20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883
                                                                                                                                                                                                 langfieldent@rogers.com
                                                                                                                                                                                 www.langfieldentertainment.com

LE NEWSLETTER

August 7, 2008

Another long weekend past ... sigghhh.  Hopefully August will cooperate and give us some sunny summer weather. 

I'm still recovering from my hip surgery ... slow but sure.  Thanks for all your inquiries, prayers and good wishes!

CALLING SEASONED MUSICIANS:  below is a great opportunity for veteran and talented musicians who might be interested in working for Cirque du Soleil.  Please have a look at the credentials to see if you qualify.

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::OPPORTUNITY::

Musicians: Talents Needed For A New Show About Elvis In Las Vegas In 2009

Source: 
Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is looking for nine musicians to perform in our new show about Elvis and his musical heritage. It will be presented at the theatre of the City Center in Las Vegas in 2009. The show will be directed by Vincent Paterson .

Musicians who play one of the following instruments must showcase at least three different types of music (i.e. rockabilly, rock & roll, Latin, pop, blues, gospel, jazz).

1.       Keyboardist (possible bandleader)*

  1. Guitarist/keyboardist (possible bandleader)*
  2. Bass/double bass (possible bandleader)*
  3. Guitar
  4. Percussions
  5. Drums (possible bandleader)*
  6. Saxophone
  7. Trumpet
  8. Trombone

 The following instruments are considered an asset:

         Vocal beat box

         Programming/sequencing**

         Slide guitar

         Drum line

         Banjo

         Harmonica

         DJ/scratch

         Singing

         Others (hidden talents)


For the bandleader position: Experience in musical direction in a theatrical environment; strong leadership; interest in internal band management; ability to operate audio sequencing software during the show.

** One of the nine selected artists must have an excellent knowledge of computers and audio sequencing software and an interest in managing audio sequencing software and show sampling bank.

You must also possess:

     Ability to work within a team in a constantly evolving context and environment;

       Working knowledge of English or French;

       Strong stage presence and charisma;

       Experience with in-ear amplification an asset;

       Good physical condition.

Cirque is very particular about fulfilling ALL of the above qualifications and if you do not fill all of them, please do not apply.  However, if  you think that you would like to apply for one of these positions, please write to me at langfieldent@rogers.com for further details on how to submit your demo online.

::TOP STORIES::

Morgan Freeman Recovering After Crash

Sourcewww.thestar.com - Holbrook Mohr, Associated Press

(August 05, 2008) JACKSON, MISS.–Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman was hospitalized in serious condition yesterday after the car he was driving left a rural road in the Mississippi Delta and flipped several times.

Freeman, 71, was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis , Tenn. The actor "has a broken arm, broken elbow and minor shoulder damage, but is in good spirits," according to a statement from Donna Lee, Freeman's publicist. A hospital spokesperson would not discuss his injuries.

"He is having a little bit of surgery this afternoon or tomorrow to help correct the damage," Lee's statement said. "He says he'll be okay and is looking forward to a full recovery."

Freeman, who won an Oscar for his role in Million Dollar Baby, is among the stars in The Dark Knight. His screen credits also include Driving Miss Daisy.

Freeman and a companion were travelling on a dark, two-lane highway that cuts through the expansive farmlands of the Mississippi Delta when the car ran off the side of the road shortly before midnight Sunday, authorities said. The vehicle flipped several times but landed upright in a ditch alongside Mississippi Highway 32, not far from where Freeman owns a home with his wife.

Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesperson Sgt. Ben Williams said rescuers had to use the jaws of life to remove Freeman from the car.

"He was lucid, conscious. He was talking, joking with some of the rescue workers at one point," said Clay McFerrin, editor of the Sun Sentinel in Charleston , who arrived at the scene soon after the accident.

When one bystander tried to snap a photo with a cellphone camera, Freeman joked, "No freebies, no freebies," McFerrin said.

Williams said Freeman was driving a 1997 Nissan Maxima that belonged to Demaris Meyer of Memphis . "There's no indication that either alcohol or drugs were involved," Williams said. He said both Freeman and Meyer were wearing seat belts. The woman's condition was not immediately available.

Colourful Caribana Parade Makes Big Splash In Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com - Sarah Barmak, Staff Reporter

(
August 02, 2008) One million people were estimated to have turned out to watch floats and dancers decked out in brightly coloured sequins, feathers and even fun fur at the annual
Caribana parade Saturday in downtown Toronto.

Organizers say that attendance was down slightly from the 1.2 million who came out last year, a decrease that was attributed to rain and higher gas prices. In addition to the spectators, the parade saw 11,000 to 12,000 performers take part this year.

Perseverance was the watchword as participants danced their way through a morning downpour, blazing sun and even the occasional dance-induced injury.

An injured knee felled 49-year-old dancer Julie Johnson-Jordan, who had to be taken away by emergency services after she lost her footing while performing for judges in her mas band. But she smiled as husband Danny Jordan fanned her, her black, feathered headdress making a parasol in a pinch.

“This is all part of the fun,” said the boisterous Trinidadian-Canadian, who explained she had danced in a mas most years of her life. “My mother says I’m a Carnival baby — that means she (conceived) me in Carnival time.”

Another fallen dancer was carted off in a stretcher along the dance route.

“Sometimes they fall off the float,” mused Toronto Police Staff Sgt. Dave Woodley, watching from the sidelines. “Sometimes it’s heat.”

An official estimate of how many attended the festivities this year has not yet been released. But Caribana spokesperson Steve Weir says the turnout may be lower than it was last year, due to the early rains.

“I saw some people clear out after that,” he said, watching the parade’s last legs near the judges’ circle. “But many came back.”

Thousands were still crowding the paid seating area and the parade route as of 5:30 p.m., watching and cheering as the final mas strutted, danced and preened in front of judges. Others were sticking it out to hear the really big news — the winner of the mas band contest.

But with dark clouds massing overhead, the crowd was beginning to disperse — some no doubt making their way to Carnival in Yuh Backyard, the popular Bella Gardens Caribana party that sells out each year.

The marquee event of the two week-long Caribana Festival was the parade, with its usual elaborate masquerade costumes, bright colours, floats and loud music.

Mike Symister, 40, of Mississauga hasn’t missed a Caribana parade in more than 20 years. For him, the event is about family and friends.

“My mother used to bring me as a child, and I continue it with my kids,” said Symister, whose wife was part of the parade’s dancing masquerade.

The skies briefly opened up, but the rain couldn’t keep the spectators or parade participants away.

Federal NDP leader Jack Layton and wife Olivia Chow took part in the festivities on board the party’s float in the procession.

Caribana is a tribute to one of the many aspects of Canada’s multiculturalism, he said.

“The diverse community that is represented here at Caribana is one of the most exciting manifestations of who we are as a country,” Layton said.

“Besides who ever (needed) an excuse to dance up and down the waterfront of Toronto hour after hour.”

The event was also a big boost for tourism in the city, which saw a sluggish July.

It’s estimated more than one million visitors come to the city from across North America for the annual event.

Tourism Toronto expects Caribana will pump at least $250 million into Toronto’s economy.

Mariett Smith travelled from Michigan with her family to be at this year’s Caribana.

“The atmosphere, we just love the atmosphere,” said Smith, who has made the journey seven times.

Lystra Welker was also taking in the festivities with her family.

The 37-year-old came to Canada 18 years ago from Trinidad and said she still enjoys everything the festival has to offer.

“Because all the bands and stuff. The people. The food.”

The Caribana Festival wraps up on Sunday with the Island Festival — a full day of performances from a variety of artistes representing the cultures of the Caribbean.

With files from Canadian Press 

Jessie Farrell Leads Country Award Nods

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 30, 2008) Newcomer Jessie Farrell leads the nominees for Canadian Country Music Awards this year.

The Vancouver singer raked in seven nominations, including best single, album, songwriter and female artist.

Other leading nominees include Winnipeg's Doc Walker with six, Calgary's Paul Brandt with five, and Gord Bamford of Lacombe, Alta., with four.

Nova Scotia's George Canyon and Deric Ruttan, from Bracebridge, Ont., each nabbed three nominations.

The awards will be handed out at a gala in Winnipeg on Sept. 8.

Country star Terri Clark will host the bash, which will feature performances by Farrell, Canyon, Emerson Drive and Johnny Reid.

Here is a list of the major nominations:

FANS' CHOICE AWARD: Paul Brandt, George Canyon, Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, Jessie Farrell.

SINGLE OF THE YEAR: "Beautiful Life," Doc Walker; "Best of Me," Jessie Farrell; "Blame It on That Red Dress," Gord Bamford; ``Risk," Paul Brandt; "You Can Let Go," Crystal Shawanda.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: "Beautiful Life," Doc Walker; "First Time in a Long Time," Deric Ruttan; "Kicking Stones," Johnny Reid; ``Nothing Fancy," Jessie Farrell; "Risk," Paul Brandt.

FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Lisa Brokop, Terri Clark, Jessie Farrell, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Crystal Shawanda.

MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Paul Brandt, George Canyon, Johnny Reid, Deric Ruttan, Shane Yellowbird.

SONGWRITER(S) OF THE YEAR: "Beautiful Life" (written by Murray Pulver, Chris Thorsteinson, Dave Wasyliw; recorded by Doc Walker); ``Best of Me" (written by Jessie Farrell, Jared Kuemper, Jesse Tucker; recorded by Jessie Farrell); "Blame It on That Red Dress" (written by Gord Bamford, Byron Hill, Zack Turner; recorded by Gord Bamford); "First Time in a Long Time" (written by Jimmy Rankin, Deric Ruttan; recorded by Deric Ruttan); "Risk" (written by Paul Brandt; recorded by Paul Brandt).

GROUP OR DUO OF THE YEAR: Ambush, Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, the Higgins, the Wilkinsons.

ROOTS ARTIST OR GROUP OF THE YEAR: Ridley Bent, the Cruzeros, Sean Hogan, Corb Lund, Prairie Oyster.

TOP NEW TALENT OF THE YEAR - FEMALE: Jessie Farrell, Amber Nicholson, Alex J. Robinson.

TOP NEW TALENT OF THE YEAR - MALE: Gord Bamford, Ridley Bent, Jason Blaine.

TOP NEW TALENT OF THE YEAR GROUP OR DUO: Desert Heat, Hey Romeo, Jo Hikk.

CMT VIDEO OF THE YEAR: "Beautiful Life," Doc Walker; "Best of Me," Jessie Farrell; "Blame It on That Red Dress," Gord Bamford; ``In This Room," Ambush; "Ring of Fire," George Canyon.

TOP SELLING ALBUM: "Carnival Ride," Carrie Underwood; "Raising Sand," Robert Plant/Alison Krauss; "Reba Duets," Reba McEntire; ``Taylor Swift," Taylor Swift; "Ultimate Hits," Garth Brooks.

TOP SELLING CANADIAN ALBUM: "Classics," George Canyon; "Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!" Corb Lund; "Kicking Stones," Johnny Reid; "Nothing Fancy," Jessie Farrell; "Risk," Paul Brandt.

Mario: Mr. Do Right

Source:
www.essence.com   By Porsche Slocum

(July 29, 2008) We’ve watched Mario grow from a cornrows-having tween crooner to a debonair ballroom dancer. But there’s more to this 21-year-old. In 2007, Mario allowed MTV cameras into his life to capture his mother’s jarring struggle with a 20-year heroin addiction and his desperate plea for her to seek help in the documentary “I Won’t Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom.” Now, with a huge weight off his shoulders—his mother, Shawnita Hardaway, has been clean for nearly a year—the Baltimore native is gearing up for the next phase in his life. Mario gets personal with ESSENCE.com about his Do Right Foundation (which helps kids in drug-prevalent environments cope), fears that his mother might relapse, and what he hopes his legacy will be. Plus, he sets the record straight on rumours about him and his “Dancing With the Stars” partner, Karina Smirnoff.

ESSENCE.COM: Some people wouldn't be so open about a family member's battle with drugs, especially a parent. What made you decide to do that documentary?
MARIO:
I was launching my foundation, and I felt the documentary gave kids and young adults with the same issues [as me] inspiration. I feel like it has helped me to grow a lot, with the things that I have experienced and gone through with my mother. I also felt like it showed who I really was as a young man outside of the music, because sometimes you can get lost in that box of being just a teen star—I’m more than that.

ESSENCE.COM: What made you decide to launch the Mario debonair ballroom dancer. But there’s m Do Right Foundation?
MARIO:
In terms of my faith in God, I’ve seen what He’s brought people through, what He has brought me through, and how He still allows me to be focused on my goals and dreams. I want these kids to realize that they have the future ahead of them and this is just an example of how God can work.

ESSENCE.COM: What were the challenges of making this documentary with your mom?
MARIO:
My mother is a very blunt person, and more than anything she wants to be a speaker. She wants to help change lives. But there were times when we both were like, “Turn the cameras off.” Everything that you see in the documentary was written, approved and signed by me, so there were a lot of things that weren’t shown, yet everything you see is real and raw. I hope people are inspired by it and that it will change people in a positive way.

ESSENCE.COM: Yes, the feedback has been great. Clearly, you made the right decision.
MARIO:
I have to thank God for everything he has brought me through. My mom has almost a year clean now. I’m very proud of her. I can’t wait for her to finish her book, which should be done soon. I’m excited about that.

ESSENCE.COM: Do you fear she will relapse, since she has tried to quit in the past?
MARIO:
I try not to think about it that way, but it’s a daily struggle for someone who has been using drugs for over 20 years. And this is something that she tells me. You still get this feeling inside, but as long as you don’t feed it and you feed your mind and body and spirit with a substance that fulfills you, then you should be good. But you have to continue to feed your mind, body and spirit.

ESSENCE.COM: For you, that fulfillment must come from music.
MARIO:
Sometimes you wake up and you feel inspired to write and do music and sometimes you don’t. You can’t plan creativity but that has to be my getaway—that has to be my escape.

ESSENCE.COM: How hard has it been balancing the pressure of the music business with your personal life?
MARIO:
You have to learn how to separate the two. It’s tough sometimes but I think that’s the way it has to be. It wasn’t easy at first, and I’m still learning how to manage both.

ESSENCE.COM: Is it true that you are doing a reality show?
MARIO:
There are a lot of rumours going around. No, I’m not doing a reality show. I’m focusing on my next record. Anything I put my mind to, I focus on it 110 percent. I know there’s a lot of competition out there, but I have yet to show my full potential in music and I’m ready to do that.

ESSENCE.COM: When can we expect your next album?
MARIO:
I would like for it to be out by the end of the year. I would like for the first single to be out in August and just keep it going. I have a lot of great music that shows so much growth. I’ve grown a lot in the past year; I’ve just been so focused.

ESSENCE.COM: What’s the craziest rumour you’ve heard about yourself?
MARIO:
Well, the one that was ongoing was obviously the rumour about Karina, my partner from “Dancing With the Stars,” and me.

ESSENCE.COM: So, that was just a rumour?
MARIO:
Yeah, you know, I was diggin’ her and we had a great time together but she was in a relationship at the time. I would rather not have dealt with the pressures of going through that whole thing—I wanted to keep it professional. As a young man, when you’re focused on something, sometimes a woman can be a setback a little bit (laughs). But for me to get physical with her or get in a relationship, even though it was tempting, I wouldn’t have been as focused. I kept it professional.

ESSENCE.COM: You were great on the show. How did it impact your career?
MARIO:
It opened people’s eyes that have probably never bought a Mario record in their life. It’s a very personal show and you get a chance to show your personality. It allowed me to look into other things, as far as writing books and more film projects, but most importantly, I want the people who watched every week to know that I make good music. A lot of young artists get stereotyped—I don’t feel like I am one of those artists but I want to show why I’m not. I want to be an all-around entertainer and that’s my goal.

ESSENCE.COM: What do you want your legacy to be?
MARIO:
At the end of the day, I want my legacy to be timeless. I want people to look at my career and my life and say, “You know what? He was a good man. He was a hard worker. He helped change lives and he was an inspiration and a role model.” If they would ask a young man, “Who would you want to model your life after?” I would love to hear my name.

Leif Pettersen, 57: CFL's Ex-Player And Broadcaster

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(August 01, 2008) When news spread yesterday that Leif Pettersen, the ex-player and broadcaster of CFL games, had died at age 57, friends and colleagues alike expressed head-shaking woe.

"It just doesn't seem right," said Pat Tabler, the Blue Jays TV analyst who occasionally played golf with Pettersen. "Leif was 57, but he looked 35. He was in great shape, not an ounce of fat on him, good-looking, not even a hint of (ill health). And now he's gone. It's really hard to deal with that."

Pettersen died of a heart attack in his Toronto home on Wednesday night, leaving behind his wife, Lee, and their two daughters, Kate and Ali.

"He had what every guy wants: Great looks, great athletic skills, great intelligence, great family," said Keith Pelley, the TV executive and former Argos CEO who counted Pettersen among his closest friends.

Pettersen, a star high school athlete at Northern Secondary School who attended Otterbein College, played eight seasons as a receiver in the CFL with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Ticats. He was fêted with many accolades, among them league all-star and finalist for top Canadian, and he was something of a sporting purist. He eschewed, for instance, the wearing of gloves, even in snowy November playoff games.

"Cold weather doesn't bother me," he once told a reporter. And true to that statement, he caught seven passes in a Grey Cup game, the 1976 battle of the Riders, in which his Saskatchewan squad fell to Ottawa on that famous Tom-Clements-to-Tony-Gabriel touchdown.

He joined TSN's CFL broadcasting team in 1986 and he carved out a reputation as a colour analyst unafraid to voice strong opinions. Pelley, who produced those games in the early 1990s, remembered a skilled broadcaster who, though initially resistant to a technological advance such as the telestrator, soon became "a telestrator magician."

Rod Black, the play-by-play voice who partnered with Pettersen on so many summer nights, laughed yesterday when he recounted how Pettersen would chuckle and flash a smile when his analysis veered "a little over the line" of fair comment.

"That's what I loved about him, he understood it was only a game," said Black. "You'd come off the air, and sometimes you were a little chaffed at how crappy the game was or how good the game was. And he'd say, `All right, the game's over. Let's have a beer. On to the next one.' I think that's a good attitude to have."

TSN dedicated last night's CFL doubleheader to Pettersen's memory, but broadcasting was far from Pettersen's only occupation. He spent years as an executive with Service Corp., the funeral-parlour conglomerate. He was a partner in a marketing venture. He worked in private banking, advising athletes on their finances. "He always had three or four things on the go," said Pelley.

Still, his life, in Pelley's estimation, was far from time-pressed and stress-riddled. Pettersen carved out plenty of hours to play golf to a single-digit handicap at both his home course, the Lambton Golf and Country Club on Scarlett Road, and at Blue Mountain Golf and Country Club in Collingwood, where he and his family often spent time.

"He was a great golfer," said Rich Stubler, the Argos coach. "Some ex-players have a huge ego, and their exploits grow (with time). I think Leif's didn't. ... He had his life in perspective."

Said Pelley: "He did what he wanted to do, and that was spend time with his family, spend time in Collingwood, play golf, and work on the things he wanted to work on. It's kind of what everybody wants to do, and he had it. He had it all."

Pelley repeated that phrase more than once yesterday, when the news was raw and making sense of it seemed futile. After a silence on a sombre phone line, he sighed a long and sombre sigh: "Fifty seven ... Life is short."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Roy Marlin, Commissioner Of Tourism, St. Maarten

Source: 
By Melanie Reffes

(August 06, 2008) As one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean, St. Maarten/St. Martin is kicking up its marketing campaign with new tourism websites, a snappy slogan and a slew of luxury properties. Having held various positions within the Executive Council of the Governor of St. Maarten, Roy Marlin is now commissioner of tourism, a post he has held since 2007. We spoke with Marlin about the St. Maarten tourism product and his vision for sustained tourism in the region.

You are relatively new to the post of Commissioner of Tourism for St. Maarten. What are your challenges, as you see them?
St. Maarten is facing many challenges, especially considering the state of the airline industry in America. The high cost of fuel and operations, and the cutbacks on flights to our island are serious. These are the issues we need to address immediately for the sustainability of our tourism product as well as tourism to the other destinations in the region. I don't have a magic globe in front of me but I feel the increasing costs of fuel will continue to have a detrimental effect on travel to the Caribbean. That is why we are strengthening our relationships and partnerships with several airlines including American Airlines and JetBlue.

Are you in discussions with the airlines to get additional service for St. Maarten?
JetBlue launched service from New York in January and we are very happy with the success of the flight so far. JetBlue's lower cost structure is providing very competitive air fares, which is a tremendous boost for tourism as well as for our resident population. This is good for us and good for our travel partners. We are now in discussions with JetBlue about enhanced service following the success of the direct flight from JFK. We have a one-year marketing program with the airline at this time. American Airlines has scheduled new flights out of Miami and New York for the upcoming tourism season. The twice-weekly New York flight will start in December and will go to five times per week in January. The second direct flight from Miami is scheduled to start in November. We are also in discussions about enhanced service with Delta, United and US Airways. This is our tough priority now. We recognize the troubles within the airline industry, so strengthening partnerships with airlines is our absolute highest priority.

What is the message behind St. Maarten's slogan "Bring Your Appetite for Life"?
St. Maarten has everything to offer those who love life. We are targeting upscale travelers who are looking for a vacation of the kind you can only get here. We offer indulgence and fun, from relaxing on the beach to lively nightlife. I tell visitors if your fun is to party, come here. If your fun is sailing, we have that, too. If it's gambling and nightlife, we have that as well. Our Gold Award Winning Chefs work in more than 400 restaurants. We are selling fun and luxury in a safe, friendly and cosmopolitan environment.

How does the tourism product incorporate the Dutch and French sides?
The integration of our tourism product is high priority. We have a shared vision of our overall product and how to market both sides of St. Maarten, but the French side is being re-organized in terms of its governmental structure. We are waiting for these new structures to be put in place, and at that time we will discuss more thoroughly our shared vision and act upon it.

How does the island work with travel agents and wholesalers?
I salute the travel agents and wholesalers who sell the island. It is because of their support and endorsement that St. Maarten remains one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. Our annual SMART event -- St. Maarten/St. Martin Annual Regional Tradeshow -- was a big success with 148 delegates attending. Our ranking by TripAdvisor.com as the #1 Caribbean vacation destination reflects the quality of the island's overall tourism product, and again I salute the travel agents who are loyal to St. Maarten. We encourage agents to visit our properties; many extend reduced rates to agents our tourism product becomes more familiar.

What is your vision for the future of the island?
Our room stock is expanding. Radisson St. Martin Resort & Spa opens soon and will add more than 200 rooms on the French side and the high-end Coral Beach Club opened on Dawn beach on the Dutch side. It is this expansion of room availability that is necessary in order for us to continue our discussions with the airlines. We cannot ask them to enhance service if we do not have the beds. Having another high-end product to tell agents and wholesalers about is most welcome.

On a personal note, where are your favourite spots on the island?
Although my job requires a lot of traveling, I spend as much time with my family as possible. My teenage daughter even likes to go to the movies with me. For my own fun, I enjoy Cheri's in Maho where I listen to good music. I've been seen on my feet dancing up a storm although I don't advertise that too much. I also enjoy the barbecue at the "lolo" in Colebay called Johnny Under the Tree. In my opinion, visitors to our island will not get a worthwhile vacation experience if they only go from hotel to the beach and back. If our visitors do not leave their beach chairs, they can't really say they've been to St. Maarten.

For more information on St. Maarten/St. Martin, call 800-786-2278 or visit www.st-martin.org or www.vacationstmaarten.com.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Ember Swift Feature

Source: CIRAA

Ember Swift
is an internationally touring artist, musician and songwriter, and founder of the independent label Few'll Ignite Sound. She and her band have toured extensively throughout Canada and the United States and have also toured (on multiple occasions) in Australia, New Caledonia (French island in the Pacific) and China. Since launching her career in 1996, she has won numerous awards and is well known for her political activism, business acumen and her commitment to the ideal: "independent by identity, not default."

Q: You're nine albums deep into your career as a music artist, from your self-titled debut release in 1996 up to 2006's The Dirty Pulse. Over your career, what have been the most rewarding parts of being an independent artist, and what have been the biggest challenges?

I think the most rewarding part of my journey as an artist has been the people that I have been gifted to meet. All over the world, my music has acted as a natural icebreaker yielding invitations into diverse cultural, ethnic, religious, political communities that I may never have had the opportunity to access. I have learned so much from each and every one of these people.

I'd have to say that my greatest challenge has been trying to operate in this linear Western economic model when it constantly contradicts the cyclical, sustainable model of success (more associated with Eastern traditions) that I have been trying to live by since the beginning of this musical endeavor. It comes up all the time. Even the simple community, resource-sharing characteristics of CIRAA are in contradiction with the rigid linear model that advocates competition and protecting or hoarding one's information (presumably against theft by the competitor).

In the end, however, I have found enough solidarity and camaraderie with these philosophies to make that struggle worthwhile. So, it's all surmountable.

Q: What roles have you typically taken on yourself in terms of your career management, and in what areas have you brought in others to assist you?

At one time, my music label did all the management, publicity and booking in-house. I did some of the tasks myself or in tandem with employees, while other tasks were delegated entirely. Of course, before the label was developed enough to afford employees, I did do it all myself in the confines of my bachelor apartment or alongside volunteers who helped me organize special projects. It wasn't long before I never referred to the projects as my projects; there has long been a team.

Nevertheless, in my workshops I strongly advocate gathering the expertise about any and all the possible tasks that are required of an artist on the business side so that, in the future, one can hire (and if need be, fire) assistance from an informed place.

In 2003, I was signed by a U.S. booking agency and I also began to work with publicists on certain tours, especially in other countries besides Canada. In 2004, I signed a management deal in Canada, which came to a close in January of 2007.

At this point in time, I am back to doing self-management and I'm about to engage in a six-month writing and production sabbatical in China for my next album, which means that I won't be working with the agency until I'm back on the road. There are currently no publicists on the case as a new project is in the works. My team at the moment consists of two part-time Few'll Ignite Sound employees and myself who help me keep the label afloat in this quiet time.

Change is certainly an ever-present component to this career!

Q: You've toured extensively, and have found a home in China. How did you go about determining which geographic markets made the most sense for you to pursue in terms of releasing your product as well as touring to promote it?

When I first started touring, I did small loops around Toronto. Those circles got wider and wider as our reputation and audience grew. Eventually, we were touring to the East Coast, which was followed by cross-Canada tours that took us all the way to Vancouver and back. In 1998, we also started touring in the U.S., which was easier to do at that time in history as working permits were not as difficult to obtain as they are now. Since much of the American Eastern seaboard is just a few hours' drive away, it simply made sense economically and geographically.

These destinations were determined by demand coupled with our financial ability to get there. In other words, if we could secure an invitation to an event or a festival or a venue, but it was too far away to afford to drive there, it went on the back burner for a future tour. Eventually, these opportunities would pile up and warrant a tour that could afford itself.

Our international touring (at least, outside of Canada and the U.S.) began in 2001 and came about by a random invitation to play in Australia. Much research and risk-taking later, we strung together shows over the Internet through gig swapping, research and lots of faith and then hopped on a plane. That first year that created enough buzz and interest that our costs were covered. We have now toured Australia eight times. In fact, it was due to these Australian successes that many more doors began to open for me and my band back here in Canada. It's amazing how word travels!

We have also toured on two occasions in a small country called New Caledonia. This is an island country in the Pacific Alliance of islands off the coast of Australia (near Fiji) that is still governed by France. I speak French and this language ability enabled me to land this opportunity while touring in Australia. Of all the tours we have done, going to New Caledonia and hanging out with the palm trees, beaches, wild mango trees when not on stage has been one of the greatest highlights. Tough life, I know. They were unbelievable opportunities!

China was actually originally meant as a break from my touring, as it has been a long-intended destination in my life. (I have a degree in East Asian Studies from UofT and speak Mandarin.) But, as it is a country in the midst of great change and huge growth, going to China has yielded some interesting opportunities for my performance and my recording career. As a result, I am now both gigging and living in China in order to develop these possibilities.

When I look back across the touring chronology, it seems pretty clear that I have been riding one wave to the next. There's some conscious choice, but there's also simply serendipity. No complaints!

Q: What are some of the most unorthodox organizations that have booked you for performances and what are some non-traditional ways you've generated revenue from your music?

Well, I play a middle school in Connecticut every year. I never thought I'd see my music being loved by a pile of sixth graders, but they love it and request us to come back every year to the point where we are now part of the curriculum in the English department. It becomes both a performance and a workshop about expression, communication, the concept of voice, etc.

Well, that's hardly unorthodox. I have played for events for so many activist organizations and been part of so many interesting events that it's hard to list them, but I don't think I could say that any of them were unorthodox. They all "fit" somehow, into the grand scheme of things.

In terms of non-traditional ways to generate revenue, I am always looking for those
Let me know if you can tell me of some that I hadn't thought of! I did recently auction off a guitar that I hadn't been using and was shocked by the willingness of my fans to buy it for much more than I would have been able to sell it to a store for. I think I'm always surprised by what some fans will pay to contribute to my musical career. They deserve all the credit, really.

Fans are my currency, after all. My whole career has been about earning fans. They are the real revenue. Money is just a nice by-product when you have fans.

Q: Talk a bit about the challenges and/or opportunities that the Internet and digital downloading have created for you.

Endless.

I have to see the downloading and filesharing of music as an opportunity to get my music into more ears. That's not to say that I don't believe my music has value, but I do hope that by spreading it around via this ready medium of filesharing that it will generate more interest in what I'm doing and perhaps will translate into greater attendance at shows, for instance. In general, I hope it will encourage more support for the artist and for the intangible art that can be made live, in real time, rather than focusing so much energy on my spinning pieces of plastic that simply house my art. This philosophy also stops me from holding the weight of resentment that comes from the belief that my art has been stolen. No one can steal my art. It is in me. It is me.

Of course, it has meant that I sell less than half the numbers of CDs now than I used to, which is a reflection of the changing industry and definitely not a reflection of my talent or skill. My music has gotten better with time, not worse. It's simply too bad that the sales don't indicate this truth as they once did. (Paid downloads only offset a small percentage of those sales losses rather than replacing them.)

What's to be done? I accept that the Internet has enabled me to promote and be available to ears and eyes globally. Without it, I'm not sure independent artists could be as prosperous as some of us have been. It has been an amazing tool for publicity and visibility. This changing technology strikes me as more exciting than debilitating. If I keep that attitude prominent, then I can embrace the changes and be open to the other opportunities that inevitably will come to have my music heard digitally.

I have faith that all will be well for the artist despite these trying times.

Q: How have you utilized social networking sites to promote yourself?

I have a MySpace account and a Facebook profile, both a music group and a personal site. It's been an amazing tool in the past couple of years and it has grown so quickly, it's unbelievable. It gives artists an instant mailing list without having to trek around to cities carrying a sign-up sheet and collecting support, signature by signature.

These sites also enable the greatest marketing of all: word of mouth. As people can type in what they love and spread the word, it's remarkably good for an artist's profile to be the topic of conversation. The networks are so vast. Really, it's staggering the reach these sites have had and continue to have.

Blogging, as an aside, is another incredible resource to independent artists. Another topic unto itself!

Q: In addition to being a singer-songwriter, you are also well-known for your workshop facilitation and artist education initiatives through your label website, www.fewllignitesound.com. What motivates you to engage in artist education?

I am saddened by how many artists are still manipulated by the industry simply because of their ignorance about the music business. I started my label to advocate the DIY approach and found that many artists in turn asked me "what to do" and "how to do it" on dozens of topics. I started to offer workshops and seminars to artists about five or six years ago because I believe that if we have the knowledge, we will have the power. I think it's simple: we are the music makers, and so the industry doesn't tick without us. It is ludicrous that the very heartbeat of the business is often the most vulnerable position to occupy. So, my artist education is based on wanting to empower the artist so that we can all make informed decisions about our career paths.

But before I teach a single class, I always make clear that all I know is my own journey and the experience that I have gleaned therein. A beginner artist always has something to teach me as well, simply because his or her experiences are different and at a different stage. I want to make it clear that I have something to share but that I'm not the authority on the issue. Together, we create a population of authority as independent artists; alone, we are just one path. That's why CIRAA is such an important organization. It's a unified front. It's a collective knowledge base.

Q: Why did you join the CIRAA Board of Directors? What is your main objective as a CIRAA Board Member?

Well, since I've been raving about CIRAA throughout this whole interview, I've answered some of that already! But, the practical side of it is that I was originally invited to join back when I was still foggy as to what CIRAA actually did in this industry. Since then, I have been moved to get more involved as a result of the personalities of the CIRAA members, the ambition and intention that fuels the organization and, well, the fact that CIRAA is filling a similar role to that of my music label, which is to provide education, resources and support to independent artists. Quite simply, I respect the organization. I want to help.

Q: Based on your day-to-day experience as an independent artist, what are the key issues and challenges that independent and unsigned artists should be paying attention to given the new music industry landscape?

I think the biggest issue and challenge is to keep art central, the focus, the point. We often get so wrapped up in the business side of what we're doing as independent artists that we can lose focus on the real driving reason for all that business activity: music. Without a regular and intentional schedule for music in my life, I would have been consumed by the entrepreneurial demands of the industry. When I'm doing my workshops, I stress this constantly. After all, the music is the reason for everything. Without doing the business, we are still legitimate songwriters and our identities as music-makers remains unchanged. Without the music, what is our identity as a business person about? Nothing, really. Music is key.

Q: What are some of the key things that indie artists need to do to successfully build and manage their careers in the music industry?

Now, getting into the heart of it, if you had to choose only one area of the business to focus on, I'd say that a web presence is an unquestioned essential for all independent artists today. Staying on top of web technology and learning where those opportunities lie is key. It's both a challenge and an issue as it's constantly changing. That requires regular vigilance.

I'd have to also tack on the need to be alert to funding opportunities for artists. This is an amazing country that offers support to its artists (compared to the U.S., for instance) and so learning about these programs can be the difference between a project's existence and inexistence.

Q: How do you define professional success?

No differently than I define personal success: by how it feels. I scrap the numbers and the stats and just ask myself if I feel, truly, as though I have succeeded with a project. If the answer is yes, I am satisfied. If the answer is no, I analyze where I fell short. Ultimately, I'm the only one who can identify my successes. Everyone else is just guessing from the outside looking in! My biggest lesson in life has been to ignore what "they" think and just do what feels right for me. So far so good.

Thanks, Ember, for sharing so much insightful info. Scroll down to the bottom of this issue to review Ember's "Indie Music Tips"!



Ember’s Indie Music Tips

* Believe in your art. You are the most important believer. If you believe in what you're doing, others will be inspired to believe in it too.

* Touring is organic distribution. When your show is ready, hit the road. Start small with a solo or duo or small ensemble, don't go too far away or stay out for too long but always know that no matter where you go with your music, you are taking it to new ears and potential fans. If they don't come to you, go to them!

* Stay in touch with your fans. You're a person, not a product. Fans are people who like your music, but lasting support is really solidified when they come to like YOU. Besides, you're likely to make many friends that way!

* Before seeking representation, learn how to do the jobs yourself. Then you'll know what expertise is required to do each job right. That way, once you do have representation, you'll always know whether they are worth their fee or you'd be better off going the DIY route.

* Having a recording you're proud of makes a huge difference. Even if it's just a demo or an EP, it is your audio business card and if you have to disclaim it every time you give it someone (i.e. "we've grown a lot since this recording, but...") then you really shouldn't be giving it out.

* Accept the hospitality and generosity extended by fans and supporters. People who love music but don't make music often want to help but don't know how. Volunteers in the office, open doors on the road, friends who offer web support (etc.) are all incredibly valuable. Kindness is a form of alternative currency worth trading in, especially in a business where hard cash is hard to come by.

* You are never too old to make art. Your art will only get better with time if you're always working at it, developing it, pushing yourself to be a better player, etc. Music is like wine. Give it time.

Check out www.fewllignitesound.com for log sheet templates, sample contracts and lots more helpful resource info!



Sign up for FREE membership in CIRAA at www.ciraa.ca to get access to more features like this one on Ember.

Reggae Legends Abyssinians Find Their Soul In A Far Away Land

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(July 31, 2008) The
Abyssinians are roots-reggae legends with a healthy catalogue, but noted mainly for the title track of their 1971 debut album Satta Massagana.

The subtle repatriation tune is named for the phrase "give thanks and praises" in Ethiopia's Amharic language and embraced as an anthem by Rastafarians who consider the African country their spiritual home.

The Jamaican harmony trio, initially comprised of Bernard Collins and brothers Donald and Lynford Manning, disbanded in the 1980s after the siblings moved to the U.S. At one point Collins and Donald Manning helmed two different Abyssinian touring acts. They reunited in 2003 and will perform with new member David Morrison (Lynford has retired from music) at Harbourfront's free Island Soul festival on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. with the backing of Toronto musicians.

Lead singer and father of four, Collins, 59, spoke with the Star from his home in Jamaica.

Q: How did your career in music begin?

A:
I used to sing in the Seventh Day Adventist church with my grandmother where we lived in the country. I always had the urge to sing and when I moved to Kingston I wanted to meet all of the big artists; so I went to Trench Town, which was like the university for music, because all of the young talents like Alton Ellis, Bob Marley and Ken Booth came out of there. I met all those guys and would hang around trying to get inspiration and learn about the music business.

Q: What do you recall about how "Satta Massagna" was composed?

A:
One night back in 1969 we were sitting outside (the Manning) house. Donald, as always, was playing his guitar, struggling on a few chords. The melody just came inside of me and I started singing "There is a land far, far away/ Where there's no night, there's only day," and he went inside his house, came out with some paper and started writing down the lyrics. I would sing one line, he would come in with a few lines, that was it.

Q: Were you a Rastafarian then?

A:
I was, but maybe I never recognized it, because I grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is similar to the Rastafarian movement – we don't eat pork, we don't wear jewellery to church and certain other things we don't do, same as the Rastas. I was learning about Rastafari, meeting the elders in Trench Town who would reason with us as youth and tell us about Africa and Marcus Garvey. It wasn't until we released the second album Arise in 1978 that I (grew dreadlocks) and started to identify myself as a Rasta.

Q: So back in '69 what "far away land" were you referencing? Ethiopia, heaven, paradise?

A:
I don't know how the others see it; deep inside of everyone they have a different inspiration, even though three of us sing the song. I always read the Bible and I still do read the Bible, and I'm looking on that land as the land of paradise. It's different from where we are. It's not this material life. It's far beyond this life. It's pure. That's where I was looking.

Q: How come you never emigrated?

A:
When I got involved in the music business I realized the value of staying in Jamaica, even though I'm not a superstar as Bob Marley. When I travel, I'm more appreciated by the people, because I'm coming from the roots. Jamaica is my home and I don't see why I should run. I don't need no more material things. Everything is here.

Cool Strummer Jack Johnson



Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist



(August 02, 2008) In the entertainment business there's no such thing as an accidental star.

Every nameless troubadour in every neighbourhood pub, every unknown participant in those ritzed-up karaoke contests that pass themselves off as reality shows, comes to the game with the expectation of becoming some kind of idol.

Fame, however fleeting, drives what passes for artistic enterprise in the new millennium, so it's with much scepticism that the jaded media have approached reclusive, less-is-more, postmodern, surfing filmmaker-turned-pop music phenomenon
Jack Johnson.

The Hawaii-born and raised songwriter and guitarist – talents he developed, so the story goes, in hospital after an accident ended the pro surfing career he'd been building in the wake of his champion father, Jeff Johnson – may not be as obsessively reluctant as the minimalist cult sensation Jandek, who performs in semi-darkness and has rarely been photographed. But he comes close.

Johnson's songs, sparsely arranged around indefinite chord structures and mumbled lyrics that eschew personality in favour of spiritual utterances about the wonders of the natural world and eco-awareness, sound more like the stream-of-consciousness doodles of an unreconstituted flower child.

He has no show to speak of. Onstage, Johnson and his rhythm section, surrounded by video screens flashing nature imagery, look like nervous novices who'd rather be somewhere else. Offstage, he looks like one of his own fans: quiet, mildly curious and a bit overwhelmed.

Despite mighty yawns from critical media, Johnson was a star from the get-go. Sales of his independently released 2001 debut album, Brushfire Fairytales, rocketed into the high five digits on industry sales lists without so much as an advertisement, a video, radio airplay or a mainstream media interview or a tour to support it. Overnight, this lantern-jawed surfer gave hope to hordes of anonymous songwriters dreaming in their basement rec rooms of glory and untold wealth.

But that's never what he was about, Johnson said during a rare interview in advance of his performance tomorrow at Burl's Creek Park in Oro, near Barrie.

He maintains that having grown up surfing in the daytime and singing familiar songs – tunes by Jimmy Buffett, Neil Young and Van Morrison were favourites – with family and friends around beach bonfires at night, his accidental celebrity is bogus, a cumbersome distraction.

"I used to write songs all the time ... it was fun, and I never performed," said Johnson, who lives most of the year with his wife, Kim, a former schoolteacher, and their two young sons in a modest bungalow overlooking the surf on Oahu's north shore. They don't have cable TV, but the 33-year-old film school graduate admits to a healthy diet of DVDs and how-to-survive books.

When schedules allow, the family takes up residence in suburban Santa Barbara, Calif., north of the solar-powered, denim-scrap-insulated, low-flush toilet-equipped, DIY studio, label and eco-friendly merchandising operation Johnson runs in L.A. with his long-time friend and business partner Emmett Malloy, the cousin of pro surfers Chris, Keith and Dan Malloy.

"Now, all the eyes are on the stage, all these cameras are pointed my way, and it takes a toll," Johnson says. "It becomes hard to write without thinking about those people out there, and what they want to hear, instead of the song and what I need to say. That's why I don't do interviews. It's a matter of balance."

Fifteen million sales and four albums later – including 2005's In Between Dreams (six million sold), his soundtrack to the 2006 Curious George movie, and the recently released Sleep Through the Static – Johnson remains an enigma, a displaced ghost in pop music's gleaming machinery. Well spoken, self-deprecating and at a loss to explain his unexpected success and unsought wealth, he says he started composing merely to provide a personal soundtrack for his films about surfing. It's no surprise that surfers were his first fans, and remain his most devoted.

"I never even thought of this as surf music," continued Johnson, whose musical preferences run to Agent Orange, The Black-Eyed Peas, Bad Religion, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon and Ben Harper, an early fan and mentor.

"I was into the boarding culture, but surfing isn't the only thing I know. The songs I write are conversations with myself. They're about things other than the ocean and water, and I think surfers appreciate that the music isn't about the surfing culture. It's about what we all think about when we're out there in the water."

One Johnson preoccupation is the poor health of the planet, understandable for an artist and athlete raised in an environment whose spectacular natural beauty is now threatened by the excesses of a careless industrialized multitude. Those concerns underscore every Johnson concert, which includes a Village Green component – a collection of information and demonstration booths operated by All At Once, a grassroots network of small, local, non-profit groups championing ideas that benefit the environment. His concerts evoke a larger, global community spirit not unlike the peace-focused tribal events that accompanied rock shows during the anti-Vietnam War years.

(The network is also, perhaps inadvertently, an unpaid publicity machine informing the faithful of Johnson's various musical and environmental activities.)

"My wife and my pianist's wife dreamed it up," Johnson said. "It's a way of bringing lots of small-scale ideas up front, and encouraging individuals to change the way they think about the environment. It all seems logical to me.

"I'm learning as I go. My father is a very hands-on person ... if something was broken, he'd fix it. The only thing fame is good for is shining a light on something other than myself."

Apparently, Johnson walks the walk. The buses and trucks in his touring convoy run on biodiesel fuel. Backstage, where the band, crew and their families are fed by a special catering team that uses locally grown organic meat and produce purchased daily, a comprehensive recycling regimen is maintained, Johnson said.

"We have water stations without bottles on the concert site to lessen the use of plastic, and we encourage carpooling to our shows.

"Concert tours leave a huge (carbon) footprint, and the only way to eliminate it is to stop touring altogether. The best I can do is try to make the industry more aware of the issues involved and to raise the consciousness of music fans."

T.I. Ready To Show His 'Paper Trail'

Source: Atlantic Records, Brian Dackowski, Brian.Dackowski@atlanticrecords.com

(August 01, 2008) Grand Hustle/Atlantic recording artist T.I. has unveiled further details of his much-anticipated new album, "PAPER TRAIL."  The multiple Grammy Award-winning superstar will release the follow-up to 2007's RIAA platinum-certified "T.I. vs T.I.P." on September 9th.

"I just want everyone to know that it's coming out and that I'm going to answer a lot of questions in the music," the ATL-based rapper says of "PAPER TRAIL."  "It's intense and insightful; it's gonna shake up the game and it's me at my best."

"PAPER TRAIL" has been heralded by the street track, "No Matter What," on which T.I. directly addresses his current life situation.  The track - produced by Danjahandz (Timbaland, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, Danity Kane) - has been building momentum organically, scoring major airplay at Urban and Rhythmic radio outlets nationwide.  The song's companion video is now in "Medium" rotation at BET and in "Heavy" rotation on the network's Rap City.  At MTV, "No Matter What" is in rotation across the spectrum, including MTV, MTV2, mtvU, MTV Hits, and MTV Jams (where it was recently "Jam of the Week").

The album's first official single, "Whatever You Like," has just hit radio outlets nationwide.  The song was produced by Jim Jonsin, whose many credits include Lil Wayne's current #1 smash, "Lollipop."  In addition, "Swing Your Rag," a brand-new Swizz Beatz-produced track from "PAPER TRAIL," has just been added to the player on T.I.'s MySpace page, located at www.trapmuzik.com.   

* * * * *

"PAPER TRAIL" is T.I. at his best - melding emotive moments like the harrowing "My Life, Your Entertainment" with celebratory anthems such as the cocky "Turn My Beat Down."  In addition to the aforementioned Danja and Swizz Beatz, the production roster includes such studio stars as DJ Toomp (Kanye West, Missy Elliot, Young Jeezy) and Drumma Boy (Paul Wall, Rick Ross, Yung Joc).  The result is T.I.'s most potent and important LP to date.

The album follows T.I.'s two previous #1 blockbusters, 2007's "T.I. vs T.I.P." and 2006's RIAA platinum-certified "KING."  With an unparalleled track record of hit singles - including "Top Back," "Big Things Poppin' (Do It)," "Why You Wanna," and the Grammy Award-winning "What You Know" - T.I. is without question one of hip-hop's greatest stars.  In addition to his multiple Grammy Awards, T.I. has been the recipient of a wide variety of honours, including BET Awards, BET Hip-Hop Awards, and Billboard Music Awards.

An accomplished actor as well as a gifted rapper and live performer, T.I. has played acclaimed roles in the major motion pictures ATL and American Gangster.  He will be starring in the upcoming Screen Gems film entitled Bone Deep.  He will also make a cameo appearance on the new season of HBO's Entourage.

Earlier this year, Tip found success in cyberspace, launching a social networking website called www.streetcred.com.  Added to these endeavours is his much-anticipated clothing line Akoo, which will be in stores this fall. 

In 2009, T.I. will be tackling television with an inspirational reality show airing on MTV.  The yet-to-be-titled series will center on the rapper's life on probation in the year leading up to his impending year-long jail sentence.

For up-to-the-minute news and information, please visit www.trapmuzik.com and www.myspace.com/trapmuzik.

Iggy Pop, The Aging Father Of Punk Rock, Is Back With Band And Ready To Rage

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

(
August 03, 2008) This Stooges reunion thing has been going on for five years now and Toronto still hasn't had a taste, so at the risk of sounding ineloquent – which, granted, was never much of a concern for the chaps who gave us "Loose," "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell"– we feel compelled to ask one Iggy Pop: WTF?

"That's a good question," comes a familiar, baritone drawl down the line from Miami, Fla., where Pop is enjoying a lazy day off and contemplating a dip. "I don't know. We came to Detroit a couple of times and, I think, somebody who makes money booking us said" – here we shift to a nasal, biz-weasel voice – "`Yeah, man, why don't you go up to Toronto?' And I said, `Aw, no. I don't wanna go in and out so quickly and, besides, it's next to Detroit. Let's just wait.' Or something. It's probably my fault. But it's worked out now, anyway."

Indeed it has. The reactivated
Iggy and the Stooges arrive at Massey Hall on Wednesday, giving another prod to the ongoing, slightly haphazard revival of the band that arguably set the standard for the pure, undiluted expression of the mythological rock `n' roll id.

You'll never find a dirtier, druggier or more deviantly unhinged catalogue than the original three Stooges albums: 1969's slinky, sleazy, sex-mad The Stooges, 1970's jazzbo-spastic masterwork Fun House and 1973's savage proto-punk rave-up Raw Power.

Pop (né James Osterberg) and sibling co-founders Ron and Scott Asheton – with ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt subbing in for the late Dave Alexander – didn't really need to append last year's The Weirdness to the list, but the endeavour on the whole was respectably rockin' and profane for three gentlemen approaching retirement age. And they are, of course, growing old with an appropriate lack of grace; "Punk icon Iggy Pop turns 60, dives offstage" went one memorable Reuters headline from April of last year.

Still, even the Igster himself concedes that he's amazed at the general, oozing nastiness of the music he and the Stooges summoned during their misspent youth.

"Sometimes I am. I listen to 'em, usually if I've been off for awhile and we're going out – that's when I listen to 'em. And I have some sort of reaction to just the general vibe, like `Whaa?'" he laughs. "But when they sound the best to me is when I hear 'em, like, through a door or through a wall or driving by somewhere by accident. Then they sound really good.

"I'll be outside a club in the parking lot or something and it comes through the door and I can't quite make out what it is, but it's like, `F---, wasn't that ... y'know ... life?' They're not lifeless, and at the time (the Stooges' records) were made, it was definitely better to have been spayed. If you were rock 'n' roll and you had your balls cut off, you were gonna do better."

True, this. Despised by critics and rejected by an aghast public, the Stooges had barely made a dent in the public consciousness when booze, heroin and mounting interpersonal tensions finally blew the band apart in 1974.

The records never stopped getting passed reverently around by a small, fanatical cult left behind, though, and Pop's on-again/off-again flirtations with commercial success throughout his solo career would inevitably lure a few more curious souls. Thus, like the Velvet Underground before them, the Stooges – once far too raw and unruly for anyone but their hometown fans in riot-ravaged, early-'70s Detroit – grew more popular in absentia than they'd ever been while together.

"It's been tremendously satisfying to start getting worldly success for the group, both in terms of the group finally starting to do something for its members and also to have the group show an ability to shake people up a little bit in the front and back rows," says Pop, who likens the sincerity in the Stooges' music to that of "a troubled murderer."

"Where we had left off, people were usually just frozen in fear, horror, curiosity or amazement. You could've heard a pin drop. And that was fine for what it was, but I felt, little by little, that the world sorta turned a little bit. We've sorta met up halfway."

He chuckles at the suggestion that the world-at-large has, perhaps, become a little more like Detroit in the early 1970s.

"That's a good point, actually," he says. "Lots of fires, lots of strange, negative preening. Yes."

The Stooges reunion began casually – Iggy, at "a dead end creatively," rang up the Ashetons to guest on 2003's Skull Ring album because they were "a lot cooler than everybody else on my list."

Tour dates are selective, topping out at just 42 last year with a new record to promote. And that's the way Pop, who clearly still only has so much time for his band mates, would prefer it.

"Have you ever been in holding? Being in our group is like being in holding. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I try to show up, go `Hi, great to see ya' but otherwise – especially after the gig, once the sax player has, like, three drinks – that's it."

Deitrick Haddon Set To Release New Album On Zomba Gospel

Sourcewww.eurweb.com -

(August 05, 2008) With over a decade of creating progressive Gospel music, Deitrick Haddon is gearing up for his forthcoming Zomba Gospel release, “ Revealed,” which will be in stores on September 2nd, 2008.

The new CD is produced by Dre & Vidal (Alicia Keys, Usher), Warryn Campbell (Kanye West, Mary Mary), Tim & Bob (Bobby Valentino) and Percy Bady (Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond). “Revealed” is a genius work that continues to solidify Haddon as one of the most prolific and talented artists in the Urban Gospel genre. 

Relevant to present day life, issues, and emotions, “Revealed,” is a musical kaleidoscope that will speak to the hearts and minds of both the “churched” and the “un-churched” alike. 

“I believe that Gospel music can be just as big as rock and fill stadiums around the world. But our music has to reach beyond our religious beliefs to connect on a greater level. I wanted to speak to everybody,” says Haddon.  

The first two singles being released off the CD are “The Word” and "I’m Alive.”  On both, Haddon’s trademark sound of contemporary Gospel with an urban edge abounds greatly.  “I’m Alive,” a spiritual testimony of endurance and motivation, speaks words of encouragement to listener’s hearts. The second single, “The Word,” is a passionate ballad that will move listeners to display love in their everyday lives.

“Revealed” also includes the super hot “Love Him Like I Do,” featuring Ruben Studdard and Mary Mary. The single has become one of 2008’s hottest R&B Gospel anthems, and earned Haddon a BET Award nomination for Best Gospel Artist.  Peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart, this popular single maintained a chart presence for over 32 weeks. 

The Search For Rawi Hage

Sourcewww.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(August 04, 2008) LONDON — It's best not to perform a Google search on Rawi Hage, or if you do, at least hide the fact from him. It's not that the Montreal writer has been involved in any high-profile scandals, or is wanted by the law in six countries; in fact, should you search for his name you'd think his life, at least recently, was quite sun-tinged.

It's just that Hage, who recently became €100,000 richer when he won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his novel De Niro's Game, feels that the Internet has distilled his essence into a few pungent bio-bytes, some of which are not true: The Lebanese-Canadian writer. Raised during the war in Beirut . Winner of the world's richest literary prize for the first book he wrote. Soon to be made into a major motion picture by Atom Egoyan. (That last part's not true; it's one of the rumours that staggers around the Internet, refusing to die.) "It's all I ask," Hage says one night at a cocktail party at the Canadian High Commission in London . "Don't Google me." He will read the following night during Toronto Stories, also featuring Priscilla Uppal and Vincent Lam, at the London Literature Festival. Is it at least true that he was born in 1964? "Let's not talk about it," he says, running one hand over his smooth scalp. "I shaved it off, it was coming in white."

The next morning, sitting at a coffee shop in Bloomsbury - a neighbourhood as rich in literary history as any in London - Hage looks suspiciously at the tape recorder in front of him. "It's okay," he says, "but I'm more likely to censor myself if it's there." He's an intriguing blend of lugubrious and funny, wary and passionate. Even at this early stage of his literary stardom, he's openly sceptical about the media, which is refreshing. Almost everyone who gets interviewed regularly is leery of journalists, often with good reason, but almost everyone is too chicken to say so. Not Hage.

"I won't answer that, it's a trick question," he says in response to a perfectly bland query about whether he knew boys like George and Bassam, the two young protagonists of his novel, who spend their lives hustling, smoking dope and dreaming of escaping the war in Beirut .

A trick question? "I've known a lot of people - one character might encompass a thousand characters that I've woven together. If I tell you yes ...." His eyes are mischievous. "I don't trust journalists any more."

What he objects to in particular is the idea that his life story - his "trajectory," as he puts it - overshadows the fictional world of his novel. He was raised in a Christian family in East Beirut , with Arabic as a first language; he studied in French. Like Bassam, his restless, rootless narrator, he longed to get out, and left for New York at 18 before moving to Montreal 10 years later. "It's not such an unusual thing," he says. "South of Sicily, everyone wants to leave."

It's dangerous to draw too many parallels between Hage and the boys in De Niro's Game. (To explain the title: George takes his nickname from the American actor, and the "game" will be familiar to anyone who's seen The Deer Hunter.) The search for real-life underpinnings makes Hage shake his head: "We're starting to give more priority to what is perceived as real than the fictitious and the imaginary. We are undermining the act of creativity."

There's no doubt that De Niro's Game is an act of creativity - "a page-turning tour de force" in the IMPAC jury's analysis - and all the more surprising because it was written in only 14 months, in Hage's third language, English.

It's part film noir, part existential shrug: "In death, everything should cease," Bassam notes while he's on the run in Paris , reading Camus. "All else is nothing but human vanity and make-believe." Absolutely it's an existential novel, says its author, who longs for a secular world and despairs that reason will ever have its days. Why not? "Because we're just territorial monkeys."

At times, Hage's wiry prose turns giddy and hallucinatory, the metaphors spiralling up to the sky. He becomes invigorated talking about Bassam's imaginary flights, which happen when he's stressed or heartbroken. "When I was a kid," Hage says, "we were in the shelter one day. We'd been there for a couple weeks and the bombing never stopped. I saw this kid who just lost it - he was about my age. I think it marked me, how people escape from crisis. You create a totally imaginary, fantastical world."

He returns to his sandwich for a moment. He's already generously given up one half of it - "I really prefer to share food" - and now he pushes the watercress garnish over to our young photographer. "Have some," he says seriously. "It's good for the libido." The photographer eyes the green specks dubiously and Hage bursts out laughing. "If pharmaceutical companies can lie all the time, why can't I?"

Periodically Hage gets e-mails from one of the Canadian publishers who rejected De Niro's Game. It's understandable - the poor man probably keeps a file of the awards the book has been nominated for (the Giller, the Governor-General's the Writers' Trust) and those it has won (the IMPAC, the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize). The novel was submitted to 10 publishers and was plucked off the "slush pile" of unsolicited manuscripts at House of Anansi Press - the literary equivalent of a glass shoe being placed delicately on the foot, followed by a long stint in a castle.

What's surprising is that for most of his life Hage wasn't a writer, he was an artist working in photography. He only turned to writing after being encouraged by a curator who'd worked with him during an ill-fated show of Arab-Canadian artists at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (the show was cancelled in the wake of Sept. 11, then quickly reinstated after protests from politicians and the artists). Hage contributed photographs to the exhibit and semi-fictional travelogues to the catalogue. The curator took him by the hand and said: "You should write."

So he did. He published short stories in literary magazines, many of them set in Beirut , "because when you live through a war, that's bound to come out first." One of the stories refused to leave his head until he expanded it into a

novel.

That novel allowed him to give up his day job as a taxi driver and concentrate on writing instead. A discussion of the IMPAC prize money prompts a fervent outburst. "As an artist I lived for 20 years below the poverty line. If you take that money and split it on 20 years, it's peanuts! Everybody thinks I won the lottery."

He throws up his hands. "I worked hard for this, I sacrificed, I never got married, I never got kids. All for my art. I was a taxi driver, a dishwasher, so I can go and take photographs and exhibit them or write a few pages. This money I earned."

The heat of the minute passes and Hage leans back with a smile that says, yeah, I'm a passionate guy, what can I do? Pretty soon he'll be back in Montreal , where he recently finished work on his second novel, Cockroach a series of contemporary vignettes, he says, about mental illness and the clash of civilizations. "I can't wait till this book comes out," he says, "so I can prove to people I'm a writer, not just a witness."

Rawi Hage's Cockroach will be released on Aug. 30 by House of Anansi Press.

Trey Songz In The Spotlight

Source: Brian Dackowski - Brian.Dackowski@atlanticrecords.com

(August 6, 2008) *"Missin You," the latest video from
Trey's 2007 breakthrough sophomore album, "TREY DAY," has just premiered at www.myspace.com/treysongz.

The video -- directed by Zipper On Butta-Fly Leather - is shaping up as a huge hit, having quickly drawn over half-a-million streams. 

"Missin You" can also be viewed at Trey's official site,  www.treysongz.com, as well as at www.imeem.com/treysongz, and www.youtube.com/treysongz.

"Missin You" follows three previous hit singles from "TREY DAY," including "Wonder Woman," "Last Time," and "Can't Help But Wait," which topped the Urban Mainstream chart earlier this year.

"TREY DAY" made a stunning chart debut upon its October 2007 release, entering Billboard's "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums" tally at #2, while also exploding onto the Billboard 200 at #11.

The album sees Songz teaming up with a stunning selection of studio superstars, including Songbook Entertainment founder Troy Taylor (Pretty Ricky, Tyrese), Stargate (R. Kelly, Ne-Yo, Rihanna), Danja (Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado), Bryan Michael Cox (Danity Kane, Mary J. Blige), the Runners (Young Jeezy, Trick Daddy), Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige), Dre & Vidal (Usher, Chris Brown), Bei Maejor (Bun B, Chris Brown), Eric Hudson (Omarion, Joe, John Legend), and the one-and-only R. Kelly. 

Furthermore, "TREY DAY" includes guest shots by such hip-hop luminaries as Jim Jones and UGK's Bun B, as well as A&R direction by former Dru Hill member, Tamir "Nokio" Ruffin. The album's Executive Producers are Troy Taylor, Delante Murphy, and Kevin Liles.  The Co-Executive Producer is Trey Songz.

The 22-year-old singer - a 2008 BET Award nominee for "Best Male R&B Artist" - celebrated "TREY DAY" with a long list of TV appearances, including live performances on BET's 106 & Park and It's Showtime At The Apollo, not to mention a featured spot on BET's annual Rip The Runway extravaganza, modeling fashion created by some of today's hottest designers.  Trey - aka "the Prince of Virginia" - was also among the VA-based artists showcased on MTV2's My Block, alongside such like-minded musicians as Timbaland, Pharell, and the Clipse.

What's more, Songz has been profiled in a variety of national publications, highlighted by cover features in Right On!, Floss, and Black Beat.  Other recent magazine appearances include King, Sister 2 Sister, WordUp!, SBH, Blackmen, XXL Presents Hip-Hop Soul, Giant, Hype Hair, and Rap Fanatic.

Hailed by the late, great Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun as "among the most promising R&B artists we have had on Atlantic since we started the company 60 years ago," Trey Songz first burst to the forefront of modern urban music in 2005 with his critically acclaimed debut, "I GOTTA MAKE IT."  The album featured the breakout single, "Gotta Make It," featuring the one-and-only Twista, who then invited Songz to join him on his top 20 smash, "Girl Tonite."  Other high-profile collaborations followed for Trey, including featured appearances on tracks by a wide range of artists, spanning hip-hop heroes like Trick Daddy, Yung Joc, Paul Wall, Saigon, and Obie Trice; soca star Kevin Lyttle; and the sadly departed R&B/soul legend, Gerald Levert.

For additional information, please visit www.treysongz.com

Gas Prices Could Make Tickets Dearer

Source:  www.thestar.com - Michael Oliveira,
The Canadian Press

(August 02, 2008) Add one more discretionary purchase to the already long list of things that could get more expensive because of high gasoline prices – concert tickets.

Industry watchers say concert sales were "remarkably robust" in the first half of the year – considering the rise in fuel prices and tough economic times in parts of North America – but artists' tour budgets may now have to be adjusted up.

And that could mean even higher ticket prices.

"Most of the tours that were budgeted this summer were budgeted much earlier in the year before the price of fuel went up," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of industry magazine Pollstar.

The prices of tickets for the music world's biggest acts have already shot up in recent years and while fans have been willing to pay, their breaking point may be near, Bongiovanni said.

The highest grossing North American tour in the first half of 2008 was Bon Jovi's which brought in $56.3 million, with an average ticket price of $88 and a total of more than 639,000 tickets sold, according to Pollstar.

Canadian crooner Michael Bublé was No. 5 on the list with $32.5 million in gross sales and an average ticket price of $71.

Other Canadian acts that cracked the Top 100 included Rush at No. 12 (average ticket price $66), Three Days Grace touring with Breaking Benjamin at No. 58 (average ticket price $32.50), Anne Murray at No. 73 (average ticket price $55), Blue Rodeo at No. 84 (average ticket price $44) and Leonard Cohen at No. 93 (average ticket price $112).

"Fans have proven they'll pay a pretty significant premium to see artists that they're really big fans of, but the continual rising costs of concert tickets is having an impact on the number of tickets we're selling, even if we're grossing more money," Bongiovanni said.

Jeff Cohen, who co-owns Toronto's venerable Horseshoe Tavern and a company that books talent at most of the city's major clubs, said he has been hearing plenty of gripes from indie bands who are ``definitely feeling the pinch."

Better-known bands playing small clubs might start raising ticket prices by a dollar or two, which would represent a significant percentage markup on a $10 or $20 ticket, Cohen said.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Big Boi Previews Next Album

Sourcewww.eurweb.com

(August 4, 2008) *Big Boi's forthcoming album "Sir Luscious Leftfoot ... Son of Chico Dusty," due in October via Laface/Zomba, features 16 tracks led by the politically-driven first single "Sumthin's Gotta Give," featuring Mary J. Blige.  The recent release touches on rising gas prices and the war in Iraq . An accompanying video, with guest appearances from Hill Harper and John Legend, was serviced this week, reports Billboard. "I chose this song first because being in the game, I feel a responsibility to entertain but also lecture about life," Big Boi told a press gathering Wednesday. "I'd rather get people to vote instead of running to the strip club." "Sir Lucsious" features production so far from Organized Noise, Lil Jon, Scott Storch and Mr. DJ, while George Clinton, Too Short, Raekwon and cohort Andre 3000 make guest appearances. Cee-Lo is slated to appear on a track as well.  Other songs on the album include the guitar-heavy "Night Night," which addresses "those who have been sleeping on me"; the chopped-and-screwed "Daddy Fat Sax"; the cars-inspired "Dubbz"; the title track, on which Big Boi shares his thoughts on other MCs; the ladies anthem "Turns Me On"; and the street single "Royal Flush," on which he rhymes, "I am the wrong n*gga to cross / and the first n*gga to jam / with the AK4-7 over microphone in hand.

Q-Tip Says Tribe Will Never Record Again

Sourcewww.eurweb.com -

(August 05, 2008) *Following a reunion performance by A Tribe Called Quest Sunday night in New York, Q-Tip said the group will never record another new album again. The rapper took the stage at Jones Beach Amphitheatre with Tribe members Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed in what became their third reunion in four years, reports Contact Music.  The trio, however, is not even considering a reunion album that would feature all new material, Q-Tip affirms.  "It will never, ever happen. We don't want to be one of those groups that comes back 15 years later and puts out an album that's not that good. It's why the Beatles never got back together," he said.

::FILM NEWS::

Boris Kodjoe: The All About Us Interview With Kam Williams

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(July 31, 2008) *Boris Frederic Cecil Tay-Natey Ofuatey-Kodjoe was born in Vienna, Austria on March 8, 1973 to Eric, a physician from Ghana, and Ursula, a psychologist from Germany which is where he was raised along with his siblings, Patrick and Nadja.

While attending Virginia Commonwealth University on a tennis scholarship, the striking, 6'3" student-athlete was spotted by a talent scout and signed to a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency.

After appearing in ad campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent and The Gap, Boris blossomed into a rarity, one of the world's few male supermodels.

So, it's no surprise that he would one day be named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World by People Magazine.

In 2000, he turned his attention to acting, making his big screen debut in Love & Basketball, following that up with well-received appearances in everything from Brown Sugar to The Gospel to Madea's Family Reunion. On Broadway, he's worked opposite James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

On TV, he was cast in the hit series 'Soul Food' as Damon Carter, a role for which he would land a trio of NAACP Image Award nominations. While doing the hit show, he fell head over heels in love with his attractive co-star, Nicole Ari Parker, and by 2005 the inseparable pair would marry back in his hometown, Gundelfingen, Germany. They now have two kids, Sophie Tei-Naaki Lee Kodjoe, 3, and Nicolas Neruda Kodjoe, 1. Despite being quite the power couple, they've decided to make their home away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood in relatively-sedate Atlanta.

Here, Boris talks about all of the above and his latest movie, All about Us, a romantic dramedy about a Hollywood couple who decide to settle down in Mississippi after shooting a movie there, rather than return to L.A.

Kam Williams: Hi Boris, thanks for the interview. How are Nicole and the kids?

Boris Kodjoe: They're good. They're on their way back from L.A. She was doing a pilot for ABC, called Never Better.

KW: What interested you in doing All about Us?

BK: First and foremost was the script, because I rarely, to that point, got a chance to consider playing a role like that, a regular family guy who is basically trying to balance his career goals with his obligations to his family. It's a very heartwarming story with some really interesting, fleshed-out characters. And when I had a meeting with the director, Christine Swanson, and her husband, Michael, I admired their passion for what they were doing. I think it's always a blessing to get to work with people who have that fire about what they're doing.

KW: What was it like filming All about Us on location in Mississippi?

BK: It was great. I encountered tremendous heat and lovely people.

KW: The script was semi-autobiographical. So, it must have been interesting to be acting out the filmmakers' life story. 

BK: Yeah, it was interesting. I talked with Michael about the character, and about his path and his journey. And it was fun to sort of associate certain things that he went through with things that I've been through in my life. For instance, I had a young daughter, too, so there were many parallels that I could draw on. It was funny, because we were different people, yet all young fathers obviously go through some of the same stuff, and have some of the same concerns and anxieties. So, the process was really cool to me.

KW: And you and Nicole left L.A. yourselves, in your case for Atlanta.

BK: [His cell phone rings] Speak of the devil. [Talks with Nicole on phone for a minute]

KW: How did you decide to settle in Atlanta?

BK: We never wanted to raise the kids in Hollywood. We wanted to be in an environment that spoke to us, culturally. That's how we chose Atlanta and found our dream home. Also, I have family coming from Europe, and her family is in Baltimore, so the choice was very practical at the same time.

KW: I know you are quad-lingual: German, English, French and Spanish. What languages are you going to teach your children?

BK: Well, they speak three, right now: obviously English, plus German and Spanish. Our nanny is Guatemalan, and she only speaks Spanish to them. And we speak German to them.

KW: I heard that your mother's Jewish. Is that true?

BK: Well, by blood, yeah. My grandmother's part Jewish, which makes my mother and myself Jewish, by blood. But we weren't raised in the Jewish faith. I remember my mother teaching me from the age of about 3 or 4 that we had to find our own way based on many different religions, that there were many different doctrines but that they all had the same purpose. I always remember that, because it was so simple, and so poignant and deep at the same time. I try to apply that now and expose my kids to many different ideas and philosophies, so they can find their own way.

KW: Did you lose any relatives in the Holocaust?

BK: Yeah, on my mother's side, my maternal great-grandmother. It was ironic in a way, because my grandmother wasn't pure-blooded Aryan, and therefore she wasn't considered a member of the master race. But she got pregnant by my grandfather who was 200% German. So, it was quite a tumultuous time for her, because they had to hide her for her to survive the Second World War.

KW: Did she have any close calls?

BK: Yeah, she told me that someone once reported her, but she was lucky that when the SS came to investigate and found her hiding in a back room, one of the officers was in a good mood and didn't arrest her. She said those kind of experiences occurred frequently. It was a time of sheer terror and no one knew what was going on, and everyone knew somebody who had suddenly gone missing for no reason. And apparently you didn't talk about it over the dinner table at night. They were just paralyzed with fear. You didn't utter a word about what could possibly be going on or about what they had heard. It was a very scary time.

KW: I hope she's writing her memoirs.

BK: Yeah, I'm going to help her write it. She had some quite interesting experiences. And then later in her life her daughter brought home an African from Ghana, which didn't go over so well with my grandfather. He kicked them out of the house until I was born. They went back with me when I was a couple months old, and said, "Look, either you accept us, or you'll never see us again." And at that moment he made a 180 degree turn and accepted me from that moment on.

KW: Wow, you're going to have to write an autobiography, too.

BK: We all lived under the same roof. He had lost both of his arms in the war from a Russian hand grenade. From when I was 4, I would shave him in the
morning and feed him breakfast every day.

KW: Did you have to deal with racism as a child? You must have been one of very non-white kids in the neighbourhood?

BK: Me and my brother were always the only black kids. Racism is universal, but it's very different in different cultures. Where I grew up, racism was more about ignorance and a lack of knowledge than a controlled and focused prejudice. So, I was subjected to the type of racism where people called me names, but I had a lot of great friends, too. Overall, it was a great environment to grow up in. The place I was raised was in the Black Forest and looks like The Sound of Music. We had a great childhood, full of fun and outdoor adventure. It was very sane and well-rounded. My mother always told us we were perfect the way we were, and that we wouldn't have to worry about what people said because there are just a lot of ignoramuses in the world, and that you will encounter them until the day you die. That was her approach, and now when I look back, I can really appreciate it.    

KW: Barack Obama also had a white mother and an African father. What do you think of him?

BK: That's just one of the aspects of him that I find intriguing. I think that he's an incredible and powerful man, very charismatic and intelligent. He also has great integrity and pride, and loves the country. I believe he's someone who will not only improve America internally in terms of the economy, healthcare, education, the environment and Social Security but also repair the country's reputation which has suffered around the world over the past eight years. He's someone who I believe can sit down with potential allies on the international level and try to make the world a better place for everyone. So, I'm supporting him wholeheartedly. I hope that people will wake up and take the country back. It's hard to believe that we have a president who could officially deny the fact that the world is being affected by global warming. It's embarrassing.

KW: What's it like being named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World? Has it changed your life?

BK: [Laughs] That's hilarious. No, it hasn't changed my life at all. It's one of those things, like the tabloids, that you can't really take seriously. Obviously, I'm very flattered, but that's as far as it goes. It's a nice thing, but I can't take any credit for it. I don't wake up and go, "Woo-hoo! I'm one of the 50 Most Beautiful! Yeah!" There are a lot of things that are much more important, like being a husband and father. I've been blessed with a great wife and amazing children who have changed my life. It's not necessarily a walk in the park every day, but it's absolutely the most rewarding gift ever.

KW: How was it playing Brick on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?

BK: It was a dream come true, getting to play one of the significant roles in one of the most significant classics. I was honoured and humbled by the experience. Everybody was so supportive, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Anika Noni Rose and Giancarlo Esposito. And the crowd response was great, everything was amazing.  

KW: Tasha Smith wants to know if you're ever afraid.

BK: Oh, absolutely? I'm terrified sometimes, not for myself, but for my
kids.  That's one of the things they don't tell you when you become a father, but along with unconditional love comes unconditional fear.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

BK: Extremely.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson wants to know, what was the last book you read?

BK: Right now I'm on a spiritual trip. I read a lot of that type of book.
The last one I read was The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh.

KW: Yeah, I've read some of his stuff. He's great.

BK: He summarizes what we all know, like that the power is within you, and that as long as you can visualize it you can achieve it. Things along those lines.

KW: Is there any question nobody asks you that you wish somebody would ask?

For the full interview by Kam Williams, please go HERE.

Keke Palmer Goes 'Long' For Another Family Bio-Pic

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 01, 2008) *Actress/singer Keke Palmer could be taking the “triple-threat” moniker to a whole new level. Thanks to the triceps-guns she’s gained from the new film, “The Longshots,” Palmer could just as easily slip into a third career in sports as she has so well with acting and singing.

In “The Longshots,” co-starring Ice Cube as Coach Fisher, Palmer goes from being our favourite spelling bee champ in 2006’s “Akeelah and the Bee,” to taking on another true story, playing a girl quarterback who is the first female to make a national Pop Warner tournament appearance.

“The movie is about a little girl who goes to the national Pop Warner event – the first ever – and plays the quarterback (position). It’s called ‘Longshots’ [she] and her uncle (Ice Cube), they’re taking a long shot as a team.”

This true story of Jasmine Plummer who, at the age of eleven, became the first female to play in a Pop Warner football tournament in its 56-year history, follows her and her down-and-out uncle who discovers and encourages her talent.

“The amazing part to me is it’s a true story and that this really happened,” Palmer said. “It happened around 2000. The girl is 15 now. It happened it in Harvey, Illinois. And the funny thing is that Harvey is not too far from where I grew up.”

 With that similarity, Palmer found it easy to morph into Plummer and also found out that she had an athletic prowess that she might want to explore.

“I went through a month of football training, like 100 balls a day. I was throwing them, getting the mechanics and getting the footwork,” she said. “I got a lot of muscles and now I’m even better with my athletic ability.”

The young actress told EUR’s Lee Bailey that the film used none to very little editing in regard to the actual throws and plays she made on the screen. She boasts about a 40-yard throw, which ain’t half bad, even though the real girl-wonder can spiral the pigskin 60 feet.

“I’ve never been into sports that much,” the actress defended. “I’ve done a little bit and people tell me I’d do good ‘cause I have long fingers so I could play basketball, or that I should do ballet or be a gymnast, but I just never tried it. When I did the movie, the guy that was coaching me, he told me I’m really athletic. Maybe I should really try it one day.”

These days, Palmer doesn’t have to try too hard. Acclaimed for her work in “Akeelah” her name is speaking well of her. So much, in fact, that she didn’t even have to audition for the part in “The Longshots.” She explained that she heard about the film and simply took a meeting with the film’s director Fred Durst – yes, that Fred Durst.

“Then I got signed on to the project. I just kind of had a meeting and talked about what I’d done and what attracted me to the movie. It wasn’t like and audition-audition. They were persistent on me being able to do the moves,” she said.

After signing on and working on the film she started doing a little research about the character and became so impressed, she excitedly reached out to the real Jasmine Plummer.

“I found out a little bit about her. She plays basketball now,” Palmer reported. “I asked her why she made the change and she said it was because her mom [was concerned] the boys were getting older. When they were younger, they were pretty much the same size, but as she got older the boys got older and stronger and tougher and meaner, so her mom told her she didn’t want her doing it anymore.”

Upon reflecting that this story could launch a female football league, but not a mixed league, Palmer confessed that she might just have the guts to play a good girl gridiron game.

“When I did the movie, I asked the guys [playing] on the team if they thought I was a tom-boy or a girly-girl. They said I could be both. I think that’s pretty good. I can be both. I can be versatile,” she said.

Such proposed time on the field wouldn’t be the first showcase of Palmer’s versatility. Her acting career alone has shown her range, from “Akeelah” to “Madea.” Now, the young star is not only prepping for other big screen projects, but she’ll be premiering her own show on Nickelodeon the fall.

“I’m really blessed right now and I hope everything continues to do well. I’m just really excited about everything going on and I just hope it continues.”

The show is called “True Jackson, VP”, and it’s about a girl who gets the Vice President post at a huge fashion conglomerate.

“It’s about how she deals with that and realizes that even though it’s in an adult world, it’s not too different from high school,” Palmer described, and explained that her shift to the small screen is great move for her career.

“It means a lot for me for my peers to know what I’m doing. For me to be on a network like Nickelodeon means they’re really going to see me and I can reach out to them more. It will help my music career and then when a movie comes out, they’ll also be able to see me on the movie. So I think mixing both is really going to help me and I’m happy that I’m able to do that right now.”

Palmer’s next film is called “Vapors” about rap’s golden era. She will be playing ‘80s raptress Roxanne Chante. In the meantime, “The Longshots” opens in theatres nationwide on August 22.    

For more on Keke Palmer, check out her website at www.kekepalmer.com.

Madeline Carroll Talks About Her Role In The Movie Swing Vote

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Movies Editor

(August 01, 2008) The key, says 12-year-old actor Madeline Carroll, is to drink lots of water. And think about your dearly departed doggie.

At least that's how she prepared for her crying scenes in Swing Vote, which opens today.

Madeline shares the screen with some Hollywood heavy hitters, including Oscar winner Kevin Costner, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Mare Winningham, Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane.

She plays Molly, a civics-minded girl whose layabout pop ends up holding the key to the presidential election in his hands. Costner is her single dad, Bud.

"It was kind of easy," Madeline says with a shrug and a smile of her crying scenes, admitting it feels "funny" afterwards, "because it really didn't happen, but I like it."

Can this self-assured young actor give the same kind of convincing performance at home when a few tears could grease the wheels?

Her mom, Donna, who is sitting on a couch in the Yorkville hotel room to supervise her daughter's interview, nods and laughs.

Dressed in a long black sweater-coat over a Rolling Stones T-shirt (mom is a fan, she explains), Los Angeles-born Madeline is finding Toronto temperatures on the chilly side. It's her first time in Canada and she loves it.

"Are you from here?" she asks. She's told yes.

"Really? That's cool. I'm from Los Angeles," she says cheerfully, adding Canada doesn't seem all that different from home to her.

"I can't believe this is Canada," she says. "It's more ... city. It kind of reminds me of New York and Los Angeles a little bit. I thought Canada would be more plain. But when I got here I was shocked because there were so many buildings and there was that big pointy one."

Ah yes, the CN Tower. She hoped to go up and was especially excited at the prospect of riding the elevator with the glass floor.

Madeline is a fearless one. Her favourite movie is The Shining ("I have three brothers," which explains why she watches scary flicks). And forget teen heartthrobs – Jack Nicholson is the Hollywood actor she most wants to meet.

Already a model, Madeline came to acting in a way that's a page from the Hollywood folklore handbook: She was discovered in a nail salon when she was 4 years old.

"I was with my aunt. We were in a nail salon and I wanted to get my nails painted. So this lady comes up and says, `Oh, you're so cute! Here's my card!'"

A quick audition later, and Madeline started landing TV commercials, which became small parts in movies like The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause and Resident Evil: Extinction.

"We just got blessed from there," she chirps.

Members of the non-denominational In His Presence Church, Madeline and her family credit the power of prayer with motivating her success.

"We just thank God every day because we know that I wouldn't be in this seat right now if it wasn't for Him."

Her tiny stature makes her look younger than her years, but serious words come out of this youngster's mouth. She talks about progressing with a character and how she admires actor Will Smith.

"I like him a lot. He's done various things in his life, he hasn't just stayed to one thing," she says. "He's played all different cards and he went from singing and rapping to comedy to going to action movies, to going up to nominations and sad roles with his kids, and I just think that he's a very good role model, and I hear he's so nice and he makes the set so energetic. I really admire him for that."

She also has praise for co-star Costner for staying "so humble" despite his success.

Did she know who he was before making the movie? Oh yes, says Madeline. Her favourite Costner movie is Waterworld.

"I didn't know that Nathan Lane and Kelsey Grammer and all those guys were going to be in it ... so I was so excited. Paula Patton, she played Kate in the movie, she is also someone I would like to be like, because she's very nice."

Madeline goes to regular school in Simi Valley, Calif., taking time off and doing homework on the set when she's working.

Although she wants to continue acting, she'd also settle for a life as a missionary, working with children in Thailand.

Asked if she's ever compared to 12-year-old Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin, Madeline replies like a pro: "Yeah, some people think I am (like her). But you know what, she's doing her own thing, I'm doing my own thing."

Rising Soprano Takes Notes From A Star

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(August 01, 2008) VANCOUVER — Marianne Fiset was a teenager, headed for an education in political science, when she saw Carmen with her family at Opéra de Quebec. She was hooked – and her life plan changed: She would pursue a career as an opera singer.

At Festival Vancouver's Gala Opera Evening on Tuesday, Fiset will share the stage with a singer who is renowned for her Carmen: U.S. opera superstar Denyce Graves.

“I'm very excited about working with Miss Graves,” Fiset, 29, said recently from her home in Montreal. “It's a little nerve-wracking for me. She's so good and so gifted and talented and experienced … so I think I'm going to learn a lot from working with her.”

Graves, 44, made her professional debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Carmen, and has also sung at La Scala, the Royal Opera in Covent Garden and many other prestigious opera houses. She has performed for the Pope, at 9/11 memorials, at the 2005 inauguration for George W. Bush and at the funeral for former president Gerald Ford. The title role in Margaret Garner, the Richard Danielpour opera about slavery, for which Toni Morrison wrote the libretto, was created for Graves. She hosts a weekly satellite radio show, has been profiled on 60 Minutes, and has been on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Yamandu Costa Trio: Brazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa will perform with his trio at a new Festival Vancouver series set inside the gorgeous VanDusen Botanical Garden, Friday, Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Costa will also perform solo at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday, Aug. 11 at 10:30 a.m. Both shows are part of the festival’s spotlight on Music of the Americas.

Ju Percussion Group: The 13-member ensemble from Taiwan blends eastern and western percussion instruments, offering a theatrical experience as well as a musical performance: dancing, shouting, and jousting with their drumsticks as they play. Saturday Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Chan Centre.

Leipzig String Quartet: The critically acclaimed ensemble has performed hundreds of concerts around the world and made almost 70 recordings, playing everything from Mozart to John Cage. For this performance, the quartet will play Beethoven’s Quartet in C Major Op. 59 No. 3, as well as works by Stravinsky and Mendelssohn. Saturday Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. at the Chan Centre.

Fiset, meanwhile, is at the beginning of a career that received a huge boost last year when she won the prestigious Montreal International Music Competition. Being a hometown winner meant lots of attention for Fiset, a soprano who was just finishing her studies at the time at Opéra de Montreal's young artists program.

“It was a very exciting moment of my life,” she says. “I was overwhelmed with everything like the phone calls and offers and congratulations. … It gave me a lot of visibility.”

Perhaps the most important lesson that Graves can impart to Fiset is how to keep all the distractions of being a classical-music celebrity from getting in the way of the music.

“I've been able to build sort of a wall of ‘no's around me – knowing to say ‘no' to this, ‘no' to that,” Graves said recently from the Baltimore, Md., area, where she was enjoying a rare day off. “This is what I need in order to be able to do the work that is expected of me.”

As rehearsals begin today in Vancouver, Fiset plans to watch how Graves conducts herself.

“Almost everything from the way she will be dressed to how she will arrive, how she will be prepared, how she will act with the musicians, the conductors, which questions she's going to ask. Just her way of working, her way of approaching music, of interpreting and understanding music, how she works through the music and with people around her.”

The women, who hadn't met before arriving in Vancouver this week, will perform together on Tuesday night (along with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Mario Bernardi conducting). Although reluctant to reveal details of the concert's program beyond promising it'll be full of “crowd-pleasers,” Graves did acknowledge the audience will hear her perform arias from both Carmen and Samson et Dalila – another signature role. “You know they will or else they'll run me out of town,” she said.

The opera gala is one of the highlights of Festival Vancouver, which begins tomorrow. The two-week event features more than 50 jazz, classical and world-music concerts.

For Fiset, Vancouver is special. She was brought here last year by Vancouver Opera for a program that pairs young professional singers with coaches. Fiset was matched with renowned vocal coach Carol Isaac, and they're still working together.

Ironically, Fiset, who was born in Quebec City and whose first language is French, has a hard time, she says, performing operas in her native tongue

Graves, on the other hand, has an affinity for French opera. She says French composers have been particularly generous to her voice type. The mezzo-soprano's voice has been described as “lustrous” in this newspaper and as having “dusky colorings and a wide range” by The New York Times.

Fiset is intimately familiar with that voice. She has been listening to Graves's recordings for years – particularly Carmen, the opera that started it all for the young Quebecker.

“When I learned that it was going to be her [on the bill], I was really thrilled,” Fiset says.

“It's a nice wink from destiny.”

Festival Vancouver runs from tomorrow through Aug. 17. The Gala Opera Evening is Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre (www.festivalvancouver.ca).

On Dangerously Thin Ice

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(July 31, 2008) The polar winds pounded in at 100 kilometres an hour. As the rest of the crew frantically tried to secure the mooring lines, the cameraman and sound man on board the Antarctic expedition ship kept filming. The mission's leader, environmental biologist and film director Jean Lemire, had made it clear that the cameras would keep shooting at times like these, even when the camera operator and sound recorder were desperately needed as extra sets of hands.

The 650-tonne vessel was threatening to smash against the shoreline rocks. The tiny bay in the Antarctic Peninsula where the crew had hoped to find shelter for the winter had become a potential death trap.

Night had fallen. The camera's bright light only emphasized the tension on the crew's faces, capturing what would later become a pivotal scene in The Last Continent, a documentary that has been a minor media phenomenon in Quebec, grossing more than $1-million there since late last year, and is getting its English-language release, initially in Toronto and Vancouver, tomorrow, with Donald Sutherland narrating.

The ship's crew of scientists, filmmakers and others (including a cook, doctor and mental-health worker) had signed up to spend a winter on the world's southernmost continent, using the vessel as their base and documenting climate change during the winter months - something scientists rarely do; most are in the Antarctic only in the summer.

"You can go there during the summer with all the tourists and everything. But the real changes are happening in the winter, and nobody is there to document it," Lemire, now safely back in Canada, said in an interview.

Sure enough, the unexpected occurred. "We were supposed to be there to document climate change. But we became, in a way, victims of climate change, and that changed our original story a lot," Lemire continued. "At the end, we had a very different film from what we expected at the beginning."

The original plan was for the ship to anchor in a bay in the Melchior Archipelago near an old Argentine research station. Pack ice would form, securing the ship and protecting it for the winter. But as if to hit home the havoc that global warming is causing, the temperature decided to hover more that five degrees above normal: not nearly cold enough for the water to form a protective ice sheet around the ship. As a result, winds were able to continually batter the ship, ripping its moorings from the shoreline rocks and snapping the lines like overwound guitar strings.

In a way, the crew had set themselves up for this kind of danger. The whole point was to place themselves in this environment and document how different the Antarctic environment has become from what has historically been expected. Without revealing too much, let's just say that the crew found a way to continue the winter mission.

"We knew that during a year and a half, something would happen," Lemire said. But there was no telling how different the mission and the final documentary would turn out. "I was always writing by e-mail to my editor, and we were working on our script during our trip in Antarctica. So I knew that when we had to change our base [from where the ship was originally moored for the winter], that was something I had to include in my film."

From there, the crew's isolation and problems with the unpredictable climate became the main subject. Rather than a documentary as planned, showing the effects of global warming on the ice sheets and animals, The Last Continent wound up putting the crew squarely in the picture.

For instance, early on, they have a problem keeping their food fresh. It's thawing out far too much in the ice and snow. It should be much more frozen, a major concern since the crew needed this store of food for months to come.

And true, the crew was in e-mail and telephone contact with the rest of the world throughout the long winter in the Antarctic Peninsula, even updating Web pages from onboard the ship. They weren't exactly the same conditions faced by explorers such as Ernest Shackleton a century ago. But any rescue, if needed, would have been very difficult when the ice and winter storms eventually did come. Basically, the crew intentionally allowed themselves to be stranded.

Comparing the filmmaker to Shackleton, as well as such early explorers as Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott, Sutherland said in an interview: "Jean Lemire has that kind of presence. When you work with him in the studio, he has that kind of very balanced, pure commitment to try to produce something that will have human responsibility."

In the end, the climate created a very different film from what Lemire expected. "For example, the ship was just supposed to be our base camp. We were supposed to be on skis for a 10-day expedition, trying to find [certain] colonies of penguins. ... All of that expedition part was not possible, because we had no ice. And I realized that the real story was the human story."

Still, he noted that the mission and the influence it may have on the public are more important than his original plans for the documentary. In fact, Lemire's 600 hours of footage have already been expanded into a 13-part French-language series due out this September on Radio-Canada. There are also the websites, and a French-language book, Mission Antarctique.

"We had 900,000 people following [the mission's website] on a day-to-day basis," Lemire said. "And it started a completely new way of thinking about the effect of climate change on humans, because we were on the ground. Ordinary people, just showing what was happening."

Judd Apatow Top Of The Food Chain

Sourcewww.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(August 05, 2008) MONTREAL — It may seem hard to believe, but if Judd Apatow weren't otherwise engaged as Hollywood's hottest director of comedy, he might be washing dishes.

The only real job he's ever had - apart from those related to the interconnected universe of stand-up, TV and film - was as a dishwasher and a busboy. He started as a teenager, working in a Long Island restaurant then owned by his parents.

"I loved dishwashing," Apatow recalled recently, in Montreal , to promote Pineapple Express, the latest in a string of mega-grossing comedies he has either written, produced or directed. "I'd crank on the Genesis Abacab album. At one in the morning, I'd be mopping floors to Foreigner 4. I look back on it fondly."

Looking back is the operative phrase. The prospect of Apatow returning to mop and pail any time soon is remote. In the past three years, comedies with the Apatow touch (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Knocked Up, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) have grossed $590-million ( U.S. ) at the box office.

That's called clout.

Now, Apatow and his expanding entourage of actors and writers - Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jay Baruchel (all three Canadians), his wife Leslie Mann, Jonah Hills and others have virtual carte blanche to make the films they want to make.

With the possible exception of The 40-year-old Virgin, these films tend to be targeted at the very heart of the movie-going demographic, people under the age of 25. Pineapple Express - an otherwise tedious stoner chase-film directed by David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls) and starring Rogen, James Franco, and Danny McBride - can be expected to gross tens of millions. It opens tomorrow.

At a press conference, Apatow said Pineapple was aimed at the same audience that liked Superbad. "I guarantee you - if you liked that, you'll like this. It's Superbad, plus we kill an enormous number of people."

His recent windstorm of projects, he added, was the result of "long periods of unemployment during which he and others wrote films no one particularly wanted to make."

That's only a slight exaggeration because, until The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow had struck out three painful times in a row on TV, with the successive cancellations of The Ben Stiller Show, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. After the plug was pulled on Undeclared, he had Rogen and Goldberg write Superbad and, when no studio wanted to make it, decided that a more commercially minded action-stoner movie might fly. "Then we realized it was way less commercial than Superbad." Only when the script for Pineapple Express was written did the floodgates - and the studio chequebooks - begin to open.

Apatow, now 40, says he's proud of his work. The new film, he says, "kicks ass" and, even if his signature weren't attached, would regard this bunch of films as "my favourite movies of all time. Hopefully [they are] this generation's classic comedies."

Appearing with Apatow, Goldberg, McBride and Craig Robinson at a Montreal press conference, Rogen was asked about his research for stoner roles he has played.

"Well, ya know, I'm from Vancouver . That's research in and of itself. Yeah, I smoked a lot of weed growing up. This film deals with our kind of everyday weed experience and is based on our lives, irresponsibly building them around our ability to smoke as much weed as humanly possible."

Apatow spent his childhood on Long Island and found comedy early on, rushing home from school to watch sitcoms, going to clubs (chaperoned by his father) and later interviewing visiting comics for a school radio show. He can rattle off a string of comedic influences, from SCTV to Saturday Night Live to Richard Pryor, Monty Python and the films of Ivan Reitman.

"I remember seeing the opening night of Ghostbusters on 1984 at the Plainview Theatre at 8 o'clock. For me, it was like going to see Led Zeppelin. The place exploded. It was one of greatest comedy experiences I've ever had. It was an event."

Apatow started performing stand-up in high school and continued professionally for several years, but eventually gave it up - in part to work in TV and "because I realized the people I was working with were so much better than me. I'd open for Jim Carrey and watch him from the wings and think, 'I should stop doing this.'... It was like playing basketball with Michael Jordan."

He studied film at the University of Southern California for a couple years, "running out of money and interest at about the same time," and started writing material for other comics, among them Roseanne, Tom Arnold and Gary Shandling, who become something of a mentor. One day, over lunch with Ben Stiller, he agreed to pitch a sketch series to HBO. They sold it two weeks later.

At 25, "I went from a guy who had never even worked on a TV series to a guy who was running a TV series. I didn't really know how to do anything. I was just trying to fake it until I figured it out. I learned everything I know about that type of work from Ben."

It was at Fox, which bought the Stiller series from HBO, that Apatow began the first of his contentious encounters with TV executives. "Television is a moving target," he observed. "The studio has a gun to your head - cancellation - and it's a powerful weapon they use to force you to make changes to your show that you don't want to make. And then your vision gets watered down and the show doesn't work as well."

Apatow's instinct was to resist change, a noble option that could only fail. Stiller, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared were all cancelled in less than a season. He compares his main man, Rogen, to W.C. Fields - gruff and cynical on the outside, but a kind, big-hearted guy. "He's a modern, sweet curmudgeon. For me, he does what Bill Murray does. After Undeclared was cancelled, I thought, I haven't begun to scratch the surface of what he can do." The world, he noted, seems to be "hungering for more Rogen. The Rogen hunger is happening right now," and Apatow, for one, didn't intend to stand in its way.

His own career, Apatow concedes, has changed dramatically in a short time, but only because "I found a way to make people money. Five years ago, I hadn't, so they couldn't figure out what was wrong with my work and they'd try to tinker. But after I produced Anchorman (with Will Ferrell) and made 40-Year-Old Virgin, they said 'well maybe the guy can make movies,' and then they give you more creative freedom, and the work becomes better, because it's not as watered down. You won't hit a home run every time out, but if your ratio's pretty good, you can take some creative chances and even make some strange weed action movies with James Franco doing comedy. That wouldn't have happened five years ago."

What changed? Apatow doesn't know, for sure. But he says marriage and family (he and Mann have two young daughters) have had an effect. "Leslie pushes me to do better work." And his own personal evolution has probably given his comedy more depth. "It's fun to try to do something thoughtful and really, really funny. These are dramas that should make you piss your pants. I start with the idea and hang the jokes on it."

Does success breed impossible expectations? "I have my way of dealing with it, which is to be deep into the next film before the previous one comes out. I have the same neuroses, but the only way to fight it is to be so immersed in something else that takes over more of my brain."

Alan Rickman's Canadian Memories

Sourcewww.thestar.com - Linda Barnard, Movies Editor

(August 05, 2008) Alan Rickman makes an interviewer work for it – but the payoff is a chance to hear that incomparable voice, which warms considerably when he talks about his fondness for Canada.

Over the phone from Los Angeles , the actor's actor, known for playing everyone from romantic leads (Truly Madly Deeply) to the archetype modern-day villain (baddie Hans Gruber in Die Hard) seems a bit weary of this whole media thing.

He's on a press tour for his latest movie, Bottle Shock, which opens tomorrow. Based on the true story of the blind tasting that pitted California vintners against the best of France in 1976, the resulting American victory in what became known as the Judgment of Paris thrust Napa onto the world wine stage.

Rickman plays Steven Spurrier, the wine agent who ventured into the then-unknown California wine country to see if any of the products could be deemed "palatable."

Rickman portrays him as a frosty snob who is shocked by the quality of the Napa wines and thaws as he is completely seduced by them. Bill Pullman and Chris Pine also star.

But it seems the real-life subject of the film wasn't too pleased with Rickman's casting and the way he is portrayed onscreen. For one thing, Spurrier was 32 when he went to Napa . Rickman is 62.

"I spoke to him on the phone and, as he and I agreed, in no way is this an accurate portrayal of him," Rickman said. "I could not be more inappropriate to play him, except I have the quality of being English."

Adds Rickman, "I think he would have liked me to be younger ... I hope when he sees the movie he feels he's respectable."

As for his own wine experience, Rickman says, "I tend to be loyal to the country," and drinks the wine made in whatever part of the world he is visiting. He sampled a variety of Canadian wines in 2005, when he dined with a friend, then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson, at her Ottawa residence.

"I was staying at Rideau Hall and Adrienne Clarkson produced all these glorious wines," recalled Rickman. But when asked which ones he drank, Rickman wryly replied: "You drank them, rather than staring at the bottle."

He met Clarkson in 2002 when she came backstage after his performance in Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives on Broadway.

"We were in one room, her bodyguards were in another," Rickman recalled with a chuckle. "She is an amazing woman. Canada ought to be very proud of her."

Rickman's work seems to facilitate friendships. He said he became close to the Barrett family, the then-struggling winemakers involved in the Judgment of Paris, and those at other Napa and Sonoma wineries.

"You're in a beautiful place and I made a bunch of real friends."

Rickman has also found Canada to be a special place. In 2005, he spent time in Wawa, Ont., shooting the critically acclaimed Snow Cake. He admits with a chuckle he didn't sample the wine there, but he enjoyed exploring that part of Ontario . He also rode the Canadian, the storied VIA train, between Jasper and Vancouver .

"It was wonderful, everybody should do that," said Rickman. "We had 24 hours in the Rockies and then took a float plane to Tofino and Sooke Harbour ."

As for his next projects, Rickman reprises his role as Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, out Nov. 21. He'll finish shooting the seventh and final Potter film next year – and doesn't want to talk about either of them.

Up next, he'll direct for the London stage this fall (August Strindberg's Creditors), followed by directing a movie version of The House in Paris, from the book by Elizabeth Bowen.

Would he consider doing a play at Stratford ? He'd be more likely to tread the boards in Toronto .

"I was terribly impressed with everybody at Soulpepper," said Rickman, who has yet to see a production done by the theatre company. He "was taken around as it was being built and I thought, `Here is a (theatre company) being run by actors and I like this enterprise.'"

Should we look for his name on a local marquee?

"I have to be asked," came the rich and resonant reply.

FILM TIDBITS

Snoop Dogg Does Bollywood

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Ramola Talwar Badam, Associated Press

(August 06, 2008) MUMBAI, — Snoop Dogg's done Hollywood. Now he's moving on to Bollywood. “Yo, what up. This Big Snoop Dogg. Represent the Punjabi. Aye ya, Hit em with this,” the rapper says while introducing the title song to Singh is Kinng, the Bollywood film that opens Friday. Clad in a maroon slim-fitted Indian kurta and beige trousers and a diamond-studded turban, Snoop Dogg lounges on an oversized armchair draped with blue and pink silk alongside Akshay Kumar, the movie's lead star, in a video posted on the Internet by the producers, Cashmere Asia. “I'm just a king sitting on my throne all alone, “ Snoop Dogg raps, surrounded by energetic dancers in colourful headgear in a song peppered with rhythmic drum beats. “Singh is King. Singh is King. Snoop Dogg is also the King.” The video was shot over three days last month in Chicago. The film's producers said this was more than a blending of cultures and would pave the way for more collaborations and international brand advertising through Bollywood. The title song has already taken India by storm, and can be heard blaring repeatedly from radios and at bars. Snoop Dogg said he would follow up his success with a tour to India. “Snoop Dogg has a lot of fans in India and I love ‘em right back,” he said. “Get ready for me.”

::TV NEWS::

Manboys Set New Gender Roles

Source: www.thestar.com - Joel Rubinoff,
Torstar News Service

(August 01, 2008) Gee whiz, the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s sure wreaked havoc on cultural stereotypes.

Gone are the days of Fred Flintstone hollering for his dinner ("Wilmaaaa!") and The Honeymooners' Ralph Kramden threatening to hit wife Alice: "Pow! Right in the kisser!"

What we get now – popularized on TV shows like Seinfeld and Friends and valiantly scaling new heights on the generically aspirational sitcom
My Boys (8 p.m. Monday on E!) – is the squawky, gender-neutral manboy, a prim, self-conscious milksop who, even when he's able to attract women, comes off like the metaphorical 90-pound weakling.

"Oh, you guys!” shrieks Bobby (Kyle Howard), the androgynous eunuch about to be married to a Swedish sexpot on this humorously inconsequential series about a single female sportswriter (Jordana Spiro) kvetching in bars with her adenoidal, all-male posse.

"I was supposed to have the seating chart finished days ago. I seriously need you to send in your RSVPs, okay?"

A few minutes later he comes rushing back, panic-stricken, clutching the invitation list. "The Hendershots are coming!" he proclaims wildly. "The Hendershots are coming!"

The Hendershots?

While his male companions ponder the ramifications of this awkward new wedding addition, the clique's lone female – considered a "tomboy" because she refuses to applaud the unveiling of copper-bottomed saucepans at a bridal shower – looks this quivering basket case in the eye and calmly takes control.

"All right, dude," she insists firmly. "Relax, okay? Let's take a time out, go to the bar and get you a drink, and we will figure this all out!"

What I like about this show – which also showcases heterosexual man crushes and pokes fun at any semblance of macho bluster – is that it doesn't feel compelled to milk what some might view as a cultural anomaly for laughs or overplay its absurdity.

It's just assumed that in this setting – an urban bar in Chicago – with these 20-something goofballs, and comic predecessors like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Sex and the City paving the way, any semblance of overt masculinity will not only seem wildly out of place, but ripe for satirical ribbing.

"Y'know, that Mike guy seems to be pushing the `Dude!' angle a little hard," complains one metrosexual swinger when a testosterone-jacked cohort starts punching pals in the shoulder and attempts to ban women from the group. "Like, we're not gonna high-five or `bring it up' or `explode it.' The thing is, he makes me a little sad, y'know?"

It's an odd moment in history, two decades after the Iron John men's movement failed to stem the so-called Age of Sissification, when traditional gender roles have not only been reversed, but actually ceased to exist.

No wonder the show's lone female sportswriter is so comfortable hanging out with these neuroses-laden she-men – it's easy to feel good about yourself when you're the only one with half a brain.

Joel Rubinoff is the TV columnist at The Record in Waterloo Region. Email jrubinoff@therecord.com.

Pamela Anderson, Homebody

Sourcewww.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Television Columnist

(August 05, 2008) Pamela Anderson was destined for greatness. Okay, so maybe not greatness. But certainly at least some degree of notoriety ...

Starting from the moment she was born, which happened to be at around 4 a.m. the morning of July 1, 1967 – the first Canadian baby delivered the first day of the country's Centennial.

"I got a medal," Anderson cheerily reveals, calling in yesterday from a visit to her native Vancouver . "My picture made the front page."

Her first day on Earth, her first headline and cover shot. Is it any wonder the girl has flourished in – and yes, admittedly, come to crave – the spotlight?

More than that, she has been able to do so on her own terms. And to her own ends.

"I'm having a lot of fun," she says. "And at the same time, I've done a lot for my charity, (animal rights group) PETA, things like that. I've been able to accomplish a lot.

"And meanwhile, still run around naked and have a good time.

"I can't help it. I'm an exhibitionist. It's a delicate balance."

That balance is maintained in Pam: Girl on the Loose, Anderson's self-produced new "celebreality" series, debuting tonight at 10 on E!, by embracing the ever-present prying cameras and claiming them as her own.

"Too much attention, too much attention," Anderson acknowledges. "Which is why you see a lot of people going down the tubes. The difference for me is my kids (12-year-old Brandon and 10-year-old Dylan). My kids probably saved my life.

"You come home from all that attention, and the people following you around falling down trying to take your picture, and there are your kids: 'I hate you! You're the worst mom ever! Why can't I have an iPod?!'

"That brings you right back down to reality. Then you're like, 'But all those people out there like me ...'"

Not to suggest dysfunction in the Anderson household – far from it.

"My kids are wonderful," she coos. "They're doing so great. They really are the most amazing little people."

And though Anderson resolutely keeps the boys off-camera, it is apparent she's a very hands-on mom, following the example of her own funny, feisty mother, Carol, who is virtually a series regular.

"She's hilarious," Anderson agrees.

"She should have her own show. And wait til you see my Auntie Vi. She's 80-something years old, she dances every day ... she has the greatest legs you've ever seen.

"People see my family and they go, 'Oh. Okay, I get it.' "

It is the house, not the household that is at issue in this initial six-part season of Girl on the Loose. The first episode has Anderson selling off all her accumulated "stuff" – from her Baywatch gear to a towering stack of well-worn warehoused mattresses – in preparation for a move to Malibu .

Some proceeds from the sale went to PETA, of course, with an additional $32,000, raised that day by the boys' roadside lemonade stand, going to the California Wildlife Centre.

And the new house she's building is, she admits, still under construction. "I need to do another season to finish it," she laughs.

In the meantime, she and the boys have moved back in with Tommy Lee, their father and her first husband ... and also possibly her fourth (or fifth, if you count Kid Rock twice).

Is a more permanent family reunion in the cards?

"I don't know," Anderson sighs. "I don't want to keep making the same mistakes.

"But I watch the show now, and I see that Tommy has been there for us a lot ... a lot more than I thought he'd ever be. If he keeps this up, I may just have to throw in the towel and give it another shot. We'll see."

Other revelations have come from watching her own show.

"For one thing," she says, "I talk too fast.

"And I really have to work on my posture ... it's tough holding up these big damn boobs."

Rebranded MTV2 Launches With An Underwhelming Show Schedule

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(August 04, 2008) There's a new channel on the ol' cable box . . . which isn't really new at all. This weekend launched the free premiere period for the rebranded MTV2, which used to be Razer, which used to run music videos.

Now for a little history – stay with me here, this is interesting stuff.

The original MTV2 in the States – not surprisingly, a spin-off sister service of MTV – started out in 1996 as essentially a music video vehicle, intended to take the programming place of MTV, which had by then all but abandoned video clips in favour of juvenile, demographic-driven "reality" shows like Real World and Jackass.

Originally dubbed "M2," the new station aspired to broaden the diversity of music videos seen on TV, and ratchet up the age range of its viewers (though not by too much – VH1 had already been servicing old fogies since 1985). It was also prescient enough, in that first year, to broadcast its programming live on the Internet.

At the same time, it was cheeky enough to, on January 1, 1999, run Prince's "1999" clip over and over and over again, for the entire day. One year later, they proposed to usher in the millennium by running every video in the MTV library, back to back in alphabetical order, which took them (apparently with some omissions) through April 2000.

Over the years, however, MTV2's music videos once again took a back seat to youth-skewed original programming, as did the more mainstream playlist of VH1, which is now dominated by nostalgic clip shows, retrospective specials and "celebreality" freak shows.

Which brings us to MTV2 Canada, which, through a series of corporate takeovers, is now owned by CTV, which also owns MTV Canada and all the various CHUM-originated MuchMusic channels.

Our own version of MTV2 shares its namesake's two-headed dog logo, and a good deal of its original programming. Though "good" is in this case a relative term.

It does, however, reliably serve as a sampler of what the TV-watching youth of today are into.

That is, when they're not watching The Hills on MTV or, tonight, Fox's Teen Choice Awards (8 p.m. on Fox and Global, hosted by teen queen Miley Cyrus).

There is, let's be grateful, some mandated Canadian content, like the MTV-produced Canadian versions of Cribs and Made, rerun series Instant Star, Whistler and dependable old Degrassi: TNG, and the masterful sketch comedy of The Kids in the Hall.

On the other hand, there is filler like Hilarious House of Frightenstein – a culturally significant if undeniably kitschy television touchstone to those of us old enough to remember it, but infinitely more suited to its current home on the CTV-owned Drive-In Classics.

Then again, it makes a fine programming companion to the welcome return of the similarly off-the-wall, not-really-a-kiddie show, Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

Otherwise, it's Jackass and its apostles in extreme, irresponsible idiocy, Wildboyz and Call to Greatness; prankster punking a la Crank Yankers, Viva La Bam and Andy Milonakis; more recycled retro fare like the animated, somewhat dated Beavis & Butthead; oddball game shows like Fist of Zen and Wilmer Valderrama's diss-off Yo Momma; and short-attention-span, viral-style sketch and shorts shows like Wonder Showzen and Human Giant.

And, yes, there are music videos. Remember them? They're still around, with just as much pretentious posing as you remember from the '80s and '90s. Except that hair isn't quite as big. And there's a lot more gelatinous shaking booty.

Cracking Them Up In Kandahar

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Graeme Smith

(August 06, 2008) KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The most famous comedian in Kandahar, Ahmadullah Mujajo, stares at a flickering light bulb. Then he grabs a man by the neck and shakes him furiously, brandishing a shotgun.

"The power turns off, then on, then off," he screams, pointing his gun at the man's head. "Where is the man responsible for this? Where is the director of electricity? I'll track him down!"

In other places, it might be a frightening threat. In Kandahar, it's popular evening television. Mr. Mujajo, 32, is the nearest thing to a celebrity entertainer in a city better known for war than comedy. From his early years struggling to sell his jokes on audio cassettes in refugee camps, to his current status as a local television star, the goofy little trickster with an elastic face has built a career by discovering laughter amid the harshness of southern Afghanistan.

At times, he behaves like a court jester in a city where dissent is dangerous. Ordinary people lower their voices and whisper conspiratorially when discussing the latest rumour, and journalists are regularly threatened by both sides of the conflict. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued its latest of many statements about Afghanistan on July 29, expressing alarm at the arrest of an Afghan television reporter who was detained by intelligence officers one day after airing a documentary that criticized cabinet ministers.

Mr. Mujajo says he tries to avoid similar problems during his daily recording sessions at Hewad TV, a small private station hidden behind high walls in a relatively quiet downtown neighbourhood.

"We don't take sides," he said. "We don't push too hard against the Taliban or the government." But with a mischievous grin, he admits that his job occasionally allows him to get away with bold commentary. Alongside his harmless word play, funny misunderstandings between husbands and wives and off-key musical routines by performers wearing silly costumes, Mr. Mujajo talks about difficult issues.

"We say general things, to avoid trouble: 'Security is not good, electricity is not good, people are moving away from Kandahar, the municipality does nothing about the garbage in the streets.' But we don't say anything about specific leaders."

Still, the barbs are pointed. In a recent sketch-comedy routine, Mr. Mujajo played a reporter throwing questions at a man dressed like a warlord. The warlord character, portrayed with sneering arrogance by a 19-year-old actor wearing a fake moustache and surrounded by an arsenal of weapons, was revealed to be a government minister. It was a reference to the discomfort many Afghans feel about former militia leaders taking senior government jobs.

"Why aren't you building factories to employ our young people?" asked Mr. Mujajo, playing the journalist.

"If we make factories for young people, who will fight? How will I get my money from foreign governments?" responded the minister, waving a pistol for emphasis.

In another sketch, a news broadcaster delivered mock bulletins.

"A tree fell on a taxi, injuring the driver," the newsreader said. "Authorities have blamed Pakistan." A ripple of laughter went through the editing room at Hewad TV, where a dozen of Mr. Mujajo's friends had gathered to show off their work.

Afghan officials reflexively blame Pakistan for so many problems that adding a fallen tree to the list seemed like a witty flourish.

"In economic news," continued the broadcaster, "Everything is more expensive now. Even spoiled Pakistani fruit is selling for high prices. The NGOs try to help by giving us wheat, but people steal it and smuggle it out of the country." Again, snickers of amusement filled the room.

Afghans have a history of laughing at their own misfortune. Prisoners smile as they describe suffering torture, and policemen crack jokes as they tell stories about escaping insurgent attacks. A profile of the Pashtun ethnic group, published in 1947 by the poet Ghani Khan, describes the way a quintessential Pashtun handled a lifetime of hardship: "He always covered his sorrow with a smile, and his pain with a joke."

Mr. Mujajo has also found redemption in comedy in a more personal way. Eight years ago, during the Taliban regime, he was living as a refugee in Pakistan and earning a modest living as a cold-drinks vendor. His son fell sick and he took the boy to a government-funded hospital. A doctor prescribed medicine but Mr. Mujajo couldn't afford to buy it. His son died of the illness.

"I went home and looked at my poor house," he said. "I decided to make myself famous and get some money."

He started recording jokes on cassette tapes, decorating the covers with photos of himself making funny faces. They sold well among the Pashtuns in the border region. He even smuggled the tapes into Kandahar at a time when such amusements were strictly banned by the Taliban.

He grew a big beard so he could pass by Taliban guards, and slipped into wealthy homes to entertain private parties. He would improvise a drum with a steel tub, he says, or memorize long sections of dialogue from Pakistani films and deliver them to small audiences who hadn't seen a TV or movie screen in years.

Even powerful figures in the Taliban movement attended the illicit parties, he said, but that did not guarantee his safety. He could have been hanged for activities the Taliban considered un-Islamic.

"Security was better in the Taliban times, but everybody was afraid," he said.

He still fears for his life under the new government, he says, but it's easier to work as a comedian. Picnic grounds in a lush river valley north of Kandahar city, where he once entertained revellers, have become off-limits as the insurgency grows. But he can still visit four or five hotels inside the city, where he's paid to appear at weddings.

His audio cassettes are now sold openly in the market. He drives a dilapidated old taxi in the mornings to earn a little money, but in the afternoons he visits the television studio and takes home $150 for four hours work, twice the monthly salary of a police officer.

His family now includes two sons and two daughters, he says, all of them healthy.

But he dreams of much bigger success. He has written a film script about two childhood friends who take different paths in life, one a doctor and the other a thief, and he's trying to find enough money and actors to support a full-fledged movie production. His inspirations are Charlie Chaplain and Mr. Bean, he says, because their wordless comedy makes people laugh in many countries.

"This is my challenge," he said. For the first time, his eyes contained no hint of humour. "I will become the best comedian in the world."

::THEATRE NEWS::

For Their Latest Show, The Second City Crew Break Down Their Creative Process For Us

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(July 31, 2008) The gang at Second City are getting physical.

No, they're not seeing how much they can bench-press, but they are moving a lot more in Barack to the Future – the revue now in previews – than they have in a long time.

"I have one sequence called `Ping Pong,'" grimaces Darryl Hinds, "where I never say a word and I never stop running. Man, I hurt in places I didn't even know I had."

Karen Parker talks about a scene where she and Leslie Seiler "play a pair of raccoons who just make noises while they indulge in a non-stop assault on a recycling bin."

There's also a lot of what actor Marty Adams describes as "interactive scenes with the audience, which require a lot of energy and imagination on our part, but are really rewarding."

The director, Second City veteran Bruce Pirrie, explains this kinetic activity as the strategy behind "a show in which we have lots of satirical points we need to make, but we want to have a lot of fun doing them."

But how does it all happen? We asked Pirrie and his six players to take us on the journey of how one particular sketch, called "Berserker Boss," came to life, from initial conception to final execution.

ACT I: THE IMPETUS


It all begins with Pirrie's experience of what does and does not make an audience laugh.

"My default position," he begins, "is that the hallmark of good comedy is that it's rooted in the truth.

"And the next thing that helps is that the audience recognizes some of their own experiences in it."

So Pirrie asked the cast to come up with ideas from their own lives where they had undergone upsetting or annoying experiences that average people could relate to.

"If it made you mad or sad in the past," observes Pirrie, "then it can make you laugh in the present. The bigger the emotional investment, the higher the comic stakes."

Having made his call for pitches, he waited for the emotional outpouring from his cast.

ACT II: THE IDEA

Inspiration wasn't long in coming. Newcomer Reid Janisse had recently been in an employment situation that left him drained.

"There was a guy I used to work for," volunteers Janisse. "He was actually a really, really nice guy underneath it all, but he had one big problem.

"He'd often try to seek creative input from us employees and when he was doing that he was the sweetest, most caring person you could ever ask for.

"But when anyone would question his creative choices, he would freak out and start screaming at the person. Then, in a little while, he would come back to the fun jovial boss, until someone would ask him a question and he'd fly off the handle again."

Pirrie leapt on the idea. "Not only could I see the comic possibilities, but the idea of a boss that people didn't like or trust is universal. I thought we'd hit paydirt."

ACT III: THE CREATION

Pirrie and the crew kicked around an assortment of workplace environments.

"We finally decided to set it in the advertising agency that's working on the Bell Telephone account and they have to come up with a new animated character to join those two annoying beavers."

The cast began improvising and while it was obvious that Janisse would get to exorcize his demons by playing the boss who had tormented him, the rest proved that sometimes sheer chance governed the way a scene will go.

"I was standing next to Reid when we began," remembers Adams, "so I instantly became the easy target, the meek guy who got hurt, first emotionally and then physically."

"I had dealt with an acting teacher like that in university," remembers Seller, "and my tactic there was to walk on eggshells, so that's what I did here. I became a kind of corporate ass-kisser who finally gets called out at one point."

Hinds tapped into "a guy I worked with at a nameless bookstore who laughed at everything the boss said whether it was funny or not. I kept that for my character."

For Parker, "my reaction in a situation like that is to deflect, deflect, deflect, so I play someone who hardly says anything, just keeps pointing fingers at other people."

And a different twist came from Kerry Griffin who reasoned that "the audience would wonder why nobody stood up to this guy, so I decided to play the assistant who keeps calling the boss out on what he's doing."

ACT IV: THE EXECUTION

Over the next months, the cast will play the scene hundreds of different ways, first trusting their own impulses.

"I start out grounded in reality," explains Hinds, describing a process that echoes most of his colleagues. "Next I push it as far as I can to see what the audience will accept, then tone it down a bit."

And Griffin voices another mantra his colleagues would agree with when he declares, "You need to put yourself in the moment of the scene and play it like it's happening for the first time."

The final voice is Pirrie's who keeps an eagle eye on audience reaction and cuts accordingly.

"You have to separate the emeralds from the diamonds," he quips. "`All your jokes are jewels,' I tell the cast. `It's just that some are more gem-like than others.'"

And if it all works, the audience laughs. That, in the end, is what it's all about.

The Four Playwrights Behind The Taxi Project Have Personal Stories Like Their Characters'

Source:  www.thestar.com - Nicholas Keung,
Immigration/Diversity Reporter

(July 31, 2008) "This is a city of strangers, and judging by your accent we belong to the same tribe," says a lead character in The Taxi Project, which opens in Toronto tomorrow. The tribe the Bosnian-photojournalist-turned-Toronto-cabdriver refers to are the exiled writers from around the world who dedicate their lives to defend freedom of expression, seek protection in Canada and yet struggle to have their voices heard on a main stage.

And the personal stories of the play's exiled writers – Mexico's Emma Beltran, China's Sheng Xue, Bosnia's Goran Simic and Ethiopia's Martha Kumsa – are just as fascinating as the characters they created for the project presented by PEN Canada and the Art for Real Change Collective.

Their lives shadow the four lead characters: activist Alejandra, who arrived on Flight 1999 from the National University student strike in Mexico; dissident Xiao Hong on Flight 1989 from the Tiananmen Square massacre in China; intellectual Seeyyee on Flight 1978 from the Red terror in Ethiopia; and Exyou on Flight 1994 from the Bosnian war in Yugoslavia.

There is only so much the hour-long multidisciplinary play can encompass; yet the writers, with help from the art collective's Erica Kopyto and Weyni Mengesha, have done a fine job in letting their creative juice, wits and emotional realities seep through.

The subtlety, for instance, on the odds facing an exiled person's or any newcomer's settlement and integration is beyond the "doctor-driving-cab" conundrum that plays out in the show's aptly chosen title. (The name was also picked because cabs universally symbolize the movement of people.)

"I collect nos – shiny, loud and flat nos," says Alejandra in a monologue. "Every time I get a no for an answer I wrap it up in cellophane paper and put it carefully in my pocket. Once at home, I put all my nos in jars underneath my bed.

"I have nos of all kinds, the bureaucratic ones with a seal on the envelope. The answering-machine ones with their eternal `I'm not available at the moment.' The Canadian ones with all the politeness you can imagine: `Unfortunately, we can not offer you the position. You have a great résumé but we do not think you are the right fit for this job.'"

It is a reality that Sheng, 46, has lived through since she fled China's crackdown on the students' democratic movement that culminated in the June 4, 1989, massacre on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Sheng, who was a magazine writer in Beijing, has done all sorts of odd jobs here in restaurants, hairdressing salons, gas stations, dry-cleaners and doughnut shops, but never gave up her commitment to write – and help organize China's democratic movement.

After joining Radio Free Asia in 1997, she worked with Maclean's magazine for a report on the Chinese boat refugees' lives that won her a Canadian Association of Journalists award in 2000.

For Sheng, the play is another opportunity to bring a marginalized voice to the public. "In Canada, the freedom of expression is not just a slogan," she said. "It is a lifestyle, something tangible that you could almost touch and feel."

As a survivor of torture, Beltran, who didn't speak a word of English when she came here from Mexico six years ago, said it's challenging yet refreshing to reinvent creative works in a new language.

"We just have superpower," the 30-year-old community outreach worker laughed during an interview. "I'm not sure how we manage, but we have to manage because we're committed to our writing and telling our stories."

Mengesha, who directs the play, dismisses critics' label of "political theatres."

"I feel all arts are political," she says. "A good production is a good production when you tell a human story with honesty and you recognize yourself on stage, connect with the characters and feel emotional. It is to further that humanity."

Stratford Soldiers On With Caesar

Sourcewww.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
, Toronto Star

(August 05, 2008) The sun was shining on the Stratford festival Sunday, in every sense of the word.

Besides the glorious weather, the city was filled with happy people there to see the plays and most of the venues I stuck my head into were playing to near capacity.

No wonder artistic director Des McAnuff was beaming as he sat down to enjoy a cappuccino before running off to an eight-hour rehearsal for Caesar and Cleopatra.

"It's all started turning around in the last two weeks," sighed an almost paternally proud McAnuff. "I can't tell you how relieved we all are."

Just around mid-July, there was a flurry of unwelcome media attention after an internal memo was leaked which urged the staff to tighten their belts in the face of a 10 per cent downturn in sales. Some people (but not this reporter) were even talking about a $5 million deficit.

But almost magically, the staff woke up the following Monday morning to find the box office busier than it had been all season and it's stayed that way ever since.

"You don't knock away a slump like we had overnight," admits the experienced McAnuff, "but if things keep going like they've been recently, we may wind up out of the woods after all."

Why the sudden change? Economists might point to people who've finally reconciled themselves to a "staycation" deciding that Stratford would make a fine destination, or Toronto residents who suddenly realized a round trip to Stratford wouldn't require enough gas to bankrupt them.

McAnuff has another theory, also worth giving credence to. "I think it's word of mouth," he says. "We've got a wide variety of really good shows here this season and I think people realized that, came to see them and are now telling their friends about them."

And in some ways, the best is yet to come on the Aug. 16-17 weekend, when three high-profile productions open, all with the potential for greatness.

Joanna McClelland Glass opens her politically explosive drama about the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots, Palmer Park.

I ran into a joyous Nigel Shawn Williams, who's playing one of the leads and he couldn't be more excited about the show's prospects.

Then there's Morris Panych's revolutionary new movement piece inspired by Moby Dick, which is getting extraordinarily positive buzz during previews. Finally, there's McAnuff directing Christopher Plummer in Caesar and Cleopatra, the kind of playgoing treat that should start any theatre-lover salivating in advance.

THE QUALITY OF MERCY As George observes in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, "By God, you gotta have a swine to show you where the truffles are."

Last week's sad police case involving How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? judge Simon Lee brought one interesting fact to light. While Lee was in jail that Sunday, it is alleged that his long-time associate Andrew Lloyd Webber didn't bail him out, nor did his immediate employers, the CBC.

Who helped the man in his time of need? We've heard that it was done on the quiet (and very generously) by the Mirvish organization.

SUNDAY COMES APACE Shouts and murmurs from the Shaw Festival (just so they don't feel left out.) Latest reports indicate that Maury Yeston's Grand Hotel (based on the classic 1932 film) will be in the Festival Theatre, while Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park With George will be in one of the smaller theatres.

THEATRE TIDBITS

McAnuff to direct Guys and Dolls on Broadway

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

(July 31, 2008) Toronto — Guys and Dolls is returning to Broadway for a fifth time - with Stratford Shakespeare Festival artistic director Des McAnuff at the helm. McAnuff will reunite with his Jersey Boys choreographer and Stratford regular Sergio Trujillo to bring Frank Loesser's classical musical about Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit back to New York next spring, producer Howard Panter announced this week. Both artists have previously worked on successful productions of musicals by Loesser. McAnuff directed his How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1995, a production for which lead actor Matthew Broderick won a Tony, while Trujillo danced in the ensemble of the last Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls in 1992.

Toronto Boy Brings Jersey Home

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(August 06, 2008) A Toronto guy is going to be one of the Jersey Boys when the hit musical opens at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on Aug. 24, Dancap Productions announced this week. Jeremy Kushnier, last seen here in 2003 in Aida, will play bad guy Tommy DeVito, which he's already done to critical acclaim in Chicago and Las Vegas. Director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo also hail from Toronto, making this a show the city has every reason to take to its heart. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, this musical biography won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The other leading roles in Toronto will be played by Joseph Leo Bwarie (Valli), another Vegas company vet; Steve Gouveia (Nick Massi), who has been with the show since its 2004 La Jolla Playhouse premiere; and Andrew Rannels (Bob Gaudio).

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Nintendo Soars On Wii Sales

Source:  www.thestar.com - Yuri Kageyama,
Associated Press

(July 31, 2008) TOKYO–Nintendo Co.'s profit for the fiscal first quarter surged 34 per cent as sales of its hit Wii console shot up, underlining the success of the video game unit in attracting novice players.

The Japanese manufacturer of
Super Mario and Pokemon video games reported yesterday a profit of 107.27 billion yen, or $1.01 billion (Canadian), from April through June, up from 80.25 billion yen in the same period last year.

The big factor behind the stellar performance was the Wii and its game software, including the Wii Fit, which has drawn the health-conscious to doing simple exercises such as yoga and aerobics with a video game.

Nintendo sold 5.2 million Wii machines worldwide during the quarter – 1.7 million more than for the same period last year. It also sold 3.4 million Wii Fit games and 6.4 million Mario Kart Wii games.

Quarterly sales surged 24 per cent to 423.38 billion yen, the equivalent of $4 billion (Canadian), according to Kyoto-based Nintendo.

The company has sold a cumulative 29.6 million Wii machines worldwide since its arrival in late 2006. Wii has proved appealing to relative newcomers to gaming, including the elderly and women.

The Wii, with its trademark wand-like remote controller, has scored success against the PlayStation 3 from Japanese rival Sony Corp., which went on sale about the same time, as well as against the Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp.

At the latest count, worldwide PS3 sales lagged at fewer than half of the Wii at 14.4 million. More than 19 million Xbox 360 consoles have been sold so far worldwide, according to Microsoft.

On Tuesday, Sony said its April-June profit plunged to 34.98 billion yen, or $331 million (Canadian) – about half that recorded a year ago – as a strong yen, the absence of Spider-Man 3 revenue and faltering cellphone operations battered earnings.

Nintendo shrugged off an estimated 26.3 billion yen erosion in its quarterly sales from a strengthening yen, which gained about 15 per cent against the U.S. dollar from last year. Solid Wii sales were enough to offset the losses from an unfavourable exchange rate, Nintendo said.

Nintendo is planning to sell 25 million Wii consoles and 28 million of its handheld DS machines for the fiscal year through March 2009.

It says it wants to make its products a "must-have" for every individual, not just every home.

::OTHER NEWS::

Love For A Lion Lives On With New Web Audience

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(August 04, 2008) A short amateur film shot more than 30 years ago, supposedly recording the moving 1971 reunion between a lion in the wild and its former owners, has become a Web phenomenon.

In the past week, the video has had millions of Internet hits and countless replays on TV news and programs all over the world.

The scene is the conclusion to a long-form video shot in the early 1970s by actors and filmmakers Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna – stars of the hit 1966 movie Born Free, about British-born , Kenya -based African wildlife conservationists George and Joy Adamson. The video was sold to raise funds for their Born Free Foundation, which advocates international wildlife charity, conservation and animal welfare.

The film captures, in a few grainy seconds, what McKenna refers to in her narration as the reunion between Christian the lion and his two keepers, Australians John Rendall and Ace Bourke. Christian was born in a British zoo in 1969 and purchased by the young men for about $530 at Harrod's department store in London . He was returned to the Kenya bush a year later after growing too big to be a house pet.

In 1971 the fully grown lion, which had been integrated into the wild by Adamson – after Travers and McKenna stumbled upon Christian during a shopping trip, finessed the Kenya government and facilitated the animal's flight from London – is seen walking down the side of a dusty ridge towards the two young men.

Rendall and Bourke are dressed in fashionable 1970s flares and sport long, windblown coifs. They call to Christian. And the young lion responds, bounding into their arms, hugging them affectionately and licking them as it had when filmed at play as an energetic, 12-kilogram cub in its London exercise area: a walled graveyard.

While stories of reunions between animals and their former owners, often separated by years and great distances, are commonplace, this one has suddenly won the hearts of millions.

Despite the fact that the full video has been in circulation since 1971 (with the titles The Lion At World's End and The Lion That Thought He Was People), and that Rendall and Bourke in 1971 published a book, A Lion Called Christian, the Internet has given new life to Christian's tale.

The final scene has been uploaded to dozens of websites and Web news services, aired on countless TV shows, including Oprah and The View, and even re-edited by some fans to further underscore its emotional power in personal ways.

"We have a picture in our minds of the power a wild animal possesses and the damage it can do, and when we see displays of affection like this, another side of the animal, it connects with our emotions," said Robert Smerage, an animal care supervisor at Toronto Zoo.

Smerage once hand-raised a black leopard to Toronto's former Riverdale Zoo, and was charmed by its affectionate play until one day the animal's claws penetrated his overalls and scratched his back.

"That was the last time I was allowed to get so close.

"That leopard was on exhibit for many years and she always watched me from the moment I came into view 'til I disappeared over the horizon. We had a lasting connection and it was such a thrill," says Smerage.

"It's the reason so-called wild animals in circuses were so popular in days gone by. We like to be reminded we're part of the natural world."

See the video HERE.

L.A. Officials Form Task Force To Deal With Aggressive Paparazzi

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Anthony Mccartney, The Associated Press

(July 30, 2008) LOS ANGELES — The paparazzi keep taking their shots, but not always the kind they're after. Lately it's a jab from a star's bodyguard – or his surfer pals – or the metallic pinch of handcuffs slapped on for lingering too long.

And more push-back may be coming.

Weary of the scrums of photographers chasing celebs at the airport, on the beach and through the streets, some Los Angeles-area leaders are contemplating tougher regulations against the people who make their living by catching celebrities off-guard.

Officials from celeb enclaves in and around Los Angeles such as Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Malibu and Calabasas are convening Thursday for the first time to discuss ways to combat shutterbugs, whose tactics have grown more aggressive and confrontational in the past few years.

Their goal is for each city to adopt its own ordinances to punish aggressive paparazzi, while keeping the rules uniform in the places where celebrities live, work and play.

“This is a response to their lack of responsible behaviour,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, an outspoken paparazzi critic and organizer of the task force.

Zine proposed a “personal safety zone” around celebs earlier this year that police officials said would be virtually unenforceable. He's also floated the idea of legitimizing the paparazzi – who are freelancers by definition – by giving them credentials, and in turn, clear rules.

The paparazzi have provided plenty of fodder for scrutiny of late.

Last week, Halle Berry said she's seeking criminal charges against photographers who she says trespassed in her backyard to get shots of the Oscar-winning actress and her four-month-old daughter. The same day, guards for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got into a bloody tussle with a pair of camouflage-wearing paparazzi near the couple's home in France.

And in June, a group of Malibu surfers fought with photographers who were trying to get shots of Matthew McConaughey on the waves last month.

Photographers still routinely swarm Britney Spears, including at Los Angeles International Airport, where police in June had to break up the group to allow her to pass. And earlier this month, Los Angeles police said they warned a pair of shooters to leave a fire access road near Spears' house, then arrested them when they returned 45 minutes later to find them still lingering.

Zine and other civic leaders say they're concerned that left unchecked, the aggressive photographers will either drive away entertainers, or worse – harm them or an innocent bystander. A recent inquest partially blamed pursuing paparazzi for the 1997 deaths of British Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed in France, a scenario Zine and others say they hope to avoid in Los Angeles.

Malibu residents often complain about aggressive photographers, from high-speed car chases to photographers lurking outside schools or blocking store exits, said Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Conley Ulich, who is also a task force member. Some photographers have even mistaken a non-famous resident for a celebrity, creating confusion and fear.

Malibu already has strict guidelines for film shoots, and similar regulations may be necessary for photographers, she said. In other words, the paparazzi frequently are not gathering news, she said, but rather “creating entertainment.”

For the paparazzi's part, Zine's idea of registration is one the shooters themselves have considered.

“Certify photographers to work as paparazzi,” suggested Arnold Cousart, a co-founder of photo agency JFX Direct. That way, he said if they get into trouble, police will know who is legit and who isn't.

Cousart said he has considered compiling a handbook so fellow paparazzi know their rights and don't exceed them. But he predicted that any broad rules enacted by the task force would miss the mark.

“There is a better way,” he said. “They just need to sit down with the proper folks.”

As erratic and dangerous as the scrums appear to outsiders, some paparazzi lament the lost days of shooting celebs surreptitiously with telephoto lenses. They're now within arms-length of other shooters, and stars or their bodyguards.

During the June scramble at LAX, a photographer accused one of Spears' bodyguards of pushing his camera too hard into his face. Other photographers have accused actors Woody Harrelson and Pierce Brosnan of rough treatment in civil suits; both cases remain unresolved.

Zine said he wants to solicit input from the paparazzi, but the task force's likely roster is comprised mostly of law enforcement officials, prosecutors and politicians.

Romantic Revenge, Served In Multimedia

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Sarah Milroy

(August 01, 2008) MONTREAL — Who is G?  The French artist Sophie Calle won't say. Interviewed by phone about her current show Take Care of Yourself, at DHC Art Foundation in Montreal until the fall, she has taken the high road once again, refusing to disclose the name of the man whose breakup e-mail served as the point of departure for her latest multimedia installation.

Faced with rejection, Calle, an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist, decided to take him up on his perky signoff. She took care of herself by circulating his e-mail to 107 female experts working in a spectacularly wide variety of fields, inviting their professional opinions.

Their responses, which range from the dryly dispassionate to the bodice-ripping romantic, are compiled in the form of text panels and DVDs. Calle first exhibited the work at the Venice Biennale last summer, where it was the toast of the town, occupying the sumptuous neo-Classical French Pavilion in the Giardini. Now, she is taking the feted work on a world tour.

Gentlemen, should this description give you the willies, rest assured: G's identity is safe. “I showed him the work before Venice,” she says, her delicate Parisian accent tinkling on the end of the line. “I admit, he wasn't very happy, but he had respect for the project. In the end, he didn't resist.” Pausing, she adds, “I think it was very noble.”

The e-mail is, in fact, a disgraceful document, reeking of narcissistic self-aggrandizement and peppered with passive-aggressive taunts. By the letter's end, G. has positioned himself as Calle's liberator, as a tortured soul seeking redemption (“I no longer recognize myself in my own existence”) and as the pious defender of their collective integrity. In other words, we're knee-deep in manure.

How to cope? Calle says she began her work by contacting a family arbitrator, who advised her how to manage her emotional recovery and deal with their shared friends and other entanglements in the wake of their breakup. This calm, professional exchange proved strangely soothing, and it inspired her to go further.

Digging into the document itself, she sought to ferret out its every nuance, contacting a raft of language and communications experts of all denominations: editors (who flushed out inconsistencies in logic and humiliating grammatical faux pas), a linguist, a poet, a diplomat, a journalist. Curiosity led her further and further afield. A clairvoyant was contacted, as well as an anthropologist, a medievalist of the semiological persuasion, a United Nations expert in women's rights.

It was at about this point in the artistic process that Calle received an invitation to show in Venice as France's official artist. Accordingly, she shifted gears, widening her circle to include respondents whose line of work was non-verbal – a dancer, a singer, a mime artist, a woman who could sign for the deaf, a female practitioner of Japanese classical opera.

“Venice is so international,” she says. “You can't rely on the audience there to able to read French.” In Montreal, unlike in Venice, the text portion of the installation is exhibited in one building while, up the street, the audio-visual component holds sway.

Does this exhibition represent an act of self-care or is this simply good old-fashioned revenge, served ice cold? However you see it, Take Care of Yourself is of a piece with Calle's earlier explorations, which have included works made by following strangers in the street and documenting their actions with words and photographs (she once followed an unsuspecting man from a Paris party all the way to Venice, dogging his footsteps for two weeks), or working as a chambermaid and crafting fantasies about the hotel guests, based on her surreptitious findings in their guest rooms (scribbled phone numbers, bar and restaurant bills, bedside reading and so on).

One of her most notorious works arose from her chance finding of a gentleman's address book. Calling all of the people whose phone numbers she found in its pages, she compiled a composite verbal account of the mystery man, pooling their observations and publishing the results in a prominent Paris newspaper. (He threatened to sue.) Making public what is customarily private is the common theme in her art, but, in probing the surfaces of her random subjects, she leads us to the deep mystery of all human souls.

Even, perhaps, her own. Asked to discuss her feelings about infringing upon G's privacy, Calle is quick to turn the tables. “But it is myself that I am revealing, of course,” she says, a trifle sharply. “It is my activity that I am documenting, my obsessive process.” Every jilted lover knows the frenzy of interpretation that clings to each shred of communication. By making a monument to her own compulsion to understand, she implies the folly of such hand-wringing exegetical fervour.

Some things, however, simply cannot be explained. Calle's mother, when presented with the offending document, offered perhaps the crispest response of all. Cautioning her daughter to avoid self-dramatization, and confessing her own regret at the energy she had earlier squandered on failed romances, she concludes:

“You leave, you get left, that's the name of the game, and for you this breakup could be the wellspring of a new piece of art – am I wrong? I love you. Your mother.”

Sophie Calle's Take Care of Yourself continues at DHC Art Foundation in Montreal until Oct. 19 (514-866-6767).

Cross-Border Slamming

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(August 04, 2008) VANCOUVER — With much of the world focusing on the Beijing Olympics, a small group of Canadians is gearing up for a different sort of international competition. This week, teams from Vancouver and Toronto will be in Madison , Wis. , for the U.S. National Poetry Slam.

For the uninitiated, poetry slams are competitive spoken-word events, where poets get on stage, perform their work, and judges selected at random from the audience rate them. At the end of the night, a winner is chosen and a (generally small) cash prize is awarded.

The poetry is highly dramatic, sometimes very funny and at other times super serious. The issues dealt with by the poets on the Toronto and Vancouver teams range from Santa Claus to slavery, from heartbreak to homelessness. The poetry can be excruciatingly personal.

"Last year all of my writing was primarily me trying to find the confidence in myself, so I wrote a lot about that," says Toronto team member Jogindra Siewrattan (stage name Yogi), 26, who has lately been focusing more on the issue of tolerance.

Toronto teammate Truth Is (her stage name) offers an intense delivery and a seething indictment of racism and poverty; Arianna Pozzuoli slams about her nephew undergoing heart surgery; Krystle Mullin writes about an estranged father; White Noise Machine (real name: Mike Smith), a city-hall columnist for Now Magazine, covers off topics as diverse as sex, central air conditioning and soft drinks within a two-minute work.

"I think there's a lot of misconceptions about the poetry slam," says Vancouver team member Chris Gilpin (stage name Faust McKenzie), who likens spoken-word poetry to stand-up comedy.

"Certainly when I went to [my first slam] I didn't know what to expect, but I thought it would be kind of weighty and fondling your chin and thinking deeply about things."

Gilpin's poetry puts those preconceptions to rest. "I write about very specific things that people might not spend a lot of time considering, and I try to make them seem weird and marvellous all over again." Among them: donair kebabs, former game-show host Bob Barker, and, in a poem called Ode to the Snooze Button, those extra few minutes of sleep. "It's a very unappreciated thing, snoozing," Gilpin, 32, says.

While Vancouver is a veteran participant in the U.S. event, it's the first time for Toronto . David Silverberg, the Toronto Poetry Slam's artistic director, says there's momentum for the art form in the city right now and he feels this is the time to take it across the border. "The poets are ready. I think that was the key point. There's a lot of passion in these poets' rib cages and the work is just mind-blowingly tight. I think we can compete with Americans as much as we can compete with Canadians at our own national festival," Silverberg says. (The Canadian event is set for November in Calgary .)

"We think this is a first step for Toronto to gain some recognition in the U.S. as well as to show America what Canada has to offer in terms of spoken word - that it's not just Vancouver."

The Vancouver scene, to be sure, is well established. With more than 100 people consistently packing Commercial Drive 's Café Deux Soleils on slam nights, its popularity can't be questioned. The city has been sending a team to the U.S. nationals since 1996, missing only one year since then.

"We've definitely always been a leader," says Vancouver 's slam mistress Lisa Slater, who adds that the Vancouver scene has come a long way since the early days.

"There have been years when someone had to put [the cost of the trip] on their credit card and hope that the team members would be able to pay them back eventually."

Now the regular slams bring in so much revenue that travel expenses and the $450 ( U.S. ) entrance fee are covered.

In Toronto , where the scene is less established, team members are paying their own way, subsidized by funds raised at local slams. The cost is estimated at $700 a person.

As for the competitive aspect of the event, the poets say for most teams, the rivalry is beside the point: This is a chance to get together, share their work and get inspired.

The very nature of spoken-word poetry, it seems, is more about the verse than the versus. "It's a competition that builds camaraderie," Gilpin says. "I think it helps that when it comes down to it, no one's ever going to make any big money doing this.

"How competitive can you be? You're like, 'I have five dollars after this slam and you don't. Oh who cares? Let's just go have a beer.' "

The U.S. National Poetry Slam takes place Aug. 4-10. For more information, visit http://www.poetryslam.com, http://www.torontopoetryslam.com, http://www.vancouverpoetryhouse.com

::SPORTS NEWS::

GTA Women Lead Canada To Beijing Soccer Victory

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(August 06, 2008) TIANJIN – Canada’s debut in Olympics women’s soccer will go down as a success.

In their first appearance ever, Canada beat Argentina 2-1 here Wednesday evening in the first competitive event of the Beijing Games.

Goals by Candace Chapman in the 27th minute and Kara Lang in the 71st gave Canada a comfortable margin and allowed the Canadians to withstand an 85th minute counter by Argentina’s Ludmila Manicler before about 20,000 fans in the 60,000-seat Tianjin Olympic Stadium.

Appearing in the Olympics for the first time ever, Canada controlled the play for almost the entire game and was full value for the win.

“Obviously we didn’t play as well as we would have liked to but it’s the first game of the Olympics. We were a little nervous, a little anxious but we always say the first game in a tournament is the hardest to get a result in,” said Christine Sinclair.

The game was played in stifling heat, with temperatures of about 35C at kickoff; strength-sapping humidity and under a cloud of grey, polluted, stagnant air that’s been the trademark of the run-up to the Games.

“I think (it was a factor) just in the sense that you’ll start to feel a bit more tired earlier on in the game than you would in another environment,” said Lang. “But like I’ve said so many times before, it’s something that both teams have to deal with so I don’t think it’s necessarily going to change the game too much or the outcome of the game.”

The first goal was set up by a huge blast from Christine Sinclair that was just deflected wide of the post to give Canada a corner.

After Rhian Wilkinson’s corner was deflected back toward half, Chapman stepped into a right-footed shot from about 35 metres and hit nothing but the back of the net for her fifth goal with the national team in a historic moment for women’s soccer in Canada.

“After the ball went in the net, I turned around and it just hit me that, this is the first goal we’ve ever had in the Olympics … it was a special moment for me and my teammates,” said Chapman.

The clinching goal was brilliant, with Wilkinson taking a free kick from about 30 metres that Lang headed on spectacularly from about 15 metres out in the 71st minute.

Canada had a huge size advantage over the Argentines and used it often. The backline of Chapman, Emily Zurrer, Martine Franko and Wilkinson simply overpowered the Argentine attack and Canada won nearly every ball in the air up front.

“I think we slowly wore them down, they started to get really tired at the end of the second half and that’s when that type of thing comes into play,” said Sinclair. “We didn’t lose too many punts in the air, that type of thing.

“We could probably have put away a few more goals on corners and free kicks but we got one off of it.”

The win is huge boost for Canada’s hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the 12-country tournament. There are three four-team pools in the tournament with the top two in each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals along with the two best third-place teams.

Canada faces China here on Saturday and completes its first-round on Tuesday in Beijing against Sweden.

The victory did not come without a cost, though; Melissa Tancredi, a key forward and Canada’s most physical presence on the front line, left after just 41 minutes with an apparent left ankle injury. She was knocked down in the penalty area in front of the Argentina goal in about the 19th minute, left the pitch for a few minutes to have the ankle treated and returned. But the injury became too much to handle about 10 minutes later and she left the game for good.

::FITNESS::

The 2 Most Effective Ab Exercises!

By Staff eDiets

Are you an ab-oholic?

Do you constantly fret over a flatter stomach? Are you obsessed with achieving a six-pack? Maybe you spend countless hours doing crunches, only to see no results whatsoever. It's nothing to be embarrassed about.

You're gonna have to face it: You're addicted to abs!

Don't worry, though. That's not a bad thing -- unless you're wasting precious time on ineffective exercises when you could actually be getting more (results) for less (time). You heard it right. For those of you doing hundreds of sit-ups a day, you're probably spending a lot of time doing exercises the wrong way.

So says Michael Stefano, fitness expert and author of The Firefighter's Workout (HarperCollins). He's witnessed the fitness faux pas many times in his private practice.

"More than half my clients come to me and say they're doing 300 sit-ups and 100 bicycle kicks a day and nothing is happening," Stefano tells eDiets. "They feel a little is good, so more must be better. In the process, they abandon good form and the proper way of doing the exercise.

"My whole change for these people is to inform them of what really works and dispel the myths."

The first misconception Stefano puts to rest is the notion that you can spot reduce. FALSE. FALSE. FALSE. It takes more than ab exercises to tighten that tummy. A firmer physique requires a one-two punch of cardio exercise and strength training. And don't forget a healthy diet, as well. Here is Stefano's ultimate workout checklist.

CARDIO TRAINING: three to five times a week, exercise in your target heart rate zone with some form of sustained aerobic activity (such as walking, jogging, swimming) for 20 to 30 minutes or more.

STRENGTH TRAINING: two to four times a week, perform anywhere from eight to 12 sets of properly performed progressive resistance movements (i.e. weight training, nautilus, pushups) that works the entire body.

FLEXIBILITY TRAINING: Perform at least five to 15 minutes of stretching exercises (such as simple stretches or yoga) at the end of every workout.

Even if you follow a well-balanced fitness regimen to the letter, it doesn't guarantee you'll get washboard abs. Genetically, we're not all set up to have a toned tummy, Stefano says.

"Save yourself time, energy and possible injury... lose the obsession with things you can do nothing about," he says. "Focus on things you can change. Eat right and exercise, but don't obsess about either."

One thing you can do to improve the appearance of your midsection is to practice better posture. Poor posture often gives people the potbellied look. To improve your posture: keep your head balanced on your neck, not leaning. Shoulders should be relaxed and down, rolled back. Make sure abdominals are contracted and your tailbone pointed to the floor. Knees should be kept soft and not locked. Ears, shoulders, ribs, hips, knees and ankles should all stay vertically aligned.

"Within reason, if you work on your posture and you do the cardio and strength-training exercises, it is possible to affect the stomach and flatten it," Stefano says. "Not everybody will have a super flat stomach, but it is possible to improve your stomach."

Stefano recommends a simple strength-training regimen that can be done in a matter of minutes. Perform two sets of 20 for each exercise. Rest one minute between sets. Do this routine two to three times a week.

CRUNCH
Lie on your back on a mat or padded carpet with your knees partially bent, feet flat on the floor and arms folded across your chest (least intense). Be sure the feet are not too near your buttocks. Exhale as you press the lower back into the floor and begin to raise your head, shoulders and chest off the floor in one unit, concentrating on bringing the ribs towards the hips. Pause briefly as you feel your abdominal muscles contract. The movement need only be a few inches. Inhale and slowly curl back down, trying not to let your head and shoulders touch the floor and maintaining tension in the abdominal muscles for the entire set. Repeat to muscle fatigue.

Trainer's Notes:
Be sure to keep the knees only partially bent with the heels at least one foot from your butt. This engages the oblique muscles as well as the rectus abdominus. To increase intensity, lengthen the pause when the abs are flexed to two seconds or place your hands behind your head (as in the bicycle kick). Extend the arms overhead to maximize intensity levels.


Goal: two sets of 20 to 30 repetitions

BIKE KICK
Lie on your back on a mat or padded carpet with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press the lower back into the floor, engaging the abdominal muscles as you put both hands behind your head (don't pull on the head). Bring the right elbow over to the left knee, and then bring the left elbow over to the right knee in a twisting, bicycle pedal motion. Continue to breathe naturally. Alternate opposite elbow to opposite knee with hands interlaced behind the head in a slow and controlled manner to muscle fatigue, with full extension of each leg on every repetition.

Trainer's Notes:
Be sure to breathe naturally and not hold your breath at any time during this exercise. Full extension of the legs will increase intensity, as will performing the motion very slowly. Keep the knees bent throughout the movement while you tap the feet to the floor (instead of extending the leg straight out) to decrease intensity.


Goal: two sets of 20 to 30 repetitions

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Sourcewww.eurweb.com - Marianne Williamson

(August 05, 2008) In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it."