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February 14, 2008


Happy Valentine's Day!  Tonight's the night!  Andrew Craig's Valentine's concert entitled Celebrate Love - a special night out with your special someone!  Log into www.celebratelove.ca and get a taste of what the show will be like.

Are you ready?  The renowned
Harlem Gospel Choir hits the stage at Sony Centre on February 23rd.  And added to the list this week is Living Color guitarist and multi-Grammy winner, Vernon Reid, and the electric jazz band, My id on February 27th. 

Now there's the cue to you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



Celebrate Love – Thursday, February 14, 2008

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’ve made all the plans for the perfect
Valentine’s Day. You’ve reserved your favourite table at your favourite restaurant. You have the flowers, the chocolates, the card, the gift.

The limousine picks you both up after work, and you slip across town to dine. Once you arrive at the restaurant, everything is perfect: the ambience, the food, the wine, the conversation. You decide to top off a sumptuous meal with a decadent dessert and coffee.

It’s only 7:30 p.m. Now what? It’s too early to retire to the bedroom, and yet you don’t want the magic to end. What to do?

It’s time to
Celebrate Love!

Celebrate Love is, simply put, an evening of the world’s greatest love songs, sung by some of Canada’s greatest voices, accompanied by top-flight musicians. Celebrate Love is the brainchild of musician, producer, broadcaster and impresario Andrew Craig, and is the realization of a decade-old dream: to create a Valentine’s Day event so compelling and beautiful that it would draw fans back year after year.

Molly Johnson, Canada’s first lady of jazz, headlines a stellar cast of vocalists, including Kellylee Evans (the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards Female Vocalist of the Year), rising star DK Ibomeka, Indo-Canadian vocal sensation Kiran Ahluwalila, and Mary Jane Lamond, Canada’s preeminent interpreter of Gaelic songs from the East Coast. Add to this mix some of Toronto’s finest emerging vocal talents, the exquisite sounds of the Toronto-based cello quartet Lush, and the Celebrate Love Orchestra, and the result is magical.

Don’t think this show is just for couples! Featuring a unique blend of classic popular songs, rare musical gems from across the planet, poetry and reflections, Celebrate Love is the perfect Valentine’s Day activity for people in all stages of love: from new love, to unrequited love, to jilted love, to old love, to true love.

Andrew Craig first produced Celebrate Love as a proof-of-concept show in 2004, in Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre. Despite minimal advertising, the show sold-out completely, and patrons anxious to get in caused a major traffic jam at Bloor and Avenue Rd!

Audience response to Celebrate Love was overwhelmingly positive. Here are but a few quotes from ecstatic attendees:

“Congratulations on an outstanding performance. Wow! We were totally blown away. The music selection, the individual vocal performances, the tremendous musicians, lighting, sound, and an enthusiastic audience just spoke volumes about the true heart of Canadian music.” - K.S., Toronto

“I want to say that last night was FANTASTIC 10 out of 10, please do it again, Toronto missed the best show in town, if you do the same as last night you will have triple as you did last night.” - J.A., Toronto

“Celebrate Love - WOW! I attended Saturday night’s show...and was blown away. Andrew Craig...remarkable job. The mix and choice of music and culture and diversity beautifully represented the Toronto scene.” - R.T., Toronto

“Amazing Valentines Performance! Thank you so much for making our 9th Valentines together so special.” - S.T., Toronto

“I was at the "Celebrate Love" concert on Saturday, February 14.  It was one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to (and I've been to quite a few concerts).” - I.D., Toronto

“What a great show! The last time I left a show feeling that good was when I saw Luther Vandross and the Voices of Blackness at Maple Leaf Gardens. Keep up the great work!” - C.P., Toronto

Celebrate Love 2008 promises to be even bigger and better. There simply is no better place to be this Valentine’s Day than The Music Hall.

Log into www.celebratelove.ca and get a taste of what the show will be like.

Celebrate Love: An Evening of the World’s Greatest Love Songs
The Music Hall
147 Danforth Ave., east of Broadview
8:00 p.m.
Click HERE to purchase tickets

Members of Harlem Gospel Choir - Saturday, February 23, 2008

Source: Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

The world famous Harlem Gospel Choir is one of the pre-eminent gospel choirs in the world. It travels the globe, sharing its joy of faith through its music, & raising funds for children's charities. The Choir was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who got the idea for the Choir while attending a celebration in honour of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. The Choir presents the finest singers and musicians from Harlem's Black Churches.

The Harlem Gospel Choir has shared its message of love, peace and harmony with thousands of people from various nations, backgrounds, and cultures. The Choir strives to make the world a more loving and peaceful place, and through its music and dynamic performances creates a better understanding of the African-American culture and the inspirational music called Gospel as it relates to the Black Church. The theme of every performance is bringing people & nations together & giving something back. The Choir's songs of gospel and inspiration will touch the depths of your soul and raise your spirits to angelic heights.

Click on the songs below to hear a clip!

Perfect Praise

O Happy Day

“They blended the groovy with the sassy, the funky with the sweet… all the singers were strong both in solo and in harmony.”
The Herald Sun, Melbourne

“I feel truly blessed. Thank you for the tribute”
Nelson Mandela

“Joyous music that spreads its infectious and irresistible message of celebration of the human spirit”
Newcastle Herald, Australia

“Run to get tickets to this exhilarating spectacle!”
Times Picayune

The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts
1 Front Street East
8:00 PM
For tickets: www.ticketmaster.ca or (416)872-2262
For group tickets, call (416)393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805
Click HERE to buy now!


URGENT Job Opportunity in Tokyo – World Percussionist – Cirque du Soleil

I am a partner with
Cirque du Soleil with the casting of musicians and singers. (Yeah, I know - cool gig). One of their requests is for a world percussionist.  This position needs to be filled IMMEDIATELY (meaning in March 2008 with rehearsals in Montreal)!   You MUST be available from March 3, 2008 to August 8, 2010 (two year commitment).

Let me know at your earliest convenience if you or someone you know would be interested as there is a VERY short timeframe involved.  Here are the qualifications for the role – if you do not fit these requirements in their full capacity, your application cannot be considered for this particular position.

Qualifications for World Percussionist Position:

              Frame drums (middle east- India)

              Drum stick technique



              Hand drums (no congas, bongos, timbales)

              Tablas (an asset)

              Shakers and toys

              Extreme precision with click tracks

              Creative and able to play outside traditional patterns (fusion of genres)

Is this your experience?  Yes?  If so, this is what I'd need from you right away:

Application MUST include:

              A résumé (including date of birth, nationality, complete contact information, years and locations of training and professional experience);

              One or several photo(s);

              An audio demo (mandatory). We want to hear at least three or four pieces, of different styles and rhythms, from your favourite repertory. It is important that we hear you clearly. We only accept recent recordings (produced in the last 12 months);

              A videotape (mandatory). Take about three minutes to introduce yourself to the camera. State your name, date of birth, summarize your career, and tell us why you are interested in working with us.

              Please include excerpts of performances you have given, or record two complete songs of your choice;

              A list of instruments you play and photos (if possible).

Ensure that when you do the video that you introduce yourself, etc. first as explained above.  They also may want you to record one of their songs on videotape.   

Write to me HERE if you plan on submitting an application.  I need to forward your name on to Cirque du Soleil – good luck!!


Canadian Singer Esthero Stars In Obama Video

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 11, 2008) MONTREAL–A Canadian singer who can't even vote in the U.S. election has taken a star turn in a musical tribute to Barack Obama that is a runaway Internet video hit.

Esthero, an Ontario born-and-raised singer who lives in Los Angeles, strikes a haunting note in the refrain of Yes, We Can alongside a host of celebrities including jazz great Herbie Hancock, retired basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actress Scarlett Johansson.

"Oh my God, I was so nervous," Esthero, who was born Jen-Bea Englishman, said in an interview.

"I asked to go last. I wanted to wait until the end. The fewer people staring at me, the better. It was this positive nervous energy, because I knew I was part of something really important. It happened so fast, you've got lights on you, and `Go."'

The song, produced by Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am, sets an Obama speech to the music of a gentle acoustic guitar and the voices of more than a dozen singers and celebrities.

The video has turned into a viral Internet phenomenon, collecting millions of hits on several sites since it was posted about 10 days ago.

Esthero, who was raised in a long list of small Ontario towns starting with her birthplace of Stratford, appears about a minute from the start to sing the refrain. She reappears later, flashing the Jolly Roger pirate tattoo on her right bicep and a brass-knuckle-style ring with "LOVE" written on it.

The 29-year-old former Juno nominee describes bicycling on Super Tuesday past the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura boulevards in Los Angeles, where political activists have held rallies since the primary season began.

"There were all these Obama supporters there, and they were singing it over karaoke," she said. "I could hear my part, and I started screaming and rang my little bell, `That's me! That's me!.'

"I had to call my mom. I got all teary. I felt like I was a small part of this thing, a small part of history."

With music that has ranged across many pop genres, Esthero was once described by a music critic as "Bjork-meets-Billie-Holiday." She released her first album to critical acclaim in 1998 but did not release a second until 2005 and has never struck a commercially successful niche.

Esthero, who still calls Toronto her real home despite moving to Los Angeles two years ago, makes a living touring on her own and singing with stars like the Black Eyed Peas and Nelly Furtado.

"My new motto is that if I'm going to live hand-to-mouth, I might as well do it in the sun," she said of her move to California, where she'd spent about half her time over the previous 10 years.

On his blog, will.i.am describes how he was inspired by Obama's speech after the Democratic hopeful finished second to Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary.

He called several friends "and they called their friends (and) in a matter of two days we made the song and video.

"It was a matter of pure inspiration," he wrote.

Esthero, who has worked with will.i.am many times, got a call from a club owner and event promoter named Pantera Sarah to join in the sing-along.

"They know I'm Canadian," said Esthero, who describes herself as a true Canadian socialist, a liberal and a humanist.

"I don't know if I was the token Canadian, but I don't care."

Other singers on the video include John Legend, Tatyana Ali and rapper Nick Cannon.

The Los Angeles-based will.i.am described how the process of making such a video would usually take months and involve hammering out strategies and release dates.

The producer says he was not contacted by the Obama campaign, which has picked up the video and song for campaign stops. He says he is actually torn between the candidates.

But Obama is a fan of the video and recommended it to reporters on his campaign plane after he saw it a week ago. His wife, Michelle Obama, has also spread the word to supporters.

Esthero confessed to falling in love with "the shallow side" of the Obama phenomenon, as he battles Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

"He looks like a president, he sounds like a president, he's a wonderful orator, he makes me feel safe, he feels authentic," she said.

"There's just something really romantic about him politically. I'll add, in jest, that it wouldn't hurt if the president was fine!"

But she says she would also be happy with Clinton as the next Democratic presidential nominee.

"What I'm supporting is change in this country, a change that is desperately needed, that either Hillary or Obama could bring about," she said.

"The two of them together would be fabulous."

Salome Bey And Howard Matthews Have Been Local Black Culture Royalty For More Than Three Decades

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

(February 10, 2008) They met at the First Floor Club, an upstairs after-hours spot near Yorkville.

Salome Bey showed up with her brother and sister looking for a jazz drummer they had heard about, and at the door encountered one of the club's owners, Howard Matthews.

"Howard saw Salome and it was like in the cartoons," recalls the drummer,
Archie Alleyne. "All of a sudden, cupid and the hearts start floating around."

So began an attraction that blossomed into a lifelong partnership that enriched the entire city. For more than 30 years – from the mid-1960s – Bey and Matthews prevailed as the power couple who led the way in promoting black culture and black history, and helping young, black people feel good about themselves.

Now less mobile and in their 70s, they are to be honoured tonight at one of the city's premier Black History Month events – Many Rivers to Cross, a music revue starring Joe Sealy and the couple's daughter
Saidah Baba Talibah at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

"From the very beginning, everything they did was done as a couple," says blues singer and long-time friend
Jackie Richardson.

"I love those two," says singer and one-time protégé
Molly Johnson. "They came to Toronto and made stuff happen."

Matthews arrived in 1947, when he was 12, from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. By the late 1950s, he had co-founded the First Floor Club, in a coach house just east of where the Toronto Reference Library now stands.

Later he turned the Kibitzeria restaurant, near the University of Toronto, into a blues club, and from 1969 to 1979 helped run the restaurant he remains best known for – the Underground Railroad.

"Toronto's first soul food restaurant," recalls Alleyne, one of four partners in the business along with two former Argonauts football stars, quarterback John Henry Jackson and kicker Dave Mann.

"Southern fried chicken, barbecued ribs, black-eyed peas and collard greens," Alleyne says of the menu. "We started on Bloor St. with 60 seats and two years later moved to King St. E., with 200. That place was popular."

Bey grew up in Newark, N.J.

With her brother Andy and sister Geraldine, she began touring in 1957 as Andy and the Bey Sisters, appearing in Toronto the first time in 1961, when she met Matthews.

Afterwards, the singer and club owner kept in touch through letters, Valentines and long-distance phone calls.

"We shared a house on Church St.," Alleyne says of Matthews. "One evening when I left for work, Howard was talking on the phone to Salome, and I when I got home around one in the morning he was lying in bed with the phone still stuck to his ear.

"I said, `Howard, Howard, what happened?'"

"He said, `Oh! She sang me to sleep.'"

In 1964, Bey moved to Toronto to be with Matthews. She began a solo career and he served as manager.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, she was sort of a focal point, always driving something," says
Bill King, a jazz pianist and artistic director of the Beaches jazz festival. "A lot of it was black awareness, especially getting young people to know who they were and what their history is.

"She didn't come out with a four-piece," King says. "She came onstage with 14, 15 people, a lot them black kids from the community, singing."

Bey forged her own direction. More than club shows, she performed in revues and stage productions, and by the late 1970s she was writing her own.

In 1978, she wrote and starred in Indigo, a history of the blues. In 1983, she created Shimmytime, about jazz and blues singer Ethel Waters. In 1985, Bey wrote Madame Gertrude, about blues singer Ma Rainey, and persuaded Jackie Richardson to take the lead role.

"She is Mother Earth," Richardson says of Bey. "She has such depth in her voice, such depth within her soul... She is so rooted, so earthy with it."

Bey and Matthews raised three children. Their son Marcus lives in St. Kitts. Their two daughters, Saidah Baba Talibah and Jacintha Tuku Matthews, are Toronto singers.

Many Rivers to Cross is partly a fundraiser or, in Alleyne's words "give-back time," for Bey, who has Alzheimer's disease, and Matthews, who suffered a stroke two years ago.

Many Rivers to Cross takes place Sunday at 7p.m., George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts, 5040 Yonge St. Tickets $50 plus taxes at ticketmaster.ca or 416-872-1111.

MuchMusic VJ Sarah Taylor On Recovery And Wisdom

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(February 10, 2008) Valentine's Day holds special meaning for Sarah Taylor this year, and not just because the 26-year-old MuchMusic VJ has fallen in love for the first time ("I know, disgusting," she groans).

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the fall in a Las Vegas hotel room that left a two-centimetre hole in Taylor's skull, affecting her ability to speak.

The Hamilton native was going to survive, friends and relatives were told as they gathered at Valley Hospital Medical Center where she lay in an induced coma for 10 days following emergency brain surgery. But they were warned she might require constant care and be unable to read or write again.

"Miraculous" is how members of her inner circle describe her recovery; life-changing is how she characterizes the catastrophe's impact.

"I have a renewed sense of spirit," Taylor says in her first interview about the accident.

"I'm more confident, more outspoken, much less self-conscious or concerned about upsetting people. I've lost some friends and cleared out my life personally and professionally."

The one-time model, who fell into television after being discovered in a MuchMusic audience, wants to use her media power more deliberately. For example, she is in the midst of organizing a fundraiser for the head trauma unit at the Hospital For Sick Children. She's also just completed a Black History Month segment for MuchNews about the three famous women who inspired her – Grace Jones, Dorothy Dandridge and Betty Davis

"I want to reach young girls especially," she explains, " to tell them it really is going to get better. I wish someone had looked me in face as little kid and said `Don't feel weird if you don't see yourself in your parents; trust yourself and you'll figure out a path.'"

Taylor arrived in Sin City on Feb. 13, 2007, with producer Andrea Chrysanthou and camera operator David Hurlbut.

They were there to cover MAGIC, a giant annual menswear convention that coincided with the NBA All-Star Weekend.

"I was really excited," says the MuchMusic personality assigned to several shows, including MuchOnDemand, MuchTopTens, MuchNews and Videoflow.

That evening, the trio attended the trade show's introductory dinner, then went to the Mirage hotel's Beatles Revolution Lounge, run by Toronto nightclub king Charles Khabouth, for an 11 p.m. interview with Cirque de Soleil acrobats.

When the shoot fell through, Hurlbut split and the two women hung out for awhile, chatting with actor Laurence Fishburne.

Taylor and Chrysanthou left the club together about 1 a.m. and headed for their respective rooms in the Mirage. But something wasn't quite right with Taylor when Chrysanthou called her the next morning.

"At 8:05 a.m. I call Sarah and she sounds like she's still sleeping," recalls Chrysanthou. "A few minutes later she calls back and says, `I don't know what's wrong, but my face hurts' and some gibberish I couldn't understand ."

Chrysanthou didn't know what was wrong with her colleague. "I didn't know of her do drugs, or drink excessively on her own and she didn't have a lot of alcohol in my presence," she says. But she knew Taylor "needed to sleep it off."

When the producer checked in with Taylor by phone at noon she still sounded sluggish.

At about 6 p.m. Chyrsanthou brought Tylenol and water to the VJ's room. Taylor looked fatigued and her speech became progressively jumbled. The producer called Hurlbut for a second opinion.

Then, they rang the hotel doctor.

But this was Vegas, and the physician summoned security to assess the situation. Eventually, an ambulance was called.

It wasn't until 2 a.m. that they had the results of a CAT Scan.

In Taylor's skull, Chyrsanthou says, "they'd found a round hole the size of quarter. That piece of skull was lodged in her brain, right into the speech centre, which is why she couldn't talk.

The surgeon was on his way to operate immediately. Then, it became a question of what happened? Police and Mirage staff deduced Taylor slipped and hit her head on a doorknob.

Electronic key records showed her door was opened once – by a chambermaid Taylor turned away – between her arrival from the Beatles Revolution nightclub and Chrysanthou's visit the next day.

Taylor says she doesn't remember falling, and her recollection of the period is murky.

"I just know I had the worst headache of my life and I was back and forth to the bathroom throwing up all night," the VJ says now.

"I had no energy. I thought maybe I had a food bug. I remember Andrea kept calling and I remember her coming in. Then it was like a dreamy state. The last thing I knew was being in the ambulance."

Back in Toronto, Taylor's close friend, sales and marketing executive Jason Dykstra, was awakened by a 3 a.m. call from Much Music VJ Devon Soltendieck.

"He said Sarah had been in an accident in Vegas and they weren't sure she would make it through the night and that we should go," Dykstra says.

The pals caught a 6 a.m. flight to Vegas. When they arrived at the hospital, Taylor was unconscious, but alive.

"The great unknown was to what extent her brain had been damaged and how that would affect her memory and speech," says Dykstra. "It's been a fantastic experience to go from the darkest hour, when we were crying and praying and sobbing and hoping for a miraculous cure, to that actually happening; she's the same person, with shorter hair and some scar tissue (from the emergency brain surgery).

A 5-foot-11 beauty, Taylor studied English and Women's Studies at McMaster University. She landed the MuchMusic gig in 2004 after holding her own with MuchOnDemand VJs during an audience banter segment and later sailing through the on-camera test. That may have been a Hollywood moment, but Taylor is quick to point out that she hasn't always lived a charmed life.

"My mom is mentally ill and my father has his own set of problems with alcohol and other troubles," she explains. "My parents split before I was born and I left home at 16.

"As a kid I was always in search of positive role models. I had to create a social and supportive group around me and that all came together with the accident.

"It's really easy to get down on yourself sometimes, but (the accident) made me realize how many people love me and just how great things really are. It's been an eye- opening experience."

Taylor's Aunt Judy (her dad's sister-in-law) is one of several surrogate mothers. The Hamilton customer service rep credits "ambition, work ethic and stubbornness" for pulling her niece through the traumatic event. "She's been through a lot in life and her strength is unbelievable," says Judy Taylor, who also flew to Vegas with daughter Jordana, 18, to stand vigil.

"And as soon as she was back home and getting well, her goal was to help other people."

When doctors finally brought Taylor out of the coma they'd induced following the brain surgery, her first request was for a toothbrush.

Chum Mary Manikhouth, who accompanied Taylor in the air ambulance back to Toronto about a week after the VJ was out of the coma, recalls that her friend "couldn't say my name and some of her speaking was nonsensical, but she was really animated and happy to see us."

After a few days at Toronto Western Hospital, Taylor, sporting a buzz cut, went home to her Annex apartment in early March.

But it would be almost half a year before she returned to work.

Taylor suffered constant headaches, and in the spring of 2007 she had a second surgery to replace the piece of skull Vegas surgeons had removed. The operation, which had been delayed while authorities searched for the missing bone flap (found in storage in a California bone bank), would prevent brain swelling.

"My neurosurgeon began saying `Maybe, we can construct (the missing piece of skull) one out of metal or concrete,' " Taylor says.

There were still months of intense speech therapy before she would be camera ready. Some words just wouldn't roll off her tongue.

"And I was worried about being able to get things right; memorization is a big part of what we do.

"The first time I was back on-air (last August) it was nerve-wracking, like the first time I went on-air ever. Everyone (in the office) was watching and they all clapped."

Today there are no perceptible hiccups in her delivery, but Taylor reads aloud daily and says she's really been forced to think before she speaks to ensure clarity.

The changes in her personal life are more obvious: a new boyfriend; younger sister Sabrina, 20, has moved in with her; and she has new dog – a Shih Tzu christened Vivienne (as in designer Westwood) who's been renamed Nicole (as in celebutante Ritchie) in honour of "her big head and tiny body."

"The one main thing I come out of this with is the importance of family," says Taylor. "Even though my mom and sister and I haven't been as close as we should be, I believe part of the reason I'm here is to take care of them."

Hollywood Writers Vote To End Strike

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber, Associated Press

(February 13, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Striking Hollywood writers are going back to work.

The Writers Guild of America said its members voted yesterday to end their devastating, three-month strike that brought the entertainment industry to a standstill.

The move allows some TV series to return this spring with a handful of new episodes.

It also clears the way for the Academy Awards to be staged on Feb. 24 without the threat of pickets or a boycott. Writers will have just 11 days to put together a show that usually takes months.

The back-to-work order was approved by 92.5 per cent of the 3,775 members of the guild who cast ballots in Los Angeles and New York two days after union leaders voted unanimously to endorse their contract settlement with the studios.

The 10,500 writers who walked off the job on Nov. 5 to will begin to return to work first thing today.

"The strike is over," WGA West president Patric Verrone announced at a news conference in Beverly Hills. "Our members have voted. Writers can go back to work."

WGA members will vote later on the three-year contract itself, which provides new payments to writers for work streamed on the Internet and doubles rates they earn for films and TV shows resold as Internet downloads.

The issue of compensating writers for work in new media proved to be the main sticking point in the confrontation between WGA leaders and the eight major entertainment companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

"This is a day of relief and optimism for everyone in the entertainment industry," the top executives of those companies said last night in a joint statement.

Last month, the companies concluded a separate labour pact with the Directors Guild of America, whose deal paved the way for a resumption of negotiations with writers that had stalled since Dec. 7.

The WGA settlement was patterned largely after terms accepted by the directors.

"At the end of the day, everybody won. It was a fair deal and one that the companies can live with, and it recognizes the large contribution that writers have made to the industry," said Leslie Moonves, chief executive officer of CBS Corp.

Moonves was among the media executives who helped broker a deal after talks between the guild and the AMPTP collapsed.

Under the tentative contract approved Sunday by the union's board of directors, writers would get a maximum flat fee of about $1,200 (U.S.) for streamed programs in the deal's first two years and then get 2 per cent of a distributor's gross in year three.

"These advances now give us a foothold in the digital age," said Patric Verrone, president of the West Coast guild. "Rather than being shut out of the future of content creation and delivery, writers will lead the way as television migrates to the Internet.''

Guild members were overwhelmingly in favour of ending the strike: 3,492 voted yes, with only 283 voting to stay off the job.

The walkout disrupted movie production and turned the Golden Globe Awards into a news conference. It also dealt a severe financial blow to businesses dependent on work from studios.

But Hollywood's labour pains may not be over, said entertainment lawyer Jonathan Handel.

He pointed out that the contract between studios and the Screen Actors Guild is due to expire in June.

"The signs are mixed whether this is going to be another difficult negotiation," Handel said. "The actors face all of the new-media issues that the writers and directors faced.''

With files from Reuters


Roots and Heritage

Television programming is featuring many television shows and commercials related to Black History Month.  I've been watching American Lives 2 last week and this week.  If you don't know, it's a television show where Harvard Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates hosts a groundbreaking series on which he and eight other African-American icons explored their roots via a combination of genealogical and DNA research. It's an amazing journey.  I featured it in last week's newsletter HERE.

It made me wonder how great it would be to have that kind of historical factual journey documented on television (not to mention the power of PBS behind it) about our African Canadians and to give it that global reach so we all can learn so much more about our Canadian legacies.  Perhaps there is that documented series of which I am unaware.  Feel free to inform me ...

Or what about our fascination or our curiosity
about where we come from and how our ancestors' decisions impact us today.  Some of you were raised knowing your long history and knowing about individual's stories and their life stories.  What a tribute and blessing. 

There are even new DNA tests that can break down what heritage is intertwined within you. American Lives even took it a step further and broke down what parts of Africa your DNA is linked with.   "
DNA testing is introduced during the final episode, which is when the participants learn what per cent African, Asian, European and Native American they are."  Incredible! 

For myself, there is a great amount of curiosity.  My late father was adopted - and there is little known factual evidence within our family about his ancestry.  These facts probably would not be too hard to trace given the records are probably stored with the Children's Aid Society.  I can't help but also feel that there is a strange sense of security of not knowing ... which one is better? 

If I'm blessed enough to be around this world a little longer, perhaps I will be brave enough to uncover those facts.  I'm sure that many of you are in the same position and I hope you make the decision that is right for you.  I think the knowledge of our ancestry can only enhance our lives.

One thing is clear and was mentioned a few times.  Even those that were certain they knew their ancestry were surprised to learn their documented origins.  For me, it proves that we are all one - one human race.  A further thought is that while many were not treated fairly or righteously or with respect or dignity, somehow we are all linked.

Maya Angelou said it best in the show - 'Heritage is so complex that we must make it simple.  We have to consider ourselves global'.  How different our world would be if we truly embraced that statement.

And that's just my opinion.


Winehouse, West Dominate Grammys: Hancock Pulls Off Unexpected Upset

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 11, 2008) *Music's biggest night has come and gone, bestowing honours upon many deserving musicians (unless you ask Natalie Cole who ironically decried Amy Winehouse's awards due to her "bad behaviour").

Grammys, celebrating its 50th year, paid tribute to its history by opening with Alicia Keys, styled with a glamorous 50s flair, sitting at the piano singing "Learnin' the Blues" along with a black-and-white video performance from the late Frank Sinatra.  Prince presented Keys with the best R&B song trophy for "No One" to kick off the awards presentations. 

Amy Winehouse, nominated for six awards, and Kanye West, for eight, lost the big Kahuna album of the year award to Herbie Hancock in an unexpected upset. The Grammy vet was awarded for his project "River: The Joni Letters."

"You know it's been 43 years since the first and only time that a jazz artist got the album of the year award," Hancock said, then proceeded to honour "the giants upon whose shoulders I stand, some of whom like Miles Davis, John Coltrane ... unquestionably deserved the award in the past. But this is a new day that proves that the impossible can be made possible."

Despite the upset, neither nomination front-runner had a reason to gripe (er...with Kanye, we take that back), with Winehouse picking up five awards, the lions share of the night, and West walking away with a respectable four.

Both West and Winehouse delivered impactful performances.  West performed a glow in the dark "Stronger" and a sincere ode, "Hey Mama," to his recently deceased muse and mother, Donda West, and Winehouse performed quirky and defiant yet pure renditions of "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" live from London before a small cabaret audience.  Winehouse's Rehab obligations and U.S. Visa issues is what kept the embattled singer on the other side of the pond. 

"I am so proud of this album," Winehouse told The Associated Press in a statement. "I put my heart and soul into it and it's wicked to be recognized in this way. I feel truly honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as many of the artists present tonight and to win is even more amazing!"  She went on to grab the record of the year trophy, which she was noticeably dumbfounded by.

Best rap album went to West, which prompted one of his Kanye-style speeches. While accepting the trophy, the orchestra tried to play him off the stage as he began speaking about his mother.

"It would be in good taste to stop the music," West said - and the music stopped. He continued, "I know you're really proud of me right now and I know you want me to be the No. 1 artist in the world and Mama, all I'm going to do is keep making you proud. We run this."

The night offered several noteworthy performance collaborations, including Alicia Keys performing "No One"  with John Mayer, Fergie performing "Finally" accompanied by John Legend, and Rihanna performing the mega hits "Umbrella"  and "Don't Stop the Music" mashed up with "Jungle Love" by the first time reuniting of Morris Day and the Time.  Also, a battle of the hot-legs commenced during a performance with an age-defyingly beautiful and spry Tina Turner teamed up with Beyonce on "Proud Mary." The 'Queen' as Beyonce called her, hung in there and even threw in a little high kick at the end for posterity. 

Also, in true Grammy form, a rousing gospel segment was also included, with performances by Aretha Franklin, BeBe Winans, the Clark Sisters (who tied with Aretha for best gospel performance), and Israel and New Breed.

Other winners for the night included Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige (who strangely seemed to be MIA) with two each, and even Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for best spoken-word album. The audience whooped it up when Obama won his second Grammy for best spoken world album for "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."

Winners at Sunday's 50th Annual Grammy Awards:

Album of the Year: "River: The Joni Letters," Herbie Hancock.
Record of the Year: "Rehab," Amy Winehouse.
Song of the Year: "Rehab," Amy Winehouse (Amy Winehouse).
New Artist: Amy Winehouse.
Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Mark Ronson.
Pop Vocal Album: "Back to Black," Amy Winehouse.
Female Pop Vocal Performance: "Rehab," Amy Winehouse.
Male Pop Vocal Performance: "What Goes Around...Comes Around," Justin Timberlake.
Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals: "Makes Me Wonder," Maroon 5.
Pop Collaboration With Vocals: "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)," Robert
Plant & Alison Krauss.
Pop Instrumental Album: "The Mix-Up," Beastie Boys.
Pop Instrumental Performance: "One Week Last Summer," Joni Mitchell.
Traditional Pop Vocal Album: "Call Me Irresponsible," Michael Buble.
Alternative Music Album: "Icky Thump," The White Stripes.
Rock Album: "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace," Foo Fighters.
Rock Song: "Radio Nowhere," Bruce Springsteen, songwriter (Bruce Springsteen).
Solo Rock Vocal Performance: "Radio Nowhere," Bruce Springsteen.
Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals: "Icky Thump," The White Stripes.
Hard Rock Performance: "The Pretender," Foo Fighters.
Metal Performance: "Final Six," Slayer.
Rock Instrumental Performance: "Once Upon a Time in The West," Bruce Springsteen.
Rap Album: "Graduation," Kanye West.
Rap Solo Performance: "Stronger," Kanye West.
Rap Performance by a Duo or Group: "Southside," Common, featuring Kanye West.
Rap/Sung Collaboration: "Umbrella," Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z.
Rap Song: "Good Life," Aldrin Davis, Mike Dean, Faheem Najm & Kanye West, songwriters (J. Ingram & Q. Jones, songwriters) (Kanye West Featuring  T-Pain).
Country Album: "These Days," Vince Gill.
Country Song: "Before He Cheats," Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins, songwriters  (Carrie Underwood).
Female Country Vocal Performance: "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood.
Male Country Vocal Performance: "Stupid Boy," Keith Urban.
Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals: "How Long," Eagles.
Country Collaboration With Vocals: "Lost Highway," Willie Nelson & Ray Price.
Country Instrumental Performance: "Throttleneck," Brad Paisley.
R&B Album: "Funk This," Chaka Khan.
R&B Song: "No One," Dirty Harry, Kerry Brothers & Alicia Keys, songwriters (Alicia Keys).
Contemporary R&B Album: "Because of You," Ne-Yo.
Female R&B Vocal Performance: "No One," Alicia Keys.
Male R&B Vocal Performance: "Future Baby Mama," Prince.
R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals: "Disrespectful," Chaka Khan, featuring Mary J. Blige.
Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: "In My Songs," Gerald Levert.
Urban/Alternative Performance: "Daydreamin'," Lupe Fiasco, featuring Jill Scott.
Dance Recording: "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows," Justin Timberlake, Nate
(Danja) Hills, Timbaland & Justin Timberlake, producers; Jimmy Douglass &
Timbaland, mixers.
Electronic/Dance Album: "We Are the Night," The Chemical Brothers.
Bluegrass Album: "The Bluegrass Diaries," Jim Lauderdale.
Traditional Blues Album: "Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live
In Dallas," Henry James Townsend, Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, Robert
Lockwood Jr. & David "Honeyboy" Edwards.
Contemporary Blues Album: "The Road to Escondido," JJ Cale & Eric Clapton.
New Age Album: "Crestone," Paul Winter Consort.
Contemporary Jazz Album: "River: The Joni Letters," Herbie Hancock.
Jazz Vocal Album: "Avant Gershwin," Patti Austin.
Jazz Instrumental Sol "Anagram," Michael Brecker, soloist.
Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group: "Pilgrimage," Michael Brecker.
Large Jazz Ensemble Album: "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina),"
Terence Blanchard.
Latin Jazz Album: "Funk Tango," Paquito D'Rivera Quintet.
Latin Pop Album: "El Tren De Los Momentos," Alejandro Sanz.
Latin Rock or Alternative Album: "No Hay Espacio," Black:Guayaba.
Latin Urban Album: "Residente O Visitante," Calle 13.
Tropical Latin Album: "La Llave De Mi Corazon," Juan Luis Guerra.
Mexican/Mexican-American Album: "100 (Percent) Mexicano," Pepe Aguilar.
Tejano Album: "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," Little Joe & La Familia.
Norteno Album: "Detalles Y Emociones," Los Tigres Del Norte.
Banda Album: "Te Va A Gustar," El Chapo.
Traditional Folk Album: "Dirt Farmer," Levon Helm.
Contemporary Folk/Americana Album: "Washington Square Serenade," Steve Earle.
Native American Music Album: "Totemic Flute Chants," Johnny Whitehorse.
Hawaiian Music Album: "Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar," Various
Artists, Daniel Ho, George Kahumoku Jr., Paul Konwiser & Wayne Wong, producers.
Zydeco or Cajun Music Album: "Live! Worldwide," Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience.
Reggae: "Mind Control," Stephen Marley.
Traditional World Music Album: "African Spirit," Soweto Gospel Choir.
Contemporary World Music Album: "Djin Djin," Angelique Kidjo.
Polka Album: "Come Share the Wine," Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra.
Gospel Performance: "Blessed & Highly Favored," The Clark Sisters; "Never Gonna Break My Faith," Aretha Franklin & Mary J. Blige (Featuring The Harlem Boys Choir). (Tie.)
Gospel Song: "Blessed & Highly Favored," Karen Clark-Sheard, songwriter (The Clark Sisters).
Rock or Rap Gospel Album: "Before the Daylight's Shot," Ashley Cleveland.
Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album: "A Deeper Level," Israel and New Breed.
Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album: "Salt of the Earth," Ricky Skaggs & The Whites.
Traditional Gospel Album: "Live - One Last Time," The Clark Sisters.
Contemporary R&B Gospel Album: "Free to Worship," Fred Hammond.
Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual
Media: Love (The Beatles) George Martin & Giles Martin, producers (Apple Records/Capitol Records).
Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "Ratatouille," Michael Giacchino, composer.
Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "Love You I Do (From Dreamgirls)," Siedah Garrett & Henry Krieger, songwriters (Jennifer Hudson).
Musical Show Album: "Spring Awakening," Duncan Sheik, producer; Duncan
Sheik, composer; Steven Sater, lyricist (Original Broadway Cast With Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele & Others).
Musical Album for Children: "A Green and Red Christmas," The Muppets.
Spoken Word: "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream," Barack Obama.
Spoken Word Album for Children: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Jim Dale.
Comedy Album: "The Distant Future," Flight of the Conchords.
Instrumental Composition: "Cerulean Skies," Maria Schneider, composer (Maria Schneider Orchestra).
Instrumental Arrangement: "In a Silent Way," Vince Mendoza, arranger (Joe Zawinul).
Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s): "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die," John Clayton, arranger (Queen Latifah).
Engineered Album, Non-Classical: "Beauty & Crime," Tchad Blake, Cameron
Craig, Emery Dobyns & Jimmy Hogarth, engineers (Suzanne Vega).
Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Bring the Noise (Benny Benassi Satisfaction Remix)," Benny Benassi, remixer (Public Enemy).
Surround Sound: "Love," Paul Hicks, surround mix engineer; Tim Young, surround mastering engineer; George Martin & Giles Martin, surround producers (The Beatles).
Classical Album: "Tower: Made in America," Leonard Slatkin, conductor; Tim Handley, producer; Tim Handley, engineer/mixer (Nashville Symphony).
Orchestral Performance: "Tower: Made in America," Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Nashville Symphony).
Producer of the Year, Classical: Judith Sherman.
Engineered Album, Classical: "Grechaninov: Passion Week," John Newton,
engineer (Charles Bruffy, Phoenix Bach Choir & Kansas City Chorale).
Opera Recording: "Humperdinck: Hansel & Gretel," Sir Charles Mackerras,
conductor; Rebecca Evans, Jane Henschel & Jennifer Larmore; Brian Couzens,
producer (Sarah Coppen, Diana Montague & Sarah Tynan; New London Children's Choir; Philharmonia Orchestra).
Choral Performance: "Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem," Simon Rattle,
conductor; Simon Halsey, chorus master (Thomas Quasthoff & Dorothea
Roschmann; Rundfunkchor Berlin; Berliner Philharmoniker).
Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (With Orchestra):
"Barber/Korngold/Walton: Violin Concertos," Bramwell Tovey, conductor; James
Ehnes (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra).
Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra): "Beethoven Sonatas,
Vol. 3," Garrick Ohlsson.
Chamber Music Performance: "Strange Imaginary Animals," Eighth Blackbird.
Small Ensemble Performance: "Stravinsky: Apollo, Concerto in D; Prokofiev:
20 Visions Fugitives," Yuri Bashmet, conductor; Moscow Soloists.
Classical Vocal Performance: "Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Sings Peter Lieberson:
Neruda Songs," Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (James Levine; Boston Symphony Orchestra).
Classical Contemporary Composition: "Made in America," Joan Tower (Leonard Slatkin, conductor; Nashville Symphony Orchestra).
Classical Crossover Album: "A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane," Turtle Island Quartet.
Short Form Music Vide "God's Gonna Cut You Down," Johnny Cash.
Long Form Music Vide "The Confessions Tour," Madonna.
Recording Package: "Cassadaga," Zachary Nipper, art director (Bright Eyes).
Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: "What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare
Grooves (1967-1977)," Masaki Koike, art director.
Album Notes: "John Work, III: Recording Black Culture," Bruce Nemerov, album notes writer.
Historical Album: "The Live Wire - Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949," Nora Guthrie & Jorge Arevalo Mateus, compilation producers; Jamie Howarth, Steve Rosenthal, Warren Russell-Smith & Dr. Kevin Short, mastering engineers (Woody Guthrie).

Feist Goes Down For The Count At Grammys

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

(February 11, 2008) The trophies don't matter 'cause it's the Grammys and who really gives a rat's hind end who wins these stupid things, anyway?

Gotta pick your underdog battles if you're gonna watch the show, though, so the easy object of vicarious hope for the casually nationalist Canadian viewer taking in the 50th-anniversary Grammy Awards broadcast was Calgary-spawned Leslie Feist, the Toronto-expat indie-rock songstress who somehow managed an unlikely four nominations and a performance spot at the resolutely drab Grammy gala beamed from Los Angeles's Staples Centre last night.

Half an hour into the anticlimactic CBS/Global extravaganza, it was clear that Feist fans would have to settle with anticipating the sight of her iPod-abetted hit song "1234," chopped out onstage. Fellow Canadians Michael Bublé, Joni Mitchell, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with violinist James Ehnes and Lifetime Achievement Award recipients The Band took home a statue apiece before Alicia Keys and a black-and-white reel of the late Frank Sinatra officially opened the Grammy gala with a multimedia faux-duet on "Learnin' the Blues."

Still, with Feist out of the running, it was easy to transfer one's allegiance to a more obvious underdog, but one whose appeal to the staid mass of American Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences voters has nevertheless been cast severely in doubt by her insistence upon sabotaging an "acceptable" pop career path by being ... well, by unapologetically being more Amy Winehouse than a lot of people can handle.

Winehouse – whose scheduled performance on the show was hastily downgraded to a satellite relay due to the sort of U.S.-visa difficulties that tend to dog ongoing British rehab patients – was already the public-relations victor at the Grammys when she took two of her six award nominations in the pre-awards ceremony for Best Female Pop Vocal Album for last year's album Back to Black and Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Rehab."

Eight-time nominee Kanye West came into the show ahead, scoring Best Rap Solo Performance for "Stronger," Best Rap Song for "Good Life" and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for his collaboration with Common on "Southside." He also scored sentimental points with the audience after combining a tribute to his recently deceased mother with a deserving, onstage nod to French house-music freaks Daft Punk (who supplied the sampledelic hook to "Stronger") during his own Grammy performance.

Winehouse had nevertheless pulled ahead of West's trophy haul before she even linked up to the Staples Centre, knocking Feist out of the running with a victory in the Best New Female Artist category and then Song of the Year for – oh, the exhausted irony – "Rehab" before the 90-minute mark.

It would have been a clean Winehouse sweep if not for the surprise Album of the Year victory of Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters.

"You know it's been 43 years since the first and only time that a jazz artist got the Album of the Year award," Hancock said.

The evening was, nonetheless, cemented as the American recording industry's cautious pardon of the troubled British songstress's chemical and social indiscretions.

Winehouse took the stage at almost 4 a.m. London time before a small cabaret audience, wearing a sly smile as she performed a sultry, soulful rendition of the hit that has defined her recent fall from grace. She looked just as coy as she sang "You Know I'm No Good."

Shortly afterward, Winehouse seemed dumbfounded when she was announced as Record of the Year winner. She was immediately enveloped by her band, then her mother and father, who have publicly worried whether the 24-year-old artist would survive her demons.

"For my Blake, my Blake, incarcerated," Winehouse declared as she accepted the prize whilst name checking her jailed husband and a weekend fire in one of London's trendiest shopping districts. "And London, this is for London, 'cause Camden town is burning down!"

"I am so proud of this album," Winehouse told The Associated Press in a statement. "I put my heart and soul into it and it's wicked to be recognized in this way. I feel truly honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as many of the artists present tonight and to win is even more amazing!"

Weirdly, Bruce Springsteen notched as many Grammys as West, including Best Rock Song for "Radio Nowhere," with nary an acknowledgement on the broadcast, providing some insight into the changing U.S. pop star system. Other early winners included the White Stripes, Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige and the Foo Fighters, with two each; even Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for Best Spoken-Word Album.

With files from The Canadian Press and the Associated Press

Grammys Fail To Excite TV Viewers

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(February 11, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Amy Winehouse, Herbie Hancock and Kanye West didn't provide quite enough drama to enthral television viewers. Preliminary estimates indicate the Grammy Awards telecast was watched by 17.5 million people in the United States. Nielsen Media Research said Monday that would make it the third least-watched Grammy Awards ever if later estimates confirm those numbers. Viewership is down from the 20 million people who watched last year. The 2006 awards, with 17 million viewers, marked the Grammy low point. The show had 17.3 million viewers in 1995. On a night filled with nods to the show's 50-year history, the most trophies went to Winehouse, a 24-year-old singer known for her old-soul voice. The most sought-after prize, for album of the year, went to veteran jazzman Hancock for his Joni Mitchell tribute disc.

Grammy Fashion Relatively Tame

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(February 10, 2008) Music's heavy hitters turned out for the Grammy Awards' 50th anniversary ceremony Sunday in celebratory and respectful outfits. The fringe outfits were left to up-and-comers or those looking for some paparazzi shots.

Fergie wore a simple and chic yellow strapless gown from the Calvin Klein Collection, while Rihanna went for a bright blue cocktail dress with an unfinished hem with feathers underneath by Zac Posen that was both youthful and fashionable.

Beyonce was the belle of the ball in a strapless number with a silver top and a powder-blue ballgown bottom reminiscent of Cinderella. Even her hair looked lighter.

Alicia Keys wore a dark navy blue gown by Giorgio Armani Prive that recalled old Hollywood with its high halter neck and full train. Her hair was done in a tight updo with curls piled on top of her head and bright hot pink lips, which matched her hot pink crocodile clutch bag.

Shiny and bright certainly were popular themes with Miley Cyrus in a short silver dress – and a lot of silver eye shadow – and Colbie Caillat in a sunny yellow strapless minidress with a flower in her hair.

With spring like temperatures outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Carrie Underwood went for a floral gown with a plunging V-neck top and jewelled waistband.

Meanwhile, Natasha Bedingfield and Taylor Swift – both in purple strapless dresses – tapped into two
trends fresh from the fall runways at New York Fashion Week. (Bedingfield was indeed front and center at fashion shows.)

A blond Nelly Furtado wore an electric-blue draped strapless dress by fellow Canadian Arthur Mendonca, accessorized with a space-age gold necklace.

Cyndi Lauper wore her now-blond hair in a loose curly updo, and her gown was black with lace around the bust. She also wore long black leather gloves.

Faith Hill played it safe in a one-shoulder black gown and then jazzed it up with oversized earrings, and Natalie Cole chose a flattering draped metallic dress with twisted-fabric straps.

Not everyone took that route, though. Perhaps Adrienne Lau thought her silver slip-style micromini would capture the paparazzi's attention, while Paramore's Hayley Williams might have thought all up-and-coming rock stars wear shocking red hair, a mostly sheer dress and ankle socks.

"I think anything goes in the music industry," said Evanescence's Amy Lee of Grammy fashions. Her own outfit was a black gown with roping on the bodice and a slit up the front that had a bit of a Goth vibe.

"Whatever you want to wear is going to work," Lee added. ``There's women in full formal dresses and you see guys in jeans.''

There were indeed some men in jeans but there were plenty of full-fledged tuxedos. Jay-Z wore a traditional tux, complete with bow tie, by Tom Ford, and Ne-Yo topped his tailored Ferragamo suit with a brown suede fedora. He – like so many others – wore aviator sunglasses, but he was happy to tell E! that his were from Banana Republic instead of a bank-breaking designer.

Seal wore a white suit by Yves Saint Laurent and a skinny black tie, and Chris Daughtry was in all black – suit, shirt and tie. Akon had on a fur-trimmed jacket despite the warm and sunny weather.

Dierks Bentley wore a dapper taupe suit by Dsquared that he complemented with a black tie and black pocket square, while Ludacris added a white pocket square to his black jacket by Armani.

Armani also dressed John Legend. He wore a shawl-collar tuxedo with velvet lapels and a high-neck shirt – and another pocket square.


The Return Of Michael Jackson's Thriller

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Staff Reporter

(February 10, 2008) As the folks at The Guinness Book of World Records remind us each year, that album – getting an expanded, all-star-assisted re-release this week – remains the biggest-selling of all-time, with some 52 million copies moved worldwide since its release on Dec. 1, 1982.

Thriller and its trailblazing early-MTV video clips for "Beat It," "Billie Jean" and the title track also established a then only slightly wacko Jacko as an all-pervasive pop-culture presence. For a couple of years, he was simply everywhere.

He's remained everywhere for most of the 25 years since, of course, although for someone who has always so clearly relished the spark of flashbulbs and the spotlight's glare, Jackson has spent the past three of them skulking about places like Dubai and Las Vegas in relative obscurity.

Who can blame him, really? His public appearances are merely cues for renewed, horrified discussion of his mutilated facial features. And regardless of the "not guilty" verdict at his 2005 child-molestation trial, there's a huge segment of the public that views Jackson as a freak with a penchant for young boys. Let's not forget the baby-dangling faux pas in Berlin in 2002, either. Not the sort of attention you want.

The present-day consensus finds Jackson "a creepy symbol of the afflictive nature of fame," as Newsweek put it last December. Thus, either of his own volition or at the behest of Sony Music – which didn't quite see the returns it had expected after spending an estimated $55 million (U.S.) to make and market Jackson's underperforming 2001 CD, Invincible – Jackson has now turned to the one truly indelible artefact from his past as the linchpin for another comeback attempt.

This Tuesday sees the release of Thriller 25, an expanded CD/DVD package that pads the original, nine-track album with some leftovers from those 1982 sessions; new versions of tunes like "P.Y.T.," "The Girl is Mine" and "Billie Jean" cooked up by will.i.am, Akon and Kanye West; and the truly awesome "Beat It," "Billie Jean" and "Thriller" videos. Oh, and a "personal greeting" to Jackson's fans "penned exclusively for this special release."

To hype the re-release, someone's been seeding the rumour mill with speculation that Jackson will turn up at tonight's Grammy Awards ceremony – the album's being inducted into the Hall of Fame – although early whisperings that he would be performing on the show have been cautiously downgraded to the threat of a simple appearance, maybe even a speaking one.

Likewise, while another rumoured appearance at last Sunday's Super Bowl never materialized, the broadcast did premiere a commercial for Pepsi's SoBe Life Water featuring Naomi Campbell and a troupe of agile, animated lizards getting down to "Thriller." Brother Jermaine Jackson also dropped hints late last year of a possible Jackson 5 reunion tour to go down this summer.

Something's brewing, then. But if Jackson is gunning to get back his self-anointed King of Pop title, he's doing it by invoking the days when he actually was.

"Why not use Thriller?" says Toronto R&B songstress Jully Black. "That's how big Thriller was and is, still. It's something that was big enough that it can be used as a relaunch today. Why not take advantage of that?"

As the youngest of nine children, Black remembers that album as a "family thing," having a profound effect on all of her siblings. The spooky, 13-minute video for "Thriller" was particularly captivating, too, and Black quite rightly credits Jackson's rubbery dance moves in that video and its companions with setting the standard for nearly all MTV choreography to follow.

"I think it was ahead of its time. Musically, you hear so much stuff today that, on a production level, is just missing that `it' factor. I mean, Thriller, that was it," she says, hopeful that the record's renewed celebration will at least rehabilitate Jackson's musical record.

"It's something that can bridge the gap between generations. It's like having Prince at the Super Bowl last year or Tom Petty this year – you just realize the greats are always gonna be great."

The embarrassing Paul McCartney duet "The Girl is Mine" notwithstanding, it's true that the sleek, danceable R&B jams and drippy ballads consciously cooked up as ideal pop-crossover material by Jackson and producer Quincy Jones – in a mere eight weeks of sessions stolen after Jones finished up a Donna Summer album – have lost little of their sparkle after a quarter-century.

Admittedly, it's a little more calculated than Jackson's previous album, 1979's seven-million-selling Off the Wall, but Jackson's thirst for hits is still tempered with a pop innocence and an ear for almost subliminally effective dance beats that would begin to go missing on 1987's Bad and were completely bled dry from the commercial-R&B robotics of Invincible.

"Thriller is the best pop R&B album ever. Easily," says London, Ont.-bred rapper Shad. "It's the most danceable album ever, the best video ever. I can tell you at least four conversations I've had in the last month that were basically laughing at how huge that album is.

"The amount of times new R&B artists like Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown and Usher reference `Billie Jean' in their own performances just shows that it's still the standard ... Especially with the way the music industry is going now, I don't think there will ever be an album that just takes over the world to that extent, it's pretty safe to say. Pop perfection."

And Thriller did indeed take over the world in a manner few albums do; by 1984 Time magazine was filling its cover with a portrait of Jacko, by Andy Warhol, no less. The disc appealed to audiences all across the Western world, Asia and Africa; growing up in the West African city of Accra, Ghana, for instance, Hamilton-based rapper, poet and songwriter Kae Sun remembers seeing many of his peers dressing like Michael Jackson and "trying to dance like him.

"The production was really cutting edge and it breaks a lot of rules," muses Kae Sun. "You can't really put it into one genre, and that's one thing I do admire about Michael Jackson. He's taking from all over the musical spectrum."

By hitching his latest comeback bid to Thriller, Jackson is perhaps finally conceding that he'll never come up with anything to top it, creatively or financially.

This might actually be healthy, since there's a common school of thought that blames Thriller's mega-success and Jackson's subsequent, almost pathological need to top it with not just the overly laboured musical output that would follow, but also the singer's dubious psychological state. He would do well, in fact, to heed the words of Quincy Jones in a recent Billboard:

"I don't think anything like Thriller will ever happen again. Being involved in a record like that is a major, major gift from God."

See Ben Rayner's full review of Thriller 25 in Tuesday's Star.

Imaan Faith To Release Highly Anticipated Debut Album “Let The Truth Be Known” On Dep / Universal

Source: Universal Music Canada

February 11, 2008 – When rap musician
Imaan Faith celebrates his Iranian culture’s New Year next month, he’ll be celebrating with the support of a who’s who in the music industry appearing on Imaan’s debut album “Let The Truth Be Known”, releasing across the country March 11 on DEP / Universal Canada.

“Haven’t Seen U Smile”, Imaan’s debut music video, features none other than multi-platinum rappers Mopreme Shakur & Big Syke, members of the ‘Thug Life’ and ‘Outlawz’ groups formed by Tupac Shakur, the best-selling rap musician of all time. Tupac, whose two greatest hits volumes “Thug” and “Life” recently released on Universal Music, was Imaan’s strongest personal and professional inspiration growing up in New York. Imaan’s family immigrated to the US after the Iranian Islamic Revolution, before Imaan moved to Toronto as a teenager.

Imaan’s “Haven’t Seen U Smile” music video was directed by Gobi, a renowned British-Iranian filmmaker whose past music video credits include collaborations with musicians Tupac Shakur, Queen Latifah and Yoko Ono among others. Gobi was also a producer of the Oscar nominated "Tupac Resurrection" documentary, and recently directed a reality TV series with rapper/actor DMX.

In addition to Imaan’s album tracks featuring Tupac producer Johnny “J”, Eminem DJ Clinton Sparks, and Indo-Canadian bhangra producer Pama Sarai, an additional roster of artist heavyweights offered their collaborative support for Imaan’s debut album: Freeway (signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records and 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records) ; Colby O (signed to Akon’s Konvict Entertainment) ; TQ (formerly signed to Cash Money Records) ; and even Juno Award winner Snow.

Imaan Faith first established a name in Canada after releasing “You Got A Choice”, an aids awareness rap single with Indo-Canadian activist Deejay Ra to raise donations for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Canada (NMCF), which received the support of CBC’s George Strombo and CFRB’s Spider Jones.

Imaan is currently planning a tour of Toronto high schools as part of Deejay Ra’s ‘Hip-Hop Literacy’ program, building on a “Peace In the Streets” event they held in December 2006 at Mandela School in Toronto’s Regent Park, at which Imaan performed and discussed his music with students during a morning assembly.

For more details about Imaan Faith’s debut album visit his official ImaanFaithMusic.com and GutsRecords.com web sites.


2000Great For Lenn Hammond!

Source: Sweet T Enterprises

(Feb. 12, 2008) Toronto to the world,
Lenn Hammond is in the news again! This time it’s his recent nomination from the Canadian Reggae Music Awards (C.R.M.A.) that has radio jocks in the Netherlands going gaga for the sultry crooner. Lenn spoke candidly about the nomination with ‘The Good Morning Show’ on Razo Radio in lower Amsterdam during the week and the interview repeated over the weekend.
Nominated for ‘Top Male Reggae Singer’, Hammond has already won this award twice. Although Lenn Hammond is currently working in Jamaica, the C.R.M.A. recognizes that the artist still keeps close ties to Canada. As explained by the awards founder and C.E.O. Winston Hewitt, “the Canadian Reggae Music Awards recognizes Canadian artists who are also making strides outside of Canada. Fans at home and abroad can now vote online at www.canadianreggaemusicawards.com”.
Hammond’s single “Not Far From Sunshine” remained in the SuperJam’s Top 10 on CHOICE FM in the UK for months and the video was supported in Europe, Asia, North America and the Caribbean, including Jamaica’s Hit List Top 20 Countdown. Meanwhile his most recent single, “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU” on Jah Birth’s Three Wise Mice Riddim received a 5 star review on Reggae-Vibes.com in the Netherlands and is in the process of being released world-wide.
2008(great) is off to a great start for Lenn!
Early in February, Hammond was well received at Black My Story, the inaugural concert held in St. Andrew, Jamaica as part of the country’s Reggae Month celebrations. The Jamaica Observer reported, “Lenn Hammond gave an entertaining performance.”  While Torch Promotions claimed, "Lenn Hammond rocked the crowd, women were screaming, his performance was breathtaking! One of the most memorable for the night.” Lenn is slated to perform at the upcoming “Reggae In The Valley” and “British Roll Out 2K8”. 
Listen for Lenn’s upcoming releases: Battlefield ft. Mark Wonder; IRON IN THE FIRE with Anthony Red Rose & Mitch and Too Bad ft. Ce’Cile.
Log onto www.myspace.com/lennhammondofudmg for more.

Janet Jackson Gets Candid In Parade Magazine

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 7, 2008) *In Sunday's issue of Parade magazine,
Janet Jackson graces the cover and gets very candid in the cover story. The singer, whose new album "Discipline" is due Feb. 26, talks about her marriages, men cheating on her, her faith and the out of wedlock child her father had, amongst other things.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Janet on love:

•     “I was always reaching out for love. I kept searching for it, seeking it. Infatuation, lust—that stuff only lasts so long. You can get that from anybody. But true love is supposed to be forever. Jackson says she has found that love with record producer and hip-hop artist Jermaine Dupri, 35. They have known each other for six years now and may already be married, although that is a question Janet will not address beyond admitting that they are a couple and she is crazy about him. “This time, I wasn’t going to be the first to reach out,” she says. “It was Jermaine who touched me first. Love came to me. He’s such a wonderful, sweet, very loving guy that I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to fall head over heels for this person.’ ”

On Janet’s father’s out-of-wedlock child and how it has affected her:

•Janet’s father had an out-of-wedlock child with a fan of the Jackson 5. Five years later, he had another affair with an employee of his sons’ record label, Motown. His infidelities nearly ended his marriage and deeply affected Janet. “Besides my mother’s beauty and her smarts, what I always wanted was her strength,” says Janet, who is very close with her mother, Katherine, 77. “It’s a very cold world, and to have gone through what she has had to experience, from having polio as a child to those things with my brother Michael, and then for my father to have had another child!” Janet says angrily. “I’ve been cheated on a lot. I know what that feels like and how that hurts the heart. But, I mean, to give us a half-sister. I can’t even fathom what that’s like for Mother. For her to stay with my father all these years and never abandon her kids, that’s true love.”

On her two previous marriages:

•     Janet was married twice and kept both marriages a secret until they ended. “I wanted to keep something for myself and not have it be public,” Janet says. “But after two divorces, I thought I was jinxed. Maybe marriage isn’t for me? Maybe it’s my fault it never works. I was always faithful. I always tried to give of myself. I was very loyal. But maybe I’m the problem. I’m to blame.” She continues, “It was awful, and I was so tired of being hurt. When it was over, I put shields up to protect myself from being hurt again. I didn’t want to go there anymore.”

On Her Faith:

•     “Jehovah’s Witnesses was the religion we were raised under. I’d get up on Sunday mornings, go to the Kingdom Hall, go again on Thursday night and go to book study on Tuesdays, because that was my mother’s routine. I believe in God. I feel that spiritual connection. But, most of the time, I didn’t pay attention in the Kingdom Hall. I was asleep. I know that’s awful. I was so tired, so busy, so knocked out, I’d fall asleep.”

On Growing Up in a "Religious World":

•     “Being a Jehovah’s Witness, you grow up in a very religious world. But as a kid I loved Prince and The Time, one of my favourite groups, and would listen to them all the time even though you’re not supposed to do that. When I was 16, I was promoting my first album and I went with Mother to see The Time’s concert with Prince. I did not want to sit next to Mother because I knew they were dirty. I was trying to be cool and calm, but oh my God, I was sweating bullets! How am I going to sit at this show and watch Vanity Six and Prince and The Time and sit next to Mother? She’s going to think, ‘Good Lord, what is my baby into? She really needs more of God in her life! Where did I go wrong?’ I could just hear Mother blaming herself for everything! Luckily, I got someone else to swap seats with me so I was able to enjoy the show and have the same great time I would’ve had if I were there without Mother."

Dynamic Soul Diggaz Puttin' Out That Hot 'Ish'

Source: dove@tygereye.net

(February 12, 2008) Since kicking off their career with powerhouse artists like Mary J. Blige and Missy
Elliott, the production team Soul Diggaz has swiftly become a dynamic part of today's popular music.

They are currently developing new artists through their own imprint deal with Timbaland's Mosely Music, and they are enjoying chart success with Bow Wow & Omarion's latest single "Hey Baby (Jump Off)" from the Face Off album, and the hot new single "Portrait Of Love" for Bad Boy songstress Cheri Dennis.
Additionally, Soul Diggaz were enlisted by Diddy to work on albums for all three of the groups in MTV's Making The Band 4 series - Danity Kane, Day 26 and Donnie, and they just landed Donnie's first single entitled "Take You There."
Although they initially started as a duo, brothers K-Mack and Bless joined with songwriter Corte' Ellis to create their own production one-stop for hit- seeking artists. In just the past five years, Soul Diggaz have worked on songs for the likes of Beyonce', Keyshia Cole, Ashlee Simpson, Fantasia and Britney Spears.
They have also done many special projects including the Madonna and Missy Elliott Gap commercial, Beyonce's L'oreal commercial, the theme song for the UPN show Eve and more.
After successful production deals with Mary J. Blige's MJB Entertainment and Missy Elliott's production company, Soul Diggaz landed their own imprint deal with Timbaland's Mosely Music. They are currently developing Southern Hip Hop artist Izza Kizza, and the project promises to bring a futuristic creativity.
"You can describe Izza Kizza as Hip Hop/Pop, because he is not your typical Southern rapper with a bounce swag," explains K-Mack. "He has more of a pop appeal like Andre 3000, Ludacris and Missy. We're not doing the average rap records - we are doing more records catered to the left. Something that even the hipster crowds can vibe to, records that you have to listen to 3-4 times so you can really understand where he is coming from."
In coming months, Soul Diggaz will be at the forefront of pop music with their work. In addition to Izza Kizza and the Making The Band 4 projects, they are also developing Corte' Ellis' debut album.
"We all look at it as fun," says K-Mack. "Awards are nice, but I think it is the ability to stay relevant that really defines the success of a producer. Our unique style and the diversity of records that we make gives us an opportunity for true longevity in music."
For more information on Soul Diggaz go to www.tygereye.net/souldiggazwww.souldiggaz.com and www.myspace.com/souldiggaz

Questlove 'Droppin' Science'

Source: roni@thinktankmktg.com; www.thinktankmktg.com

(February 12, 2008) In hip hop's coming-of-age during the mid to late '80s, I slowly discovered that my father's precious record collection was an oasis of endless trivia.

Friends and I would sit by his turntable and play endless soul records only to discover, "Dayuuuuuuuum! This is where [enter hip hop producer here] got his idea for [enter artist here] for [hip hop song here]!!!!"

For those not too fortunate with a connoisseur figurehead like mine, there were other options like Lenny Roberts's Ultimate Breaks & Beats and Paul Winley's Super Disco Breaks, which basically gave you the Cliffs Notes on beat digging.

I'm certain this upset most beat diggers pre-'85 who went as far as to wash the label off the record so that future break vultures couldn't cheat with the old "look over the shoulder trick" that DJs still do to this day.

Combine all this with the discovery of your uncle's James Brown 45s, and you pretty much have the soundtrack to the classic hip hop period of the late-'80s. There were some notable exceptions.

The one that makes me the proudest, of course, is my hometown champ (and the greatest, funkiest, and most precise DJ ever!),
DJ Jazzy Jeff, who lived up to his name in 1986 with a ditty called "A Touch of Jazz," a compiled cram session of '70s funk/jazz trivia looped and scratched to perfection. It was the "DJ cut" - remember those? - on his debut album, Rock the House (along with an MC I haven't heard from in eons? Any locale for a Will Smith? Anyone? ... lol)

That was the first time I heard a Bluebreak used in hip hop (my favourite Mizell-penned classic " Harlem River Drive " for Bobbi Humphrey). As time progressed, I slowly started to discover the side of my pop's record collection that I used to avoid like the plague (I mean the James/Parliament/Cameo/Ohio Players/Earth Wind & Fire smorgasbord was enough for my naive arse). Those records looked like old peoples' records - what in the hell was a Lou Donaldson gonna teach me?

 Enter Idris Muhammad, a crucial general in the Blue Note army that was key to crossing the prestigious jazz label over to the soul side of thangs. That was how I got sucked into Bluebreaks. Same jazz outlook, just a lil' funkier, to reach the corners of the ghetto that an otherwise (still worthy) Jackie McLean or a Horace Silver couldn't penetrate. Idris's drums had equal influence on me just as strong as if he were playing the role of John "Jabo" Starks or Clyde Stubblefield in the James Brown band.

 And pretty soon, the progressive element of hip hop entered the picture and traded their Ultimate Discos for post - Reid Miles-designed Disc(os). A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers, Brand Nubian, KMD, Leaders of the New School, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and even my group, all raided the closet of Blue Note's funk period. Of course, the benefit to all was now there was a reintroduction to the kids of the parents to whom the initial Blue Note albums were aimed.

Of course, with hip hop now going through a very "curious" phase, compilations like the very one you hold in your hands are very necessary. Sure I can give you the ol' "can't know where you going 'less you know ..." shtick, but at the rate where this "curious" phase feels like the pit of hell ... then ... perhaps a cliché might be a breath of fresh air. - El ?uesto (aka
Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson)

Adele Adkins - A Stunning Debut From A Major New Talent

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

XL Recordings

(February 12, 2008) Every year or two, the British music scene discovers another young woman with a big voice and a knack for making an old tradition sound new. This year's entry in this elite category (which also includes Joss Stone, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse) is
Adele Adkins, whose star was rising in the U.K. even before her debut disc hit No. 1 on the album charts in its first week.

Adkins is just 19 (hence the album title), and doesn't have much left to learn about the craft of singing hot and cool-running soul music. If she hadn't written any of her first recording, we'd still be hearing about her detailed way with a phrase, her cat-like rhythmic sense, her mastery of colour and her heartfelt style of delivery.

But her name is on every song but one, and in most cases she's the only writer. If she'd chosen not to sing any of them herself, it's a safe bet that several could have been put on the charts by other singers, including Winehouse, whose style and sound come most readily to mind in Melt My Heart to Stone.

I'm not sure whether Adkins's taste or her voice's enormous capability drew her toward the fluid amalgam of soul, jazz, folk and even garage music heard on this record. Chasing Pavements, a huge hit single in Britain, draws her close to the shadow of Dusty Springfield, especially in the huge chorus with strings. But the melodic contour and streetwise lyrical tone of Cold Shoulder, for instance, could suit the Arctic Monkeys (whose producer Jim Abbiss worked on several of Adkins's tracks, though ironically not this one, which was handled by Winehouse's producer Mark Ronson). The swinging Best for Last pairs Adkins with little more than a chording bass, as if to recall a virtuoso turn by a meticulous jazz diva.

Adkins's lyrical attitude is very much that of an old-school soul maven. She's more attuned to the straight-out expression of love and loss than to the ironic turns of some other neo-soul writers (eg. Winehouse in her Frank period). The sentiment behind Crazy for You (a terrific one-song display of all this singer can do) is as direct as the title, and her piano-ballad cover of Dylan's Make You Feel My Love is so winningly sincere that I can imagine it showing up on wedding playlists by spring.

In short, this is a stunning debut from a major new talent. Here's hoping Adkins is mature enough to deal with the storm coming her way.

Mariah Carey Announces E=MC²

Source: Universal Music Canada

(February 12, 2008) (Toronto, ON) - Multi-platinum superstar Mariah Carey has set April 15 as the in-store date for her eagerly anticipated eleventh album, E=MC² (Island Def Jam/Universal Music Canada).  E=MC² is the follow-up to The Emancipation Of Mimi, Mariah’s triple-platinum selling and Grammy Award winning album.

The first single from E=MC² is “Touch My Body,” written and produced by Mariah Carey, C. “Tricky” Stewart, and The-Dream, and blasting out worldwide on February 12.  The video for “Touch My Body” was directed by feature filmmaker Brett Ratner. In addition to C. “Tricky” Stewart and The-Dream, other guest producers joining Mariah on E=MC² will include Jermaine Dupri, DJ Toomp, Stargate, Will I Am, Bryan Michael Cox, Nate "Danjahandz" Hills and James Poyser.  E=MC² is executive produced by Mariah Carey and Antonio “LA” Reid, Chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group.

The Emancipation Of Mimi, released April 2005, was an industry phenomenon for the mega-platinum award-winning superstar - Soundscan’s biggest-selling album of the year in the U.S., bringing total sales of Mariah’s albums, singles and videos to more than 160 million worldwide, making her the most successful female recording artist in history.  The Emancipation Of Mimi has sold over 300,000 copies in Canada.

Mimi featured “We Belong Together” (winner of the Best Female R&B Vocal and Best R&B Song Grammys) and “Don’t Forget About Us,” Mariah’s 16th and 17th  #1 career singles respectively.  They tied one of the most enduring chart records in Billboard Hot 100 history, Elvis Presley’s 17 #1’s.  Mariah is now positioned as the only active recording artist in the 48 years of the Hot 100 (which began in 1958) with the potential to surpass the Beatles’ all-time high of 20 #1 hits.

Joel Plaskett Emergency Cleans Up At Six East Coast Music Awards

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 10, 2008) FREDERICTON–The awards and tributes keep pouring in for the Halifax rock band Joel Plaskett Emergency, which cleaned up at the East Coast Music Awards on Sunday night.

Plaskett and his band won six awards related to their album ``Ashtray Rock," a semi-biographical look at the world of Clayton Park, a sprawling Halifax suburb that overlooks Bedford Basin.

Plaskett, along with drummer David Marsh and bass player Chris Pennell, creates a narrative on the album about three friends growing up, falling in and out of love and playing music.

The hit song off the album, "Fashionable People," was named group single of the year and also won for best video.

"I want to thank all of the people who turned out for the video shoot – both the fashionable and the unfashionable," Plaskett said as he accepted the best video award.

As well, Plaskett won the prestigious songwriter of the year award for the bouncy tune about fashionable people doing questionable things.

"Ashtray Rock" also took group recording of the year, rock recording and recording of the year.

Nova Scotian performers took the lion's share of awards at the gala in Fredericton.

New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island also had several winners, while performers from Newfoundland and Labrador were shut out.

Plaskett has been nominated for a Juno Award and "Fashionable People" recently received first-place honours in the pop song category of the 2007 Billboard Magazine World Song contest.

Although the lanky Plaskett just completed a whirlwind tour of Australia, he said nothing would keep him from the East Coast Music Awards – the annual, dead-of-winter tribute to Atlantic Canadian music and culture.

"The awards have always been a big part of my year," he said shortly after he arrived in Fredericton.

"The ECMAs mark a kind of beginning of a new year, but it's also an acknowledgment of what you did in the past year."

Plaskett had seven nominations heading into the gala. The only one he missed out on was the coveted entertainer of the year award, which once again went to Nova Scotia country singer George Canyon.

It was the fourth-consecutive win as entertainer of the year for Canyon, the square-jawed singer from Pictou County who came out of obscurity by finishing second on 2004's "Nashville Star" TV talent search.

The gala awards show in Fredericton on Sunday capped four hectic days of showcases and stage events held at various venues around the snowy New Brunswick capital.

A snowstorm that moved in Sunday wasn't enough to discourage more than 3,000 people from attending the ceremony, held in a large hockey arena.

For the first time in more than a decade, the awards show wasn't broadcast live nationally by CBC-TV.

Citing award-show fatigue and facing stiff competition from the Grammy Awards, which also were held Sunday, CBC decided on a different format this year for the East Coast extravaganza.

The CBC will air an hour-long, condensed version of the awards' performances on March 2, with host Steven Page of the Canadian band the Barenaked Ladies.

Dave Gunning, The Rankin Family and Jamie Sparks each picked up two awards. Other Nova Scotian winners included rising star winner, Stephanie Hardy .

New Brunswick winners included Thom Swift, who won for blues recording, and the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, which won classical recording of the year.

The Divorcees from Moncton, N.B., won country recording of the year.

The top bluegrass recording went to the lively Saddle River String Band from Prince Edward Island.

Also from Prince Edward Island, Nathan Wiley won alternative recording of the year for "The City Destroyed Me."

"Every little bit helps," Wiley said. "It's recognition. It feels good to know people are listening."

Avril Lavigne Plans Fragrance, Clothing Line

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

(February 11, 2008) Canadian punk-pop princess Avril Lavigne is going the route of fellow singers Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson in launching her own fragrance and line of clothing.

In a conference call with news media on Monday, the Napanee, Ont.-raised singer confirmed rumours that she's trademarked her name so she can apply it to threads and a perfume.

"The clothing line I've wanted to do for about three years, and a lot of times what people do is . . . a licensing deal and I didn't want to do that," said Lavigne, 23, whose fashion style in recent years has evolved from skater tomboy with office ties and chains to flirty and edgy with combat boots and miniskirts.

"I wanted to own a company and really be able to be a designer, be creative, and I finally have found someone to partner up with."

No word on who the partner is, but Lavigne says her business venture will happen sometime after her tour, "The Best Damn Thing," which kicks off March 5 in Victoria, B.C., and moves through 41 stops in North America before hitting Europe.

The tour, Lavigne's third, will be "very upbeat," with dancers, more production and more pink than she's ever had on stage before.

"I have a pink sparkle drum kit, a pink piano being made, flags," said Lavigne, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley. "Over time I've sort of just learned how I need to be on stage, I'm more confident and it's just more dynamic, brighter, more colourful."

Still, she said while this tour is heavy on production, it's not comparable to the tours of other pop stars "because my songs aren't bubble gum pop dance songs and I don't have background dancers on every single song like them and I'm not wearing a microphone on my head, it's a totally different thing," she said. "I'm playing guitar, I'm playing the drums, I'm playing the piano."

Lavigne said fans will also see more of her talking onstage and working the crowd, something she said she didn't do much of on her previous tours.

"A lot of people don't know this about me but I'm actually shy around people I don't know," said the petite vocalist, who has never been shy to express her disdain for the paparazzi or offer critical opinions of other pop stars.

Lavigne will interrupt the tour briefly to travel to Calgary for the April 6 Juno Awards, where she's up for five trophies, including album of the year for The Best Damn Thing, her third disc.

"I'm very excited to go and I'm very thankful that I've been nominated for five Junos since I didn't get any Grammy nominations," she said laughing over the line, a day after the live Grammys telecast.

"It's nice to feel the support from Canada, so I'm so happy I get to make it and that we left time open on my tour so that I could attend. I always love going back home."

Aretha Franklin - Looking For Even More Respect Tonight

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Solvej Schou, The Associated Press

(February 10, 2008) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.–Aretha Franklin feels lighter than air these days.

The Queen of Soul was honoured on Friday as Person of the Year for MusiCares, a Recording Academy charity supporting music education. She's also up for her 18th Grammy tonight, nominated for best gospel performance for a duet with Mary J. Blige. And she's, well, actually lighter.

Sitting in the lavish presidential suite of the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel last week, surrounded by fresh white flowers and a tray of fruits, Franklin looks decidedly slimmer in a lavender sweater and dark pants, her long dark hair hanging in loose waves below her shoulders, her nails painted bright silver.

Franklin's busy schedule of late has motivated her to push for change in her life, including weight loss and the first album to be released on her own label, Aretha's Records.

"I've got a new trainer, and she's giving me a lot of good things, really educating me about nutrition and weight loss and how to do it, and cooking stuff for you," the 65-year-old singer said. "I'm not on a diet. It's a lifestyle change. I'm going to be doing it for the long run. And eventually I'll reach my goal.''

Though she didn't say what that goal was, it was clear she was happy to cut out heavier foods, fat content and salt.

"I feel lighter. I'm not as heavy, what you get with the red meat," she said. "You're dragging yourself along when you have all that red meat. Much lighter. I feel a lot lighter, and a lot better.''

Franklin said she was thrilled with her Grammy nomination with Blige for the duet "Never Gonna Break My Faith" from the soundtrack of the film Bobby.

"It's the highest level of achievement that you can achieve in the music industry. And it's always wonderful. You don't always have to win. To be nominated is wonderful," she said.

Franklin's upcoming album, A Woman Falling Out of Love, will focus on a long-standing theme in her music: relationships.

"We've all been there, women, men. Just a relationship that's boding well to begin with, and hit a bad curve, and just downhill all the way from there," Franklin said, her voice trailing off.

Franklin said she decided to start her own record label after she couldn't "come to a meeting of the minds" with Arista Records' Clive Davis.

"I wanted to stay and he wanted me to stay, but we just didn't meet halfway there," she said. "So I decided not to re-sign and (decided to) just go ahead and start my own label and be distributed by some fabulous company.''

It's been 40 years since her hit "Respect" snagged the ears of listeners – and two Grammys. Will she ever stop singing?

"Music is my thing, it's who I am. I'm in it for the long run," she said. "I'll be around, singing, `What you want, baby I got it.' Having fun all the way.''

Cher Signs 3-Year Vegas Deal

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(February 8, 2008) LAS VEGAS — She has released 25 albums that have sold more than 100 million copies and has enjoyed a career that has included concerts, recordings, Broadway, TV, film acting and directing, and books.

Now she's taking her show to Vegas.

Cher announced Thursday she'll be one of the headline acts at Caesars Palace.

“I started in Vegas at Caesars, so I've come full circle,” she said.

“I'm back and I plan to give my fans the best experience yet. I think everybody knows I only do things in a big way.”

The Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award winner said in a statement she will begin a three-year, 200-show engagement May 6.

“Cher's name in one word encapsulates icon, award-winning legend and captivating performer,” said Caesars Palace president Gary Selesner.

“Caesars is pleased to welcome Cher back.”

“Cher at The Colosseum” is scheduled to include hit songs from her career of more than 40 years, with choreography, costumes and special effects. It is a partnership with AEG Live.

Cher will alternate performances at the 4,300-seat Colosseum with other headline acts Elton John and Bette Midler.

In December, Celine Dion ended a five-year run at the theatre, which opened in 2002 as home of her show, “A New Day ...”

John, who began playing at the Colosseum in 2004 when Dion's show was dark, is now booked to play his show, “The Red Piano,” through 2008. Midler's “The Showgirl Must Go On” is set to open Feb. 20 for a two-year run of 100 shows a year.

Cher's 90-minute show will feature choreography from Doriana Sanchez and lighting, special effects and costumes by Bob Mackie. Engagements will run four nights a week Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices are from $95 to $250 (U.S.).

Hip-Hop Media Devil Or Hip-Hop Angel?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(February 13, 2008) "Myself and my partner Benzino will continue to talk about issues that are important to the Hip-Hop community and to the impoverished communities of minorities in this country.  We believe in that. What we put in our magazines we stand behind and we will continue to do so."

Dave Mays, the founder and one time co-owner of "The Source," has experienced one heck of a fall from grace starting in 2006 when The Source Entertainment's board of directors terminated him from his position as that entity's CEO after revenues from the magazine suffered a sharp decline. 

He was also alleged to have been run up on by Hip-Hop's official off wax ass-kicker Busta Rhymes. Couple that with the fact that the monthly mag's one-time editor, Kim Osorio, won a sexual harassment lawsuit against  Mays and right hand man Ray Benzino resulting in a $8 million ruling in Osorio's favour and one could easily see how it could suck to be Dave Mays.

But things are looking up for the Harvard alum.  He bounced back with a weekly mag appropriately christened "Hip-Hop Weekly" and just this week he launched a new monthly vehicle named "Monsta." Yes, it appears as though Mays is going to continue dancing with the lady that made him millions, selling ad space at premium prices. 

As previously stated in this piece, Mays was forced out by board members largely over the company's
debt. It's debt that Mays says began during the dot com boom of the 90s. 

"I decided to take out a huge bank loan to invest in a dot com back when the dot com thing was going crazy," Mays told EUR's Lee Bailey. "The magazine was doing incredibly well. We had just launched the "Source Awards" on UPN so the business was taking off, and we were doing a few other things with the brand.  I saw the internet (could possibly have) a lot of synergy to unite everything that I was doing.  I borrowed in excess of 12 million dollars."

Just in case any of our readers were in a coma during the 90s, the Internet boom soon became the Internet bust.  This left well-intentioned investors such as Mays holding the proverbial bag ... but it wasn't full of money. Just drama.

"I made a lot of mistakes," admitted Hip-Hop's first large scale publisher. "I lost a lot of money and put the company into financial instability.  That led to a decision that I had to make around 2002 which was to sell the business.  I was made an offer by a few people including Bob Johnson when he was still at BET.  He had some magazine investments on the side.  He offered me a lot of money to buy the company."

Mays says he turned down Johnson's offer to purchase "The Source" because he still wanted to have some say in the magazine that he created in what now seems like an eternity ago.  This led to Mays selling a portion of the magazine to a private equity company, which in turn brought in its own bank to refinance the company's huge debt. 

"They essentially set me up in a deal to take over the company," Mays told Lee Bailey. "I was very naive in dealing with banks and private equity funds.  They put me in a deal where they could set me up and take the business from me and that was their plan.  They felt they could run the company without me and they happened to be a company that was in the magazine business.  There was a big fight when they tried to assert control over the magazine and the business and they won."

"Things happen for a reason," Mays continued. "On my end it happened to be a blessing in disguise. Right now I'm very happy with what I'm doing because it's giving me a chance to rebuild from scratch at a time when the world and business of magazine publishing is very different from when I started and built the company up.  So I have a chance to restart it and build from a clean slate and do things smarter and in a more even handed way.  On the flip side I think they learned 'The Source' was a product of me and (Benzino) for 20 something years.  It was a product of our skills, our vision, our minds and it has not been very easy to maintain the level and success of the Source without our involvement.  I think, by all accounts, the magazine has disintegrated over the past 2 years and it's barely on the radar now.  They've learned that we were the life blood of that organization."

Now Mays is trying to transfuse that very life "blood" into his new endeavours.

"'Hip-Hop Weekly' is a celebrity, gossip type of magazine," explained Mays.  "It's not going to take political stances, on cultural and social issues.  'Monsta' will be more the vehicle for that.  I think 'Monsta' is a magazine that people are starting to see from the first issue, is thought provoking.  It's going to take on issues that are critical to our generation and to our people that are not being addressed in the media and I think it will become one of the most important journalistic vehicles of our time.  Myself and my partner Benzino will continue to talk about issues that are important to the Hip-Hop community and to the impoverished communities of minorities in this country.  We believe in that. What we put in our magazines we stand behind and we will continue to do so."

Standing behind something is one thing, putting up with it is something else entirely.  But when that something is a person that has had your back for 20 years a dilemma arises.  Ray Benzino has been at the heart of beef after beef over everything from his alleged tampering with The Source magazine's once vaunted mic rating system, to beef with Eminem over being rap's Elvis, to beef with 50 Cent and a slew of other rappers. Dave Mays steps up to bat and defends his boy in the next instalment of our two part feature on the "Hip-Hop Weekly" and "Monsta" publisher.

Is Yundi Li Better Than Lang Lang? He Says He Doesn't Care

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Colin Eatock

(February 13, 2008) Like so many young classical musicians these days, Yundi Li doesn't look much like a classical musician. Sitting in a hotel lobby in jeans and a baseball cap, he could be any young man visiting Toronto for business or pleasure.

But he's not just any young man - this Chinese pianist is one of the fastest-rising classical musicians in the world. Currently in the midst of a North American tour, he's in town to play Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. "I like travelling," he says casually, in his Sichuan-inflected English. "I'm playing over 100 concerts this year. I'll play 20 concerts in China, 30 in Japan, 30 in North America and the rest in Europe. It's a lot, but it's okay - because I decide which cities I'm going to and what my repertoire will be."

Now 25 years old, he is comfortable and confident with his stature. He's recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic and London's Philharmonia Orchestra, for the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label. He's been praised by The New York Times for his "very real musicality," and American Record Guide declared that "he belongs with the new pianistic superstars."

Interest in him is also fuelled by the widespread notion that he's locked in an intense rivalry with another Chinese pianist, Lang Lang. In the West, Lang - who's the same age as Li - is probably the more famous of the two: The flashy and well coiffed pianist recently performed on the Grammy Awards (Lang will play with the TSO on March 1). Yet if that makes Li the Other Guy, he seems to take it in stride and he dismisses talk of rivalry. "I know Lang, and I think he's a great pianist. I'm happy China has so many different and exciting pianists on the international stage. I don't compare myself with any other pianist - I only compare myself with myself. That's my philosophy."

In China, Li enjoys the celebrity of a pop star - an image that he proudly cultivates. "I've done a lot of concerts on TV, and commercials for Mercedes-Benz and other companies. On the one side I am a pianist, on the other side is my star career. I think it's the new way. Why can't classical musicians be on television, or play in different kinds of concerts? That will bring a bigger audience to the music."

Indeed, in Asia Li has tapped into a vein of mass interest in classical music that doesn't really exist in the West. In December, he made a guest appearance at pop concert in the Hong Kong Coliseum, on a rising stage, surrounded by fog machines and elaborate lighting effects. He played Liszt's arrangement of Schumann's song Widmung - and the crowd of 12,000 went wild. (The scene will appear in a soon-to-be released documentary film on Li, The Young Romantic, by Rhombus Media.) "Maybe some day I'll be in a Hollywood movie!" he says with a smile that suggests he isn't entirely joking.

If Li embraces his star-status, it may be because his rise to stardom was so unlikely. Born in Chongqing, in central China, into a family of non-musicians, he first displayed prodigious talent on the accordion. It was not until he was 7 that he began piano lessons (rather late for a concert pianist). He didn't hear a live orchestra until he was 10, or recordings of Western pianists until he was 12. Just six years later, he won one of the highest awards in the piano world: the gold medal in Warsaw's Chopin Piano Competition. If ever there was a defining moment in an artist's life, this was it.

He attributes his success to an exceptional teacher, Zhao Yi Dan, with whom he studied for nine years. "Chinese teachers are like a member of the family," he explains. "We were very close. We worked together a lot, almost five hours a day, every day. In North America teaching is very businesslike: You do your job for an hour." Dan's devotion to his student was so strong that he travelled with Li to the Chopin competition, and even cooked Chinese food for him while he was in Warsaw.

Following his Warsaw victory Li stated that he would enter no more competitions. In part, because he simply didn't have to bother with them any more. But his decision also speaks of an ambivalence toward such events. "I don't think competition is always healthy and good - but it can start a career," he says. "Competitions offer the opportunity to meet people who should know you: managers and people from recording companies. Also, competitions give you a chance to play on stage, before an audience. But they aren't the only way to have a career."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Li performs tonight, tomorrow and Saturday with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall, and has a solo piano recital at Roy Thomson Hall on March 18.

Henri Salvador, 90: French Singer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Jenny Barchfield, The Associated Press

(February 13, 2008) PARIS – Henri Salvador, the velvet-voiced French musician credited with inspiring the bossa nova, bringing American rock 'n' roll to France and helping to create the music video, died Wednesday, his record label said. He was 90.

Salvador died at his Paris home of an aneurysm, said Carine Herve, of the Polydor label.

Salvador was known for his claps of booming laughter, raucous sense of humour, silken singing and incredible staying power. He worked past his 90th birthday last year and Polydor said he had planned to record a new album in 2008.

Innovation was a constant force in Salvador's long and varied life, which took him from France's South American enclave Guiana to Paris' most prestigious stages – and won the hearts of generations of French fans.

His honeyed voice appeared to defy the passage of time, remaining smooth and supple until the end. Salvador chalked it up to his technique.

"I don't sing, I whisper," he told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. "When you whisper into the mike, you are able to transmit real feeling.''

Whether he was singing jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll or chanson francaise – traditional French pop – feeling was the key ingredient in Salvador's prolific and varied music.

Salvador was born July 18, 1917, in French Guiana into a middle-class family. His father, a municipal tax collector of Spanish descent, and his mother, a Caribbean Indian, both came from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

The family moved to Paris when Salvador was 7.

He said a cousin played him records by Duke Ellington and Louis Armstong and, "I fell in love with their music." ... "At age 12, I found my calling.''

Salvador persuaded his father to buy him his first guitar and he taught himself to play, practicing, he said, "17 or 18 hours a day, until my fingers bled.''

The effort paid off when he auditioned for his first gig at 17.

"The head of the orchestra was blown away," Salvador said. ``He asked me, 'Where did you come from?' and I told him, 'From my room.'''

Salvador would play in orchestras for more than a decade – he toured South America with famed French bandleader Ray Ventura – before striking out on his solo career in 1946, as France emerged from World War II.

A performer of mythic proportions in France, Salvador was also a star in Latin America – particularly in Brazil, where he was often credited with inventing bossa nova.

Salvador rejected that claim, insisting the late Brazilian jazzman Antonio Carlos Jobim invented the style. Still, he acknowledged Jobim struck on the concept behind bossa nova – slowing down samba's frenetic tempo – while listening to the classic Salvador number "Dans Mon Isle.''

"When I recorded that little tune, holed up in my apartment in Paris, I could never have imagined it would change musical history," said Salvador. "For me, it was an extraordinary stroke of luck – and a great honour.''

In the early 1950s, Salvador teamed up with two people who would mark his career, songwriter Boris Vian and Jacqueline Garabedian, who became his impresario and second wife.

With Vian, Salvador collaborated on more than 400 songs that ran the gamut of styles, from blues to French Caribbean beguines. The duo is also credited with importing rock 'n' roll to France, with the hit "Rock and roll mops.''

Garabedian, who died in 1976, was a driving force behind Salvador's stardom. A savvy businesswoman, she understood the power of television and pushed her husband to embrace it. Salvador was among the first singers to set his songs to televised images, prompting some in France to call him the father of the music video.

In the 1970s, Salvador expanded his fan base with a series of children's albums that included the French-language soundtracks of Disney's "The Aristocats" and "Robin Hood.''

Over the following decades, he continued to tour and churned out so many albums he said he had lost count of them.

Still, Salvador insisted he didn't worry about going down in musical history.

"I don't care a bit about that," he said. "When we disappear, the world still keeps turning. We are nothing."


Lenny Kravitz: It's Time For a Love Revolution

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(February 5, 2008) Anthemic up-tempo songs? Check. Crazy guitar solos? Check. Soul-baring ballads? Check.
Lenny Kravitz's eighth studio album combines the best of what we've come to expect from the 43-year-old retro rocker. The disc kicks off with "Love Revolution," a manifesto for a spiritual overhaul. The rest of the album celebrates love ("Will You Marry Me" and "Love, Love, Love") and urges political responsibility ("Back in Vietnam"). The music is in turns funky and Zeppelinesque – sometimes on the same track. His March 20 show at the Air Canada Centre is not to be missed. Top Track: "A Long And Sad Goodbye" is a lament for the father who abandoned him.

Miles Black Trio: Some Enchanted Evening

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Cellar Live)

(February 12, 2008) This Vancouver-based pianist known for working with the likes of Max Roach, Slide Hampton and Lee Konitz marks his first release with a beloved trio comprised of bassist Miles Hill and drummer Dave Robbins on standards such as "On Green Dolphin Street" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street," though Black is also noted as a composer. Whether frisky and joyous on "Confirmation" or spare and delicate on the title track, Black is always impressively swinging. It's a puzzle why this ace is not more often in the spotlight. Top track: A jaunty interpretation of "Moonglow" with unexpected runs.

Jack Johnson: Sleep Through The Static

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(Brushfire Records/Universal)

(February 12, 2008) No. 1 on Britain's pop charts just a week after its release, the fifth album by the Hawaiian-born pro-surfer/roots balladeer/filmmaker offers few surprises, save that
Johnson spends less time here contemplating the spiritual joys of lying around the shack imagining the perfect wave. Despite its title, Sleep Through the Static is a plea for tolerance. Mind you, it's still so very laid back and pretty that the album – "recorded with 100 per cent solar energy," Johnson proclaims in the accompanying booklet – is more likely to put listeners to sleep than prompt alarm. Top track: "All at Once," for its gentle, rolling groove and the sense of threat in the lyric.

Ledisi: Lost & Found

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(February 12, 2008) Seconds into this singer's third disc, you'll be wondering why you've never heard of her.
Ledisi is a major talent, imbued with robust, scat-capable pipes and gospel underpinnings – think Jill Scott, Angie Stone – who takes a sexy, playful approach to the songs she co-writes. Her tunes put a mostly upbeat spin on romance and the world's travails: every challenge can be overcome with faith, courage and love. She won't be an indie secret much longer – this major-label debut, released last year in the U.S., had her in the running for two Grammys (though she didn't win). Top Track: "I Tried." Even when the relationship doesn't work out, Ledisi's counsel is a mature "Time to move on!"

Sheryl Crow: Detours

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill


(February 13, 2008)
Sheryl Crow has long been dismissed by critics and serious musicians as an upstart with a so-so voice and a gift for appropriating ideas from the classic pop and rock repertoire. That won't wash any more. On Detours the Nashville-based singer and songwriter takes some mighty risks with a soul- and psyche-baring set of original compositions that deal conscientiously with social issues as well as the personal stuff that has made her a gossip-rag celebrity. Because many of these moving lyrics are embedded in lightweight melodies, these songs may not win over detractors, but her plainly spoken sentiments will endear her to those who take the time to listen. Top track: "Motivation," a biting critique of the expectations of the me-first generation's addiction to conspicuous consumerism.

Barenaked Ladies To Release Children's Album

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(February 13, 2008) Vancouver — Canadian folk-rockers the Barenaked Ladies are set to release a children's album. Snacktime, a collection of original songs, will hit shelves May 6 through the band's own label, Desperation Records. Vocalist/guitarist Ed Robertson said their inspiration came from the musical interests of their own children, who range in age from three months to 12 years. “Our collective kids now outnumber the band more than two to one,” Robertson said in a release. “We set out to make a record that would be entertaining for them ... not strictly a children's record, but a record that children would really enjoy.” Joked drummer Tyler Stewart: “Besides, our biological clocks are ticking,” he said. “The medical risks associated with releasing children's music after age 40 are well documented, and we thought it best not to put any of our lives in danger.” Snacktime has 24 tracks with titles including Pollywog in Bog, Popcorn and Here Come the Geese. Producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda, who worked on the Ladies' 1992 debut album Gordon, produced and mixed Snacktime. The band says it plans to return to the studio soon to start work on its next full-length album.


No Regrets For Canuck Actor Ryan Reynolds

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand, Movie Critic

(February 12, 2008) There's a hint of boredom in Ryan Reynolds as he answers questions in the press room of the Four Seasons Hotel. The Vancouver-born and raised actor is affable, but the way he fiddles with a cap from a water bottle while speaking indicates that he's performed this ritual many a time.

The pro forma atmosphere disappears when the subject of Alanis Morissette comes up. Reynolds and the singer-songwriter were engaged at one point, but their four-year relationship has recently broken up, allegedly because of Reynolds' new relationship with Scarlett Johansson.

This spring, Morissette, a notoriously confessional songwriter, is releasing a new album, Flavours of Entanglement, partly inspired by the emotions involved in the break-up. Reynolds professes ignorance of the album.

"I'm not aware of anything about it," he says crisply.

Somewhere Morissette may be humming, "You Oughta Know," her famous anthem written after a previous break-up.

Call the episode one of the hazards of a career spanning nearly two decades in the film and television business, lived in the public eye.

It's not been a bad career for Reynolds, 31, but something has been lacking. "He's one of those actors who makes money and people know him and people like him, but he's never actually been in a really great film," director Carl Bessai, a fellow British Columbian, commented recently.

If his latest film, Definitely, Maybe, a romantic comedy that opens Thursday – Valentine's Day – doesn't quite fit into the category of "a really great film," it has a high professional finish: it's written and directed by Adam Brooks, screenwriter on such movies as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and a Toronto native.

"It didn't hurt that we were from the same country and culture," says Reynolds. "I think Canadians really understand the benefits of infusing humour with very real and serious subject material. It's a nice balance and it's a nice way to tell a story."

Reynolds' career began when he was 13. "I was the youngest of four boys, which didn't make me so much the youngest son as a moving target, so I was interested in exploring various things, including acting," Reynolds recalls.

The makers of a teen soap opera, Fifteen – subsequently aired on Nickelodeon – came to Vancouver and issued a "cattle call," inviting all and sundry to read for a part. Reynolds responded and got a part. For the next two years, 1991 to 1993, he was on a set in Florida. His father, a food wholesaler, and mother, a retail salesperson, were wary but approving.

"I can't figure out why they allowed me at 13 to go off to Florida with a bunch of strangers," Reynolds says. "I guess they felt safe in the people who were organizing this event. I think at first they were a little nervous; they wanted to see how it went and then after a while they really began to love it. They came to premieres, they got to experience the fun part."

Returning to Vancouver, he found parts in obscure television movies. At one point, he rejected an offered role in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "I love that show and I loved Joss Whedon, the creator of the show, but my biggest concern was that I didn't want to play a guy in high school," Reynolds says. "I had just come out of high school and it was f------ awful." (He was tormented by bullies.)

Reynolds did land a part in the ABC sitcom Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place, which aired in 1997.

He subsequently launched a career in popular, if not exactly prestigious, American movies, playing the title role in the 2002 National Lampoon comedy Van Wilder, about a campus party animal to end all campus party animals, and a foe of vampires in the 2004 Blade: Trinity.

His performance in the latter role was chiefly distinguished by his gaining 25 pounds of muscle to lend credibility to his heroics, and to enable him to take off his shirt onscreen with suitable effect. He calls the weight gain, induced by weightlifting and eating every two hours, "a morbid experiment to see how far I could push myself." No human growth hormone involved. "It was just diet," he says. "I had the time and a trainer to show me what to eat and what to do."

The weight gain has come and gone – what Reynolds hopes is more enduring is his increased range as an actor.

"Every film I've done these last couple years has been outside my typical wheelhouse," he says. But he has no regrets about his frat boy and vampire-hunter past.

"I don't regret anything," he says. "I don't regret having been beaten up in elementary school by the next door neighbour. All these things led me to where I am. It builds character. I have no regret about doing any of this stuff. I love to watch those types of movies. I like larger-than-life aspects of them. It's performance rather than real life: it's escapism and I think there's a definite value to that."

Canadians? Oscar Doesn't Seem To Like Us

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(February 9, 2008) NEW YORK — 'It's an honour just to be nominated."

Canadians heading to the Oscar ceremony later this month might want to rehearse that line for the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre, because, as much as we love their work, statistics suggest the Academy is unlikely to hand them a gold statuette this year.

We've spent the last few weeks in our garage, tinkering with the 2008 Globe & Mail Canadian Oscar Nominee Predictor tm. No matter what we do with the carburetor, the damned thing still won't give us the answers we want. There are three Canadian nominees in the major categories: Jason Reitman, the director of Juno; Sarah Polley, who is up in the adapted screenplay category for Away From Her; and Ellen Page, the pixie-ish Haligonian on the cover of the current Entertainment Weekly, who is nominated in the best-actress category for her turn as the quirky title character in Juno.

(Yes, there are other Canadian nominees - of whom, we hasten to add, we are very proud: the animated shorts I Met the Walrus (Josh Raskin) and Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski).

But animated shorts aren't showered with the same volume of pre-Oscar awards - the fuel for the G&M CONP - so we're unable to make predictions about their fate. But if it makes any difference, our fingers are crossed for them on Feb. 24 - both of them! So what if they're in the same category?)

And so: on to the big awards. We compiled the results and endorsements of about 30 guilds and critics' associations from A to Z, from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists to the Washington, D.C., Area Film Critics Association. (If the Lost City of Z in the Amazon jungle had a film critics' association - or if the city existed - we would have included that, too.) Even though no one remembers who won the Golden Globes this year, we've included that award as a pretty good predictor, along with the trinkets handed out by the Screen Actors Guild, to which we've given extra weight since it represents the mindset of people who actually have some of the 5,829 Oscar ballots. (Speaking of which: If you're an Academy member, hurry up and vote; you've only got another 10 days to get your ballot back to Los Angeles.)

Alas, data crunched by the G&M CONP show that all of our hometown nominees are going to get crunched.


Jason Reitman may have helmed a best-picture nominee, but he's got no hardware to show for it this season, whereas Joel and Ethan Coen already have about 20 awards for directing No Country For Old Men, including one from the New York Film Critics Circle, which has correctly predicted the category's winner in the last three years.

Adapted screenplay

Sarah Polley has precisely two nods in the adapted screenplay category, neither of which comes from a statistically legitimate body. She's the choice of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, which initiated its EDA Awards only last year; and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, which has only granted an adapted screenplay award for the last two years (and failed to correctly predict the winner either time). She's up against the Coen Brothers, who have been awarded the prize by about a dozen bodies, including both the Chicago Film Critics Association, which has correctly predicted the adapted screenplay winner for the last four years, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the Golden Globes).


It may look like a tense intergenerational horse race that pits the 20-year-old Ellen Page against the 67-year-old hot gramma Julie Christie, but there's just no contest here. Page has only a 16-per-cent chance of taking home the trophy, against Christie's statistical near lock of 39 per cent. Here is a breakdown of the bodies that have favoured one actress over the other, weighted with their accuracy over the last five years of predicting the eventual Oscar winner:


Chicago Film Critics (2/5)

Central Ohio Film Critics (2/5)

Florida Film Critics (3/5)

Golden Satellite Awards (4/5)

Las Vegas Film Critics (4/5)

Toronto Film Critics (tie with Julie Christie) (1/5)



Broadcast Film Critics Association (4/5)

Dallas Fort Worth Film Critics (3/5)

Golden Globe (Drama) (5/5)

National Board of Review (1/5)

National Society of Film Critics Awards (4/5)

N.Y. Film Critics Circle (2/5)

Online Film Critics (2/5)

Phoenix Film Critics (2/5)

San Diego Film Critics (1/5)

Screen Actors Guild (8/10)

Southeastern Film Critics (1/5)

San Francisco Film Critics (3/5)

Toronto Film Critics (tie with Ellen Page) (1/5)

Washington, D.C., Film Critics (2/5)


Vancouver Productions Get Back To Work, Slowly

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Garth Woolsey, Sports Columnist

(February 12, 2008) VANCOUVER — It will be some time before Vancouver's production industry gets back into swing again, following a costly fade-to-black caused by the three-month long writers' strike in the United States.

Even if writers do ratify the agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and writers return to work tomorrow, local industry officials warn many shows will not likely be up and running for another six to eight weeks.

"It's not going to be instantaneous for some of them, because it takes a while to gear up again," says Peter Leitch, head of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia and also the President and CEO of North Shore and Mammoth Studios.

The writers' strike has had a significant impact on the local production industry, which relies very heavily on U.S. television series shooting here.

Leitch estimates the impact of the strike will probably hit $100-million.

At the moment, there are no TV series shooting in British Columbia (there's one show in pre-production). Last year at this time, there were 14 series and miniseries in production here, according to B.C. Film Commissioner Susan Croome.

"We've definitely had a really tough time with the TV series and movies of the week and pilots not in production right now, so ... it should be good to see all our local cast and crew back to work," Croome said.

But Leitch warns some TV series may not return to shoot their remaining episodes this season at all and simply tack on the extra episodes to the beginning of their next season instead.

Yesterday, though, there was evidence of increased activity, following the weekend's developments. Battlestar Galactica's production office was staffed (albeit minimally) for the first time in weeks. The popular science-fiction show has several episodes to shoot for its highly anticipated final season.

Like several other series that shoot in the Vancouver area, Battlestar's producers did not take down their set during the strike, anticipating a return to production. Men in Trees, Psych and Kyle XY did not strike their sets either, continuing to pay the rent on studio space.

However the set for Bionic Woman, which is produced by the same company as Battlestar, was removed from Vancouver Film Studios during the work stoppage and it seems highly unlikely that new episodes will be ordered. The 4400, also shooting in Vancouver, was officially cancelled during the strike.

The impact in Hollywood has been, of course, felt much more deeply. According to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., the strike cost the city roughly $2-billion (U.S.).

Dramatic television took the biggest hit with dozens of prime-time projects put on hold. Each show, which costs about $3-million an episode to produce, employs roughly 200 people.

Show-runners returned to work yesterday, while the writers - who will cast votes by the end of today on whether to officially end the strike - will return en masse tomorrow. But the post-strike environment could be vastly different from what they're used to.

Variety predicts there will be radical changes to the pilot season, upfront presentation and productions for the rest of the season.

Short on time, pilot season will be nothing like the traditional breakneck process of casting, prepping, shooting and round-the-clock post-production work broadcast networks and major studios endure in the late winter and spring, the trade magazine said. Some pilots will be picked up based on how close scripts are to being finished, while some development will be pushed to midseason and other projects will move to the fall (or simply fade away).

For TV viewers, the channel-surfing landscape will remain unfamiliar for some time. Some shows have already closed shop for the year - most notably 24 and Heroes, which Fox and NBC respectively have bumped to next season. More episodes of ABC's Lost are still up in the air.

The first series to rush back into production will be current hits - network performers like all three entries in CBS's CSI franchise, Fox's House and ABCs Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy.

Conversely, there will be bad news ahead for those new shows that were floundering when the writers' strike began last November. The loss in momentum has done little to help ambitious network series like NBC'S Chuck and ABC's Pushing Daisies, both of which registered rave critical reviews but only middling ratings.

It's likely the work stoppage has already sealed the fate of this season's weakest links. Along with Bionic Woman, nobody is expecting underperformers like CBS's Cane and ABC's Carpoolers and Cavemen to receive the order for more episodes, or the go-ahead for a second season.

With reports from Gayle MacDonald and Andrew Ryan

Actor Heath Ledger Mourned At Funeral

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Reuters News Agency

(February 10, 2008) PERTH–Family and friends of actor Heath Ledger bade farewell at a private service in his Australian home town on Saturday, with the media kept away and Ledger's father appealing for mourners to be allowed to grieve in peace.

Ledger, 28, best known for his role as a conflicted gay cowboy in the 2005 movie "Brokeback Mountain", died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in his New York apartment on. Jan 22.

His death shocked film fans and actors around the world and prompted warnings about mixing prescription drugs, particularly pain killers, tranquillisers and sleeping pills.

Among the mourners at Saturday's memorial service, in Perth, were Ledger's former partner and Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams, who arrived with Ledger's sister Kate but without the couple's two-year-old daughter Matilda.

Also among the hundreds of mourners at the service, at a private girls school in the Western Australian city, was model Gemma Ward, with whom Ledger had been reportedly linked, as well as Australian actors Cate Blanchett, Bryan Brown and Joel Edgerton.

Williams, 27, and Ledger's father, Kim Ledger, had both pleaded to be allowed to grieve in private.

A large media pack had camped outside the Ledger family home, prompting Kim Ledger on Saturday to tell reporters the service would be followed by a "very, very private" funeral with only 10 family members to attend.

"It's a pretty sad time and we are finding it difficult to cope by ourselves," he said.

He said the family appreciated the massive outpouring of grief and support from the public following Ledger's death.

Local media said Ledger would be buried in a family plot, next to his grandparents, in a Perth cemetery.

Ledger starred in 18 movies in Australia and Hollywood, and received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a gay cowboy opposite co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.

Hayden Christensen Dreaming Of The Simple Life

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

(February 13, 2008) NEW YORK–There is a reason why Hayden Christensen has not been seen much on cinema screens in the past few years.

The Canadian actor, who has never worried much about planning his career, has bought a farm just outside Toronto and is devoting his energies to learning everything he can about livestock, crops and agricultural machinery.

"It's a hobby, but I want to have the appearance of being a proper farmer," he said.

"I'm trying to figure it out. It's all new to me, but I would eventually like it to be a fully operational farm with livestock and different crops."

A city boy who was born in Vancouver and raised in Markham, the 26-year-old actor admits he bought the farm on a whim.

"It's very much a departure for me. I was looking at places in New York City and I could either get a couple of thousand square feet or a couple of hundred acres, and having a bit more land appealed to me.

"It's my sanctuary. I've been trying to do most of the work myself, including a lot of the carpentry and tiling. I've fixed up an old farmhouse that was on the property.

"I've got a tractor and an excavator and I'm learning to use all the construction equipment. Right now there's an apple orchard that I want to extend and I've started a small vegetable garden and I want to turn a hayfield into lavender," he says.

"As far as the farming goes, I want to get horses and cows and sheep and pigs. I've already got a couple of pot-bellied pigs named Buddy and Petunia, but they're pets and they stay in the house."

The actor is taking flying lessons and, when he receives his pilot's licence, he plans to build a landing strip on the property as a prelude to more flying adventures.

"My ultimate dream is getting a float plane and exploring parts of Canada I've never been to. That gets me excited," he said.

We were talking in New York before the world premiere of his latest film, the science fiction thriller Jumper. It opens tomorrow.

He plays David Rice, a young man who discovers he has the mysterious power to instantly teleport himself anywhere in the world he can imagine. Filmed on location in Rome, Tokyo, Mexico, New York and Toronto, the film also stars Jamie Bell as another Jumper and Samuel L. Jackson as the leader of the Paladins, a secret organization whose members wage war against Jumpers.

All three have signed for two sequels, which will only be made if Jumper is a financial success.

"David Rice isn't like anyone I've ever played before and it was exciting to get the chance to explore something new," said Christensen. "He has a really interesting journey and the whole concept of teleportation is just so cool."

Christensen himself is a bit of a Jumper, dividing his time between the farm and homes in Los Angeles and the Bahamas, and only working when the mood takes him. He is currently dating his Jumper co-star Rachel Bilson, who lives in Los Angeles.

He started acting in Canadian television productions, first in Family Passions in 1993 and later starring in the series Higher Ground, where his role as a drug-abusing delinquent won him a strong fan base.

He landed a small role in Sofia Coppola's directing debut The Virgin Suicides (1999) and then George Lucas cast him as Anakin Skywalker opposite Natalie Portman in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002). After Shattered Glass in 2003, he returned to the next Star Wars saga, Episode 111 – Revenge Of The Sith (2005).

His most recent film role was two years ago as Bob Dylan in Factory Girl; he made Virgin Territory three years ago.

He is due to begin work soon on director Fred Schepisi's Beast of Bataan, about the Japanese Bataan Death March, although like every other project he takes, it is not part of any well thought-out career plan.

"I don't really think about my career because the idea of a career is not something I can put a lot of thought into," he said.

"I do the work that appeals to me and I pass on films that would probably benefit my career."

Martin McDonagh - He Didn't Want To Make 'A Playwright's Movie'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(February 8, 2008) PARK CITY, UTAH — Martin McDonagh may be one of the most successful young playwrights writing in the English language but he has never made a secret of the fact that his first love is the movies. Now, at 37, he has made his first feature film, In Bruges, which opened the recent Sundance Film Festival and comes to theatres today.

The film follows a couple of Irish hit men, the agitated Ray (Colin Farrell) and the easy-going Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who are stuck in the Belgian town as they await orders from their London boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) . If theatregoers recognize hints of Brendan Behan or David Mamet in the tense, flavourful dialogue, there's also the distinct influence of Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and Nicolas Roeg.

When he was 16, McDonagh's Irish parents moved from England back to Galway, leaving him and his brother behind. He began collecting welfare and working on his writing career. He churned out more than 22 radio plays and numerous screenplays, all rejected. In his early, unsuccessful days, he imitated Harold Pinter and David Mamet, but it was the discovery of the Irish way of speaking, in summers visiting his parents, that he found his writing voice. He had his first stage success at 25. By 27, he had four plays running simultaneously on London stages.

"I think it's because Gaelic was so prevalent in the west [of Ireland]," he explained recently at Sundance. "Gaelic was my dad's first language and there are a lot of words in Gaelic that don't have any English equivalent and when they speak in English, the syntax is sort of back-to-front. When I started to write in the Irish vernacular, it freed things up for me, story-wise and dialogue-wise. The way I write in Irish is not the way anyone actually speaks. It's a strange idiom, but I felt it was my own."

In all, he has written two trilogies, the Galway Trilogy (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, The Lonesome West) and the Aran Islands Trilogy (The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and the still unproduced The Banshees of Inisheer), and the dark fable The Pillowman, about a horror writer who is investigated for the murder of children. His plays have won the Laurence Olivier Award and had numerous Tony nominations (including four best-play nominations).

Last year, he added another prize to his awards shelf, an Oscar, for the best short live-action film, Six Shooter, starring Brendan Gleeson as a recent widower, on a surreal train ride through Ireland. After that, there were no impediments to him directing his own feature film.

The germ of In Bruges came when McDonagh visited the fairy-tale town a couple of years ago. Bruges, which hit its economic peak in the 15th century, has a population of slightly more than 100,000, but is a popular tourist destination famous for its Flemish architecture and system of canals. McDonagh found it beautiful but, by the end of the second day, he was bored.

To amuse himself, he began to think of two characters, a cultured man and a lout, who for some reason get stuck in this antique burg. He wrote his script with two Cockney hit men but when Focus Features became involved, he learned that Irish actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson were interested. He didn't want them to change their accents, so he reworked his script: "Honestly, it was only about 20 words I had to change. Working-class Dublin and London idioms aren't all that different. It's only as you get more posh you start seeing the differences."

He didn't want to make "a playwright's movie, with people sitting around talking and nothing visually interesting going on" but, at the same time, "I didn't want to stray from my strengths, which is character and dialogue. I don't have the arrogance to call myself a director. I'm just a writer who's directing."

In Bruges, he says, is not intended as a platform for a film career, just a change of pace.

"For the past decade, I've been on this treadmill of writing plays and having success and fun, and I haven't really had a chance to sit back, travel and see if I've grown up yet. So, instead of rushing into another film, I just want to chill for a while, and I'll keep writing, possibly another play."

The one thing McDonagh couldn't leave behind from his theatre experience was the need for preparation time, so he asked the actors to join him in Bruges for a three-week rehearsal before the eight-week-long shoot. Gleeson, the one-time secondary-school teacher and versatile stage and film actor (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Gangs of New York) had never worked with Colin Farrell before though they had met socially. Farrell (Alexander, The New World, Phone Booth) says he started off as a star and is now learning to become an actor. When the two actors were thrown together, Gleeson says, it was a little like group therapy.

"Ray and Ken were trying to do their best in some way, and in a way that's what we were doing. I'd always seen a curiosity in Colin's work that I admired, so I felt I knew him even though we'd only met socially. Sometimes that can be difficult if people have different sensibilities or someone gets left behind or that kind of thing. But there was none of that."

Though McDonagh was insistent that the actors stick to his language, he had little to offer about the characters' backgrounds. His own take was that the play is a snapshot in time. So, while Farrell joked whether his character would say "hmm" with two mms or "hmmm" with three ms, "Martin was extraordinary cavalier about other aspects of the character. You throw your hat in the ring and it's no holds barred."

At one point, Gleeson felt a speech rang slightly false and said, " 'I think Ken's too smart to say this.' and Martin kind of bristled. Not in an aggressive way, but he was kind of troubled by the notion of it. He kept saying, 'Really? Really.'

"Of course, in reality, nobody can be sure anyone's not going to say anything. Actually, I was cheating, being outside the character. I think we recognized that Martin knew exactly what he was doing and it was more judicious to find the meaning yourself rather than question the line because the line was always truthful."

Farrell adds: "When we started reading it, of course there's that inherent comedy which Martin is justifiably known for with the Odd Couple element and these well-drawn characters. Then you start getting through the layer of pain. You're asking, 'Why are they talking like that? Why do they do that?' and you begin to mortalize them. You begin to put the flesh on the bone."

After about a day and a half of rehearsal, Farrell says, "We discovered each of our characters was a half of Martin's brain. My character finds Bruges beautiful but he's bored out of his mind. The truth is, there was so much work to do, I was tired as a tit, excuse my French. It was the dead of winter, dark every day at 4 o'clock and the bitter cold gnawing at you. It has this end post feeling to it."

"I had a crackin' time," Gleeson says, "but then, I'm right and you're wrong."

Roy Scheider, 75: 'Jaws' Actor

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Jill Zeman, The Associated Press

(February 11, 2008) LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Roy Scheider, a one-time boxer whose broken nose and pugnacious acting style made him a star in “The French Connection” and who later uttered one of cinematic history’s most memorable lines in “Jaws,” has died. He was 75.

Scheider died Sunday at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock, hospital spokesman David Robinson said.

The hospital did not release a cause of death, but Scheider had been treated for multiple myeloma at the hospital’s Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy for the past two years.

Scheider earned two Academy Award nominations — a best-supporting nod for 1971’s “The French Connection” in which he played the police partner of Oscar winner Gene Hackman, and a best-actor nomination for 1979’s “All That Jazz,” the semi-autobiographical Bob Fosse film.

But he was perhaps best known for his role as a small-town police chief in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film “Jaws,” about a killer shark terrorizing beachgoers — as well as millions of moviegoers.

In 2005, one of Scheider’s most famous lines in the movie — ``You’re gonna need a bigger boat” — was voted No. 35 on the American Film Institute’s list of best quotes from U.S. movies.

Widely hailed as the film that launched the era of the Hollywood blockbuster, “Jaws” was the first movie to earn $100 million at the box office.

“I’ve been fortunate to do what I consider three landmark films,” he told The Associated Press in 1986. “’The French Connection’ spawned a whole era of the relationship between two policemen, based on an enormous amount of truth about working on the job.’’

’``Jaws’ was the first big, blockbuster outdoor-adventure film. And certainly ’All That Jazz’ is not like any old MGM musical. Each one of these films is unique, and I consider myself fortunate to be associated with them.’’

Born into a working class family in Orange, N.J., he was stricken with rheumatic fever at 6. He spent long periods in bed, becoming a voracious reader. Except for a slight heart murmur, he was pronounced cured at 17. He acquired the distinctive shape of his nose in an amateur boxing match.

After three years in the Air Force, Scheider sought a New York theatre career in 1960. His debut came a year later as Mercutio in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.” He also played minor roles in such films as “Paper Lion” and “Stiletto.” Then he made a breakthrough in 1971 as Jane Fonda’s pimp in “Klute.’’

“He was a wonderful guy. He was what I call ’a knock around actor,’” Richard Dreyfuss, who co-starred with Scheider and Robert Shaw in “Jaws,” told The Associated Press on Sunday.

“A ’knock around actor’ to me is a compliment that means a professional that lives the life of a professional actor and doesn’t’ yell and scream at the fates and does his job and does it as well as he can,” Dreyfuss said.

He also appeared in the films “Marathon Man” as Dustin Hoffman’s brother and “Naked Lunch,” David Cronenberg’s adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s novel. He starred in “Jaws 2,” which turned out not to be as successful as the original.

TV roles included “SeaQuest DSV” and “Third Watch.’’

More recently, he played the slick CEO of an insurance company that denies coverage to a young man dying of leukemia in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Rainmaker,” and appeared in the direct-to-video “Dracula II: Ascension” and “Dracula III: Legacy.’’

Scheider was also politically active. He participated in rallies protesting U.S. military action in Iraq, including a massive New York demonstration in March 2003 that police said drew 125,000 chanting activists.

Scheider had a home built for him and his family in 1994 in Sagaponack in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, where he was active in community issues. Last summer, Scheider announced that he was selling the home for about $18.75 million and moving to the nearby village of Sag Harbor.

Although “Jaws” frightened some moviegoers out of the water for years, Scheider told the AP in 1986 that he considered his role somewhat comedic.

“If you go back and look at the way it’s developed and built, that is really a funny character,” he said. “He’s a fumbler with all kinds of inhibitions and fears — that’s the way we built that character.’’

Associated Press writer Jacob Adelman in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Sharon Doc Examines Missed Chance For Peace

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters News Agency

(February 10, 2008) BERLIN – Ariel Sharon was the epitome of evil for Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh but he turned into an unabashed admirer while making a documentary about the hawkish former Israeli leader.

Moreh presented his sympathetic portrayal of the comatose
Sharon at the Berlin Film Festival, in a documentary that examines why he unilaterally decided to end Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Sharon unexpectedly ordered the evacuation of 8,500 settlers from the Gaza strip and four settlements in the West Bank, a policy called "disengagement."

Moreh said that the unexpected about-face by the former Israeli general was a pivotal moment and could have been the catalyst for peace with the Palestinians. But Moreh, and others in his film, are full of lament that Sharon had fallen into a coma in early 2006.

"Sharon was a symbol of horror for me and not at all likeable," Moreh said after Sharon made its well-received international premiere. It is one of six Israeli films in the Berlin festival, a tacit tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state.

"I thought of him as a ruthless and brutal person, a symbol of war and evil," added Moreh, who spent six years on the film.

"But something changed. I discovered a different person making this film than the person we were fed in the media. He was the only leader strong enough to do something to bring a better future to the region."

Sharon, a former army general who led his troops in battles with Israel's Arab neighbours, alienated many of his supporters on the right with the "disengagement". He was accused of betraying his previous support of the settlements.

Israel's pullout from Gaza was a massive psychological blow to supporters of a policy of settling Jews on lands occupied in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians want for a state of their own.

Sharon had earlier drawn Arab enmity for masterminding the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, during which allied Christian militiamen massacred Palestinians in two refugee camps, and later for crushing a Palestinian uprising that erupted after he visited the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Arab East Jerusalem, a site also revered by Jews, in 2000.

"Regrettably, there are no leaders strong enough now to do what's needed," Moreh said. "Throughout the Mideast there are only weak leaders now the public won't follow. Everyone knows what's needed for peace but no one will manage to do it."


Director Romero Longs To Call Toronto Home

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(February 13, 2008) Imagine someone forsaking the charms of Pittsburgh to take up residence in Toronto. George A. Romero swears its true and it's been a long time coming. The most famous of Pittsburgh directors (an admittedly small list) discovered Hogtown some 20 years ago, while scoring the horror film Monkey Shines here when his zombies had more pep than his career. "I loved Toronto while there for Monkey Shines and then, when I came back a few years later to shoot Bruiser (2000), I met all these people in the filmmaking community there. "It was an economic decision at first – the producer said, `We can turn $5 million into $6 1/2 million up there!' – but now it's not so much about that. Now it's just that I love the people and I have all these friends that I just enjoy working with. It's sort of like having a new family. "And I love the city as well. I've actually applied for permanent residence and I just got the first notice. It looks like they might approve me.  ``So I look forward to talking with you next over coffee in the St. Lawrence Market!"


Rock Stars Courted For Curling Reality Show

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich, Sports Media Columnist

(February 11, 2008) Move over American Idol and make room for Rockstar Curling, a reality television show that may indeed have a rock-star connection.

NBC confirmed yesterday it has an exclusive option to air a 10-episode sports reality show that will give the winners a shot at competing in the U.S. championships and even going to the 2010 Olympics.

And one aspect that would make this a draw to the button for NBC is a plan to land closet curlers Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi as part of the show, assuming the rockers aren't worried what being connected to a sport with brooms might do to their images.

According to sources, the two rock stars are among a group of entertainment types who rent arena time on occasion to pick up brooms instead of guitars.

Organizers are trying to negotiate a deal to get one of them involved, possibly as a host.

The series is the brainchild of New York-based sports marketing agency mktpartners and Carr-Hughes Productions of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Mktgpartners has an office in Toronto and has an advertising commitment from the likes of Tourism Canada, sources say.

"This show is all about the opportunity to expose American viewers to curling," said Colin Campbell, Canadian president of mktgpartners and one of the creators of the show. "We feel there might be some great athletes out there who might develop into good curlers given the chance."

While a curling reality show wouldn't be considered that unusual in Canada, where top events draw more than 1 million viewers, it's hardly a mainstream sport south of the border.

Generally, the only time it gets mentioned on U.S. television is when comedians make fun of the sport.

The jokes usually revolve around the use of brooms and the belief curlers are the least athletic of all Olympians.

But curling was one of the surprise hits of the last two Olympics for NBC, enough so that NBC aired 24 matches live from Turin on one of its cable channels.

Although curling seldom gets more than 800,000 viewers on NBC, it once drew higher ratings than an NHL playoff game that aired at the same time the next day.

Needless to say, the U.S. Curling Association is thrilled with the prospect of 10 weeks of exposure on a national network.

"We feel that the Rockstar concept is innovative, creative and will help U.S. Curling develop new awareness, interest and participation in our sport across America," said association chief operating office Rick Patzke.

The show would work a lot like the Idol series, though it would most likely air on weekend afternoons.

The show would involve U.S.-wide tryouts starting this year, open to anyone 18 or older. A panel of coaches will select two teams – five men and five women – to train for six months, all expenses paid, at Lake Placid, N.Y.

They would train eight hours a day under professional coaches before going to regional playdowns for the 2010 U.S. Olympic trials in February 2009.

If they win, they're off to the Vancouver Olympics, unlikely as that may seem.

The tryouts, training and national competition will all be part of the series.

"If the winners get anywhere, it will be because they've earned it," said Campbell.

Patzke said the television teams would be given no advantage.

"They would have to enter the U.S. Olympic team trials playdowns like any other U.S. Olympic-eligible team," he said.

"There are no special concessions."

Mktgpartners Canadian president Colin Campbell said in a statement that curling has a unique appeal to advertisers.

"The sport of curling is clutter-free compared to mainstream American sports sponsorship," he said, "and Rockstar Curling is an excellent opportunity for brands to capture the attention of consumers, leading up to the Olympics."

Cat Fight In The City

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

(February 7, 2008) Chick-lit queen Candace Bushnell and television producer Darren Star, the pair who brought you that iconic nineties TV show Sex and the City, don't merely inhabit the same world, apparently they live in the same brain. And that must be pretty awkward these days since they are also locked in a nasty power struggle to create the next big girlie show on TV.

Star is the man behind
Cashmere Mafia, the new show already airing about a quartet of hot New York business women struggling to balance their soaring careers with their demanding romantic lives. Bushnell's latest project is the television adaptation of her 2005 novel Lipstick Jungle, which premieres Thursday night and in which a trio of Manhattan alpha gals juggle great jobs and flawed men.

The women in Cashmere Mafia include a big financial deal maker whose cutely rumpled architect husband mainly puts his career on hold to look after the kids. The women on Lipstick Jungle include a successful movie producer whose cutely rumpled husband wants to open a restaurant but mainly looks after the kids. Both these moms face real dilemmas involving their sons' birthday parties. The characters on both shows also include magazine publishers who report to demanding bosses played by snippy Englishmen. In truth, to tell Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle apart, you really need a chart.

If Bushnell were some nobody, right now she would be unsuccessfully suing Star and ABC for plagiarism. Instead, she is telling reporters she has been too busy with Lipstick Jungle to see “the other show” they are asking about, while allowing her friends to inform The New York Times that she feels hurt and betrayed by her former producer's new project.

Of course, fabulous ratings on NBC would be Bushnell's best revenge. And if this were a script she had written, Lipstick Jungle would come out on top because, on her show, the movie producer gets ahead by being nice. If, on the other hand, this were a script produced by Star, Cashmere Mafia would win. On his show, the magazine publisher plays some pretty dirty tricks to win a big job by beating out a colleague who just happens to be her fiancé. (The guy then dumps her.) In truth, neither show looks particularly well placed to capture the hearts and minds of the women who once loved Sex and the City but are getting older now. Both are awkwardly positioned somewhere between fairy tale and reality. They suggest they want to address the issues surrounding women's success in the workplace the way Sex and the City once dished about the trials of the supposedly glamorous single life, but they place their characters so far up the financial food chain it's very hard to take the themes seriously. Husband unhappy he has to spend his days searching for Spiderman Band-Aids and cleaning up cat puke? Oh, hire a housekeeper and stop whining already. Saddened that your career as the fashion designer of the moment is suddenly in free fall? Cheer up, there's a billionaire who desperately wants to date you.

It was not merely the frank discussion of the characters' sex lives that drew fans to Sex and the City but the engrossing characters themselves, including the consciously questing Carrie with her on-again-off-again thing with Mr. Big or the sexually voracious Samantha. Thus far, the women on Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle are mere creatures of the shows' highly contrived plots full of outrageously scheming rivals and conveniently compliant love interests.

Wendy on Lipstick Jungle has to fight off a cackling book agent who has got her former nanny to write a tell-all memoir disguised as fiction. Juliet on Cashmere Mafia discreetly dumps her financier husband, whom she has caught borrowing money from his former mistress to prop up his hedge fund, in the middle of a photo shoot for a magazine spread about power couples. Victory on Lipstick Jungle has generously let her loyal assistant go out to find a new job with another designer, but the two-faced little climber has torn pages out of the boss's sketchbook, which she presents as her own work. Zoe on Cashmere Mafia gets her own back against a conniving sexpot of an intern when the young woman's attempt to reschedule an important meeting to birthday-party Sunday backfires.

It would be tempting to dismiss such outlandish professional and personal rivalries as the stuff of TV writers' overheated imaginations, but in the biographies of the wonderfully successful Bushnell and the high-powered Star, life seems to imitate art.

Lipstick Jungle debuts Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC and A-Channel.


Cashmere Mafia

Character: The down-to-earth Zoe Burden (Frances O'Connor)

Job: A deal broker in high finance, she has to fight off the schemes of a sexy young intern happy to sleep her way to the top.

Romance: Loyal architect husband does most of the parenting for their two kids, while resisting advances of a predatory stay-at-home mom.

Character: The relentlessly ambitious Mia Mason (Lucy Liu)

Job: She has beaten out her fiancé for the publisher's chair in a magazine empire. She works for an outrageously demanding and English-accented media mogul named Clive.

Romance: The embittered fiancé has dumped her and quit, but not before approving a men's mag cover that shows a woman lunching on a hapless suit.

Character: The perfectly groomed Juliet Draper (Miranda Otto)

Job: Hotel executive

Romance: Will the ice queen tolerate her financier husband's tangled affairs, both sexual and monetary? Does she have the guts to take a lover for revenge?

Character: The flighty Caitlin Dowd (Bonnie Somerville)

Job: Cosmetics executive

Romance: After a string of unsuccessful relationships with men, she's trying her first lesbian affair – with a colleague.

Lipstick Jungle

Character: The nurturing Wendy Healy (Brooke Shields)

Job: A successful producer of movies with integrity and a nice person to boot, she works for a demanding and English-accented media mogul. She has fired and hugged.

Romance: Her English-accented husband, Shane, wants to open a restaurant, but is stuck at home with the kids.

Character: The crisp Nico Reilly (Kim Raver)

Job: She's publisher of a hot fashion magazine, fighting off conniving male colleague for the approval of the same Hector for whom Wendy works. She would never fire and hug.

Romance: At home, her bookish husband is not attending to her needs, so when a young stud at a party tells her she's irresistible, she succumbs to temptation.

Character: The sweet Victory Ford (Lindsay Price)

Job: She has to figure out how to restart her career as a fashion designer after disastrous reviews for her daring new line.

Romance: Does she want to be rescued by the billionaire who has been romancing her with the executive-jet-and-roomful-of-flowers routine? Meanwhile, does she know scheming young assistant is stabbing her in the back?


CRTC To Weigh Applications For HD TV Stations

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(February 11, 2008) OTTAWA — The federal broadcast regulator will start hearings Tuesday on whether it will allow two new entrants in the over-the-air television market with the unique provision that their signals would be in high definition. Toronto businessman John Bitove has proposed to start the first over-the-air high-definition TV network with stations in Canada's eight biggest cities. Another entrant, Yes TV, wants a licence to operate a station for the Toronto market. The proposals have drawn stern opposition from television's big players such as CTV and Global, which argue that they are gearing up for the advent of HDTV and competition for advertising dollars is already overly tight. If successful, the Bitove HDTV operation would represent the first time a network has sprung into existence from a standing start, without a series of pre-existing stations or acquisitions bonded together. Mr. Bitove's proposed network would offer English-language HDTV free of charge in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. Mr. Bitove, a former co-owner of the Toronto Raptors and head of Toronto's bid for the 2008 Olympics, heads Priszm Canadian Income Fund, which operates KFC and Taco Bell fast-food outlets, and Canadian Satellite Radio, which runs XM Satellite Radio in Canada.


Inside 'The Clean House'

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

(February 10, 2008) Fiona Reid and Seana McKenna are two of this country’s finest actresses, but we rarely get to see them playing opposite each other. The Clean House by Sara Ruhl, which opens at the Canadian Stage Company this Thursday, provides just such an opportunity. They play two sisters, Lane (McKenna) and Virginia (Reid). Lane seems to have it all but is unhappy, while the ostensibly less successful Virginia has learned how to cope with her lot. We asked the two women the same questions about the play, themselves and their profession . . .


1. What do you think the play is trying to say, ultimately?

I think perhaps the play is asking its characters to stretch beyond what they perceive themselves to be capable of in their lives, to exceed their limitations and expectations and ultimately to act with compassion. The Clean House challenges the assumptions we make about ourselves and others.

2. Do you think the play would work as well if the two of you switched roles?

Sure, the play would work just as well. Of course it would be different.

3. Do you recall the first time you worked with Seana? What was it like?

Seana and I first worked together in what was the precursor to the Young Company at Stratford under John Hirsch, called Shakespeare 3. It was a formative time for us both, and I think we were each so passionately involved in the training and exhilaration of that process that we didn't take much notice of each other. More recently, in Orpheus Descending (again at Stratford), I played a cameo role to her Lady Torrance. Our eyes met only once. I think Seana's line to me was, "You remember, don't you Beulah?" We just clicked, and enthused that we'd like to work together again.

4. Do you feel your method of working on a role is different from hers?

We both work hard and come to the table with ideas. But at a certain point I find myself agonizing more than she does. I feel as if I have to summon the necessary alchemy as I flirt with the unknowns of the process. I think Seana uses her head more, without sacrificing any emotional truth. She has the ability to stand outside her character and gain insight from a distance. I have to jump into the uncertain terrain and trust the acting gods.

5. Is there any quality, on- or offstage, that she possesses which you wish you had?

I would love to have some of her confidence. I truly admire her guts: Seana always stands up for what's right. We are a bit of a dangerous combination when it comes to injustice in the workplace.

6. What's your favourite of Seana's performances and why?

Years ago I saw Seana in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, and was struck by her comedic aplomb and the seamless way she went from hilarity to pathos as she portrayed so many extraordinary characters. And amongst the many Shakespeares in which she's appeared – Seana has an absolute and intelligent command of any text – I found her spirited Kate in The Taming of the Shrew an utter delight, and revelled in the evocative clarity of her Chorus in Henry V.

7. Is there another play with roles you feel would be well suited to the two of you?

Don't think we aren't talking about that on our breaks.

8. What's the most memorable thing about working with Seana?

That we are having such fun. There is much mutual admiration. We make each other laugh a lot.


1. What do you think the play is trying to say, ultimately?

Life is laughter, life is mess, and then you die: embrace it all. Grace may be the end result.

2. Do you think the play would work as well if the two of you switched roles?


3. Do you recall the first time you worked with Fiona? What was it like?

Unbearable ... just kidding. We were in the 1982 Shakespeare 3 Company at Stratford, being trained by Kristin Linklater and her team. So there were lots of tearful breakthroughs every day. But Fiona and I never had any real scenes together, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, or in All's Well, or later, in Charley's Aunt at Shaw. But even in our short exchange in Orpheus Descending, Fiona was always 100 per cent present. Even if we only exchanged glances, we were communicating. She was, and is, a very powerful player. One of the main reasons I wanted to do The Clean House was to work with Fiona.

4. Do you feel your method of working on a role is different from hers?

I would have to have a method to answer that question. Perhaps a director watching us could answer with accuracy. I do know that we are both hard workers and feel a great responsibility to the playwright. And we speak in shorthand when discussing a choice or a move or an intention. We know what the other is attempting, and can support each other quite effortlessly, often without words. We've got about 60 years experience between us, so that helps. (Fiona has more, of course.)

5. Is there any quality, on- or offstage, that she possesses which you wish you had?

Her computer skills... and her refreshing self-awareness. No one could articulate her strengths and weaknesses with as much wit, candour and insight as she herself.

6. What's your favourite of Fiona's performances and why?

The country is too big to see all of Fiona's work, but I have seen much. First was Automatic Pilot, in which she was spectacular. I loved her in Coward, Hay Fever especially. I thought she was stunning in A Delicate Balance: she wasn't acting, she was channelling some desperately lonely and wickedly funny alcoholic. But I found her performance in Waste haunting; the profound ache of that woman's life was so palpable in Fiona's portrayal. So true, and skilled. I appreciate both those qualities enormously.

7. Is there another play with roles you feel would be well suited to the two of you?

Yes ... (she smiles in her inimitable fashion, mysterious yet inviting) but we're not at liberty to say.

8. What's the most memorable thing about working with Fiona?

Her extraordinary talent, her formidable intelligence, her strong work ethic and, perhaps the best thing about working with anyone, she makes me laugh.

Ted Neeley Comes To T.O. in Jesus Christ Superstar

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

(February 9, 2008) What do you ask a man who's portrayed Jesus Christ on stage for more years than the actual Jesus supposedly walked the Earth?

That's the dilemma about talking to
Ted Neeley, who's bringing his white robe, flowing locks and charismatic presence to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts next Friday and Saturday as the Messiah in Jesus Christ Superstar, the role he's been playing since 1971.

But any worries vanish the moment his voice comes over the telephone from St. Louis, his latest stop on the tour.

Neeley, 64, is a good ol' boy from Texas with a sincerity you can almost reach out and touch. Thirty-seven years of playing the Messiah haven't inflated his ego at all.

"I'm a rock 'n' roll drummer from Texas who can hit the high notes, son," he drawls. "That's why I got where I did in this world."

But there has to be more to it than that, and after talking to him for a while, you realize there is an innate spirituality in Neeley that emerges, even when he talks about his childhood in Texas.

"The town was so tiny there was a church on every corner," he recalls, "but you chose the one you went to. I picked the Baptists and I got a very strong religious background I carry with me to this day. You have to understand, it's not so much the church itself, but what it teaches you. That's what you walk around with forever."

Neeley admits that "from the time I could walk, I wanted to sing" and he formed his first band when he was 9 (with the unfortunate name of The Teddy Bears).

He eventually drifted toward Los Angeles and his first solo album, Teddy Neeley, came out when he was 23.

Then, in 1969, he auditioned for the L.A. company of Hair and met one of the men who would change his life, Tom O'Horgan.

"I cannot sing his praises highly enough," says Neeley. "He was the Fellini of the stage, a man with such magnificent powers of imagery."

He also obviously believed in Neeley, casting him in the leading role of Claude in his hit musical Hair, then later moving him into the New York production.

And when O'Horgan was asked to take on the daunting task of mounting the first stage version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice's hit album, Jesus Christ Superstar, he made Neeley part of the team.

"Tom always began with the spiritual connection of everyone involved," Neeley says. "I think that's why we got along so well."

O'Horgan cast Neeley as a leper, but also made him the understudy for Jesus. When the show opened on Broadway on Oct. 12, 1971, it was greeted with a mixture of critical cheers and jeers, but "we also had to fight our way through picket lines stacked around the theatre at every performance."

Most of them hated the title, Neeley says. Others disliked the idea that Mary Magdalene sang "I Don't Know How To Love Him" to Jesus.

But when Neeley asked if the protesters had seen the show, their answer was always no. His tactic was to offer them a ticket and then discuss it with them afterward.

"It never failed," he says. "They always came onto our side."

Neeley was next cast as Jesus in the national tour of the show that opened in Los Angeles in 1972 and that was probably the biggest move in his career, because Toronto-born Norman Jewison, who was to direct the movie, loved Neeley's performance and decided he had to have him star in the film.

"That piece completely turned my life around," Neeley says softly. "Without it, I'd still be nothing but that rock 'n' roll drummer from Texas who could hit the high notes."

He attributes a lot of the film's success to "Norman's own personal spirituality and the heartfelt simplicity he brought to the film.

"Suddenly, the tide turned and preachers were using their pulpits not to denounce the show, but to urge people to go see it."

Since then, despite numerous other jobs, Neeley has largely been wearing the mantle of the man from Nazareth. Ask him if it ever gets troublesome and his response is immediate.

"It's no burden whatsoever, just absolute joy. I've always been the kind of person who likes to meet people and find out what they're like and this show allows me to do it every evening. People stand in line, sometimes for up to two hours, to tell me their stories, to share their feelings with me."

Doesn't this transference ever grow a bit dangerous?

"There is no confusion in my spirit at all," insists Neeley firmly. "I know who I am and it's not Jesus Christ, just a rock 'n' roller.

"But I know there are people who come to talk to me who have the opposite feeling. They will ask me to lay my hands on babies and cure them and I do my best to explain I am just an actor."

But this kind of experience never bothers Neeley, because the good ol' boy he is at heart understands that "everyone in the world is searching for a spiritual connection and looking for someone to help them discover what it is.

"Everyone is still waitin' for Jesus to stop by and say hello."


‘Shrek' To Open Dec. 14 On Broadway

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(February 12, 2008) NEW YORK — Still no actor to play the title character, but “Shrek the Musical,” the Broadway-bound adaptation of the popular DreamWorks Animation SKG feature, has its spirited princess, villain, opening date and New York theatre. The show will open Dec. 14 at the Broadway Theatre, with preview performances beginning Nov. 8, Bill Damaschke, president of DreamWorks Theatricals, announced Monday. An out-of-town tryout will be held at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre, Aug. 14-Sept. 21. No word yet on who will play Shrek or his friend Donkey but Princess Fiona will be Sutton Foster, currently starring as Inga in “Young Frankenstein.” Foster has appeared in such Broadway musicals as “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Little Women” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Christopher Sieber, a member of the original cast of “Monty Python's Spamalot,” will play the evil Lord Farquaad while Kecia Lewis-Evans will be the Dragon. “Shrek,” which will be directed by Jason Moore, has book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori. It is based on the book by William Steig as well as the movie, which, so far, has two sequels.


Luminato Founders To Be Honoured

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist

(February 13, 2008) They came from very different backgrounds and each had a phenomenal career. When they met, they realized what they had in common was a dream for Toronto and its arts world.

There was nothing to do but join forces. Last June, their partnership gave them bright lights and triumph as co-founders of
Luminato, Toronto's new annual festival of arts and creativity.

And now it's time for the honours to come pouring in. Tony Gagliano, the son of Italian immigrants who started a printing business in their basement, and David Pecaut, a silver-tongued financial player who started life in Iowa, are about to be named Canadians of the Year by the Canadian Club.

They will be honoured April 7 at a lunch organized by the club, which specializes in providing a forum for stimulating speakers.

That will be a well-timed rite of spring, with the second edition of Luminato about to bloom. I spoke to them via conference call. Oddly, I was at Luminato headquarters, along with CEO Janice Price, but the co-founders were elsewhere: Pecaut in his office at the Boston Consulting Group, Gagliano at home with a touch of flu.

"I can't tell you what an amazing experience Luminato has been," says Pecaut. "When we announced last year's festival, nobody really knew what it was going to be like. But now we know it brings light and life to the streets of the city."

"What was incredible was the energy we felt during those 10 days," says Gagliano. "And to build great cities it takes great energy."

It also takes funding angels and willing partners in the arts world. They managed to enlist both and to avoid the disaster many observers predicted. Luck played a part, especially when they lured Price back to her hometown from Philadelphia. Some said it couldn't be done, but in record time she put together an effective team and a sound program.

So who will be among the special guests on April 7? It would be a good day for Mayor David Miller to show up. Greg Sorbara, the former Ontario finance minister, was the unsung hero whose early support was crucial – and he should have a place of honour at the head table.

It would be a wonderful day for the federal heritage minister, Josée Verner, to visit Toronto and deliver a seven-figure cheque to Luminato. It might be a year late, but it would still be a welcome sign of Ottawa's embracing an event that matters to the whole country.


On the literary side, Luminato will forge an independent path in year two rather than partner with Harbourfront, as it did last year.

Price and programming director Chris Lorway have recruited author Devyani Saltzman to curate the literary program.

I am circling June 9 on my calendar right now. That's the date Luminato will fete the late Isaac Bashevis Singer, the great Yiddish writer whose prodigious works, in translation, linked the vanished world of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Europe to the New World with the ethnic potpourri of New York in the second half of the 20th century.

Two talented young Jewish writers, Dara Horn (author of The World to Come) and David Bezmozgis (author of Natasha: And Other Stories) will pay tribute to Singer at the Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. Also part of the program, which Saltzman announced yesterday:

A free festival of short stories featuring eight authors at libraries across the GTA.
An evening devoted to the political graphic novel (June 8).

An evening of readings and discussion from new South Asian voices of diaspora (June 14).

Saltzman, who is finishing her first novel, is the daughter of movie director Deepa Mehta and producer Paul Saltzman. So she has diversity in her blood. And she is the author of Shooting Water, one of the most revealing personal memoirs ever written about the making of a movie. The movie in question: her mother's Oscar-nominated Water. Both the movie and this book were richly rewarding.


Essence Honours Terry McMillan

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 8, 2008) *Author
Terry McMillan has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award from Essence magazine for her numerous novels about the life, loves and struggles of black women in contemporary society. "No single writer today has documented the African-American experience from a contemporary black women's point of view like Terry McMillan," said Patrik Henry Bass, a senior editor at Essence for books and art, according to the AP. McMillan's first experience with Essence came as a University of California at Berkeley journalism student in 1974, when she won an Essence essay contest with her piece on black male-female relationships. The 56-year-old writer's best-known books include "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and "Waiting to Exhale." Both were made into feature films. Essence editors nominated McMillan along with other authors in eight other literary categories. Winners, expected to attend the Essence Literary Awards ceremony Thursday evening, were selected by a panel of experts in the black publishing field.


Fournier Retires From National Ballet Of Canada

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 11, 2008) The National Ballet of Canada announced its 2008-2009 season Monday and the retirement of principal dancer Jennifer Fournier.

Fournier was born in Ottawa, trained at the National Ballet School and joined the company in 1986. She has been a principal dancer since 1997.

Her repertoire has included Swan Lake, The Merry Widow, The Four Seasons, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, La Sylphide and The Nutcracker. She also developed a special affinity for the ballets of Glen Tetley, created a role in Tagore and danced the leads in Voluntaries, La Ronde, Sphinx and Alice.

"Jennifer has been an integral part of the company for 22 years and we thank her for her commitment, wonderful work ethic and all her beautiful performances," said artistic director Karen Kain.

Fournier leaves in June, at the end of the 2007-2008 season.

The company plans three world premieres for the upcoming season and two North American premieres.

The world premieres, set for March 2009, are short works by three of the Canada's brightest dancemakers, said Kain – Peter Quanz, Crystal Pite and Sabrina Matthews.

In November, the company will present the North American premiere of The Seagull, created by John Neumeier, artistic director of the Hamburg Ballet. It won the 2007 Stanislavsky Award in Moscow and is a full-length ballet based on Anton Chekhov's classic drama of spurned love and self-deception.

Davide Bombana's Carmen makes its North American debut June 6, 2009. It will be performed with the National Ballet's premiere of Dominique Dumais's Skin Divers.

In November this year, Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room receives its first performance by the company. It was first performed in 1986 and is set to music by Philip Glass. It will be paired with George Balanchine's Symphony in C.

National Ballet Of Canada Announces 2008-09 Season

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

(February 12, 2008) The National Ballet of Canada's 2008-2009 season is a roster of firsts, including three world premieres of contemporary works by Canadian choreographers.

The season opens Nov. 5 in the Four Seasons Centre with the Canadian premiere of Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, on a mixed program with George Balanchine's Symphony in C.

John Neumeier's dance adaptation of Anton Chekhov's drama The Seagull makes its North American premiere on Nov. 14. Neumeier, artistic director of the Hamburg Ballet, has recast the main characters from actors and writers to dancers and choreographers.

The company's winter season begins March 4, 2009, with three new works by Canadian choreographers Peter Quanz, Crystal Pite and Sabrina Matthews, in a program titled Innovation.

John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, one of the most popular works in the company's repertoire, opens March 11 and tours to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in April.

The Eighth International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize takes place on March 18. This year for the first time, a prize for choreography will be awarded.

The company's production of Giselle opens the summer season, which concludes with Skin Divers, choreographed by former National Ballet dancer Dominique Dumais. Now the associate director of the Mannheim Ballet in Germany, Dumais drew inspiration from the poetry of Anne Michaels.

Italian choreographer Davide Bombana's provocatively carnal Carmen has its North American premiere on June 6, 2009, set to music by Shchedrin, Georges Bizet, Meredith Monk and Les Tambours du Bronx, and dramatic sets and costumes by Dorin Gal.

Principal dancer Jennifer Fournier, 38, retires this June, after 22 years with the National Ballet. She has been a principal dancer since 1997. She will have her farewell performance at the company's annual gala ball in a new work yet to be announced.


At 78, Irene Bryson Still Plays Hockey

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey, Sports Columnist

(February 12, 2008) It's Saturday, hockey night in Canada, including Rexdale, with a couple of important wrinkles.

For one thing, a trio of fans are chanting: "Go, Grandma, Go!"

For another, Grandma is ... well, going. Strong. Quite possibly, right into the record books.

Irene Bryson, No. 12 in the black Bruins-themed sweater, skates on left wing, part of the regular Saturday night Rexdale Women's Hockey League doubleheader at Westwood Arenas.

From a distance - even up close - you'd never guess that at 78 years of age she may well be the oldest woman playing organized hockey in these parts, or others. No one keeps definitive records, but suffice to say that Newmarket's Bryson is the senior member of her non-contact league by at least 10 years. The league's minimum age is 18 and many of its skaters are half Bryson's age, or less.

"I always say, when I grow up I want to be just like Irene Bryson," says team captain Donna Bonneville. She's 44 and only half-joking.

Bryson played on her first real team at 21, when someone finally organized a women's team and entered it in a pioneering three-outfit league north of Toronto. She learned the game skating on the pond with her brothers on the family's farm near Maple, Ont.

"We had body-checking and everything back then," she says. "We had hardly any equipment, either. All I had was a pair of gloves and shin pads. No helmets, nothing like that. I was a pretty good body-checker. Some of them even got in fights. I never got in any, I was a little small for that."

She's "4-foot-11 or 10 1/2, something like that" and has always played at about 145 compact pounds.

"She's tough as nails," says son Larry, 39. "When I was 16 she could still beat me in a play fight."

But Bryson, a woman of few words more inclined to let her actions speak for themselves, says modestly that women's hockey has evolved through the years. "The players are a lot better now."

Only three or four years ago, Bryson was among the league's top few scorers. This season she's been mostly held off the score sheet on a team that has had its collective problems winning. But on this night she assists on the goal that gives her team a late, short-lived 2-1 lead (it would end in a 2-2 tie). The resultant celebration is ageless, downright girlish.

Husband Cameron will be 82 in May and for all these years has rarely missed one of his wife's game. They married later in life – she was 32 – but now find themselves only three years from their 50th anniversary. They have three children and five grandkids, all boys (three of them at the game on this night), with another on the way. Cameron skated once or twice but has never played hockey.

"It's a good thing," says Irene, impishly. "Somebody had to look after the kids."

"When you get to be 80," observes Cameron, "you don't want to be out on the road in the bad weather. But if I told her we weren't coming (to the arena), I'd be sleeping under the bed."

Farmers early on, both husband and wife drove school buses for 25 years. Irene still works in the summers, selling vegetables at Round The Bend Farm in Kettleby, Ont.

In her younger days, Irene was an avid fast-pitch softball player, a catcher. She'd sometimes play two ball games and two hockey games on the same Saturday. Sundays, through the years, have been mostly reserved for attendance at the Gormley Missionary Church in Richmond Hill.

"She's inspirational," says Jennifer Maclachlan, 53, who plays on one of the Rexdale league's other three teams. "Some of us started playing hockey late in life. I was 47. I always felt I missed so much. But when I see Irene, I see how long I have to look forward to. ‘Irene, whose mother died when she was 10, says she has only rarely been sick and when asked if she has any post-game aches or pains, says simply: "No." She only reluctantly informed her physician that she was still playing hockey – perhaps afraid he might shut her down – but he wholeheartedly endorsed her recreation.

When might this long and active love-affair with Canada's game, this skate down the decades, end?

She'd aimed to play until she was 75 but having surpassed that milestone and then some, Irene says she's got her sights set on 80. But she is really taking it one game at a time and one season at a time.

"I've had fun. I just like getting out there and playing."

Canada's Olympic Task? Choosing The Man In Net

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Damien Cox

(February 13, 2008) Martin Brodeur, the only goaltender to take Canada to Olympic gold in a half-century, is ready to take a step back for the Vancouver 2010 event.

"I understand that it will probably be (Roberto) Luongo's time," said the New Jersey Devils goaltender in a telephone interview yesterday. "I wouldn't go with a backup's attitude, but if that was the way it turned out, that would be no problem for me.

"If they ask me, I'm going to go. It would be special to play in a fourth Olympics."

With the 2010 Olympic hockey tournament now less than two years away, a competition that will be more hyped than the '72 Summit Series by the time it arrives, speculation has already started as to the players who will represent Canada.

It may be the last Olympics involving NHL players. In three tries, Canadian NHLers have earned a medal only once – gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 – and expectations will be truly mind-blowing by February, 2010.

Brodeur was the second-stringer to Patrick Roy in Nagano in 1998, then took over from Curtis Joseph after the opener in '02 and backstopped Canada to victory. Two years ago, Brodeur and Luongo essentially shared the job, but Brodeur was in the net when Canada was blanked by Russia in a stunning quarter-final defeat at the Torino Esposizioni and ended up an embarrassing seventh.

While suggesting Luongo could be Canada's No.1 goalie this time around, Brodeur, who was excellent in Turin, isn't totally conceding.

"We'll see where my game is at that time," said Brodeur, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who will be 37 when the 2010 Games open. "Two years from now, well, we'll see how the other goalies have grown. With me, what you see now is probably about what you're going to see in two years."

It's not clear who will put together the Canadian team, only that Pat Quinn won't be the head coach again. If the team was picked today, the Turin goaltending trio – Brodeur, Luongo and Marty Turco – would likely return intact, with the likes of Carey Price and Pascal Leclaire still needing to step forward in a major way to become 2010 Olympians.

Up front and on defence, there will be many changes. Only Chris Pronger is a lock to be back on the blue line, and its unclear whether the unretired Scott Niedermayer will be inclined to compete in his home province after skipping the Turin Games.

At the forward positions, Todd Bertuzzi was a mistake last time and has no shot for Vancouver. Older forwards like Kris Draper, Brad Richards, Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Marty St. Louis will be pushed hard by younger snipers like Eric Staal, Patrick Sharp, Mike Richards, Jason Spezza, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

Oh yes, and by that Sidney Crosby fellow, too.

"Sidney will definitely be the key to that team, no doubt about it," said Brodeur.

Canada was shut out and beaten by Switzerland in Turin and didn't score a goal in 11 of the final 12 periods it played. Brodeur said while Vancouver will be very different, there are lessons to be learned from 2006.

"We didn't adjust really well to the game over there," he said. "We kept playing the system that helped us with the (2004) World Cup, and kept making the same mistakes over and over again. We had a hard time generating offence.

"For Vancouver, it's going to be important to have the right veterans there because it's going to be very tough with all the expectations and the demands of being part of Team Canada. It's going to be crazy. The selection process will be really interesting."

Unofficially, of course, it's already started.


Spielberg Quits As Adviser For Beijing Olympics

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dave Skretta, The Associated Press

(February 12, 2008) NEW YORK–Steven Spielberg is ending his involvement as an artistic adviser for the Beijing Olympics. The film director made the decision Tuesday, hours after actress Mia Farrow and several humanitarian groups assailed him for working with the games' Chinese organizers. At issue for both Farrow and Spielberg is China's close relationship with Sudan, where thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the Darfur region. China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports. In turn, China sells weapons to the Sudanese government and has defended Khartoum in the U.N. Security Council. Spielberg had already sent a letter urging President Hu Jintao to use China's influence during the Olympics to help the situation in Darfur.

Volunteers Wanted For 2010 Olympics

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 12, 2008) The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games begin exactly two years from today in Vancouver and now the search is on for the thousands of volunteers needed to make the Games a reality. The Call for Volunteers launches online today right across the country, with 25-thousand positions available through two sites – www.volunteer.workopolis.com and www.vancouver2010.com. Workopolis is the official supplier of online recruitment for the Games and the site is sending street teams to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Whistler, Vancouver and Squamish to promote the national scope of the search. Workopolis president Patrick Sullivan says not only will volunteers ensure the Games run smoothly, they'll also pick up valuable career skills while helping out. Volunteers must be over 19 by September 1st of this year. Other requirements and the myriad of volunteer opportunities will be posted on the Workopolis and 2010 sites throughout the day.


Burn Extra Calories: 10 Simple Steps!

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

You're so busy you have absolutely no time to work out, right? Wrong. It's important that you make the time, and I'm here to help you do it. In this busy world, filled with work pressure, family and stress, we sometimes have to use a lot of creativity to sneak in workouts.

Here are my 10 fat-burning tips for people on the go:

1. When you first wake up, commit to 10 minutes of continuous exercise. Choose only three movements and perform each in succession without stopping for 10 minutes. For example, you can perform modified push-ups on Monday, followed by crunches for your abs followed by stationary lunges. On Tuesday, you can perform free-standing squats with hands on hips, double crunches for abs and close-grip modified push-ups (hands 3 inches apart) for your triceps. All in 10 minutes! Just take a quick breather when you need it.

2. Perform timed interval walking in your neighbourhood or at lunch. If it takes 10 minutes to walk to a certain destination near your office or in your neighbourhood, try to make it in 8 minutes. You can also do this first thing in the morning before work as well as on your lunch break.

3. If you have stairs in your home or in your work place, commit to taking the stairs a specific number of times. Tell yourself that you'll take the stairs six or eight times (no matter what).

4. While seated, perform some isometric exercise to help strengthen and tighten your muscles. For example, while in a seated position, simply contract the abdominals for 30 seconds while breathing naturally. You can also tighten and contract your legs for 60 seconds. Perform about three sets per area. You'll feel your muscles get tighter in just three weeks if you perform this a few times per week.

5. For about $15, you can invest in a pedometer. It's a small device you can carry that records the amount of miles you walk per day. Each week, simply try to add just a bit more to the mileage. For example, let's say you walk one mile total during the day in the normal course of activities. Simply try to make it two miles total the following week. Just make a game of it. You'll burn more calories.

6.Tired at night and just want to sit in front of the TV? Try this technique: Take periodic five-minute exercise breaks and perform some muscle-stimulating and calorie-burning exercise. For example, take five minutes and perform only ab crunches. Then, when it's time for another five-minute exercise break, perform modified push-ups for five minutes. Then for a final five-minute break, perform stationary lunges. Try to do as many as possible in five minutes and try to beat your amount of reps during each subsequent break. It won't seem daunting because it's only five minutes at a time, split over a 30 or 60-minute time frame. Instead of rest breaks, you'll take exercise breaks. You don't really need to watch that new commercial do you?

7. How about performing one exercise movement per day for 7 to 10 minutes? For example, Monday: free-standing squats for seven minutes. Tuesday: chair dips for seven minutes. Wednesday: crunches and hip lifts off the floor for seven minutes. Thursday: modified push-up for seven minutes. Friday: stationary lunges for seven minutes. It's quick, simple and teaches consistency.

8. Want things even simpler? Take the longest route every time you have to walk somewhere -- even if it's to a co-worker's office.

9. Double-up the stairs. Every time you take the stairs, simply take a double step or every other stair. It will be just like lunges and the Stairmaster combined. Great for the legs and butt.

10. Perform any of the above with your spouse or a friend. I'm sure you can find someone who is in the same situation. The support will give you more motivation and you just may find that you can create even more workout time for yourself.

Hey, I know this won't make you an Olympic athlete or give you six-pack abs, but that's not the goal. I just want to see you making an effort to improve. If you take two to three of your favourite tips above -- that will be the beginning of something great.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Jonathan Swift: 17-18th century: Irish essayist, novelist, and satirist

"A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart."