated Press


Thinking Outside The Tutu

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(October 20, 2007)
Karen Kain is a bit prickly. We're sitting in her office at the National Ballet of Canada, and I've just asked some leading questions about the Toronto company's upcoming season.

“How many other artistic directors would be called to account after just one year?” she asks.

She has a point.

Kain has just one season under her belt – not enough time to develop a programming pattern. That said, ballet purists might see some of the upcoming 2007-08 works as either not traditional enough, or, horror of horrors, down-market.

Of three full-length ballets, not one is a classic tutu warhorse. Ronald Hynd's 1975 The Merry Widow is based on Franz Lehar's famous operetta. The others are former National Ballet artistic director James Kudelka's final two story ballets for the company: the updated fairytale, Cinderella (2004); and the French farce, An Italian Straw Hat (2005).

To boot, each of the three mixed programs contains one short ballet that could be construed as populist, with links to Broadway, Joni Mitchell and even Sir Mick.

But the feisty Kain insists the season's repertoire, although it may seem untraditional, could well become the new norm. “It's the National breaking out of the box,” she says. “We're throwing out the traditional preconceptions of what ballet is. I want audiences to see that ballet is sexy and unpredictable.”

The fall season's tribute to Jerome Robbins includes his West Side Story Suite (1995), which premieres Nov. 8 and contains all the dance numbers he choreographed for the blockbuster 1957 Broadway musical. (And yes, some dancers actually sing.) In fact, the National will be the first company other than the New York City Ballet to present the work.

Next March's mixed fare features Christopher Bruce's Rooster (1991), which uses a score of early Rolling Stones songs. The company's June concert has guest company Alberta Ballet performing Jean Grand-Maître's 2007 The Fiddle and the Drum, his much-hyped collaboration with singer Joni Mitchell.

Says Kain: “For me, down-market would be doing Swan Lake incessantly. I see my criterion as finding the right balance of works that will motivate and inspire both the company and the audience. This includes rotating existing repertoire and bringing in new pieces. I've heard nothing but excitement about the programming. Nobody has complained that there aren't enough tutus.”

In fact, the company has just performed the classic Giselle on its recent Western Canada tour, so there is a major tutu ballet this season – if not in Toronto. The June program includes Harald Lander's Etudes (1948), an abstract glorification of ballet technique, and considered one of the most classically challenging works ever created.

From this writer's point of view, Kain's choices are partially a cure for the second-year blues. In 2006, Toronto's new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts had generated tons of excitement and brought in new audiences. Always a pragmatist, Kain says that she had predicted the second year would be difficult, as the excitement of the new house wore off. She also believes the company may have priced subscriptions too high. (It is now rethinking that strategy.) On the other hand, while subscriptions are down, single-ticket sales are way up for the Robbins tribute, probably because the National has concentrated its advertising for it exclusively on West Side Story Suite.

As Kain rightly says, few patrons would be lured into ticket buying by the other Robbins works on offer: Glass Pieces (1983) and In the Night (1970). The former is a starkly minimalist work based on the music of Philip Glass; the latter is an extravagantly romantic piece performed to music by Chopin. Kain is hoping that, once in the theatre, audiences will experience, simply, the greatness of Robbins. “No one will believe,” she predicts, “that the same choreographer created all three ballets.”

As for the Stones and Joni, it was never Kain's intention that they would end up in the same season. “I programmed Rooster because when I first saw it, I wanted to be young enough to dance again,” she says.

As for Mitchell's The Fiddle and the Drum, Kain calls it a no-brainer. “The Luminato Festival,” she says, referring to Toronto's annual summertime arts celebration, “was going to bring the piece in anyway, and it was a good partnership. When the move to the new opera house shifted our final season to June, no one knew that a huge international arts festival would be opposite us. It's smart self-defence to be part of Luminato, and a win-win for everyone.”

The other short works all reflect Kain's desire for variety and relevance.

Contemporary choreographer Marie Chouinard's 24 Preludes is the Montreal icon's quirky spin on Chopin and is part of the National's ongoing mandate to encourage Canadian choreographers. Jiri Kylian's all-male masterpiece Soldiers' Mass (1980) to Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu's moving oratorio has special resonance in a time of war. Both works are part of the mixed program that includes Rooster.

The Fiddle and the Drum, meanwhile, finds itself in company with Etudes and William Forsythe's cheeky and chicly urban The Second D etail, created for the National in 1991.

The story ballets fall into a natural rotation. The Merry Widow has served the company well since it first entered the repertoire in 1986, and its time has come again. The Kudelka pieces represent a major financial investment on the part of the National, and they need to find their following. “I want them to become loved and to make money,” says Kain. “If you wait too long to bring back works, audiences can't develop affection for them.”

Cinderella was a big hit when it first premiered, but An Italian Straw Hat was produced under rushed circumstances, and had a lukewarm reception. Kain believes audiences will see the delights of the ballet with its second coming. When the company performed Straw Hat in Ottawa following the Toronto run, it was a different ballet with settled in the dancers.

In short, this season is synonymous with Kain's personal dance aesthetic. “I program things that I love,” she says. “What fun is there in being artistic director if the company doesn't do stuff that I like to watch?”


Sunset Grande in Ocho Rios

Excerpt from Agent@Home -
By Melanie Reffes

(October 2007) The circular driveway leading up to the bustling open-air lobby lends a grand feel to the
Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios. Not far from where Columbus landed more than 500 years ago, the all-inclusive resort with the tangerine-orange and lemon-yellow high-rise towers is in the heart of the north coast region known for fern-clad cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Sixty-eight miles from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and a stone’s throw from the town of Ocho Rios, the four-star property was renovated two years ago for $20 million dollars.

Targeting the leisure market with an emphasis on families and weddings, it also appeals to international business travelers with its state-of-the art facilities. Formerly the Renaissance Jamaica Grande, the resort is owned by Jamaica based Sunset Resorts, which has a total inventory of 1,200 rooms in three properties, including the Sunset Beach Resort in Montego Bay and the smaller Sunset at the Palms in Negril. Accommodations: The lobby links the resort’s two towers, both of which overlook the Caribbean and the hills of Ocho Rios. The 730 rooms are on 14 floors, with the best sea views offered from the North Tower. A soft refurbishment jazzed up the rooms with the addition of balconies, new furniture, tile floors and décor that’s bright with tropical colors. Rooms include a king or two double beds, no-frills bathroom amenities, in room safes, telephones with voicemail, ironing boards, satellite televisions and individually controlled air-conditioning units, but there are no mini-bars or room service. Wi-Fi access is $24 for 24 hours.

Five room categories include the basic Resort View rooms; Ocean View rooms; Ocean Front rooms, which are more lavish and face the beach; Beach Suites in the two-story Cabana wing; and one-bedroom suites in the South Tower, which have a master bedroom with a king-size bed, full bath and balcony, plus a separate sitting room with a sleeper sofa and another bath and balcony. Public Spaces: With 30,000 feet of floor space and meeting rooms, the property has the largest conference center in Jamaica. The redesigned lobby is airy with a sweeping grand staircase and a VIP check-in. The tour desk has menus from nearby restaurants, along with a slew of excursion brochures. A business center offers digital photo printing and Internet surfing for $6 for 30 minutes. There’s also a boutique for the toiletries and sundries.

The stand-out feature in the lobby is the
Jamagination art gallery,which gives guests an opportunity to learn more about the visual arts of Jamaica and buy local paintings. Prices range from $50 to $5,400, and paintings can be shipped to the U.S. For more information, call 876-476-4417 or visit www.jamagination.com.jm. Dining: Sunset Jamaica Grande has five restaurants, two grills and eight bars making food—never too far away. Renovated eateries include the Grande Palm buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The large restaurant overlooks one of the pools or the sea and offers an extensive selection for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including vegetarian choices. Jamaica Corner features spicy Island fare and low-fat selections. Ginger Lily serves an Asian- Caribbean fusion menu, while La Diva offers pasta dishes, seafood and foccacia bread from a wood-burning brick oven. The Café Jamalicious and two beach grills feature jerk and plenty of cold Red Stripe beer. Bars include the Bambü, Blue Mahoe and Ortanique, which is the best for a business meeting or romantic evening.

The Café Bean, near the lower-lobby tour desk, is open early. The resort upholds a dress code that it calls “tasteful dressy” for dining in the á la carte eateries and a no-shorts-for-men policy at La Diva and Ginger Lily. Barbecues are also offered, particularly the Just Jamaica party, which features a steel drum band and Tiki torches lining the way to beachfront bonfires and a sumptuous buffet. Nearby local restaurants well worth sampling include Mama Marley’s Jammin’ Bar and Grill at the end of the road leading from the resort. Pools & Spa:

The property sits on a 17- acre peninsula along a 1,300-foot stretch of white-sand beach, the longest in Ocho Rios. Five swimming pools, plunge pools and hot tubs, and a meandering river that was built to look like Dunn’s River Falls are spread throughout the resort. For those who choose to get up from their lounge chairs, non-motorized water sports are offered, including kayaking, paddle boating and water biking. The new Lighthouse Waterslide resembles a traditional lighthouse. Swimmers of all ages can climb a spiral staircase to an observation deck with a 360-degree view of the sea and then slide down, twisting and turning, around the lighthouse. A gym with Cybex exercise equipment offers aerobics classes at no extra charge.

The Aqua Azul Spa has three wet rooms, couples massage rooms, and separate steam and sauna facilities for men and women. Jamaican-themed spa packages include the Reggae Retreat, Rasta Delight, mango manicures and a coffee ground scrub that claims to reduce cellulite. Activities & Excursions: Two championship tennis courts are lit for night play and golf, while horseback riding and river rafting are nearby. The casino, which stays open late, features 80 slot machines, while the Jamaican Me Crazy Nightclub keeps guests on their feet until the last person leaves. The lower level of the resort has a video game arcade. Two tour desks sell excursions to Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, Coyaba Botanical Gardens, Prospect Plantation and Dolphin Cove. Adjacent to Dolphin Cove, one of the most-visited and popular attractions is Dunn’s River Falls, the dramatic 600-foot drop of cascading water that attracts thousands daily, who climb up the limestone tiers and then back down for a swim in the sea.

Downtown Ocho Rios is a five minute walk from the property. Guests will pass a few enthusiastic entrepreneurs offering to braid hair or sell a copy of the local newspaper, The Gleaner. A left turn gets guests to stores and restaurants worth exploring. A right turn at Main Street leads to the Soni duty-free plaza with the No Problem Gift Shop that sells T-shirts and Appleton rum. There are six shopping plazas nearby, including the Island Village, which is packed with cafés and the Bob Marley Experience, a multimedia tribute to the reggae icon. At a 10-minute walk from the resort is the Original Crafts Park, which is more like a Manhattan flea market than a Caribbean crafts market. It’s particularly busy on Sunday, when artists like Crazy Daisy will tell you how she turns coconut shells into jewellery. Bargaining is part of the charm. Getting There: The resort is located 68 miles from the Montego Bay Airport, and the trip can take up to 90 minutes in traffic. Although the North Coast highway is new, it’s recommended to allow at least two hours on the return trip. The Sunset Lounge outside the Customs Hall organizes transfers to the resort for $35.

A taxi from the airport is $100 each way. Rates & Packages: Travel agents can experience the property for $119 per room for single occupancy for a maximum of four nights. Weddings are complimentary with a seven-night stay and include the marriage officer and “Just Got Married” T-shirts. For an additional cost, a Reggae band will keep guests in a party mood. Other packages include “Romance at Sunset,” priced from $499, which can be booked as an add-on to the all-inclusive package. All-inclusive room rates through Dec. 22 are $325 double, $245 single for Resort View; $345 double, $265 single for Ocean View; $365 double, $285 single for Ocean Front; $385 double, $305 single for Cabana Beachfront; and $575 double, $495 single for One Bedroom Suite (travel agent commission is 10 percent). Sunset Resorts also works with several wholesalers, including GOGO Worldwide, Air Jamaica Vacations, Travel Impressions, MLT Vacations, Funjet, United Vacations, Apple Vacations and Cheapcaribbean.com. Key Selling Points: Despite its size, the property maintains a mellow island vibe, and there’s no mistaking it for anything other than Jamaican-owned and operated.

This all-inclusive machine is well run, which accounts for a high repeat factor and occupancy of 80 percent year round. Apart from the distance from the airport, the location is a big plus with nearby Ocho Rios offering guests good reasons to leave the property, if just for an afternoon stroll or dinner. A complimentary Club Mongoose for young kids, a Tween Club and the Jamstone for the older set is another big plus for families. In the event that a hurricane warning is issued, the resort refunds the unused portion of a stay or issues a credit for the number of nights interrupted. Ian Kerr is the managing director and Clifton Reader is the general manager.  For more information, call 800-234-1707 or visit www.sunsetjamaicagrande.com or www.sunsetresortsjamaica.com. 

CTO Recognizes Media Committed To Caribbean Region

Source: Caribbean Travel Organization

(October 23, 2007) SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO  – Today, the
Caribbean Travel Organization (CTO) hosted its fifth annual Worldwide Travel Writer and Photographer Awards ceremony and rewarded excellence in feature articles and photographs throughout print and broadcast outlets about the region at the 30th Annual Caribbean Tourism Conference (CTC-30).  The awards, presented at CTC-30 in Puerto Rico, were the culmination of a year-long competition in which writers and photographers submitted their works which appeared in North American publications throughout 2006.

Winners in the 2006 competition included:

Best Feature Article in a Consumer Publication
Newspaper - Tie
Tom Uhlenbrock
“Puerto Rico” – St. Louis Post Dispatch
Stephen Ripley
“Welcome To The Jungle: Enjoying Eco-luxury In Central America,”All about Belize – Winnipeg Sun

Media Awards/2
Online Feature
Theresa Storm
“Hot Spots: Off Aruba’s Beaten Track” – Online at Canada.com

Best Feature Article in a Trade Publication
Gay Myers
“Gold Rush In The Caribbean” – Travel Weekly

Best Photography in Conjunction with a Feature Article (Consumer Newspaper, Magazine or Trade Publication)
Ty Sawyer
“Haunted Isles” – ISLANDS Magazine

Bill Baxter Award for Canadian Travel Writer of the Year 
Melanie Reffes (pictured above)
Winnipeg Free Press, Canadian Traveler, Canada.com,  Globe and Mail, Tidings Food and Wine Magazine, SWAY, Dreamscapes, Experience St. Maarten, Nights St. Maarten, The Montreal Gazette, Miami Herald, Travel Weekly, Agent AT Home and Movie Entertainment magazine.

Travel Writer of the Year (based on a Portfolio)
David Swanson
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Caribbean Travel & Life, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Travel Age West, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The 30th Annual Caribbean Tourism Conference, organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), is being held at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan and will run through October 24 with the theme, “The Next Generation: Learning From the Past, Preparing for the Future.” 

About The Puerto Rico Tourism Company

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), founded in 1970, is a public corporation responsible for stimulating, promoting and regulating the development of the tourism industry.  It markets Puerto Rico as a tourism destination through advertising, public relations and promotional activities; promotes tourism among local residents; providing visitor orientation and technical assistance to investors; evaluates tourism facilities and establishes standards of quality; and regulates and oversees gaming operations. PRTC has offices and representatives in the U.S. mainland, Canada, Europe and Latin America.

For travel between Puerto Rico and the United States, No Passport is Required.  As a further convenience, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company offers an online reservation system for a variety of accommodations including Paradores. For additional information about Puerto Rico, call (800) 866-7827 or visit www.GoToPuertoRico.com.

About The Caribbean Tourism Organization

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), with the headquarters in Barbados and marketing operations in New York, London and Toronto, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency and comprises membership of over 30 governments and a myriad of private sector entities.

The CTO’s mission is to provide to and through its members, the services and information needed for the development of sustainable tourism for the economic and social benefit of the Caribbean people. The organization provides specialized support and technical assistance to member countries in the areas of marketing human resource development, research and statistics, information technology and sustainable tourism development.  The CTO disseminates information on behalf of its member governments to consumers and the travel trade.

Sponsors of CTC-30, the CTO’s annual Caribbean Tourism Conference, include the Government of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, American Airlines, American Express Company, Black Enterprise Magazine, British Virgin Islands, Conde Nast Bridal Media, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, Condenet, Endless Vacation Magazine, Google, Gourmet Magazine, Jamaica, National Geographic Traveler Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Rums of Puerto Rico, Spirit Airlines and St. Lucia. 

The CTO’s New York office is located at 80 Broad St., 32nd Floor, New York, NY 10004, USA: Tel: (212) 635-9530; Fax: (212) 635-9511


Argos Clinch 2nd Place With 16-9 Win Over Als

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 20, 2007) MONTREAL –
Michael Bishop threw a touchdown pass to Arland Bruce and the Argonaut defence dominated as Toronto toughed out a 16-9 CFL victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday.

A crowd of 44,510 at Olympic Stadium saw the rival Argonauts (9-7) – 35-17 winners last week in Toronto – complete a two-game sweep of the Alouettes (7-9) to clinch at least a second place finish in the East Division.

The Argos, who have won five games in a row and seven of their last eight, sit one point behind first-place Winnipeg, each with two games to play.

Noel Prefontaine kicked three field goals for Toronto and the defence forced four turnovers. Montreal, which has lost five of its last six games, managed only two Damon Duval field goals, a single and a safety.

The Alouettes' goal for the week was to cut down on turnovers after also committing four last week, but a fumble and an interception led to field goals of 16 and 29 yards for Prefontaine.

Brian Bratton fumbled a punt on his own 31 to give Toronto the only scoring of the first quarter and, after a Damon Duval missed attempt went for a single, Kenny Wheaton's long interception return set up another at 10:11 of the second.

Tempers briefly took over, as Montreal linebacker Diamond Ferri was ejected for a roughing incident that occurred in a pileup on a short gain by former Alouette running back Robert Edwards.

The penalty helped Toronto drive the ball 100 yards for a TD, capped by Bishop's 29-yard strike to Bruce at 12:21.

Bruce then ran to centre field and stood like a statue on the Alouettes' logo holding up the ball, which drew a 10-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty tacked onto the ensuing kickoff.

Montreal's response was a drive resulting in Duval's 31-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the half. Duval added a 36-yarder to start the second half.

A key moment came in the third quarter when Montreal was trapped at its own five after a punt.

Calvillo hit Ben Cahoon for a 92-yard catch-and-run to the Toronto seven, but the Argo defence held as Michael Fletcher dragged Jarrett Payton on third down at the two.

On Montreal's next possession, a Calvillo pass was tipped into Fletcher's arms for an interception on the Alouette 38.

Bishop carried twice to the five, but Edwards failed twice to punch it in and Toronto settled for a nine-yard field goal and a 16-7 lead.

Montreal gave the ball up on downs in the final minute and the Argos ran out the clock.

The Alouettes end the season with games in Calgary and Winnipeg and are in danger of finishing below .500 for the first time since their return to Montreal in 1996.

Quarterback Damon Allen was back in uniform from a foot injury for Toronto, but didn't play.

Raptors Rookie Moon On Rise

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Sports Reporter

(October 20, 2007) It is not in the mental makeup of the Chicago Bulls to take games off, a fact that played perfectly into Sam Mitchell's plan last night.

Needing to weed out the workers from the slackers, the competitors from the guys who won't stand up and fight, Mitchell got some significant playing time for
Raptors who can't be sure of their role in the coming season.

Resting starting wings Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono for most of the night, Mitchell had a chance to see how Carlos Delfino, Joey Graham and rookie
Jamario Moon would handle themselves against top-notch NBA competition.

"Of all the teams we play, (with) how hard these guys play, it'll be good to see those guys play," Mitchell said before his squad beat the Chicago Bulls 92-82 before an announced crowd of 14,047 at the Air Canada Centre.

"I know what the guys who've been here in the past (can do) but to see Moon and Carlos and those guys will be good."

The main beneficiary of Mitchell's minutes largesse was Moon, the athletically gifted rookie who is trying to unseat someone with a guaranteed contract to stick with the Raptors.

The 27-year-old, who had played 15 minutes total in the first four pre-season games, had a couple of "wow" moments in his extended stint last night, a thunderous dunk in the first half, a blocked shot, seven points in his first 11 minutes and he missed what would have been a jaw-dropping dunk off a lob pass that was just too high.

Of course, he also played his first 11 minutes without getting a rebound, but he showed much more promise and athletic ability than Delfino, who missed five of his first six shots and once again looked passive for long stretches.

Moon had 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the floor with four rebounds and a couple of assists in a 29-minute run.

"I thought he was very active on defence," Mitchell said of Moon. "He's got some skill. We knew he could shoot the basketball and we think he's got a chance. That's why we've kept him around and it was nice to get him some extended minutes."

Moon, who played 12 minutes in Toronto's first pre-season game and only three in the next three, said he felt more at home.

"I've been waiting on the opportunity for a while," he said. "I came out and I was a little bit more calm than I was in the first couple of games. I settled down a bit, made a couple of shots and I felt good."

Graham, meanwhile, was a non-factor. He had more fouls (five) than points (four) in the 18 minutes he played.

The Bulls gave the night off to Ben Wallace and Ben Gordon and a sore wrist sent Luol Deng to the sidelines after just three minutes. They were hardly in mid-season form, as evidenced by the 23 turnovers they committed.

True to his word, Mitchell also got some playing time for veteran point guard Darrick Martin, who had been a spectator through the first four games. Both T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon played, but not nearly as much as they had been.

"They've been playing a lot and we've been practising hard so I know what Jose and T.J. are going to do," said Mitchell. "They don't need 28 minutes in a pre-season game."

Andrea Bargnani led all scorers with 19 points while Rasho Nesterovic made all five shots he took and finished with 12. Chris Bosh sat out as expected. Jorge Garbajosa got the night off as well.

Red Sox A Fun-Loving, Together Bunch

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Griffin

(October 23, 2007) After watching in person the dramatic seven-game ALCS, there emerged a newfound respect for the
Red Sox players and the organization. These guys are no longer living in the shadow of the Yankees.

The Evil Empire, an expression coined by Larry Lucchino in '02 after the Bombers signed Jose Contreras, is no more. The Yankees have turned into the pursuers, seemingly always one step behind.

The Sox, since winning it all in '04, seem to have evolved and matured. They are different from any Sox version of the "Bambino's Curse" era. With only eight players left over from '04, one gets the impression that not a single one of these guys, including manager Terry Francona, ever has thought even fleetingly back to any time before then. Post-season failure is something locked up in the minds of loyal fans spread across New England. Much credit for the now attitude goes to Francona.

"It's not about being the smartest baseball man any more," Curt Schilling said early in the series. "It's about surrounding yourself with the right people and putting your players in the best position to succeed. It has to do with people skills, especially when you play in Boston and New York. (Francona) does as good a job as anyone has ever done here and is a highly underrated game manager."

It's taking a while for the fans to change. Babe Ruth's sale to the Yankees in 1918, coughing up a hairball in the '46 Series to the Cards, being dominated by Bob Gibson in '67, Bill Lee's ill-advised eephus pitch to Tony Perez in 1975, Bill Buckner's five-hole gaffe in '86, even Aaron Boone's homer in the '03 ALCS. None of that matters to young core guys like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett or Jonathan Papelbon. For them it's the now, while fans are trying hard to exorcise old demons.

Those nightmares are why it seemed when the Indians narrowed the lead to 3-2 in the fifth inning of Game 7, the crickets came out at Fenway. It fell deathly silent, the stands sucked of oxygen while the players played on with their usual exuberance.

It's easy to sympathize. As a general rule, citizens of Red Sox Nation have been bedevilled since birth with stories of failure and heartbreak handed down from generation to generation like Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

These players are loose, just big kids having a good time with each other and the game. The old Sox were known for 25 players, 25 cabs. This group would choose to ride in an old, yellow school bus with Big Papi at the wheel.

One of the most enduring, endearing sights of the 11-day ALCS experience unfolded in the hour immediately after Coco Crisp crashed into the centre-field corner securing the final out. The snapshot was of bullpen closer Papelbon earnestly performing a full-fledged Riverdance on the infield in front of a full house of exhausted, cheering, singing Red Sox fans, players and their young families.

The Papelbon routine was repeated spontaneously throughout the on-field celebration, fuelled by equal parts euphoria and champagne, sometimes accompanied by Youkilis, at others by various less co-ordinated players. The 26-year-old closer did the Michael Flatley thing armed with a lit stogie jammed between his teeth and a pair of goggles on his head. It reaffirmed a faith in sports that these guys by and large just love what they're doing and rejoice in simple, juvenile pleasures.

"I think in games of great magnitude our guys don't get overwhelmed," Francona said, after running his post-season record as a manager to 18-9. "It doesn't assure that you're going to win, but it is a good feeling."

It's hard to imagine Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens doing the Riverdance.


Can Express Workouts Work for You?

By Michele Batz, M.S., eDiets Contributor

You’ve all seen them, the 30-minute workouts practically at every corner of our nation! The claims and hype on television that you can get the results you desire in 30 minutes, three times a week. But, come on, does it really work?

You bet it does! Especially for the beginning exerciser or the individual who hasn’t worked out in a very long time. Let me explain: If you are new to exercise, I know those traditional gyms or recreation centers can be very intimidating. Places like Curves and just-for-men exercise gyms offer the client a safe, efficient and effective workout for men and women of all ages and fitness levels in one convenient location. When the 30-minute gyms are located in your own neighborhood, you will have developed the discipline to workout three times a week or more. Why does it work? Because it’s there!

Science has proven the 30-minute workout is effective, and you will see results with the hydraulic resistance machines, which incorporate aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching for a complete workout. Researchers from the Baylor University Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory, led by Dr. Richard Kreider, Ph.D., FACSM, found that during the 30-minute workouts, women and men averaged about 65 percent of their heart rate maximum -- plenty to improve cardiovascular fitness, but not so strenuous as to discourage women and men from coming back. They also increased muscular strength.

Depending on your fitness level, these 30-minute workouts can burn 164 calories to 522 calories per 30 minutes. It varies with each individual. The Baylor studies also found that sedentary and overweight women who followed the workouts for a period of 14 weeks raised their resting metabolic rate by as much as 400 kcals/day. They reduced their weight by an average of 14 pounds and lost an average of two inches from their hips and three inches from their waists while showing a 20 to 30-percent improvement in strength and a 15-percent increase in aerobic capacity.

Those numbers are impressive, and I salute these franchises that are reaching multitudes of men and women to get out and move it!

But… (there is always another side) if you are in shape and have been working out, these 30-minute programs will not enhance your present workouts. The routine of going to the same 12 machines and jogging in place after each resistance machine, will not light you up inside. You need a challenge in your workout. If you are looking to enter your first 10k race or a triathlon, get the extra help you need from a personal trainer or a program that is geared higher for your present fitness level.

The 30-minute workout will work for you if haven’t exercised ever in your life or you have been sedentary for a period of years. It will rev up your metabolism and allow you to eat (with guidance) a variety of foods. By combining a healthful diet and your new 30-minute exercising, you can achieve permanent weight loss.

All it takes is 30 minutes a day, three times a week to improve your quality of life, so stop by your local 30 minute workout facility to find out more.

Good luck to you and your new way of life!


Motivational Note - What Has You?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Willie Jolley, Host of the “Willie Jolley Weekend Show” on XM 169 –The Power!

Everyday is a brand new day, and a brand new opportunity to make your dreams come true. Yet in order to take full advantage of that day and to make those dreams come true you must first have a dream. You’ve got to have dream! You must have a dream, a goal to go after, not just a resolution that you make the first of January and forget by the fifteenth of January, but also a dream that drives you to keep going and drives you to achieve it. Some one once said, “A resolution is something you have, but a dream is something that has you!”  I encourage you to work on your goals and your dreams TODAY!  Don’t wait because everyday is precious and the sooner you get started the sooner you can start to actually Live Your Dreams!