20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883


February 21, 2008


OK - why is it only February and I'm sick of winter already?  Cold, grey, snowy - gotta love it!

Just two more days before the renowned
Harlem Gospel Choir hits the stage at Sony Centre on February 23rd.  Then right after that, Living Color guitarist and multi-Grammy winner, Vernon Reid, and the electric jazz band, Myid on February 27th.  And added to the list this week is at Harlem where friends of Carl Cassel (also of Irie Food Joint) invite you to a memorial art auction and dinner commemorating the great Chef Keith White on February 28th. 

So, tell all your friends who you know that play percussion to check out my proposal to apply for a gig in Tokyo with
Cirque du Soleil!  Who knows where this may lead?  And a special offer for post-secondary graduates of Canadian music programs from MusiCan

Oh my - so much news this week yet again so scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



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!

Grammy Award Winner Guitarist Vernon Reid Joins My id For Special Toronto Show – February 27, 2008

Source:  Evelyn Cream, Athena Music International

The id:  the unconscious source of psychic energy derived from instinctual needs and drives. 
My id:  the conscious musical illustration of my instinctual needs and drives.

Living Color guitarist and multi-Grammy winner,
Vernon Reid, joins Toronto electric jazz band, My id, for a special concert at the Revival Music Lounge on February 27th.  Reid, known for his guitar virtuosity and ground breaking work in rock, jazz, fusion and R&B, has worked with some of music’s most talented including:  Mick Jagger, Bill Frisell, Carlos Santana, Public Enemy, Garland Jefferies and James Blood Ulmer.
My id’s debut CD features Reid, Allman Brothers bassist, Oteil Burbridge and singer Hassan Hakmoun. Reid will play the entire show with current My id line-up.  My id’s concert on February 27th features Aubrey Dayle on drums, Rich Brown on bass, Robi Botos at the piano and Michael Stuart on saxophone.

Toronto based drummer,
Aubrey Dayle, formed My id as a group that pools on its musicians’ collective experiences in jazz, rock, world beat, R&B and hip hop.  The result is melodic songs, great rhythms and virtuosic instrumentalism. 

FEBRUARY 27, 2008
Rich Brown, bass; Robi Botos, piano; Michael Stuart, saxophone
783 College St. (at Shaw)
8:00 pm
TICKETS:  $18.00 advance, $22.00 at the door.
Tickets available via www.ticketweb.ca or by phone 888-222-6608.

More background:

There is also a social component to My id.  Contemporary music has traditionally been a voice for a community of people who need to express their frustrations, challenges and triumphs in a way that is sophisticated and subtle, yet effective – similar to the work songs used by African slaves in the United States and the Caribbean to communicate vital information to each other. My id continues this tradition in a way that will help us examine and re-examine our ever emerging global community. 

A portion of ticket sales will be donated to Lupus Canada (www.lupuscanada.org). Normally the body’s immune system makes proteins called antibodies to protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign material.  With Lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues and makes antibodies directed against itself. 

Dayle has Lupus. The lifestyle of a working musician is hectic and stressful, traveling to a new city each day, no home cooked meals for weeks and numerous sleepless nights in hotel room beds.  Yet Dayle has found a way to balance this lifestyle and his illness so he can continue his passion - making music.

An Art Retrospective Honouring Late Chef Keith White - Thursday, February 28

Harlem Restaurant creates a chef's bursary through the George Brown Chef School in Keith's name.

On Thursday, February 28th join
Carl Cassell and friends in a memorial art auction and dinner commemorating the great Chef Keith White who died on January 28th this year. Many food lovers will remember Keith, who in his later years, helped sparked the culinary path that led the Irie Food Joint to its success on Queen Street West.

The night of fundraising will feature a savoury three-course dinner presented by
Master Chef Anthony Mair. DJ Carl Allen, the city's award-winning turntablist, will lay down the evening's sound work, and Carl Cassell's art auction will set the creative backdrop of a 10-year retrospective showcasing his one-of-a-kind pieces in Hair, including portraits of the Urban Vanguard Series I & II.

Come join us in raising our glasses to Keith White and to the young chefs following him in their love of culinary art.

YOU MUST RSVP TO ATTEND or call 416-368-1920.

67 Richmond Street E. (at Church St.)
6 pm; Canapés at 7 pm
Three-course dinner served at 8 pm, followed by an evening of music

RSVP TO ATTEND DINNER at carl@iriefoodjoint.com or call 416-368-1920


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!!

MusiCan Announces Fred Sherratt Award

Source:  CARAS

(February 19, 2008) MusiCan, the charitable arm of the Canadian Academy of Recording
Arts and Sciences (CARAS), together with CTVglobemedia (CTVgm), announced today the establishment of the MusiCan Fred Sherratt Award to be given in this inaugural year to 11 outstanding post-secondary graduates of Canadian music programs.

Each recipient will receive $3,500 and a trip to Toronto including transportation, meals and accommodation. All 11 recipients will attend a reception and spend an educational day at MuchMusic and CHUM FM. The awards will be granted annually beginning Spring 2008.

Broadcasting pioneer Fred Sherratt was instrumental in building CHUM Limited into one of Canada's leading media companies. He served as Vice-Chairman of the company from 2000-2003 and prior to that, he played a number of roles including Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. He was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Broadcast Hall of Fame in 1995 and in 1993 received the Ted Rogers Senior/Velma Rogers Graham Award for his “pioneering spirit and contribution to the broadcasting system.”

“We are grateful to CTVglobemedia for this incredible contribution allowing us to continue to support young Canadian talent and to be able to honour Mr. Sherratt's contribution to the development of radio and television in Canada,” said Srinka Wallia, Executive Director, MusiCan.

“We are delighted to fund these new awards as part of CHUM Radio and CTVgm’s overall significant contribution in support of MusiCan’s mission. And I am thrilled that they have been named in Fred Sherratt's honour. Fred has been a champion of Canadian talent throughout his entire career,” said Ivan Fecan, President and CEO of CTVglobemedia.

The MusiCan Fred Sherratt Award will be available to post-secondary graduating students of the 11 colleges and universities across Canada already partnered with MusiCan, including:

The Art Institute of Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia
The Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
Capilano College, North Vancouver, British Columbia
Fanshawe College, London, Ontario
Grant MacEwan College, Edmonton, Alberta
Harris Institute for the Arts, Toronto, Ontario
Humber College, Toronto, Ontario
Musitechnic Educational Services Inc., Montreal, Quebec
Selkirk College, Nelson, British Columbia
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Trebas Institute, Montreal, Quebec & Toronto, Ontario

About MusiCan
MusiCan, the music education charity of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) is helping keep music alive in schools across Canada. MusiCan’s mission is to ensure that children in Canada have access to a comprehensive music program through their school. MusiCan is supported by various initiatives such as the platinum selling JUNO Award nominee compilation CD, annual contributions by CTVglobemedia, EMI Music Canada Inc., SONY BMG Music Canada Inc., Universal Music Canada and Warner Music Canada Ltd., as well as Songwriters’ Circle sponsored by CMPA and SOCAN, Juno Cup and individual and corporate contributions, including The Keg Spirit Foundation and SIRIUS Canada Inc.

Since 1989, scholarships have been awarded annually to exceptional students enrolled in post-secondary Music Industry Arts Programs. These Scholarships have assisted many young Canadians with the help they need to develop their talent, and launch their careers. Winners are selected by the heads of programs at participating schools, based on a number of criteria, including good academic standing, excellent performance ability, strong leadership skills and a consistent dedication to improvement and excellence in their work.

For more information on MusiCan, please visit www.musican.ca

CTVglobemedia Inc. is Canada’s premier multimedia company with ownership of CTV, Canada’s #1 television network, and The Globe and Mail, Canada’s #1 national newspaper. CTV Inc. owns and operates 27 conventional stations across the country, with interests in 35 specialty channels, including Canada’s #1 specialty channel, TSN. CTVglobemedia also owns the CHUM Radio Division, which operates 35 radio stations throughout Canada, including CHUM FM, Canada’s #1 FM station. Other CTVglobemedia investments include an interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and the Air Canada Centre; and an interest in Dome Productions, a North American leader in the provision of mobile high definition production facilities.


Oscar Nominee Jason Reitman Finds Himself Caught Between Hollywood And His Canuck Roots

Excerpt from www.thestarcom - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(February 17, 2008) PARK CITY, Utah–It's the morning of the Oscar announcements, and Jason Reitman could hardly seem more connected. But look closer.

He's dressed in the casual winter wear that is the mandatory garb of the Sundance Film Festival, currently in session, for which he is on the judging panel for short films.

He has a cellphone that seems surgically attached to his ear, like the Hollywood mogul he's become, as he fields congratulations and interview requests regarding his Best Director nomination for
Juno, one of four bids for his hit comedy at the Feb. 24 Academy Awards – the others are Best Picture, Best Actress (Ellen Page) and Best Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody).

The Montreal-born Reitman, 30, is still on the phone as he sits for a delayed interview with the Star. But who could blame him? He's just been nominated for an Oscar, for crying out loud, which is as big a surprise to him as it is an honour.

"Man, getting that nomination!" he says, as he finally silences the cell.

"I was on Good Day L.A. this morning and they introduced me as, `Hey, we have Oscar nominee Jason Reitman on the phone!' I was like, wow. They include it as part of my name. I'll have that for the rest of my life."

Yet even though Reitman can rightfully call himself a true insider – he also writes and produces – he still feels very much like an outsider in many respects. Ten years after he made his film debut at Sundance, a comedy short called Operation that attracted attention mainly for his surname (he's the son of producer/director Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters and Stripes fame), he still feels caught between cultures.

He's a hockey-loving Canadian living in Hollywood. But most Canadians – including many government and movie industry bureaucrats – believe him to be American.

He's actually Canuck through and through. The eldest of three children of Ivan Reitman and Geneviève Robert was born Oct. 19, 1977 in Montreal. His parents moved to California when he was a child and he went to school there, but he never renounced his Canadian citizenship nor applied to be a U.S. citizen (he works stateside courtesy of a green card).

He's married to a Canadian, Vancouver-reared Michele Lee, whom he credits with making him switch hockey allegiance from the L.A. Kings to the Canucks. The couple have a 17-month-old daughter, Josephine.

More important is that Reitman considers himself Canadian, and also views Juno in the same light, since it stars two Canucks (Ellen Page and Michael Cera) and was filmed entirely in the Vancouver area. Juno was the runner-up audience award winner at the most recent Toronto International Film Festival, and his debut feature Thank You For Smoking was a sensation at the 2005 TIFF, where it set off a bidding war among eager prospective distributors.

"Yeah, it's a tricky thing," Reitman says, stroking his beard reflectively.

"I grew up in L.A., but my family's Canadian, so I feel like I grew up with their values. I'm in Canada a lot. I shot a movie there, I shot a lot of commercials up there and almost my entire family lives there. The Toronto Film Festival is now basically my home."

His Oscar nod reminds him of another outsider feeling for anyone from the Reitman clan: if you make comedy, the Academy doesn't want to know you. At least until now.

"Believe you me, I was raised in a household where I heard all the time about how the Academy ignored comedy – and they do. My dad deserves nominations four times over. I'm just hoping that through this independent push of the last 10 years, where movies like mine and Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways have started to get nominations, that we're starting to get a little respect."

But nothing excites a parent more than seeing a child succeed, and Reitman Sr. was on the phone with tears of joy to congratulate Jason for the Best Director nod that he'd never managed to secure for himself.

"He's never been nominated and he was pretty shook up. He was over the moon and just so, so proud. I never really understood that feeling until now. I had a daughter a year ago, and I didn't know what pride was and I didn't know what fear was until I had my child."

Becoming a dad helped him make Juno, both a departure from and an extension of the worldly cynicism of Thank You For Smoking, which satirized hypocrisy and political correctness about human vices.

"I was directing a birth scene three months after I watched my wife give birth. There's a reason why the third act of Juno is so potent. It's because I was this new father that was really going through the emotions of what all the characters were feeling."

Reitman knew he had to make Juno the moment he read the script by stripper-turned-writer Cody, who managed to make being an accidental teen mom seem both funny and profound.

Like most folks, he was surprised by the film's sleeper success. When it debuted at TIFF last fall, no one seriously thought it would be a major Oscar contender or a box-office powerhouse that has earned more than $100 million and counting.

"I never felt certainty. Last night I went to sleep thinking, `Whatever happens, happens.' It would be wonderful to get nominated for Best Picture and I would try to calm myself knowing the fact that I was going to get a free Nintendo Wii (as a Sundance promotion) today ... I tried to think about that instead of the nominations because you can drive yourself crazy."

He's given a lot of thought as to why Juno made such a big impact when so many other comedies just come and go.

"I think it has to do with a couple things. One, it's a great screenplay and it has great performances in it. Two, it came out at a time when there is all this dark material out there, heavy-duty dramas that are often about things that we actually have no personal experience with.

"Whereas Juno is a film that speaks to people who reacted to it for the same reason that I did. It deals with an idea that we can all understand: What is the moment that you decide to grow up?"

Part of growing up is realizing what helped you get there. And Jason Reitman knows one thing he'd really like to do: help his dad get some sort of recognition for his own huge contribution to cinema – and also to Canadian culture.

"You know what he needs?" Reitman says. "This is what he doesn't have; he doesn't have the Order of Canada.

"Yeah, seriously. He needs a pin! I want a pin for him. That's cooler than an Oscar. You can't wear an Oscar. But you wear the Order of Canada pin everyday. I remember I was at a thing in Denver once and I see a guy across the room with a pin and I'm like, `Ah, it's Norman Jewison!' I knew, because of the pin. All the way across the room. That pin is cool."

Jason Reitman now has the clout to make that pin for his dad happen. He could casually mention it at the Canuck Oscar nominees' luncheon at the Canadian Consulate General in Los Angeles, to which he's been invited along with Ellen Page.

An honour like that would go a long way to making both Reitman Jr. and Sr. feel like genuine insiders, at least within their own country.

Feist Shines On The Olympic Stage

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Kerry Gold

Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad Countdown Concert
Featuring Feist, Ron Sexsmith, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and others At the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver on Tuesday

(February 14, 2008) It might have been the night to kick off the two-year countdown to the 2010 Olympics, but for most of the sold-out crowd at the Vancouver Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday, it was all about the headliner with the signature voice:

The Calgary-raised indie pop singer entered to a roar of applause and finished with an extended standing ovation from the crowd of about 2,700. A sure sign of Grammy-nominated Feist's draw power were the empty seats that filled only when she appeared, 2½ hours into the nearly four-hour show.

It wasn't the first Olympic event for Feist - as a child, she performed in the 1988 Calgary Olympics with 1,000 other children at the opening ceremonies. Tongue firmly in cheek, she referred to the two years of rehearsals she endured as "a great way to spend your early carefree years," to much audience laughter.

Because it was a night devoted to the Olympics as much as the diverse musical artists on the program, it occasionally had the overly long, disjointed feel of a well-organized variety show. By the time Ontario's master of the melancholy song Ron Sexsmith made it to the stage, a big portion of the audience had cleared out for an impromptu intermission.

It also happened to be a night to celebrate the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, which had just picked up a Grammy. The VSO was a guiding presence throughout the program, which included Sexsmith, Quebec singer and multi-instrumentalist Jorane, Dene folk singer Leela Gilday and Toronto's Suzie McNeil, best known for her big vocal performances on Rock Star: INXS.

The Cultural Olympiad 2008 event started off with the requisite promotional video and words from Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee chief executive officer John Furlong, while Premier Gordon Campbell watched from the audience. Between performances, emcee Ben Mulroney plugged Canadian Idol and provided French translation.

Conductor and pianist Bramwell Tovey played David Foster's Can You Feel It? The tattooed McNeil belted out a song called Believe, rife with the uplifting platitudes so favoured by feel-good events.

Aboriginal music award winner Gilday reminded us of the not-so-beatific Downtown Eastside, with her song Calling All Warriors, dedicated to the women who have gone missing there.

If the universe were just, Sexsmith and Jorane would be superstars by now. The Quebec cellist and pianist has a stunning voice and eccentric songwriting style that melded perfectly with a symphony orchestra. Sexsmith gave his usual stoic delivery with heart-melting vocals, acoustic guitar in hand, and the VSO provided the rush-of-sound on songs such as Gold In Them Hills.

At around 10 p.m., Feist appeared, the new-found Canadian mainstream star. Dressed in head-to-toe white, her black hair framed around her face, she worked through a random sampling of material, including Feel It All, The Park, So Sorry, When I Was a Young Girl, Honey Honey, Sealion and, in a duet with Sexsmith, Brandy Alexander, a song they had written together. She can get the audience going with a couple of guitar notes, then begins the Feist groove - she bobs at the knees, boogies around the stage, appears to wildly enunciate even though you often can't make out the foggy words.

If the show had a stiff, corporate feel early on, Feist provided light-hearted relief. She was also full of praise, for the VSO, Sexsmith and her band, which accompanied the orchestra to thrilling effect on her hit song 1234.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Episode Of The Border Turns Actors Into Activists

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb 18, 2008) In a world where children are routinely pressed into service as soldiers and forced to commit atrocities, two actors guest-starring on tonight's episode of The Border come at the issue from perspectives an ocean apart.

Bayo Akinfemi, 38, who came to Canada as a refugee from Nigeria, said the issue of child soldiers is one all Canadians need to understand better.

Isaiah Grant, a life-long Hamilton native, said playing a part in The Border opened his eyes to the ongoing genocide in Sudan and the role thousands of child soldiers play in the conflict.

"It took a lot out of me. I remember auditioning and leaving there, I was shaking," said Grant, 17, of his first television role.

"It was very important for me to do (the role) justice and not let them down because I know there's child soldiers that have emigrated to Canada. I felt that I couldn't go in there and just read lines and act like it was nothing. I had to dig deep," Grant said.

The episode, "Family Values" (which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC), begins when a Hollywood star (reminiscent of Angelina Jolie), who adopts a war orphan from Darfur (played by Grant), comes to Canada to attend an international conference on the issue.

In hot pursuit is a Sudanese commander (played by Akinfemi), claiming to be the boy's father but more intent on preventing him from providing key evidence against the country's warlords.

To Akinfemi, who fled from Nigeria because as a political activist his life was in danger, these young soldiers are held in thrall to their commanders in a way that's both diabolical and understandable. "The psyches of these kids are so eroded that they see (my character) as a father, even though he makes them do all these unspeakable things. He's the only father figure that they know," Akinfemi said.

After landing the part, Grant said he began researching the issue of child soldiers and the situation in Darfur, including harrowing first-person accounts from the children themselves. He used that material as an "inner monologue" during his portrayal.

Grant is also organizing a daylong event at his high school slated for May, called "Culture Shock," to increase public awareness.

The episode has also changed his perspective about the usual teenage things, like brand-name sneakers.

"Buying clothes with these nice name brands, it's not important to me any more. It's not important at all," he said.

The UN, which has appointed a special representative on the issue of children and armed conflict, has estimated thousands of children are recruited as soldiers every year, naming 13 countries across the globe, seven in Africa, that are of particular concern. A UN report last month noted that 60 per cent of the victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo are between the ages of 11 and 17.

Akinfemi said his knowledge of the issue made appearing in the episode particularly important.

"I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, when I learned I got the part. When I read the episode, I'm like, `Oh, I've got to do this, I've got to do this,'" said Akinfemi, who previously starred in the CBC miniseries Human Cargo, which also dealt with the issue of child soldiers as well as refugee smuggling.

And while Akinfemi still struggles in Canada to find roles as an actor and supplements his income with odd jobs, he sees a lesson for his own two children and students he teaches part-time at the Toronto Film School.

"Look at the horrors that these kids from Africa and ... from all these war-ravaged countries, look at the horrors they have to deal with," Akinfemi said.

"You see it on TV all the time. These are realities and ... I look at my kids and it's like, `You have no clue how good you've got it,'" said Akinfemi, who has become a Canadian citizen.


Exciting Trips For Solos In New Year

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

(January 05, 2008) Whether your New Year's resolution is to escape the cold, to socialize, sightsee or simply rejuvenate, there's a diverse assortment of vacation options for the solo traveller.

Singles Travel International has more than 30 trips for 2008, including a singles Baja Weekend Getaway Cruise for the 30s to 40s aboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. Trip leaves from Los Angeles and runs from Feb. 29 to March 3. Prices start at $339 with a single supplement of $170. Benefits include a welcome aboard party, a happy hour club, singles-only seating, singles-only land tours, a singles farewell party and a visit to Ensenada, Mexico.

If cruising isn't your style, the same company has all-ages Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Iguassu Falls trip from Feb. 17 to 24, which includes seven nights four-star accommodation, sightseeing, tango and more. Prices start at $1,759 for a shared room and $2,499 for a single. Additional charges include airport transfers, certain activities and flights. For more info: www.singlestravelintl.com or call 1-877-765-6874.

Renewal is a key trend for travel in 2008, so if you're looking to add something Zen to your holiday, A Taste of Health presents a Holistic Holiday at Sea from March 30 to April 6 aboard the Costa Fortuna. The cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale and includes specially prepared meals, lectures, yoga, Pilates, meditation classes, cooking classes and other activities. Stops include Puerto Rico, St Maarten, Tortola, and the Turks and Caicos.

Prices for a double start at $1,195. Single occupancy rates are approximately 1 1/2 times the double occupancy rate, though roommate shares may be possible. To inquire about availability and prices call 1-828-749-1959 or visit www.atasteofhealth.org

Longitude 180, a high-end Canadian travel company offers an exclusive path to wellness with its Tahiti Long Well-Being Program in Bora Bora and the Tuamotus. Winter/spring dates are Feb. 22 to March 2 and April 25 to May 4.

This trip includes spa treatments, a private yoga and Reiki Master for the duration of the trip, sightseeing, meditation and a chance to reconnect with nature on the island of Tikehau. Prices without airfare start at $10,350 with a single supplement of $1,500. Check out their other trips at http://longitude180.ca or 905-479-8054.

Kudos to Signature Vacations, which continues to offer special packages for solo travellers. Sample trips include an all-inclusive vacation at Blau Colonial in Cayo Coco, Cuba, that includes flights, airport transfers, single room, meals, water sports and other activities. Many dates are available and prices range from $1,109 (April 25) to $1,689 (March 7) for seven nights plus tax. Other solo offerings include Holguin Cuba and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with no single supplements, though not all dates are available. For information visit signaturevacations.com (under special packages click on singles).

If you want to avoid a solitary Valentine's Day, Meet Market Adventures is offering a Club Getaway Sports & Adventure Valentine singles cruise from Feb 10 to Feb 17 from $729, airfare not included. With dance classes, daily deck parties, golf lessons, ping-pong tournaments, cooking classes, wine tastings and more, you should find something to keep yourself occupied. If not, try the excursions in San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island, Casa de Campo and Nassau. The downside? Single rooms are 100 per cent of the double occupancy rate, but sharing is available. Call 1-866-907-4006 or go to www.meetmarketadventures.com

For some female bonding, the Ultimate Girls Getaway provides an escape to Bermuda from April 10 to 13 with an eclectic assortment of speakers including Canada's own Dini Petty; author Lisa Earle McLeod; and Natalie Smith-Blakeslee, medium psychic and pet communicator.

Activities include cooking classes, a Little Black Dress Calypso Party and sightseeing. Program takes place at the chi-chi Fairmont Southampton. Price for a double room is $899 for three nights. Room shares may be available or call for a single supplement rate.

Call 1-888-495-2135, visit www.ultimategirlsgetaway.com or book travel through Merit Travel (905-887-8787.)


Could $5 A Month Save The Music Industry?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(February 20, 2008) The Songwriters Association of Canada proposes a $5 monthly fee on subscribers’ Internet bills that would make it legal to download music and hopefully save the failing music industry.


Sales of CDs are down 20 per cent worldwide and 35 per cent in Canada, compared to 2006.

An estimated 1.6 billion music files are downloaded in Canada each year on "grey-market" peer-to-peer systems, representing $1.6 billion in lost revenue, using the iTunes price model of 99 cents per download.

The total number of purchased downloads in Canada was 38 million in 2005. The ratio of shared to paid downloads is 98:2 (98% shared files vs. 2% purchased downloads).

Virtually every song ever recorded is available through peer-to-peer file-sharing (more than 79 million recordings). Only 3 million songs are available on legal sites.

Sources: Songwriters Association of Canada; Canadian Record Industry Association; PricewaterhouseCoopers LLB


SAC is calling for the creation of the Right to Equitable Remuneration for Music File Sharing, which would make it legal to share music on peer-to-peer networks in exchange for the monthly fee. The fee – amounting to an estimated $500 million to $900 million annually in Canada – would be administered by a collective of artists, songwriters, music publishers and record labels. "Monetizing peer-to-peer file-sharing would generate significant new revenue for creators and the music industry," says acting SAC president Eddie Schwartz, "and re-establish revenue levels (for songwriters) that we haven't seen since 2000-2001."


SAC, which represents the interests of Canadian music composers and lyricists, is advancing its radical proposal at a public forum tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Oakham House at Ryerson University. It hopes this will be the first step towards legitimizing peer-to-peer music file-sharing activity in this country – and perhaps eventually all over the world – while compensating music creators at the same time.

For more information go to songwriters.ca, or call 1-866-456-7664.


SAC argues the fee would remove the stigma of illegality from file-sharing and represents exceptional value to the consumer, since it would allow unlimited access to the majority of the world's repertoire of recorded music.

The plan renders digital rights management and the legal protection for digital locks, which prevent copying and file-sharing, "obsolete," Schwartz says. "The simple truth is that there's no way anyone can stop free file-sharing. It's exciting to discover new music and natural to want to share it. File-sharing isn't about the marketplace, it's social activity, a way to seek out like-minded people, and music has always been used that way. The SAC proposal may not be the silver bullet that saves the music industry, but it could be the greatest opportunity independent artists and music consumers have. There are no middlemen, no gatekeepers, no owners of the means of music distribution in this proposal. Consumers can interact directly with the creators of music."


Internet Service Providers may resist adding $5 to customers' monthly bills.

The four major record labels, which have traditionally dominated music distribution, oppose all attempts to establish alternatives or competitors.

The federal government, which will have to be convinced of the merit of the changes in the Copyright Act, is reluctant to intervene in the marketplace unless in the public interest.

Songwriters and authors will have to give up their long-established right to approve or disapprove of the use and means of dissemination of their work. The only right they will have is the right to be paid for peer-to-peer downloads.

Internet users who do not download music – paid or otherwise – will balk at paying an extra $5 a month.

Source: David Fewer, staff counsel with the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law


"I wholeheartedly believe that this model for file-sharing should be embraced in all countries. Let's get it rolling and it can be a template for other performing rights societies throughout the world. With dwindling record sales because of the thievery, this might be the new paradigm of income source for all songwriters."

–musician Randy Bachman

"The Canadian Music Creators Coalition endorses the Songwriters Association of Canada in pushing this proposal forward. We think the Canadian government should be facilitating discussion over the merits of this forward-thinking approach. This is the first progressive proposal we've seen in Canada to address file-sharing ... a made-in-Canada approach to (the issue).'' –Andrew Cash, spokesperson for the organization that monitors legal and policy issues affecting Canadian musicians

"With the Internet I have virtually unlimited access to millions of music files. Amazing, right? Well ... yes and no. I'm a songwriter. Songwriters create ideas. We're inventors. Think about the light bulb and the telephone. People don't mind paying for their telephone and electricity each month, but somehow they think music should be free. The truth is, music has value too. We believe access to online music should remain unlimited. We're just asking that the value of our music be acknowledged and that we be fairly compensated."

–Bryan Adams collaborator Jim Vallance

"I think if there was an ISP tax of some sort, we can say, `All music is now available and able to be downloaded and put in your car and put in your iPod and put it up your ass if you want, and it's $5 on your cable bill.'"

–Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails

South Asian Group Reworks Cohen Classic

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

(February 14, 2008) A Leonard Cohen song reworked as an Indo-jazz tune is drawing new fans to Toronto fusion band autorickshaw.

"It seems to be an entry point into our music," vocalist Suba Sankaran says of the song "Bird on a Wire" and its effect on listeners here and overseas.

"People say, `Leonard Cohen – I've been listening to him for years.'

"I say, `Really? But you live in Bangalore.'"

Last week, autorickshaw received a Juno nomination for Canadian world-music album of the year, So the Journey Goes, which includes the Cohen song. And for the same disc, the quartet is up for an Independent Music Award, an international prize, in the world-fusion category.

"We remain steeped in the traditions of the classical music of India," Sankaran is quick to add. "We don't want to get away from that too much and just become an avant-garde jazz band."

Autorickshaw formed in 2003 when Sankaran, a Toronto native of South Asian heritage, met Ed Hanley, a Toronto anglo-Canadian who had studied North Indian-style tabla drumming for 13 years.

They brought in Rich Brown on bass and Debashis Sinha on percussion – since replaced by Patrick Brown – and named themselves after urban India's motorized three-wheeled taxi, itself a hybrid of tradition and modernity.

They view their music as true Indian-Western fusion.

"You often hear a band doing X and Y fusion when they know a lot about Y but almost nothing about X," Hanley explained recently at a coffee shop with Sankaran.

"So they'll take an X element that is really identifiable – maybe put their guitar through an amp so it sounds like a sitar – but they're really just playing a jazz tune.

"It has nothing to do with Indian music. They've just coloured it."

By contrast, autorickshaw's musicians know Western and Indian classical forms well. In all their work they display true cultural adventurism, their version of "Bird on a Wire" offering a handy example.

They began with a bass line that changed the  3/4 time signature to a seven-beat rhythm, like a slow  7/4, Sankaran says. They also transposed the bass line to the Lydian mode, a Greek scale that includes all the white keys on the piano from F to F.

"(The Lydian mode) has an equivalent in South India – the Kalyani raga," Sankaran says. "So we had the two sides meet.

"We manipulated the melody so we could fit into this particular mode and at the beginning I do these South Indian traditional improvisations, the authentic microtonal inflections."

Autorickshaw plays the first of three scheduled 2008 Lula Lounge concerts next Tuesday, the others slated for May 29 and Sept.25. Tuesday's appearance includes local guests Mark Duggan on percussion and Dylan Bell on keyboards.

Gospel Reggae Singer Omari Making Strides With Help

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(February 14, 2008) *Twenty-eight-year old gospel singer Omari has hit pay dirt with the thought-provoking single, Help which emerged as a hit last year. The accompanying music video for the track continues to enjoy steady rotation on RETV, Music Plus, Tempo, BETJ and Sky TV in the UK.

"The idea for Help came about at a time when I was in a state of depression. I was pretty much lost and I used to think I could never become anything in life without holding on to others," Omari said in a recent interview. He added "I was driving by Riverton City dump one day and the idea for the song started to materialise. The song is like an autobiography based on what I have experienced."

Omari, whose real name is Andrew Edwards, grew up in Mandeville and attended Manchester High School.

"Music has always been a passion for me ever since I was in high school. I actually wanted to become a secular artiste but I got saved just as I was about to leave high school and the gospel route was what I decided to pursue," Omari revealed.

His first recording was the Danny Browne-produced single Joy to the World and later recorded How We Celebrate Christmas.

"I was in a group called Rappers for Christ from 1997 to around 2001. I decided to go the solo route so I hooked up with Danny Browne from Main Street," said Omari.

Omari was once the road manager for gospel deejay Prodigal Son. After Prodigal Son relocated overseas for a short while, Omari said he felt his world was crumbling. "I didn't know what else to do and things were falling apart for me. But eventually I overcame the hurdles and soldiered on," he said.

Since the success of Help, Omari's life has seen a drastic turnaround. He is now in demand for gospel shows both locally and in the Caribbean. He has also been getting attention from the local media. "The song has really done a lot for me and opened up some doors that were not readily available to me before. But the one thing that I have always wanted was for the song to make it beyond the gospel arena. Help is really a cry for Jamaica and what people are experiencing," he said.

Omari's star has been shining over the last few weeks. He recently won awards for Best Male Vocalist and Best Video for Help in the Mega Jamz Gospel awards. Additionally, he picked up three nominations in the inaugural Reggae Academy Awards. He has been nominated in the categories Best Video and Best Gospel Song for Help, and Best Gospel Male Vocalist.

"I am really grateful for the recognition and I give all praises to the Father above," Omari commented.

Omari's follow-up single is titled Speak Life. The accompanying music video is currently in the pipeline. His debut solo album is expected to be released this summer.

Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff: Legendary Soul Hitmakers Impressed By New Breed - Part I

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

(February 18, 2008) "The way me and Gamble worked in the ‘70s – I wouldn’t say we couldn’t do it, but
the energy wouldn’t allow us to do it [now]. I’m not going to get trapped in that illusion. I’ll mess around and have a heart attack." -- Leon Huff

*There are very few hitmakers that have the clout and legendary masterpiece catalogue as the music duo of
Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, aptly known as Gamble & Huff.

The two music maestros are the men behind such hits as Lou Rawls’ “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” Teddy Pendergrass’ “Turn Off the Lights,” The O’Jays’ “Darling, Darling Baby,” and so many, many more, bringing Philadelphia soul music to the world.

In 1971, the duo formed Philadelphia International Records (PIR) and cut a major deal with the largest label at that time, CBS Records and its president Clive Davis. Now, the two have scored a major agreement with mega label Sony/BMG.

“We’ve just signed a deal and we’re re-releasing all of our catalogue,” Gamble told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “We have a licensing arrangement. We’re releasing product, but we haven’t any new product. We have a tremendous catalogue and that’s what we’ve been working on.”

The thought of the music legends simply re-releasing their classics may not sit well with some fans; both Gamble and Huff explain that this is merely the process and path of legendary music.

“It’s a traditional process. It’s what all the big music labels do every ten years,” Huff said, continuing that the duo may be inspired to do some new music, too. “If something special comes along that would spark our creative activities, we would consider it. We pick and choose. We don’t have that energy that we had in the ‘70s. We can’t just pick any person that sings.”

Huff reminisced on his days in the studio with partner Gamble. At times they spent entire days and nights churning out hit songs.

“We worked seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day,” he said “We’re not trying to compete with the hip-hop guys and all that, but if there is an artist that really excites us, then we’ll get involved with it. At this time, we’d like to set our music for TV programs and movies and commercials and everything you can think of.”

Gamble revealed that there are a few current artists that have piqued his ears, including American Idol Fantasia, but that the two don’t have any current plans to pursue new projects.

“I think she’s a great artist,” he said of the singer. “There’s a couple of other ones out there, but that’s a lot for us right now, and the industry is not what it used to be. The music is different.”

Huff reiterated the fact that the industry has made some changes and that the hit team has, too; one being to just slow down, enjoy life, and get more rest than they did in their heyday in the ’60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

“Music comes in all different forms – in business, too,” Huff added. “The way me and Gamble worked in the ‘70s – I wouldn’t say we couldn’t do it, but the energy wouldn’t allow us to do it [now]. I’m not going to get trapped in that illusion. I’ll mess around and have a heart attack. When me and Gamble worked it was a lot of intensity; a lot of energy. I’m not going to stay up ‘til 4 o’clock in the morning. That’s what we did.”

After all that work to create songs, their hits are now going to work for them. Gamble & Huff classics have resurfaced quite often in many different formats – television shows, movies, commercials.

“I think it’s just as rewarding,” Gamble said of comparing producing the hits with having them be a part of productions. “For example, you take the Donald Trump ‘Apprentice’ show; ‘For the Love of Money’ has been the theme song for that for seven seasons. You got the Coors beer commercial, ‘The Love Train’ had been on that, you got ‘The Rubber Band Man.’ You got so many songs from our catalogue that were able to transition themselves.”

What also might surprise fans is the duo’s complete respect for artists that sample their music. While some music legends snub the mixing and sampling of classic hits, Gamble and Huff are quite impressed by it.

“What it does is keeps the catalogue going,” Gamble said. “It’s probably one of the most sampled catalogues in the industry; probably us and James Brown. We’re pretty close behind him, with some of the major artists sampling a lot of our music and it brings our music to a new generation.”

Gamble and Huff expressed how thrilled they are with the work of a number of hip-hop stars who have used their music in contemporary hits, such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and Ghostface, just to name a few.

“It’s very clever how they use those tracks and apply their version of those grooves,” he continued. “They’re not making records, they’re just making beats. It’s very interesting to see how they take the original records and speed them up or slow them down. And they’ve really done well.”

“After the era of Motown and the era of live musicians, there had to be something very powerful to come along – and here came the machines,’ Huff added. “These young boys, most of them weren’t musicians, but they knew how to work those new machines and they became genius.”

“Every generation has its own music,” Gamble continued. “They take it to the next level. The old way how we made music is still great. This is just different.”

For more on legendary songwriters Gamble & Huff, and to check out their catalogue, go to www.gamble-huffmusic.com.

Twice The Badu

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Hillary Crosley, N.Y.

(February 08, 2008) In her decade-plus career,
Erykah Badu hasn't been afraid to wait long periods between projects. But now Badu is making up for lost time.

Five years on from her last release, the "Worldwide Underground" EP, she is putting the finishing touches on "Nu AmErykah," a double-album to be released in separate instalments.

The first disc, dubbed "4th World War," arrives Feb. 26 via Universal Motown, while the second, currently untitled instalment is tentatively slated for the summer.

The Dallas native has posted impressive sales. Her 1997 debut, "Baduizm," has sold 2.6 million units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. A live album released that year shifted another 1.8 million, while 2000's funky "Mama's Gun" is at 1.3 million. 2003's "Worldwide Underground" topped out at 609,000 copies.

Since then, she's made the occasional in-studio appearance (2002's "Brown Sugar" soundtrack, Zap Mama's "Bandi Bandi"), but has spent most of her time on the road.

"Artists don't make any money from recording," Badu says. "The only thing I make money from is touring. I stay on the road. I'm taking R&B where it's going."

Where Badu is going now is "Nu AmErykah," which she says "is the next place I am in my mind. It's what I hear and create when I get in front of a board." The happy first single, "Honey," which soars 52-34 this week on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, was produced by 9th Wonder.

On "The Healer," Badu talks about how "hip-hop is bigger than religion" in an elevated whisper. "Love" begins the second disc, which is full of romantic, uptempo jams. Kareem Riggins, the late J Dilla, Sa-Ra's Shafiq Husayn, Madlib and newcomer Taroc also contribute to the collection.

"Honey" is playing before films at national indie theatres across the country, while the psychedelic "Nu AmErykah" cover art is gracing coffee cup sleeves at an array of outlets.

"There's a core fan base of African-American males and females," Universal executive VP of urban marketing and artist development Shanti Das says. "But Erykah's grown so much that we want to make sure that we're marketing to new audiences like trendy hipsters as well."

To that end, the label hired marketing firm Giant Step to reach Badu's 25-plus urban fan base, as well as gay lifestyle marketing company Blue Streak. Universal is also employing the burgeoning USB stick technology for "Nu AmErykah," with Das claiming Badu is the first urban artist to utilize it. Fans who purchase the album in this format can access exclusive videos and Web content (including a Badu-created photo flipbook) that will be updated monthly.

Online, the "Honey" video premiered Jan. 28 on Yahoo Music, which is airing an all-Badu promotion the week of release. Numerous webisodes will also be available from Badu's Web site (erykahbadu.com).

The artist won't be back on the road in the United States until May, but she will perform on street date at Dallas' House of Blues, with special guests such as Q-Tip and the Roots' ?uestlove.

And in fourth-quarter 2008, Universal hopes to extend Badu's reach with coffee drinkers by releasing a live album, "Loretta Brown," exclusively via Starbucks. Details have yet to be confirmed.

Together Again: Janet Jackson

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Clover Hope, N.Y.

(February 04, 2008) Breezing past a table of talking suits,
Janet Jackson makes her way to the not-entirely-private backroom of New York's Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar, with her chef, Cheo, in tow.

On this brisk January afternoon, a charcoal gray peacoat keeps Janet Jackson cozy and black thigh-high Yves Saint Laurent platform boots keep her chic. As is her custom, she has slimmed down quite stunningly (and rapidly) in time for the release of her 10th studio disc, "Discipline," her first project since defecting to Island Def Jam (IDJ) from Virgin last summer.

"I think a comeback is when you leave and then you . . . come back," Jackson says. "People are always quick to use that word 'comeback,' but I never went anywhere, really."

Arriving Feb. 26, "Discipline," Jackson insists, does not put her in the same camp as Mary J. Blige or Mariah Carey— it's not her "Breakthrough," nor her "Emancipation." But given the commercially disappointing sales of her preceding Virgin sets—2004's "Damita Jo" moved 999,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 2006's "20 Y.O." stalled at 648,000—there was a vanishing act of sorts that warrants all the comeback talk.

"There's a great anticipation for the record," says IDJ chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid, who executive-produced "Discipline" with Jackson. "I feel that there's a welcoming from people in general, whether it be in the radio community or in the media. We would be wrong not to note that there's a different level of excitement going on with Janet right now."

The excitement comes courtesy of her new Rodney Jerkins-produced lead single, "Feedback." After a round of underwhelming singles from her past two albums, the song has been gaining momentum at urban and pop formats, thanks to its robotic bassline and voice-modulated effect tailor-made for the clubs. It debuts this week at No. 37 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart with 44,000 downloads and at No. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100.

If "Feedback" breaks into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, it will be Jackson's first such hit in that region of the chart since 2001's "Someone to Call My Lover" peaked at No. 3.

Heavier on dance tracks than seductive jams (Jackson's other forte), "Discipline" is classic Janet. The title track is one of her typical frisky bedroom cuts, featuring lyrics like, "I need some discipline tonight/I've been very bad" and "Daddy, make me cry."

In addition to production by Jackson's longtime boyfriend Jermaine Dupri, Island's head of urban music, "Discipline" also features tracks by newcomers the-Dream and Tricky Stewart ("Umbrella," "Bed"), Lil Jon, Stargate and songwriters Ne-Yo and Johnta Austin.

With "Discipline," the aim was to innovate without totally reinventing the wheel. "There's so much that I've done, from 'Black Cat' to 'I Get Lonely' to 'That's the Way Love Goes' to 'Together Again.' I have never stuck to one style of music ever," Jackson says. "There are some things that maybe I'll try for right now and some things I'll wait later on to try. It's [about] sticking to who I am. Even lyrically, something that I've experienced or someone that I know has experienced, it has to relate to my life and myself."

Starting her musical career at age 16, Jackson released her first five albums through A&M, including her self-titled 1982 debut and her 1986 breakthrough "Control," on which she first started collaborating with Jam and Lewis. But it wasn't until 1989's "Rhythm Nation 1814" that multiplatinum sales started becoming a norm. For 1993's "janet.," which has sold more than 7 million copies, Jackson relocated to Virgin and revealed a sexier image, with more sensual music to boot. The reinvention yielded her most successful single, "That's the Way Love Goes," which topped the Hot 100 for eight straight weeks. Subsequent albums "The Velvet Rope" and "All for You" each sold more than 3 million units.

While Jackson's record sales have gradually declined through the years, the most drastic dip occurred in the aftermath of her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. This is, of course, another hurdle—perhaps the hurdle—from which Jackson has been struggling to recover.

Though the incident is a bygone, it is still the elephant in every room she enters. Its aftershocks were felt not only in the FCC's crackdown on censorship, but also in her album sales.

Jo" was largely overshadowed by the Super Bowl fiasco. Back when Dupri was president of urban music at the label, he'd expressed sentiments of non-support from the label, which was part of the reason he left once the dust of "20 Y.O." had settled. According to him, the label felt it was the music that was the barrier. "It was described to me that the music wasn't appropriate and that's what was making these outlets or certain places that usually would support her not willing to play the record," Dupri says. "I know better than that. In the music business, you at least get a shot."

But sources close to "20 Y.O." note that since Dupri was president of Virgin's urban department at the time of the album's release, he controlled virtually every aspect of the marketing and promotion of the project. (Virgin did not respond to a request for comment by press time.)

Regardless, in February 2007, when Dupri was appointed to head IDJ's urban music department, Jackson followed close behind. But while Dupri and Reid worked together on "Discipline," Dupri, who executive-produced "Damita Jo" and "20 Y.O.," willingly loosened the reins this time around, although he ended up producing all the vocals for the album.

"It's a crazy role for me, because I want the right things for her as my girl. I also want the right things for her as a label, but I also am the label president," Dupri says. "So, I had to kind of let this be L.A.'s situation, because there's so many different ways I could get caught up in this project. I also wanted her to feel the love from a real record company and a whole bunch of people other than myself giving her the yeses, so I kind of stood back so she could get a vibe of what she used to have when she first signed to Virgin."

Two years ago, Dupri masterminded Mariah Carey's comeback effort, "The Emancipation of Mimi." With Jackson, a similar opportunity presents itself.

Def Jam COO Steve Bartels thinks the key is to reinvigorate Jackson's fan base through an arsenal of diverse urban and crossover records rather than targeting one lane. "Her appeal was to everybody when she was at her height, and I think that the people out there still want that from her," Bartels says. "On the last few albums, something had changed."

I never put pressure on myself," Jackson adds. "It's just, to me, about going in the studio, having fun, enjoy what you're doing and do it to the best of your ability. You have to be happy with the work that you do."

Breaking and Entering - Dolla

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

(February 15, 2008) If the team behind
Roderick "Dolla" Burton is any indication of a promising music career, the Atlanta rapper is well on his way.

The 20-year-old rapper -- who first caught the attention of rapper/producer Akon in 2000 as part of the rap group the Rascals (Dreamworks) -- last year signed a deal with Jive Records via Akon's Konvict Muzik.

As if Akon's assist wasn't enough, Dolla's entry single, "Who the F*ck Is That," features another big-wig, rapper/harmonizer T-Pain, who is also partially responsible for coming up with the song's concept.

"I'm 20-years-old but I look like I'm 17. So when I go out to the club with Akon and T-Pain, people always ask, 'Who's he?'" explains Dolla about the idea behind the DJ Mytek-produced track. "One time T-Pain and I were out, like, four days in a row and he caught wind of it. So, he came up with the hook."

Dolla's promotional single titled "Feelin' Myself," which was released early last year and will appear on "A Dolla and a Dream," is featured on the soundtrack to 2006's dance movie, "Step Up." Other producers on the album include Jazze Pha, Polow Da Don, Julian, Montey and Akon himself. Aside from T-Pain, the set features no guest appearances. "I want everybody to know me and who I am, about my story and my struggle," says Dolla about the decision.

As he alluded, things haven't always been this opportune for Dolla. On the intro to the album, Dolla raps about his father's suicide (which occurred when he was only five years old), being shot last year during an attempted robbery, dealing drugs at a young age, dropping out of high school, getting his GED and his sister's current incarceration. "1125," which references Dolla's birth date, is about his twin sister, who was born with an enlarged heart and died at birth. He also addresses teen pregnancy and the rising number of AIDS-infected inner city-dwellers on "Gon' Be Alright."

Although hardship is a recurrent theme throughout the set, Dolla plans on releasing a more upbeat follow-up track in coming weeks. "Maybe a heartfelt record, a song for the ladies, a street anthem or a club hit," he ponders.

Concurrently, Dolla has a growing modeling career and was recently part of Sean "Diddy" Combs Sean John clothing line ad campaign, among other opportunities. He also runs his own independent label, Gang Entertainment.

"Since 13 years old, I've been taking care of my family financially. Now, I have the potential to be wealthy and successful," says Dolla, who is on a country-wide promotional tour. "Now, all I can do is reminisce about the days when all I actually had was a dollar and a dream."

The Joe Evans Story: Veteran Saxophonist His Life With Music Industry Legends In 'Follow Your Heart'

Source: sheryl@eastwestmedia.net; www.eastwestmedia.net

(February 18, 2008) * Detailing the fascinating career of
Joe Evans, Follow Your Heart, chronicles the nearly thirty years that he spent immersed in one of the most exciting times in African American music history. 

An alto saxophonist who between 1939 and 1965 performed with some of America's greatest musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, Andy Kirk, Billie Holiday, Bill  "Bojangles" Robinson, Lionel Hampton, and Ivory Joe Hunter, Evans warmly recounts his wide range of experience in the music industry. 

Readers will follow Evans from Pensacola, Florida, where he first learned to play, to such exotic destinations as Tel Aviv and Paris, which he visited while on tour with Lionel Hampton. 

Evans also comments on popular New York City venues used for shaping and producing black music, such as the Apollo Theatre, the Savoy, Minton's Playhouse, and the Rhythm Club.

Revealing Evans as a master storyteller, Follow Your Heart describes his stints as a music executive, entrepreneur, and musician. 

Evans provides rich descriptions of jazz, swing and rhythm and blues culture by highlighting his experiences promoting tracks to radio deejays under Ray Charles's Tangerine label and later writing, arranging, and producing hits for the Manhattans and the Pretenders. 

Leading numerous musical ventures that included a publishing company and several labels - Cee Jay Records (with Jack Rags), Revival, and Carnival Records-Evans remained active in the music industry even after he stopped performing regularly.  As one of the few who enjoyed success as both performer and entrepreneur, he offers invaluable insight into race relations within the industry, the development of African American music and society from the 1920's to 1970's, and the music scene of the era.

"It is not often that an author gets to say, 'This is the story I was born to tell,' but in the case of Follow Your Heart, it is an accurate and appropriate statement," says co-author Christopher Brooks.  Brooks first met Joe Evans in the fall of 1994 when he audited his African American music course at Virginia Commonwealth University. Brooks further states: "The story that has emerged is an amazing one and I am deeply honoured to have played a part in its telling! 

A seasoned biographer, Brooks has produced several book-length studies, including Shirley Verrett's best- selling autobiography I Never Walked Alone: The Autobiography of an American Singer.

"I don't know how much time I have left, but I do believe Christopher Brooks and I have given a good representation of my life," says Joe Evans.  "Sometimes I feel I have lived more than one life.  There aren't many people who have had the opportunity to perform with as many celebrated personalities as I have, start their own business, and also live to see many new generations of musicians carry forward a musical tradition that seems destined to continue."

Setting The Standard For Jazz Combos

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

Setting Standards: New York Sessions
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette

(February 19, 2008) Usually a pun isn't a joke simply because it's not funny, but in the case of the new
Keith Jarrett set Setting Standards: New York Sessions, it's not funny because it's true. Consisting of 14 tracks recorded in an extended session at New York's Power Station studios in 1983, these recordings almost single-handedly redefined the notion of what it meant to play a jazz standard.

Originally released as three albums - Standards, Vol.1; Standards, Vol. 2; and Changes - the recordings arrived at a time when many in jazz, both players and listeners, took the term "tradition" to mean "the way things were done before the sixties." Not only was it a reaction against the popularity of fusion, with its electric instruments and rock- or funk-fuelled rhythms, but it was also an attempt to formalize the practice of jazz, so that how to play a standard would be as clearly defined in jazz as how to structure a sonata in classical music.

Jarrett and his collaborators, bassist Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, deftly upended that approach by showing that there was no need to take a conservative approach to seemingly conservative fare. Rather than adhere to the classic combo format, in which a statement of the melody was followed by a well-ordered round of solos and capped by a reprise of the tune, they played with an almost free-form take on the tunes. Each musician played off the other two as much as he played off the tune itself; solos, when they occurred, seemed to happen less because it was the bass player's turn than because it was the right point, in the flow of ideas, for a bass solo.

The three started off with nothing more concrete than the idea that it would be fun to cut an album of "standards" - the sort of show tunes and selections from the great American songbook that Jarrett had cut his teeth on while working as a lounge pianist in Boston in the early 1960s.

Not that there was anything lounge-like in what resulted. God Bless the Child was refitted with a joyous, gospel groove, the harmonies of Never Let Me Go took on an impressionistic sheen, and even the classic bebop changes of All the Things You Are seemed somehow fresh. It was as if decades of cliché had been magically expunged. Even more impressive was the third album, a set of free improvisations that expanded the stream-of-melody ambience of Jarrett's famous solo concerts to the trio format.

Setting Standards is also significant because it marks the 25th anniversary of this trio. Granted, by pop standards, a quarter-century isn't a terribly long time - the Isley Brothers, for example, have been recording in one form or another for nearly twice that time - but it's an eternity by jazz standards (pun intended).

Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette have remained a working band since the New York sessions; in fact, they made the Canadian jazz-festival rounds just last summer. But their continued productivity only makes the age of their recent recordings more puzzling. Their last two releases, 2007's My Foolish Heart and 2004's The Out-of-Towners, were actually recorded in 2001. Their most current recording is 2003's Up For It, which was cut the year before.

While it's great to celebrate this trio's legacy and endurance with a reissue, it would be even more exciting to hear something new. How about it, ECM?

Concord Records to Release Sergio Mendes’ New Album, Encanto

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(February 19, 2008) On April 7th, 2008, Concord Records will release
Encanto (Enchantment), the newest record from the legendary Brazilian musician Sergio MendesEncanto is the follow-up to 2006’s highly acclaimed collaboration with will.i.am called Timeless.  On it, Sergio takes us even deeper into Brazil recording all the basic tracks in Rio and Bahia, finishing up in Los Angeles.  Mendes enlists several guest musicians from all over the world including Latin superstar Juanes from Colombia, multi-talented Carlinhos Brown and Vanessa da Mata from Brazil, the foremost Japanese pop group, Dreams Come True, Belgium’s Zap Mama and Italian rapper Jovanotti, as well as American stars like Fergie, Ledisi, Natalie Cole, Herb Alpert and his wife, original Brasil ’66 singer, Lani Hall.

Encanto is classic Sergio Mendes, highlighting the maestro’s ear for enticing melodies and contagious rhythms. On the new album, Mendes recorded four seminal Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions:  a hip-hop version of "Agua De Beber" with Toninho Horta on guitar, Mendes' wife and longtime vocalist Gracinha Leporace, and the man himself showcasing his instrumental chops on a bewitching Rhodes piano solo; "Waters of March," which is features 2006 GRAMMY nominee Ledisi and is also reprised in French by Afro-European vocal ensemble Zap Mama; "Somewhere In The Hills," with vocals by none other than Natalie Cole; and "Dreamer," which marks the first time that former mentor Herb Alpert joined Sergio on record.

 Perhaps the boldest cover on Encanto is a new version of Burt Bacharach's "The Look Of Love," which Mendes had originally transposed to bossa nova heaven in 1967.  This new interpretation, produced by Black Eye Pea will.i.am, preserves the alluring melody of the original while bringing the song into the new millennium with crisp drum programming and a sexy rap by Fergie. 

“It’s extremely exciting for all of us at Concord to be associated with someone with such timeless appeal and unique musical style as Sergio Mendes,” says John Burk, Executive VP of A&R at Concord Music Group.

"Every time I make a new record, it’s a new adventure,” says Mendes.  “My main motivation is to record wonderful songs.  In the process, I enjoy sharing with the world the diversity of Brazilian music-- both in terms of rhythm and melody."  Mendes, who lived in Brazil during the historic era between the late '50s and the early '60s when the samba-based bossa nova was born, was one the first practitioners of the new genre.  Mendes established his legend by taking several albums and singles, such as “Brasil 66,” “Mas Que Nada” and his most successful hit, “The Look of Love,” to the top of the pop charts throughout the mid 1960s to the late 1970s.

Track listing:
The Look of Love – featuring Fergie
Funky Bahia – featuring will.i.am & Siedah Garrett
Waters of March – featuring Ledisi
Odo-Ya – featuring Carlinhos Brown
Somewhere in the Hills (O Morro Nao Tem Vez) – featuring Natalie Cole
Lugar Comum – featuring Jovanotti
Dreamer – featuring Lani Hall & Herb Alpert
Morning in Rio
Y Vamos Ya (…Let’s Go) – featuring Juanes
Catavento (Catavento e Girassol) – featuring Gracinha Leporace
Acode – featuring Vanessa da Mata
Agua de Beber – featuring will.i.am
Les Eaux de Mars (Waters of March) – featuring Zap Mama
E Vamos La (Let’s Go…) – Portuguese version

Online Bonus Track:
 Lugar Comum (Japanese Version) – featuring Dreams Come True

Chris Botti: Trumpeting Their Similarities

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(February 20, 2008) It's no secret that Chris Botti, who starts an eight-city Canadian tour Wednesday night, is a major Miles Davis fan. Both in interviews and during concerts, the 45-year-old trumpeter is full of praise for Davis's writing, his bands and his recordings.

Ask him to pick out the one element that most drew him to Davis, however, and Botti is momentarily stumped. “Oh, boy!” he says, sighing wistfully. “I could nail it down to five aspects. …

“Really, it's just the sound of his trumpet,” he says finally, over the phone from a San Francisco hotel room. “Like in the opening statement to I Thought About You or in My Funny Valentine, or Flamenco Sketches, or Kind of Blue. It's just that piercing, haunting, devastating, lonely trumpet sound that he had. He'd play a low note, and at the very tail of it, he'd spin ever so slightly a bit of vibrato. You'd hear spit in his horn, or the mute would kind of crack at just the right time. It's flawed, it's beautiful, it's rich, it's dark, it's moving, it's searching, it's all those things that you can roll into an adjective about something good in someone. ...

“I don't know how he did it,” Botti adds. “It's like Al Pacino or Marlon Brando. How do those guys define a role? I just don't know.”

This Davis obsession may seem odd to some jazz fans, given how little the slick, melodic pop jazz of Botti's recordings resembles the questing, audacious, often revolutionary recordings Davis made. Italia, Botti's current album, is full of lush orchestrations and melody-centred arrangements. It also boasts vocal cameos by Andrea Bocelli, Paula Cole and the late Dean Martin – hardly the sort of duet partners Miles would have chosen.

But the two have more in common than a quick comparison of their recordings would suggest.

For one thing, they share a similar concept of trumpet tone, something Botti prefers to explain in terms of vocal styles. “For Broadway singers, their ultimate goal is to project the sound of their voices to the back of the room,” he says. “So they do it with full breath – lots of air, and that vibrato going. They need to have a big presence.”

The vocal approach is completely different, he says, with singers who make their mark in recordings. “Whether it's Frank Sinatra or Joni Mitchell, it's much more intimate, much more personal,” he says. “And playing the trumpet like Miles is much more in line with being a pop singer, with having that kind of immediate, intimate connection.”

Like Davis, Botti plays a Martin trumpet – a 1939 Martin Committee, which he counts as his most valuable possession. (That's not surprising, given that he essentially lives on the road. “Everything I own is in one 74-pound suitcase,” he says. “My tour manager jokes that when people ask him what he does, he says he works with the homeless.”)

But getting a dark, warm sound isn't simply a matter of owning the right horn. After all, Maynard Ferguson, whose bright, brash tone was essentially the polar opposite of Davis's sound, also played a Martin Committee.

Botti has worked long and hard to develop his own sound and bristles when he sees some trumpet players resort to the flugelhorn to get a warmer sound. “It pisses me off when I see a trumpet player take out a flugelhorn, because, really, they're using it to make their trumpet sound darker,” he says. “They don't have a pleasing trumpet sound. So they pull out a flugelhorn on a ballad – it's so clichéd. ...

“There are trumpet players that really have their own identifiable trumpet sound on flugelhorn,” he adds. “For instance, Kenny Wheeler, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Hargrove and Art Farmer for sure. Miles played flugelhorn on a couple records, but it certainly wasn't the thing that made me weep in his playing.”

Perhaps the most surprising thing Davis and Botti have in common is a fondness for the aria Nessun Dorma, from the Puccini opera Turandot.

“Gil Goldstein, who arranged some of the other stuff on the record, had told me that he had a conversation with Gil Evans,” Botti says. Evans, one of the most influential and distinctive arrangers in jazz, worked with Davis on a number of recordings, from the seminal Birth of the Cool sessions to the bestselling Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess albums. Although Davis and Evans hadn't recorded together since the early 1960s, they spoke on several occasions about doing one or more new projects together.

“So Gil Evans told [Goldstein] that Miles was about ready to go back and look at some material, and was fascinated with Nessun Dorma and wanted to record it,” Botti says. “I was like, no way – Miles was going to record that song with Gil Evans? And Gil said, ‘Yeah, that's what they were messing around with.' And I was like, okay, then I'm going to do it!”

Botti describes his Nessun Dorma as a fairly faithful interpretation. “It's the Puccini arrangement, but in a slightly different key – it's a half-step higher than the operatic version is sung,” he says. But it's Botti's tonal concept that makes the most difference. “Hard-core opera singers, like [Placido] Domingo and [Luciano] Pavarotti, they need that vibrato to project their voice, you know, like a Broadway singer,” he says. “With the trumpet, you can take that vibrato out when you need to. I think that gives it a different quality, a slightly more haunting approach than the straight opera version.”

Warming to Canada

One question that springs to mind upon hearing that Chris Botti and his quintet are touring Canada in February is: Hasn't this guy looked at a weather report?

“You know, the very first big tour I ever did was when I joined Paul Simon's band [in 1990],” he says. “And where did we go? Canada in February. And it was so – Calgary was just crazy cold. But you know what? The fans were great, and that was one of the things we focused on. The weather doesn't make any problem for me at all.”

Botti's Canadian swing begins Wednesday night at Massey Hall in Toronto. He then plays Hamilton Place Theatre in Hamilton Thursday, the Theatre Maisonneuve in Montreal Feb. 22, Casino Regina's Show Lounge in Regina Feb. 23, the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg Feb. 24, the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton Feb. 26, the Jack Singer Hall in Calgary Feb. 27 and The Centre in Vancouver on Feb. 29.


Venezuelan wins $50,000 Glenn Gould Prize

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 14, 2008) Venezuelan musician Jose Antonio Abreu has won the $50,000 Glenn Gould Prize. Abreu, 68, is the founder of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and Venezuela's National Symphony Youth Orchestra. He is also an economist, educator and politician. The award is handed out every three years to a leading figure in music, the arts and communications. People from around the world are eligible for the prize, named for the famed late Canadian pianist. This year's jury included director Anthony Minghella, acclaimed tenor Ben Heppner and pianist Helene Mercier. Previous winners of the award include Andre Previn, Yo-Yo Ma and Oscar Peterson. In addition to $50,000, the winner gets to choose a young musician from anywhere in the world to receive a $10,000 protégé prize.

Big Band Musician, Philip Costa, Dies At 91

Excerpt from www.thestarcom - The Associated Press

(February 16, 2008) NORTH HALEDON, N.J.–Philip C. Costa, a musician who trained at New York's Juilliard School and played behind Frank Sinatra and other giants of the big band era, has died at 91. Costa played saxophone, clarinet and flute. He played in the orchestras of Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey and also was a member of orchestras led by Joe Payne and Les Elgart. In addition to backing Sinatra, he played behind Peggy Lee and other top vocalists in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Born in Italy, Costa came to the U.S. when he was eight years old. He served in the Army in World War II and won an award as a rifleman. Costa died Thursday. He's survived by a daughter, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Common Hosts Lyric-Writing Contest

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2008) *Rapper Common visited MTV's "TRL" yesterday to launch a new contest designed to encourage young people to get tested for HIV.  Titled "A Minute," the contest allows participants to submit lyrics or poems addressing the importance of getting an HIV test.  The winner will have his or her work performed by Common in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) scheduled to premiere on National HIV Testing Day, which is June 27.    "It's important to know your status by getting tested because HIV/AIDS is taking a lot of lives in our community and around the world," said Common. "I had an uncle succumb to HIV, so I've personally felt the impact of the disease. Your lyrics can really have an affect on people's lives and I've seen it happen."    The PSAs are being produced in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, and the Common Ground Foundation and Youth Speaks, a leading non-profit that presents spoken word performances and education and youth development programs throughout the country.   Entries must be submitted by March 27 and can be submitted in text, audio or video form. For more information visit: www.aminutecontest.com or www.itsyoursexlife.com.  

Willie P. Bennett, 57: A '70s Folk Pioneer

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

(Feb 18, 2008) Juno award-winning songwriter Willie P. Bennett, a humble giant in Canada's folk music fraternity whose work spawned the folk-rock supergroup Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, died Friday at his home in Peterborough, Ont., from a heart attack. He was 57. Bennett had suffered a heart attack in May 2007 and was on indefinite leave from his regular, decade-long gig as harmonica and mandolin player in Canadian roots music star Fred Eaglesmith's band, The Flying Squirrels.  His recovery apparently complete, Bennett performed last month in Thunder Bay, Ont., and was planning a solo tour this summer, besides rejoining Eaglesmith. Bennett, who won a 1998 Best Folk Music Recording Juno for the album Heartstrings, was found by his roommate, apparently having collapsed during his morning workout. A revered composer, lyricist and musician, Bennett was in the forefront of the 1970s singer-songwriter boom, along with Stan Rogers, Bruce Cockburn and David Wiffen. Many of his songs have been recorded and are still performed by artists including Prairie Oyster and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson), whose formation was inspired by Bennett's work and their name taken from one of his songs. Bennett's songs are noted for their compassionate humanism, quirky humour and vivid depictions of struggles with addiction and loneliness. Bennett was intending to record a new batch of songs later this year, he told the Star recently, and was anxious to get back to playing. He leaves his mother Margaret, sister Esther, brothers David and Paul, and partner Linda Duemo. Funeral and memorial plans have yet to be announced.

We Remember: Jazz Musician Chris Anderson

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

(February 18, 2008) *Influential jazz pianist
Chris Anderson, who taught or impressed such artists as Herbie Hancock and Charlie Parker, died Feb. 4 in Manhattan from complications of a stroke, reports Variety. He was 81. The self-taught pianist was a Chicago native born with limited vision and brittle bone disease. By age 20 he was completely blind, but steadily employed. He moved to New York in 1961 and worked with Dinah Washington, but within two years, he had broken both his hips. Afterward, he slowed down but remained a guest musician with pianist Barry Harris and drummer Billy Higgins.  A memorial will be held Monday, March 31, at New York's St. Peter's Church (East 54 Street entrance between 3rd and Lexington.)

Africa Unite

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(Palm Pictures/Fontana North)

(February 19, 2008) This doc directed by Stephanie Black (Life & Debt) captures three generations of
Bob Marley's relatives and offspring making their first ever family trip to Ethiopia in 2005 to celebrate the late reggae great's 60th birthday. The film opens with the seven Marley sons (five are singers) taking the stage for the finale of a 12-hour Addis Ababa concert attended by 300,000 people.  Though Marley's classic tunes permeate the 89-minute disc, musical performances (including Angelique Kidjo, Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths) are in the minority. The bulk of the film is footage related to the history of colonialism, Rastafarianism and various Pan-Africanism movements, excerpts from a symposium staged around the celebrations, and interviews exploring the singer's popularity in Africa and his desire to see unity and development throughout the continent.  Voices range from actor Danny Glover to a female Muslim Kenyan rapper who refers to Marley as a "father figure." The gains Marley's children have made with his musical legacy are admirable, but as the entertainers close out the movie singing "Africa Unite," their ability to effect change is questionable, especially since it's unclear whether the profits from the DVD have a charitable destination or will simply go towards fattening the family's overflowing coffers.

Rough Guide to Congo Gold

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(World Music Network)
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 19, 2008) Wendo Kolosoy, now in his 80s, came out of retirement recently and showed he stil has the high, almost yodelling voice that made him one of central Africa's most popular singers through the 1950s. He kicks off this lively album with his first hit, "Marie Louise," from 1949. It proved the precursor to Congolese Rumba, a music characterized by trumpets and saxes, throbbing rhythms, electric guitars and sweet, harmonious voices. Every song here is a nugget. Every artist belongs to the pantheon: Franco, Dr. Nico, le Grand Kalle, Tabu Ley Rochereau and the music's first female star, Mbilia Bel. Top track: Picking a favourite is impossible, but it's interesting to compare Kolosoy's 1949 hit to his 2002 version, recorded with the young Rumbanella Band on the album El Congo: Brazza Kin (Marabi).


Crackdown On Bootlegs Reels Suspects Into Court

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Ingrid Peritz

(February 13, 2008) MONTREAL — To his fans in the pirated film world, the man operating under the alias maVen had skills worthy of a Hollywood filmmaker.

MaVen was reputed to produce quality
bootlegged versions of new-release blockbusters, without the usual glitches. Other illicit "cammers" who recorded movies in darkened theatres captured moviegoers' heads, or even ambient noise, in their copies.

Not maVen. One of his admirers said his pirated movies available through the Internet were among the best - not just in North America, but perhaps the world.

According to police, maVen also happens to be a Montrealer. The RCMP say maVen was the Internet moniker used by Gérémi Adam, a 25-year-old "whiz kid" whose arrest has helped solidify Montreal's reputation as Canada's capital of illicit video recording.

Charged with illegal recording and distributing of pirated films, Mr. Adam failed to show up for his arraignment two weeks ago and was subject to an arrest warrant. Today, he is scheduled to return to court to have the warrant lifted and to answer the charges against him.

Mr. Adam is accused of violating the Copyright Act by distributing counterfeit copies of How to Eat Fried Worms and Invincible.

Mr. Adam has his backers who believe in watching their movies for free, and a small group of them showed up for his failed court date last month. Mr. Adam, reached by phone at an apartment in east-end Montreal this week, criticized the media coverage of his case.

"I don't find it fair," he said.

Even police acknowledge Mr. Adam's skills. Before his arrest in 2006, he was described by the FBI as a big fish in movie pirating, and U.S. authorities had him in their sights as far back as 2004.

"What made Gérémi Adam so important worldwide was that his product was very good," said Staff Sergeant Noël St-Hilaire of the RCMP in Montreal. "He had quality products - and people would come back and ask for his products."

In fact, to keep customers satisfied, Mr. Adam appeared to keep a busy movie-going schedule.

According to an RCMP search warrant, Mr. Adam was observed at several major Montreal-area multiplexes in the weeks before his arrest in September, 2006. On Aug. 25, he was seen at the AMC Forum in downtown Montreal with an open laptop computer on his knees.

After the end of the movie - Disney's Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg - he was allegedly seen shoving some items into his knapsack. Then he was spotted in the bathroom removing objects from beneath his shirt.

Two days later, presto - at precisely 10:22 p.m., a copy of Invincible was posted on the Internet, according to allegations by police that have not been proven in court.

Only three days after that, Mr. Adam was spotted leaving the movie Crank in suburban Laval with a laptop under his arm.

But the curtain dropped on him soon after. On his way out of the AMC Forum after a matinee screening of Hollywoodland, starring Adrien Brody, Mr. Adam was arrested. Police say they found him with a laptop, video camera and USB connector.

He has not been charged in either the Crank or Hollywoodland cases.

Mr. Adam's arrest has focused attention on Montreal, home to 70 per cent of illegally recorded films in Canada last year, according to an industry spokesman. Mr. Adam's case became public soon after another Montreal man, Louis-René Haché, was charged with illegal film recording.

The two men are being prosecuted under two different pieces of legislation. Mr. Haché became the first in Canada to face charges under new anti-pirating legislation enacted last year after lobbying from the United States.

Mr. Adam, however, was prosecuted under the Copyright Act because the tougher law wasn't on the books when he was arrested. Under the older law, prosecutors have to prove Mr. Adam had the intent to distribute an illegally recorded film, something not required under the new legislation.

To critics, Mr. Adam's case shows that copyright protections were adequate to prosecute film piracy in Canada, and Ottawa was needlessly ceding to U.S. pressure by hastily adopting the new law last June.

"The fact we saw charges under the old Copyright Act provides a clear demonstration that we were and are capable of dealing with the issue," said law professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law.

He said that Ottawa "caved" to pressure from the United States, which remains the No. 1 source of film piracy. Prof. Geist criticized Canada's willingness to fast-track its new legislation without piracy data from independent sources. "It sent a really bad message about how laws get made, and the willingness of the Canadian government to cave to U.S. pressure on intellectual property."

The movie industry insists the tougher new Criminal Code provisions have been effective, since prosecutors need only prove that a movie was recorded without consent.

Gary Osmond of the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association says only five movies have been illegally recorded in Canada since Mr. Haché's arrest last October, a precipitous drop. A 20-year-old Calgarian has also since been charged under the new law.

"We're ecstatic about this new law," Mr. Osmond said. "If you look at the numbers, the radical drop is quite amazing. The law, publicity behind the law, and the arrests, gave amazing results."

Mr. Adam faces a maximum $25,000 fine or six months in jail.

Madonna Based Movie On Memories

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geir Moulson, The Associated Press

(February 14, 2008) BERLIN–Madonna recalled her struggle to break into show business yesterday as she presented her first effort as a movie director: Filth and Wisdom, which made its debut at the Berlin film festival.

The singer and Evita actor, who turns 50 this year, follows three young housemates in London who try to finance their dreams while working in unfulfilling jobs.

"One of the themes that I explore in the film is struggle, and if I look back to the beginning of my career I can recall those moments of struggle like it was yesterday," Madonna said at a news conference alongside her cast.

"There are aspects of Holly, Juliette and AK's struggle that I could relate to completely, and I could access that memory and put it into the story," she said.

Ukrainian immigrant AK – played by Gypsy-punk singer Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello – is an aspiring musician, self-styled philosopher and sometime sadomasochistic play-actor, while Juliette (Vicky McClure) works for a lecherous pharmacist while she dreams of going to Africa to help children.

Holly (Holly Weston) is a trained but unsuccessful ballerina who resorts to working as a pole-dancer, and the character who appears to relate most closely to Madonna, who recalled that she grew up wanting to be a dancer.

Madonna remembered "the cold harsh reality when I arrived in New York only to find that there were thousands of girls that wanted to do the same thing, and I wasn't so special after all – that I was never going to be able to pay the rent ... and that I was going to have to do other things to feed myself."

Madonna stayed off the screen in Filth and Wisdom. She said directing gave her a chance to "execute my vision," but conceded there was one drawback. She said there was "one little tiny thing that was missing, that visceral release that you don't have if you're not performing, so it was an adjustment for me to work from my neck up."

Asked what the future holds, Madonna said: "I look forward to making more music and making more films; I'm very excited about both."

Filth and Wisdom started out as a short movie but grew into an 81-minute feature. Madonna said she added scenes and fleshed out the characters after she "fell in love" with them and "decided that I wanted the story to go on more than 20 minutes."

The film's soundtrack is strongly influenced by Hutz, whose band appears and who, Madonna said, "kept turning me on to new music," but it also includes pop moments such as the singer's own Erotica.

Adrien Brody's Romp In The Woods

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(Feb 16, 2008) Adrien Brody just wants to have fun. So what if on this February afternoon, he and Sarah Polley are frantically crashing through some fake midnight woods on the Toronto set of the science-fiction thriller Splice - they play married genetic researchers - searching for a creature they've bred that may be a murderous abomination? Compared with the emotional states Brody usually works in - frozen in grief for The Darjeeling Limited, insane in The Jacket, skeletal for The Pianist, for which he won the 2002 best-actor Oscar - this is a romp.

"I think it's important to remain connected to the more difficult things that people face," he says later in his trailer, gingerly bobbing a tea bag in a cup of scalding water. At 34, Brody is tall and skinny, with basset-hound eyes and a magnificent nose. His voice is as gritty as the concrete of his native Queens, N.Y., and he could convincingly play Ichabod Crane or Frederic Chopin right here and now, without changing his black jeans and boots. "But becoming a character affects me deeply, so I have to choose wisely. If it's a state of mind that is challenging to be in, that's something you have to be prepared to give or you shouldn't embark on that journey."

Brody is prepared to give. While playing the title character in The Pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew who hid alone in the Warsaw ghetto throughout the Holocaust, Brody lost so much weight that he altered his metabolism and fell into "a sadness I couldn't escape," he says. "I had a much greater understanding of the level of suffering that people have endured. And still endure - atrocities, genocides. The loss I felt was so profound. I didn't know how to process it or let go of it."

It had a positive outcome, though. "Overcoming all of that really changed me; it made me" - he pauses for a second - "more of a man," Brody says. "It made me understand a lot about life and appreciate everything. There was a moment after I came back, I was in New York, 2 in the morning, I'd been out for a drink with some friends and I was walking home, and I wanted a slice of pizza. So I went to a pizzeria, I ate a few bites and I almost cried. I felt so grateful to have the ability to have it when I wanted it, to have money in my pocket to afford it. The simple thing of having a slice of pizza that we take for granted - it meant so much to me. I think it's good to feel that way in your 20s. These are things that a lot of people in prior generations have dealt with, but unless you've suffered tremendously, in my generation you're not thinking in those terms."

The Pianist also gave Brody an Oscar-acceptance moment for the record books, when he bent Halle Berry backward in a kiss. "I was just so full. There was so much love in the room. It just felt right. It felt, 'She's in trouble.' " He laughs. "Come on, what else is there to do? It was such a long journey, and the odds were completely against me. (He is the youngest best-actor winner ever, and all four of his fellow nominees were previous Oscar winners.)

"And there was this beautiful woman standing there with my award. I'm not going do some polite little thing on the cheek, come on!" Guys still stop him on the street to say how jealous they are.

So how does an actor this committed do his job and still protect himself? "It's a good question," Brody says. "I never consider protecting myself once I'm playing a role. Emotionally, you have to do the opposite. You have to be vulnerable. You have to not be afraid to incorporate your own ugliness or joy - exacerbate your own sadness with a character's sadness. If I can't feel connected on a pretty deep level, it's not truthful. Why would I expect someone in the audience to believe me if I don't believe me? You have to make it touch you, and sometimes that's not safe."

He credits his parents - his mother is the photographer Sylvia Plachy and his father, Elliot Brody, taught history - with teaching him to be "very aware of moments that live within a moment. My father's an incredibly intelligent and thoughtful man, and my mother is an artist and a deep human being. The beauty of her work as a photographer is that she sees so much within something that is a normal daily occurrence. I view the world in a similar way and perhaps I convey that through my work. And there is something very therapeutic about acting, if you can find worth in your own suffering and share it.

"Of course, not every film is art," he continues. "It's difficult to create magic. But the filmmaking process is creative, and the process of being an actor is an artistic process - if you do the work. Without sounding pretentious, trying to understand, and bring out, and connect to something that's not you, is deep. Maybe art isn't the right word, but it's trying to connect with humanity. Something beyond me and my limitations."

With Splice, however, Brody is "giving myself a rest from that. Even though we live in a time that something like this [genetic experimentation] is not only possible but potentially happening - which makes it extra frightening - it's easier to be playful with this. It's dramatic stuff, and yet fun."

Still, one gets the sense that Brody's idea of fun is more layered than most people's. Asked about making The Darjeeling Limited, writer/director Wes Anderson's tale of three brothers who reconnect after their father's death by journeying through India, Brody pulls up a genuine life-and-death moment.

The cast and crew celebrated Christmas in a remote, impoverished village with a group dinner outdoors atop a colossal rock. "It was such a spiritual place, it felt more moving than most Christmases," Brody remembers. "There were all these lovely children there, tagging along with us, asking questions, playing with their kites. Very simple. After dinner, my girlfriend [the Spanish actress Elsa Pataky] and I rode home in the back of a pickup truck. I was standing on the truck bed, feeling adventurous, looking into her eyes, and a low-hanging power line went under my throat and almost took me out. I literally almost died gazing into her eyes on Christmas. A moment like that, on a day I was also a little more open, that affected me. Because living and embracing life - you never know. You just never know how it will end."

Career highlights

At 29, Adrien Brody became the youngest actor to win the best-actor Academy Award, beating out Oscar veterans Nicolas Cage, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Caine. Since then, his career has taken him from the Warsaw ghetto to remote villages to mysterious islands inhabited by dinosaurs and one giant ape. A look at his more prominent roles:

The Pianist (2002)

Won an Oscar for his portrayal of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew struggling to stay alive in the Warsaw ghetto during the Holocaust.

The Village (2004)

Plays the doomed, lovestruck, mentally challenged character of Noah Percy in M. Night Shyamalan's movie about a population of isolated villagers who have a shaky alliance with mythical creatures that inhabit the forests around them.

King Kong (2005)

Travels to director Peter Jackson's Skull Island as Jack Driscoll, a playwright who falls in love with leading lady Ann Darrow, only to have to rescue her from the clutches of a giant gorilla.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Plays Peter Whitman, one of three Whitman brothers who set off on a train voyage across India in an elaborate bonding exercise that doesn't quite turn out as planned.

GTA Building Has Starring Role In Jumper

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Matt Simmons
, Special To The Star

(Feb 18, 2008) This is a love story.

Not between a man and a woman, or even a man and another man.

This is a love story of one man and his Toronto apartment building.

Since the thriller
Jumper leaped into movie theatres a few days ago (it topped the North American box office this past weekend), sci-fi geeks have finally had a chance to measure how the film holds up against the Steven Gould novel. Others gladly paid to stare at stars Hayden Christensen or Rachel Bilson for 88 minutes.

Ephry Merkur, my 66-year-old father-in-law, wasn't there for the special effects or the eye candy.

"I want to see my building!" he said, excited as a 12-year-old pounding his fist into his new baseball glove.

The adventure started two years ago when the film's director, Doug Liman, pulled up to the structure in The Danforth area and declared quietly, "I like this place." Now it's the feature attraction in the film's climactic scene.

And Ephry, who joined the family real estate business in 1969, is more than happy to step back and let the spotlight shine on his urban Shangri-La.

"My father was a builder and my mother was – is – an artist. I think that's why I see my buildings as paintings.

``They're pieces of artwork to me," he says.

So when a real estate agent brought him to what he now calls "the Jumper building" nearly a decade ago and showed him a patch of dirt filling in for a garden and hallways better suited to a tavern than a residential lowrise, all Ephry saw was a blank canvas in need of the right painter. He bought it, nearly on the spot.

While he is no different from most men who stay far away from decorating decisions at home, Ephry, along with property manager Mike Kowalski, spent months painstakingly choosing stain for the hardwood, colour combinations for the suites and sconces for the walls.

They pored over design plans for the garden, relying on Mike's graphic design training and Ephry's intuition, to transform the Sahara into Eden. Soon, the building experienced a dramatic turnover, attracting urban professionals. Ephry admits, "I'd done what I'd set out to do: I, along with Mike, turned the building into what I imagined it could be in my dreams."

But, like new love, the excitement wore off, replaced by the monotony of perfectly mowed grass and spotless carpeting.

Then Hollywood came knocking and everything old was new again.

"They want to use the building for a movie shoot!" Mike called out to my father-in-law as he walked toward the building on a spring day in 2006.

"Who?" Ephry responded, worried that the paint fumes had finally seeped into Mike's brain.

"Jumper! It's going to be a movie!" Mike threw his arms around his boss, giddy.

"Really?" Ephry said it over and over again, like a wife whose husband has finally noticed she dyed her hair from black to blond – five years ago.

"Yeah, they love the building!"

That's all Ephry needed to hear to be convinced.

"I know it will sound funny to some people, but I love the building. And I love Mike for how much he cares about the building."

But he wasn't willing to just throw open the doors and invite everyone in.

"I was very, very leery of, you know, Hollywood guys," says Ephry, who won't say how much he was paid for use of the building. "The tenants are more important to me then anything, and I wanted everyone to be happy and not feel pushed around at all."

Ephry laughs, not sure that it wasn't the tenants who ended up doing most of the pushing.

"One morning I get a call from a lady in my building," he recalls. "and she tells me that the crew needs her to move her car. So I ask her, `Aren't you leaving for work anyway?' And she says, `Yes, but they don't know that. I want to negotiate!'"

Jumper's plot was still a mystery to Ephry and Mike when they, along with dozens of neighbours and extras, watched in awe one summer night as the crew staged a massive explosion inside one of the apartments. The detonation, which was performed on an exact replica of the building months later, also ignited something inside of Ephry, maybe a second wind.

"The building had just won an award for having one of the most beautiful gardens in East York and then it gets chosen for a big-budget Hollywood movie. I just hope the tenants are as happy to live in the building as I am to own it."

He pauses, then smiles like a teenager in love.

"The movie people sent flowers after they wrapped. Roses. It was a very nice thank you."

Matt Simmons is a writer living in  Toronto.

Canadians Walking Tall In La-La-Land

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(February 19, 2008)  LOS ANGELES - My friend, a writer-director who moved to southern California from Toronto more than 20 years ago, was in a rush. As a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he had to get his ballot to the academy by today, which meant getting it to the post office by 5 p.m. Friday. He had to screen one more movie, The Savages, which he watched on DVD.

But the next night at dinner, nobody was talking about the big Oscar questions, such as whether Julie Christie (Away From Her) would preside over Ellen Page (Juno) for Best Actress – even though one of the seven people at the table was a friend of Christie, and others were neighbours of Juno director Jason Reitman's parents.

Instead there was a lively debate about Obama vs. Clinton. Six of the participants were refugees from Toronto; all were pro-Democrat. Only one, the non-Canadian, had a good word to say about Hillary. And she had a hard time getting a word in as Obama fans made vicious comments about the Clintons.

Which raised the question: will the showdown between Clinton and Obama, each with contingents of Hollywood celebs in their corner, spill over into Oscar night?

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the showbiz capital's African-American community has never been as excited, involved and galvanized in politics as it is now. But in the year when for the first time in its history the U.S. could put an African American in the White House, there's a rather embarrassing shortage of black-skinned Oscar nominees in major categories.

The exception is 83-year-old Ruby Dee in the category of Best Supporting Actress. Dee, who played Denzel Washington's mother in American Gangster, could be an upset winner, though she had only a few brief scenes. The betting favourite is Tilda Swinton, as a corporate attorney in Michael Clayton.

Dee may be an also-ran at the Oscars, but she was a winner last week at the 39th Image Awards handed out by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Along with Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, Dee was given a special tribute.

But Oscar night could revert to the bad old days when all the winning faces seemed to be white. Still, one minority group will strut the red carpet with special pride: next-generation Canadians. Among them: Sarah Polley, Reitman, Page and Josh Raskin (director of the animated short I Met the Walrus).

Reitman is a long shot in a field of heavyweights like the Coen brothers, Julian Schnabel and Paul Thomas Anderson. Polley broke through with her nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay but has little chance of winning.

The Canadian with the best shot is Raskin. His film was financed by Bravo!FACT and Bravo! was recently acquired by CTV. As a result, it will have its world TV premiere on CTV right after the Oscars.

Meanwhile, veteran Canadian director Norman Jewison was given a lifetime achievement prize at Sunday's ACE (American Cinema Editors) Awards.

Taken together, this might mean Canadians can walk taller in L.A. than at any time since Wayne Gretzky miraculously turned the L.A. Kings into winners.


Darrin Dewitt Henson

By Variety Staff

(Feb. 11, 2008)
Darrin Dewitt Henson will sign on to Crystal Sky vidgame adaptation ``Tekken,'' in which he'll play a former military intelligence agent. Henson will next be seen in U's ``The Express,'' opposite Dennis Quaid. His credits include ``Stomp the Yard'' and HBO's ``Life Support.''

Spike Lee Nabs $50,000 Artist Award

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 14, 2008)  *Spike Lee is 50 grand richer after receiving the Wexner Center Foundation's Wexner Prize, which recognizes innovation, quality and integrity among artists. The silver hammer sculpture, along with $50,000, were presented to the 50-year-old filmmaker by Abigail Wexner, wife of Les Wexner, founder, chairman and chief executive of Columbus-based clothing and specialty products retailer Limited Brands Inc, reports the Associated Press.  "Spike Lee exemplifies what the Wexner Prize was created to celebrate: a bold creative spirit who is unafraid to provoke and challenge us. He tests the American mind, and its attitudes, assumptions and values, and in doing so, he has advanced American cinema in remarkable ways," Les Wexner said in a statement. Several of Lee's films, including a "Malcolm X," will be presented at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus this month. His HBO documentary on Hurricane Katrina, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," will screen continuously in the center's video space throughout February.  Lee is the 13th artist to receive the Wexner Prize, which was presented during a ceremony at the Wexner home in the Columbus suburb of New Albany.

Isaac Hayes, John Legend Join 'Soul Men'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 14, 2008) *The cast of "Soul Men" expands with the addition of several new actors – including Isaac Hayes, "Will & Grace" vet Sean Hayes, singer John Legend and "American Pie's" so-called "MILF" Jennifer Coolidge. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac respectively as Louis and Floyd, two estranged soul singers who reluctantly take a road trip to a reunion show at the Apollo Theater in honour of their newly-deceased third member, who will be played by John Legend.  Isaac Hayes, who voiced the character Chef in Comedy Central's "South Park," will play himself in "Soul Men," while Coolidge has been cast as the love interest of Mac's character. Sean Hayes plays the band's obnoxious manager.  Jackie Long has also joined the film, along with Affion Crockett, Adam Herschman and Fatso Fasano. As previously reported, Sharon Leal signed on to play Louis' daughter Cleo, who joins him and Floyd on their road trip and eventually becomes a singer for the band. The film will be directed by Malcolm Lee ("Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins") and is scheduled for release on Oct. 10 via MGM/Dimension.

Rashida Jones Books Two New Film Roles

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2008) *Rashida Jones has scored the female lead in the upcoming DreamWorks comedy "I Love You, Man," and has also picked up a supporting role opposite Renee Zellweger in the forthcoming feature, "Chilled in Miami." In "I Love You, Man," Jones, the daughter of music mogul Quincy Jones, will star as the fiancée of a man who seeks out a stranger to be the best man at their wedding. Paul Rudd will play the groom in the John Hamburg-directed comedy, which is scheduled to begin shooting in early April.   In "Chilled," Jones will play the best friend of Zellweger's character, a Miami businesswoman who is transferred to rural Minnesota and re-evaluates her big-city values. The film also stars singer Harry Connick Jr.  On the small screen, Jones will star on Fox's upcoming half-hour comedy "Unhitched," from the Farrelly brothers. She was previously seen on the NBC comedy "The Office."

Sarah Polley To Receive Jutra Award At Genies Gala

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 19, 2008) Sarah Polley, who is up for a screenwriting Oscar this weekend for her directorial debut "Away From Her," will be feted next month at the Genie Awards. Polley will receive the Claude Jutra Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a first-time director. "Away From Her," starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, is nominated for 12 Genies. The awards gala is set for March 3. The Jutra prize was established in 1993 and is named after the late Quebec director, Claude Jutra. Polley's Academy Award nomination is in the category of best adapted screenplay.

Leon Returns To Stage And Screen

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 19, 2008) *Actor/singer
Leon has a busy February that includes his current role in the touring stage play "3 Ways to Get a Husband," the upcoming release of his film "Cover" and a gig with his reggae/soul band.   In Je’Caryous Johnson’s play “3 Ways to Get a Husband,” Leon stars as Devon Warren, a soldier returning from Iraq who must now fight for the heart of the girlfriend at home. His co-stars are Billy Dee Williams, Shirley Murdock and Lenny Williams. The tour includes such cities as Newark, NJ; Dallas, Texas; Providence, RI; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; and Washington, D.C. Tickets are available through TicketMaster or via www.imreadyproductions.com which list all the dates and venues.  Leon also stars in the 20th Century Fox murder mystery “Cover." Due Feb. 22, the film deal with the subject of “down low” brothers and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Co-stars include Vivica A. Fox, Louis Gossett Jr., Paul Jai Parker, and Anjenue Ellis with Bill Duke as director.    Leon also continues to perform with his reggae/soul band "Leon and The Peoples" www.LeonandThePeoples.net, which has recently received a 2007 International Reggae and World music award for their debut CD "The Road Less Traveled." The band will perform Saturday (Feb. 23) at 10 p.m. at Rebel (351 West 30th St. NY) for the official afterparty for "3 Ways to Get a Husband."


Latest Entry Into Chick TV

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

(February 13, 2008) Toronto — Anyone mourning the absence of Sex and The City on the TV dial will have a new best friend forever in CosmoTV, a specialty channel based on the iconic Cosmopolitan magazine and inspired by its focus on love and sex.

Canada's CosmoTV, a collaboration between Corus Entertainment and Hearst Corp., the magazine's publisher, is launching Thursday night — Valentine's Day, for those who pay attention to such Hallmark mega-events.

It's the first English-language version of the channel in the world, and it bills itself as offering “fun, flirty and irreverent entertainment for women.”

But with its focus on men — meeting them, landing them, sexually satisfying them, keeping them carnally enthralled, convincing them to commit, ensuring they'll never stray — CosmoTV makes the Sex and the City girls seem utterly indifferent to the opposite sex.

Like its magazine inspiration, many of the offerings on the channel are focused on the pursuit of men in ways that seem a startling throwback to another era. Have women really travelled such short distances over the years? Is snagging a man really consuming women to this extent?

Josie Dye, the 29-year-old host of the channel's flagship show, Oh So Cosmo, is unapologetic about the landing-a-man focus of CosmoTV.

“I don't care how smart of a woman you are, I don't care if you have a law degree or if you're a doctor — eventually people want to fall in love because that's what life is all about. And Cosmo just helps you do it in a fun way.”

One of the first items on her news magazine-style show, in fact, is about good places to meet men in Canada, Dye says as she gets her hair styled at a west-end salon amid a blustery winter blizzard.

“My first story is about picking up men in Canada — here are great places you can go to actually meet men,” Dye says.

“The show is really just like Cosmo magazine. I do different quizzes about things like food in the bedroom, body language, and trying to figure out a man and what it means, for example, when he's looking above your head while he's talking to you. And it works. All that stuff works. Now I pay attention to a man and if he's looking over my head, I know he's lying.”

If that's not Carrie Bradshaw enough for viewers, uncut Sex and the City marathons will be a staple of the channel, as will shows like Dirty Cows, a British show hosted by English blueblood Tara Palmer-Tomkinson that features a group of beautiful girls vying to be the girlfriend of a wealthy Cornish farmer.

Almost refreshing in their departure from the man chase are shows like “Abbey and Janice,” a six-part series about “Britain's Next Top Model” winner Abbie Clancy and her attempt to break her into the American modelling world with the help of the irascible Janice Dickinson, and “The Agency,” a series that follows bookers from the top-flight Wilhelmina modelling agency.

There are also reruns of some female-centric shows like Felicity and Veronica Mars and movies that include '80s classics like Pretty in Pink, Say Anything and Flashdance.

Dye, who's also a deejay at Toronto radio station 102.1 The Edge,

insists that CosmoTV has something for every woman.

“The typical Cosmo girl has a life. The Cosmo Girl loves issues, she loves to talk about Canadian politics and environmental issues — those are the Cosmo girl's issues. But who's going to say they don't talk about men? Young women do,” she says.

“I am working two jobs right now and I'm hoping to have an incredible career, but at the same time, I'm not going to lie to anybody — I talk about sex on Friday, Saturday nights and on Monday, Tuesday nights as well. When you're hanging out with your girlfriends and there's martinis around, the one thing we do is talk about guys. It's fun, it's fearless.”

Dexter 'S Writer Talks Of Cable Hit As It Makes Its Network Debut

Excerpt from www.thestarcom - Rob Salem, TV Columnist

(February 17, 2008) Many millions of people across North America will be glued to the tube tonight for the unlikely and unexpected broadcast premiere of Dexter, 10 p.m. on CBS and CTV.

For most, it's piqued curiosity – they've heard so much about cable's hottest hit, the show that has done for Showtime what The Sopranos did for HBO, that they're anxious to see for themselves what all the fuss is about. And how any series centred on a serial-killing sociopath could possibly elicit such effusive loyalty and praise.

On cable, let alone prime time.

For a small but vocal minority, it's outrage: How dare a major American (or Canadian) network expose the public to such blatant exploitation of death and dismemberment – and on a Sunday night, no less?

And then there are the rest of us, the Dexter fan faithful, who are anxious to see how our mild-mannered maniac will survive the transition to this shorter (10 to 15 minutes, allowing for commercials) and far more restrictive venue (mostly profanity, a little sex, but no more gore than you'll see on the average CSI).

And then there's Daniel Cerone.

"Absolutely I'll be watching!" he enthuses over the phone. "It's like a child, something you love, that you were involved in the creation of ... You want to see it do well out there."

Odd things to be saying about a vicious, violent vigilante – even one as deceptively charismatic as Dexter, portrayed by the incredibly gifted, astoundingly versatile Michael C. Hall of Six Feet Under.

But in Cerone's case, entirely apt.

Brought in as a writer in the show's first season, Cerone – a dual citizen by marriage to London, Ont., actress Lisa Howard (Earth: Final Conflict) – took over as executive producer on Dexter's second, and somehow even superior, season.

Yet he was as surprised as anyone when a strike-starved CBS announced plans to air a cleaned-up Dexter in network prime time.

"I've had nothing to do with any of the cutting of the show," he says – adding that, unlike The Sopranos, which shot alternative toned-down takes of every scene for later network broadcast, the idea of Dexter ever airing elsewhere was just too absurd to even contemplate.

"If you went in and pitched Dexter to one of the big networks, I don't think there's any chance you would get it on the air, but right now there's a need for programming ...

"I actually think it would be really great for television if Dexter is successful. There could be a great opportunity here, because if it does well, I think it could open the door for a lot more edgy, darker programming on the networks. I'm dying to see what it looks like. I mean obviously, I'm hoping for the best."

And not just because network residuals are much higher than those paid by cable.

Cerone's second season was also his last – having accomplished what he set out to on Dexter, he is anxious to take advantage of a two-year development deal with ABC to start up a show of his own.

"I had a lot of character ideas and story ideas that I wanted to play out, and we had an incredible writing team," he says. "I just think it's a good time for someone else to step in with some fresh thoughts."

Just as he did two years ago, when the former TV reporter for the L.A. Times stepped up another rung on the industry ladder after two years as a writer on the Vancouver-shot First Wave, and another four as writer/producer on Charmed, and the quickly cancelled Clubhouse.

"As soon as I read the script for the Dexter pilot, I was like, `I gotta get on that show!'," he fondly recalls. "I came on as a co-producer, and they needed someone to take over the story department, which was handed to me ... it was great."

That being said, he first had to give the job some careful consideration.

"When I got the offer," he says, "I spent two nights in bed with my wife, talking about whether I could really could take on a show that was arguably glorifying and humanizing a serial killer.

"Ultimately, I decided that I'd really try to explore that moral territory, that whole notion of right and wrong, and what it feels like to kill, and the sacrifices that you make when you choose to take someone else's life."

Obituary: David Groh, 68

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(February 14, 2008) LOS ANGELES — David Groh, the handsome, hardworking character actor who was best known to television viewers as the easygoing man Rhoda Morgenstern married and divorced during the run of Valerie Harper's hit 1970s sitcom “Rhoda,” has died. He was 68.

Groh died Tuesday of kidney cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his sister-in-law Catherine Mullally said on Thursday. Groh's wife, Kristin Andersen, was by his side.

Divorce was not a subject generally addressed on television in the 1970s, and when Groh's character, Joe Gerard, and Harper's Rhoda Morgenstern split up during the show's third season, viewers were stunned. Their marriage had resulted in one of the show's highest-rated episodes, and when they split people sent them condolence cards.

The show had begun in 1974 as a spinoff from television's hugely popular “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which was set in Minneapolis. “Rhoda” had Harper's character moving back home to New York City, where she met and married Joe.

Groh's stunning good looks and real-life good nature were key to helping him win the part of her TV husband, Harper said Thursday.

“We looked all over and he finally came on the scene,” Harper said. “I read every cute guy of a certain age in Hollywood and he was the one.... I enjoyed very much working with him. He was a lovely, lovely guy.”

Groh, who left the series after the divorce episodes, went on to appear in dozens of TV shows and films, as well as on Broadway, over the next 30 years.

He portrayed the nefarious D.L. Brock on the daytime soap opera “General Hospital” from 1983 to 1985 and had recurring roles on “Baywatch,” “Law & Order” and other shows.

His film credits included “Get Shorty,” “Two Minute Warning” and “Broken Vow,” and he appeared on Broadway in Neil Simon's “Chapter Two” and Jon Tolin's “Twilight of the Golds.”

Groh was born May 21, 1939, in New York City and attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art on a Fulbright scholarship. After a stint in the U.S. army, he returned to New York to study at the Actors Studio.

He appeared in the television shows “Dark Shadows” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” in the 1960s before landing “Rhoda.”

He was written out of the show, Harper said, when the producers decided “Rhoda” worked better with its star as a single woman.

“We all felt very bad about David not continuing,” she said, adding the two remained lifelong friends.

Aside from Andersen, he leaves his son, Spencer Groh, his mother, Mildred, and his sister, Marilyn Mamann.

Doing Damage, With Pleasure

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(Feb 18, 2008) When production of the critically lauded legal drama Damages was stalled by the U.S. writers' strike, actor Tate Donovan busied himself shooting a documentary immersed in the campaign trail of Democrat presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Hanging out with the travelling press, the 44-year-old New Jersey native says was constantly bowled over by the number of notable fans the show has attracted, from the likes of CNN's Wolf Blitzer and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

“The show is a classic whodunit,” says Donovan, who breezed into Toronto last Friday to promote the Canadian debut of Damages on Showcase (starting Monday night). “Basically every week it answers a question. But as soon as it does that, it raises two more. It's addictive. People have to know. It drives them nuts.”

Damages stars five-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, as power-hungry litigator Patty Hewes, who plays to win – unmindful of the casualties. The first of the 13-episodes opens with Hewes hiring ambitious novice lawyer (Rose Byrne) who becomes instrumental in a high-profile battle against billionaire CEO Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson).

Both Danson and Byrne were nominated for best supporting actor Golden Globes (Close won for best actress). Damages – which aired last year in the U.S. on cable network F/X – was also nominated for best program. Donovan plays Tom Shayes, Hewes's legal sidekick, who seems decent and trustworthy, but turns out to be duplicitous and ambitious.

“When I was doing research for the role, I was struck by something [American lawyer/political commentator] Alan Dershowitz once said about lawyers: there are two kinds – one who wants everybody to love them. And the other who couldn't care less, and actually enjoys the adversarial role,” says Donovan, who is of Irish descent and whose first name was his grandmother's maiden name. “My character is one who wants everybody to love him. He smoothes things over, but underneath he's just as ambitious as anyone else. It's just that his style is a little bit warmer than Patty's.”

Donovan likens the moral ambiguity of Damage's key players to the fascinating mix of good and evil in The Sopranos. “Our lead character [Close] is somebody who does real evil on this planet, but you somehow end up rooting for her anyway,” he says. “At its core, the show is about how far you go to get what you want. It's up to the audience to decide if these characters are good or bad. It's been fun for me because most people look at me, and think, oh, he's a good guy. Or he's a nice guy. But then my character will totally betray someone. The audience will hate him, but then they'll forgive him again.”

F/X has ordered a second and third season, which will begin filming in New York this June.

Donovan flits between television and film (including co-producing the documentary about Barack Obama, an ironic proposition since he's previously voted for Bill Clinton and both Clintons have said Damages is one of their favourite shows).

For now, he says he's thrilled the series has been picked up for an additional 26 episodes.

“It's a great cast, with great writing. And I'm glad to be in New York,” says the actor who moved to Los Angeles to study drama at USC more than two decades ago. Formerly engaged to Jennifer Aniston and to Sandra Bullock, Donovan finally settled down and married stylist Corinne Kingsbury two years ago. Theirs was a chance encounter. “I met her in a line to pick up my car in a parking garage. She cut right in front of me and just turned around and said, ‘Shh, don't tell anyone.' I was like, who is this woman? She's very funny.”

Despite a 20-year career in which he's worked pretty much steadily (including a recent role in his friend George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck), Donovan says he's never had that “one big break” to send him into super-famedom. And he's okay with that.

“Maybe this will be it,” he says, smiling. “I've had a career of ‘Oh Thank Goodness' because I've been able to make a living. Because I haven't really been famous for one thing, I've gotten to do theatre, radio plays, voiceovers, TV shows, and big and small films.

“My take on it is, if you can still be in show business after 20 years – and surviving – then you're one lucky human being.”

Vancouver's Gritty Close-Up

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(February 19, 2008) VANCOUVER — When
Dan Rather arrived in Vancouver last fall to do a story about the notoriously troubled Downtown Eastside, he was armed with piles of research provided by journalism students at the University of British Columbia.

“This was not a case where the school lent its name to it and we did most of the work,” Rather said during an interview last week from New York. “[The students] did a lot of the work.”

The result of that collaboration, A Safe Place to Shoot Up, profiles the not-so-photogenic side of Vancouver with visuals you won't see in any tourism brochure or Olympic marketing campaign. Rather greets viewers at the show's opening, “Good evening from beautiful Vancouver, Canada,” but the initial shots of scenic English Bay, the North Shore mountains and sandy beaches quickly give way to scenes from the streets and alleyways of the Downtown Eastside, where syringes litter sidewalks, sex workers await customers and drug addicts shoot up in broad daylight.

Rather calls it “a city of contrasts” in his report, describing “a landscape studded with snow-capped mountains and multimillion-dollar condos cradling a downtown that's home to one of the worst urban blights in North America.” He cites stunning statistics from the United Nations: One in three residents of the Downtown Eastside is HIV-positive, and the rate of hepatitis C infection is 70 per cent.

The plight of the Downtown Eastside is not exactly news to Vancouverites. The area, in fact, is often a first stop for journalists – or journalism students – new to the city, and looking for a good story to tell.

But this time, the story is being fronted by a celebrity journalist and will get international airplay on HDNet, a television network based in Dallas, which also streams already-aired stories online. So Vancouver's reputation as the most liveable city in the world (a title, the story notes, the city has earned repeatedly) may be in for a little tarnishing.

Rather, 76, is a veteran journalist who has covered events ranging from wars and elections to the John F. Kennedy assassination. He joined HDNet in 2006, a year after his bitter departure from long-time employer CBS.

Rather is now suing CBS, arguing the network and its executives made him a scapegoat for a questionable story that aired about President George W. Bush's military service. He is expecting a ruling to be made soon – possibly this week – in CBS's move to have the case dismissed. At the same time, the legal discovery process is continuing.

“I have no illusions about this,” Rather says. “I knew going into it that it would be a long, hard, expensive road [with] odds against.”

Rather said he's focusing not on the lawsuit but on his new show, which launched on HDNet three months ago.

The idea for A Safe Place to Shoot Up came from the advanced TV class at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. Hoping to introduce his second-year masters students to the real world of working journalism, associate professor (and long-time 60 Minutes producer) Peter Klein developed a course in which students would spend a semester producing an item for Dan Rather Reports. The students were each asked to come up with a story idea for the show.

Ten pitches were whittled down to three, and those were presented to Rather and his producers. They chose to tell the story of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The students then got to work – doing research, lining up interviews, writing questions for Rather to ask.

“A number of them have said it was the highlight of their journalism education experience,” says Klein. “I think initially there was that star quality, anticipating working with a star journalist … [but] there was a wonderful rapport between them and I think they lost that sort of starry-eyed thing really quickly.”

To the students, “Mr. Rather” became “Dan” and eventually they felt comfortable making suggestions to the highly experienced reporter. “He was really like the farthest from a prima donna – really easy going,” Klein says.

The half-hour of television focuses heavily on the safe-injection site for drug addicts, but also touches on homelessness, a plan by sex workers to open a prostitute-run brothel, the trial of mass-murderer Robert Pickton and the proposal being touted by Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan known as CAST (Chronic Addiction Substitute Treatment) that would see addicts get their drugs from pharmacies rather than on the street. Lurking in the background is the spectre of the Winter Olympics, two years away.

Before shooting this story, Rather had been to Vancouver many times. But he had never before walked the streets of the Downtown Eastside. When he did last November, even after extensive research, he was still surprised by what he saw – in particular how far the squalid neighbourhood stretches.

“It's impossible to spend time [in the Downtown Eastside] and not wonder to oneself how such a crime-ridden, poverty-devastated area could exist side by side and literally right in the midst of what is clearly a wealthy community,” Rather says. “Very few places in the world would … have those contrasts, literally cheek by jowl.”

He was impressed, though, with the thinking-outside-the-box attempts at solutions, and by the idealism displayed by those trying to clean up the city's problems – from the volunteers at the safe injection site all the way up to the mayor's office.

“As a journalist, I try hard not to be cynical, but part of my job is to be sceptical.… Do I think the problems can be addressed in the main and overall and substantially between now and Olympic time? I have my doubts,” he says. “I'd love to be proven wrong.”

A Safe Place to Shoot Up on Dan Rather Reports airs on HDNet Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. PT.


New Season Of 24 To Start In January '09

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(February 14, 2008) NEW YORK – Fans of the Fox drama 24 will have to wait until next January to see Jack Bauer again, this television season's most prominent casualty of the Hollywood writers strike. The network has committed to air a full season on consecutive weeks, and had been planning to start last month. But if it had started airing new episodes soon, the season finale would not have taken place until the summer, when TV networks rarely show their high-profile programs. Even though eight episodes for this season had already been filmed before the beginning of the writers strike, producers would have had to ramp up production soon to complete the season. A January 2009 start seemed the best way to comply with viewers' wishes that a season's episodes run without interruption to conclusion, Fox said on Thursday. The company that produces the series, 20th Century Fox Television, also confirmed that creator Joel Surnow was leaving as one of the executive producers. Fox is owned by News Corp. Surnow told Daily Variety that he had "decided it was time to see if there were other opportunities I wanted to pursue.''

Damon Wayans Takes In Living Color To The Internet

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(February 14, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Damon Wayans is taking In Living Color to the Internet. The 47-year-old comedian has announced the debut of WayOutTV, collaboration with YouTube that will show sketch comedy videos that he produces. Wayans described the venture as In Living Color 2.0 – an online version of the hit 1990s TV series that made him and his brothers Keenen Ivory, Shawn and Marlon famous. WayOutTV will allow viewers to share, rate and leave comments on the sketches. "For too long, comedy has been a one-way dialogue, with comedians talking to an audience rather than with an audience," Wayans said in a statement Thursday. "My entire goal is to make people laugh and at the same time find a way to be creative and collaborative with people who want to be a part of the process." Wayans became famous for his portrayal of outrageous characters on In Living Color, including Homey D. Clown. He also starred on the ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids and the Showtime series The Underground. His film credits include The Last Boy Scout and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.

'Girlfriends' Creator Says Show Made History

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 18, 2008)
Girlfriends" creator and executive producer Mara Brock Akil has released a statement expressing appreciation for the sitcom's historic eight-season run, which was the longest-running live-action comedy on network TV when it was cancelled last week by the CW.  "Although it's always difficult to say goodbye, I choose to focus my energy on the history that Girlfriends has made, the human stories that we told, the beautifully complex images that we projected and the blessings 172 episodes bestowed on us, both personally and professionally," Akil, said in her statement Thursday. "Girlfriends" launched on the former UPN network in 2000 with stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Jill Marie Jones, Golden Brooks and Persia White starring as four friends dealing with life and love issues in Los Angeles.  The show was one of a few comedies to survive UPN's 2006 merger with the WB to create the CW. Rumors of cancellation had followed the run up to last season's premiere, but the CW ultimately decided to bring it back.  However, its average of 2.1 million viewers this year was not large enough to warrant a return for next season.  "I am immensely thankful to the amazingly talented cast, writers, directors, staff and crew for their endless dedication and hard work for eight seasons, to the network that always wanted us and the studio that always supported us," Akil said in her statement. "But mostly to the audience, especially African-American women, who took the time to tune into us every Monday night at nine to have a dialogue with us and who have been our partner in this journey." Akil confirmed previous reports that the CW is mulling a special "Girlfriends" clip show that will pay tribute to the show's history.

More Exposure For Little Mosque

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(February 19, 2008) Toronto — CBC's hit sitcom
Little Mosque on the Prairie will begin airing in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland later this year, the show's producer said Tuesday. Netherlands Public Broadcasting has acquired seasons 1 and 2 of Little Mosque, which will be dubbed or subtitled in Dutch, said Toronto-based WestWind Pictures. The first two seasons are also set to air in Belgium on the premium pay network BeTV with French subtitles. Season 1 of the show will be broadcast in Switzerland with German subtitles by broadcaster Schweizer Fernsehen. “The demand for Little Mosque on the Prairie from the European broadcasting community has been incredible,” said executive producer Mary Darling. “We continue to receive numerous serious inquiries from top broadcasters throughout Europe who are interested in acquiring the show in various formats.” Little Mosque airs in over 80 markets globally, including French-speaking Africa, the Middle East and several European countries.

'Madea' - The Cartoon

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 20, 2008) *Now that
Madea has left her rather large mark on the stage and big screen, the next step for creator Tyler Perry is to bring the gun-toting grandma to life in her own cartoon series.  Perry has teamed up with animation company Exodus Film Group for the untitled series, which will be produced entirely up front before shopping to a network or releasing on DVD – or both. "After receiving thousands of letters from parents telling me how much their kids love Madea and realizing that a lot of the plays were not kid friendly," said Perry, "I wanted to do something more appropriate, and this seems to be it. A 'Madea' animation looks like the best way." The playwright-turned-filmmaker will create, write and executive produce an undetermined number of 22-minute standalone episodes and also provide the voice of Mabel "Madea" Simmons. Perry has turned his Madea plays into such movie box office hits as "Madea's Family Reunion" and "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." The next Madea feature, "Meet the Browns," will be out next month from Lionsgate. He also has written for television with the current TBS series "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," which Perry also funded and produced before shopping to networks.


Nick Of Time

Excerpt from www.thestarcom - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(February 16, 2008) When a single production can save two famous theatre companies from extinction, 25 years apart, it must be something truly extraordinary.

And that indeed is the best way to describe
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, which is opening on Feb. 23 at the Princess of Wales Theatre as part of the Mirvish subscription season.

Based on the famous 1839 novel of Charles Dickens, as adapted by British playwright David Edgar, this show singlehandedly rescued both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Chichester Festival.

And in a twist of fate that Dickens himself would have surely recognized, it was born out of desperation, nurtured through adversity and only reached a joyous conclusion after triumphing over all odds.

It was August of 1979. Margaret Thatcher had just become Prime Minister of England and one of her first acts had been to slash the budget of The Arts Council.

This was grim news for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which was struggling with a deficit of well over a million dollars Canadian and had been hoping for additional support.

Audiences had also grown discontent and the acting company was feeling demoralized.

Trevor Nunn was running the organization in tandem with Terry Hands and the every-ready Nunn, in the words of his assistant Leon Rubin, felt “that the best form of defence is attack.”

Instead of cutting back, he was determined to mount one of the largest shows in the company’s history. He wisely intuited that Dickens would provide the scope as well as the depth he was looking for and finally settled on Nicholas Nickleby.

This early Dickens novel follows a young man around England as he grows to manhood, saves his family from a variety of dangers, enjoys numerous adventures and finally grows to maturity.

From a prison-like boys’ school in Yorkshire, to a flamboyant acting troupe in Portsmouth to the mean streets of London, the story teems with superb theatricality.

In retrospect, it seems a logical choice, but it was derided by nay-sayers as “Nunn’s Folly” and when the opening on June 21, 1980 was followed by mixed reviews and little advance sale, the worst fears of everyone seemed justified.

But the tide soon turned, led by Bernard Levin’s review in The Times which said “We come out not merely delighted, but strengthened, not just entertained but uplifted, not only affected, but changed.”

The theatres were soon packed, the show was revived twice by the original company in London and took New York by storm in 1981, winning four Tonys including Best Play, Best Actor and Best Director.

It then comfortably settled into theatrical history for the next 25 years.

Fast forward to 2006. The venerable Chichester Festival, inspired by our Stratford and opened by Laurence Olivier in 1962 had also fallen on hard times.

The incoming Artistic Director, Jonathan Church, was told bluntly that if he didn’t turn around the festival’s fortunes in his first season, there wouldn’t be a second, as the theatre would close its doors.

Needing a miracle, he reached for Nicholas Nickleby.

But times had changed and Church knew he couldn’t afford the original eight and a half hour production with its cast of 45. He persuaded playwright Edgar to trim his adaptation by two hours and wound up presenting it with a cast of 27.

This time, the critics cheered from the start, the audiences packed the theatre and Chichester was saved. They revived Nickleby the next year, then took it out on tour and brought it into London for a triumphant eight week run at the Gielgud Theatre before its arrival here in Toronto.

What makes a production of this larger-than-life work succeed? It needs a brilliant company, skilled direction, careful design and – most of all – a burning moral beacon of a Nicholas at its centre.

This version is blessed with
Daniel Weyman, whose love for the work is intense.

“Nickleby has the power to unite people who love the theatre as well as people who’ve never been to the theatre before,” said Weyman during an interview at The British Library in London. “In the end, it all comes down to Dickens.”

Weyman had chosen this location with a reason, because it was here he came during his preparations for the production and held Dickens’ original manuscript in his hands.

“I spent an hour with it,” he says breathlessly. “It was just a remarkable thing to do. The essence of old London came off the pages, you could feel his spirit, the way he wrote.”

The 30 year-old Weyman feels one of the things that carries audiences along so surely is the moral journey of Nicholas.

“We see him learn, we see him fall, then learn and fall again. But in the end he realizes that every man has a social responsibility to the world around him.

“At the end of the play, he asks ‘Where do I want to go for the rest of my life? Do I want to live in isolation as long as those I love are safe and happy?’”

Weyman’s eyes are shining as he answers his own question. “No matter how difficult it may become, I will try to look out for the people who have less than I do.”

And somewhere in the cosmos, Charles Dickens nods in agreement.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby runs from Feb. 23 through Apr. 10 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. For tickets, go to mirvish.com or call 416-872-1212.

A Chilly Cree Journey To The Afterlife

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
Tamara Bernstein

Pimooteewin (The Journey): Tomson Highway and Melissa Hui
Jane Mallett Theatre
In Toronto on Friday

(Feb 18, 2008) The European operatic tradition begins with not one, but two journeys to the land of the
dead: Jacobo Peri's Euridice (1600), followed by Monteverdi's more enduring L'Orfeo (1607), both of which celebrate the mythical Greek musician Orpheus, whose lyric gifts near reversed death itself.

This past weekend, North American native culture weighed in on the same trope, in what has been billed the "first ever Cree opera":
Pimooteewin, (The Journey). Canadian author Tomson Highway (of Rez Sisters fame) wrote the libretto in Cree and English; Montreal-based composer Melissa Hui wrote the music. The piece was commissioned by Soundstreams Canada and had its world premiere Friday at the Jane Mallett Theatre under the musical direction of Lydia Adams, with Michael Greyeyes in charge of choreography and stage direction. Surtitles translate the singers' Cree texts; Cara Gee narrates in English.

Highway apparently based his libretto on a pan-North American native legend, in which Trickster and Eagle cross over to the land of the dead, stuff a load of souls into a basket and bring them back to the land of the living.

But the dead don't appreciate the confinement (a lovely nod to the nomadic life?) and keep trying to escape; the protagonists learn their lesson and accept the cycle of nature.

If you're expecting monsters and hellfire, The Journey's version of the afterlife will seem like a pretty good deal: The dead dance all night and rest up during the day. But if you're expecting Highway's exuberant, rollicking humour, you will be disappointed. Although less is more, it's hard to see why they needed to hire a writer of Highway's stature and gifts to produce such a skeletal (pardon the pun) libretto. Lines such as "I am walking" and "I am flying" seemed pretty thin - at least in translation - and inspired a self-conscious musical setting.

Soundstreams wisely chose a composer who would not curry favour through ingratiatingly popular idioms, or resort to cliché. Hui's finely-wrought score for seven instrumentalists, choir (the Elmer Iseler Singers), tenor and soprano started off with a thrilling section that evokes ancient chant without being culturally specific (though I was pleasantly reminded of medieval European polyphony).

The double bass's plucked syncopations ground the piece in a playful yet mysterious heartbeat, like the pulse of the earth. But Hui's choral writing was a tad generic; her inspiration ran thin in the dance of the dead, where she crossed regular aboriginal drumming with jazz.

Although a Cree-speaker might appreciate qualities that went over my head, to me both the libretto and music suffer from emotional coolness - even the moment where the protagonists recognize spouses and friends among the dead was a throwaway that prompted giggles in the audience at Friday's premiere.

Bud Roach was superb as Weesageechak (Trickster) - this oboist-turned-singer not only has a beautiful lyric tenor, but is a natural on stage. Soprano Xin Wang (Migisoo, the Eagle) was not her usual sparkling self - perhaps she was under the weather.

Stronger choreography and dancing, both of which are readily available in Toronto, would strengthen the piece considerably. But as the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. Soundstreams is to be congratulated for bringing native language and mythology onto the new music-drama stage. Let's hope there will be more, and perhaps further development of this piece.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Attention Canadian Government: Here's What Real Subsidies Can Do

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(Feb 18, 2008) LONDON It's a Tuesday afternoon in winter and 1,160 theatregoers are counting ourselves lucky we were able to get into one of the final performances of War Horse at the National Theatre.

We watched and cheered the beautifully staged saga of a beloved horse that was sold to serve at the front lines in the madness of World War I and of the devoted boy who left his family to follow him.

As I walked out afterwards and climbed the stairs up to Waterloo Bridge, I thought about how many other times in the past five years I'd been through the same sort of experience: witnessing a serious new play on the giant Olivier stage of the National with a sold-out crowd who were thrilled to be there.

It's something we rarely – if ever – encounter here in Canada. Yes, we get lots of earnest and often worthy original scripts, but they're usually staged by our "alternative" theatres, like
Tarragon, Factory or Passe Muraille.

The Canadian Stage Company, our flagship theatre, has two edgy new works on its playbill, but they're both in the safer, smaller confines of Berkeley St., while the sole Canadian work on its mainstage this season is the 20-year-old gospel-rock musical Fire.

And next year, if all reports are to believed, there won't be a single Canadian play on the mainstage.

The man who has made the magic happen over in England is Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, best known on this side of the Atlantic for his work on shows like Miss Saigon or films like The Madness of King George.

"I just kept alive a tradition that started with Shaw," he says modestly in an interview from his office. "Using the theatre to grapple with the serious issues of the day."

Sometimes his productions have been so topical you feel that CNN would have to review them. He began his reign in 2003 with a Henry V set in Iraq, which premiered just months after the invasion of Baghdad.

And the following year, David Hare's Stuff Happens (opening in Toronto in a Studio 180 production on March 4) had to keep undergoing revision to keep up with the antics of Dubya and his cabinet.

Yet all of these shows have been driven by inspired theatricality as well as a sense of moral and intellectual probity. Time Out London recently astutely observed that the Olivier Theatre has "come into its own with a new generation of theatre makers who imaginatively enhance the text with powerful imagery."

"You can never lose sight of your audience," cautions the canny Hytner.

"I remain committed to substance as well as entertainment."

Thanks to ongoing donations from Travelex, a large block of seats can be purchased for every performance for $20 and the most expensive ticket is $75.

Compare that with the top prices for Stratford ($109), Shaw ($105) and Canadian Stage ($89).

The secret weapon is subsidy. Hytner gets 40 per cent of his budget from the government, unlike here, where Canadian Stage gets 18 per cent, Shaw 6 per cent and Stratford less than 4 per cent.

"Even the Conservatives have come to accept the basic underlying necessity for subsidy," says Hytner. "They see the degree that people come here and pour money into the economy, and they know it's a good investment."

Hytner was shocked to hear how small the subsidy to theatres was in Canada. "It makes no sense. You have no shortage of talent there; you should receive the support you need.

"I've got a message you can take back to the government of Canada," concludes Hytner. "They'd have a really nice surprise if they subsidized the arts adequately."

Here's hoping someone listens.

Odd Couple Knocks One Out Of The Park

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

The Odd Couple
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_star10.gif(out of 4)
By Neil Simon. Directed by Stuart Hughes. Until Apr. 19 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

(February 20, 2008) If you're looking to sample some truly fine teamwork, forget about heading to Florida
to catch the Jays in spring training.

Take yourself instead to the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, where Soulpepper Theatre's production of
The Odd Couple, starring Albert Schultz and Diego Matamoros, opened last night.

I've seen these two pros make magic before in plays by Chekhov and Pinter, but they've never been better than they are here in Stuart Hughes's spiffy revival of this 1965 Neil Simon comedy.

You know the plot: sloppy Oscar and neat-freak Felix, both separated from their wives, set up housekeeping together. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon did the movie, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall the TV show.

Both of those iconic teams were great, but there's something wonderful about seeing Schultz and Matamoros go through the same hoops with the memory of all their weightier performances behind them.

The beautiful part is these guys aren't slumming. They're treating the script as the modern comedy classic it is, with director Hughes deserving credit for knowing how to keep it funny and real at the same time

As Oscar, Schultz gives us Smokey the Bear suffering from acute loneliness, a growly, shambling hulk of a guy whose sharp wits can't dull the pain he feels at being separated from his wife and kids. He fires off one-liners with the best of them, but also lets us see inside the man's aching heart. Splendid stuff.

Matamoros has never used his gift for physical theatricality to better effect than he does here. His Felix capers with a vacuum cleaner, prances as he sets up a dinner table and careens around in mad circles while he clears his sinuses, bull-moose fashion. Yet behind it all, we glimpse a man much too easily hurt.

There's also smashing work from Amy Rutherford and Krystin Pellerin as the "coo-coo" Pigeon Sisters, the daffy British blonds who live upstairs. And in the poker-playing quartet that drops by to visit, you'll love Oliver Dennis as Murray the neurotic cop and Michael Hanrahan as the curmudgeonly Speed.

Neither Kevin Bundy nor Derek Boyes feel quite right as New York card players, affecting accents or attitudes that don't sit naturally on them, but that's a minor complaint.

The Odd Couple is a bases-loaded homer of a hit, with both Schultz and Matamoros eligible for MVP status in my book, anytime.


Mya To Make Broadway Debut In 'Chicago'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 14, 2008) *R&B singer Mya will make her Broadway debut this spring in the long-running revival of "Chicago," producers announced. The artist will bring her vocal talents to the role of Velma Kelly, the cohort of Roxie Hart, played currently by stage veteran Bianca Marroquin. "It's something I always wanted to do; sing, dance, act and tell a story," Mya said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "It's probably the ultimate complete dream for me."  The singer is currently doing lots of cardio, muscle strengthening, stretching and vitamin popping to make sure she'll be ready when rehearsals begin in April. "I have gone through all the material with the show's musical director and everything is suited for my key," she said. "We don't have to do any transposing. It's perfect." Mya, who also had a small role in the 2002 film adaptation of "Chicago," says she has seen the stage show more than a half-dozen times in the last couple of years.  Her nine week Broadway run at the Ambassador Theatre begins May 12 and ends July 13.


Fidel Castro Resigns

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Linda Diebel, Staff Reporter

(February 20, 2008) Not with a bang, but a whimper.

In the end,
Fidel Castro exited the political scene exactly as he predicted he might a decade earlier, when he was welcoming visitors in fatigues and combat boots.

"I don't have to be in charge (of the country)," Castro told the Toronto Star in an interview after a 1998 visit to Cuba by former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

"I could be a soldier on the line. But, whatever I do, I will be fighting forever ... until my very last day on Earth."

Yesterday, true to his word, Castro made a similar pledge in a statement to the Cuban people when he announced his resignation as president and commander-in-chief after 49 years. At 81 and ailing, he said he would remain with them to "fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas."

His announcement had been anticipated. Castro's health began failing in the late 1990s, with long, unexplained absences from office, a new gauntness to his face and a poignancy in the way he embraced the Roman Catholic rituals of his youth during Pope John Paul II's visit in 1998.

Rumours of cancer and impending death grew. Finally, after intestinal surgery, he ended the suspense in July 2006 by handing power "temporarily" to his brother, Raul, now 76.

Still, the surprise in yesterday's statement came in the magnitude of the realization that an icon of the 20th century – someone who seemed indefatigable through 10 U.S. administrations – is slipping slowly from the scene.

It is in imagining a world without Fidel Castro.

This slow fade may not be how Castro wanted to go out. Even as he peered into the future with such pragmatism during that interview in 1998, he insisted he felt "great" and joked: "It appears to me I have a little time left."

It may be, however, that failing health is Castro's best ally in buying time for his revolution.

Privately, analysts who know Cuba well have long believed his best chance for influencing the succession lay in doing it gradually.

A Canadian diplomat once suggested a type of governor-general post for Cuba, in which Castro would give up direct power and influence politics from the sidelines. In so doing, he would spare Cubans the sudden shock of losing, with his death, the only president most of them have ever known.

Castro never gave the slightest hint he would accept such advice.

Since 2006, however, he has had been able to do little beyond reflecting as he fought to regain strength. And he clearly has thought carefully about how to ensure a peaceful transition.

"It is like losing a father," Luis Conte, an elderly museum guard, told The Associated Press in Havana yesterday. Or "like a marriage – a very long one that is over."

Maybe. But it seems more like losing a father with the stepfather already coming in the door.

"Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years," Castro said in his statement.

He showed pride in the extreme care he'd taken to "avoid raising expectations" of a return to active politics, noting he'd always stressed his medical condition was "not without risks."

He offered a revealing glimpse into the pain of recent months. He had been a big, robust man, fond of marathon speeches, dinners that went on until dawn and long conversations with friends like Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Even the comment he has been "able to recover the full command of (his) mind" attests to the roughness of the journey.

Castro was reluctant to step down. His brother and others tried to convince him to stay and, in the face of adversaries who "have done everything possible" to get rid of him, (a reference to the U.S.), he said he was tempted to hang on.

But he called it a "betrayal of conscience" to remain as president and commander-in-chief without the physical strength to do the job. What the CIA couldn't accomplish with their exploding cigars and foiled Bay of Pigs invasion, the vicissitudes of disease and decrepitude have.

In some ways, Castro published his obituary yesterday, a footnote to his recent, Fidel Castro, My Life.

He lauded his own record by citing the million people with a university degree in a population of 11.4 million and the collapse of barriers to education that were swept away with the defeat of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

"We've kept it at bay for half a century," he said of tough U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba, centred in a trade embargo that crippled the economy after 1962 and was made dire by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Castro has been writing what he calls his "Reflections" for more than a year, with Cuban embassies dutifully emailing the Comandante's thoughts on everything from "the revolting commercialization of athletes" to the peril of an impending invasion of Cuba.

"An unpayable price must be paid for any invasion," he warned recently.

Castro is well aware of official Washington's plan to pump massive aid money into Cuba in the event of his death – and of the thousand Miami blueprints for a new Cuba, subdivided into hotel complexes and shopping centres.

He also knows how much the Cuban hold on such revolutionary tenets as universal medicare and education depend on Cuba's friends – like Canada.

Yesterday, the reaction to his resignation from the Conservative government was muted, with Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier saying Ottawa intends to monitor developments. Added Bernier: "It is our hope that this decision will open the way for the Cuban people to pursue a process of political and economic reform."

That's likely not the reaction Castro would have expected from two Canadian leaders he has most admired: Pierre Trudeau, whose funeral he attended in 2000, and Chrétien.

"He's a man of peace, a man of great experience, of irrevocable talent – and it was really satisfying for me to be with him," Castro said, after Chrétien's visit in 1998.

During their time together, he said, the two leaders spoke of the "heroic struggle this country has had to endure in order to defend itself," and the ongoing problems of the embargo and pressures from Washington.

He said Chrétien opposed the embargo and displayed a deep understanding of Latin America, adding how pleased he was when Chrétien described him as a "a real committed Communist – and he knew that without question."

Linda Diebel is a former Star Latin America bureau chief

'Debators' Cleans Up At Image Awards

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2008) *Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters" stole the spotlight at the 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards Thursday night (hosted by comedian D.L. Hughley), winning for outstanding motion picture and top acting honours for some of its lead and supporting cast. 

The film's star and director, Denzel Washington, was named best actor, while Jurnee Smollett, starring as one of the movie's lead debators, was named best actress. Denzel Whitaker, the young actor uncannily bearing a hybrid of Washington and Forest Whitaker's name, took home the award for outstanding supporting actor.

Also making an impressive showing was Tyler Perry, with his project "Why Did I Get Married?" garnering Janet Jackson the award for outstanding supporting actress, while his venture with TBS, "House of Payne," won outstanding comedy series. Payne" earned actor LaVan Davis the outstanding actor in a comedy series honour, while Lance Gross was crowned outstanding supporting actor for his portrayal of the immature son of Curtis and Ella Payne.

ABC's "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy" and HBO's "Life Support" were other big winners in the television category.

America Ferrera won for best actress in a comedy series for "Betty," while co-star Vanessa Williams took home the outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series award. "Anatomy" won for outstanding drama series, and the show's Chandra Wilson was honoured as outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.

Queen Latifah and Wendell Pierce were voted outstanding actress and actor in a television movie, miniseries or dramatic special for "Support," which also won for outstanding TV movie, miniseries or dramatic special.

Alicia Keys cleaned up in the musical categories, winning four awards including: outstanding music video, song and album and the outstanding female artist award.

Focus Features' "Talk To Me" garnered awards for Kasi Lemmons, outstanding directing in a motion picture, and for Seith Mann, outstanding directing in a dramatic series for his work on NBC's "Friday Night Lights."

The organization doled out special honours to Aretha Franklin, who received the Vanguard Award, and Stevie Wonder, who was inducted into the Image Awards' Hall of Fame.  Actress/producer/author and recent SAG winner Ruby Dee was honoured with the event's annual Chairman's Award.

We Remember: Civil Rights Activist James Orange Pass Away

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

(February 18, 2008) *The Rev.
James Orange, a civil rights activist whose 1965 jailing sparked a fatal protest that ultimately led to the Selma-to-Montgomery march and the Voting Rights Act, died Saturday at Atlanta's Crawford Long Hospital, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said in a statement. He was 65.

The Birmingham native "resided in southwest Atlanta for four decades while fighting the good fight for equality and social justice for all mankind," said the civil rights organization.

Orange was a project coordinator at the SCLC from 1965 to 1970, then later became a regional coordinator with the AFL-CIO in Atlanta, the SCLC said. Since 1995, he had served as the founder and general coordinator for the M.L. King Jr. March Committee-Africa/African American Renaissance Committee, Inc., which coordinated commemorative events honouring King and also promoted industry and commerce among Atlanta, the United States and South Africa.

In 1965, Orange was arrested and jailed in Perry County, Alabama on charges of disorderly conduct and contributing to the delinquency of minors for enlisting students to aid in voting rights drives. Amid rumours that Orange would be lynched, civil rights activists organized a march to support him. However, the marchers clashed with Alabama state troopers during the Feb. 18 demonstration, and a young black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, was shot in the stomach. He died eight days later.

The anger over Jackson's death led civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to organize the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march. The first attempt at that march was broken up by club-wielding state troopers and sheriff's deputies, a melee that became known as "Bloody Sunday." On the marchers' third attempt, in March, they made it to Montgomery. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in August 1965.

Orange is survived by his wife, five children and two grandchildren, the SCLC said.

Author's Latest A 19th-Century Version of CSI

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Publishing Reporter

(February 19, 2008) Lawrence Goldstone offers what might seem like an odd admission during a discussion of his historical crime novel, The Anatomy of Deception.

"I'm a doctor's worst nightmare," the Connecticut-based author says during a recent stop in Toronto. "All my doctors are friends because no doctor who isn't one of my friends will treat me. I'm one of those people who go on the Web and read everything, including peer reviews in scientific journals, before I go to the doctor."

That sense of scientific curiosity served Goldstone well during the research and writing of The Anatomy of Deception, an informative and entertaining novel that might be described as "CSI: Philadelphia, 1889." The book blends fictional and historical detail to deliver an intriguing murder mystery that relies heavily on clues culled from the world of forensic medicine, as it existed in the late 19th century.

One of the story's principal characters is William Osler, the Canadian-born and educated medical pioneer who practised in Philadelphia during the 1880s before becoming one of the founders of Baltimore's groundbreaking Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Osler's 1892 volume, The Principles and Practices of Medicine, remains canonical.

"My neighbour, who is 42, used an updated edition of that textbook when he was in medical school at Cornell," says Goldstone, whose research included a thorough reading of William Osler: A Life in Medicine by University of Toronto professor Michael Bliss. "Every time you run into a doctor they all know him. He is a deified figure in the medical community."

In The Anatomy of Deception, Osler and a handful of other historical figures, including his medical colleague William Stewart Halsted and the celebrated realist painter Thomas Eakins, are drawn into a murder mystery involving a Philadelphia heiress. While Goldstone freely admits taking liberties with the facts, the book offers a vibrant portrait of a time when medical science was making great strides and when other innovations, from the telephone to the sport of football, were in their infancy.

Along the way, the novel engages ethical questions concerning the relationship between science and theology, a subject explored by Goldstone and in previous critically lauded non-fiction books (co-authored by his wife Nancy), including Out of the Flames, about the 16th-century thinker Michael Servetus, an astronomer and physician who was burned at the stake by the church as a heretic.

"The issues they were dealing with in the 16th century were the same issues Osler was dealing with in the 19th century, which are the same issues we are dealing with now," Goldstone says. "Is science an inexorable process? Can you actually put a limit on knowledge?

"One of my favourite stories is that in 1945 when they were preparing to test the atomic bomb, there were a number of very prominent mathematicians who had created a scenario in which the test would ignite the atmosphere and end the world. And yet there was no possibility they weren't going to do the test. They just had to know.

"Are we really going to stop human cloning?" Goldstone adds. "There is somebody out there who just has to know. So the trick is managing change and not trying to stop it because I just don't think it's possible."


Canada Council Ups The Ante For Coming Year

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(February 14, 2008) Toronto — As part of its funding plans for the 2008-09 fiscal year starting April 1, the
Canada Council for the Arts announced that it will give an additional $4.9-million in grants and services to artists. This includes $700,000 in increased payments to authors. Other highlights of the council's plan include an additional $20.1-million for operating grants and other payments to arts organizations, $1.9-million for aboriginal and minority artists and arts groups and $3.6-million designated to help the council beef up its staffing and other internal services for artists.

Oprah Rules The 'Earth'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2008) *It appears as if everyone and their mama will take part in Oprah Winfrey's upcoming Internet seminar in support of her February book club selection, "A New Earth," by renowned spiritual leader Eckhart Tolle. At last count, more than 250,000 people have signed up for the free Web class, which will feature Winfrey and Tolle teaching live interactive "webinars" for 10 weeks beginning next month exclusively on Oprah.com. Each weekly class will correspond to a chapter from "A New Earth," with the discussion focusing on the chapter's themes.   In the book, Tolle describes in detail how our current ego-based state of consciousness operates. Then he suggests for readers a new consciousness in which one's ego must be stripped completely to accept a path towards awakened living.  The 10 weekly sessions will be webcast every Monday night from March 3 through May 5, at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT. To register, log onto www.oprah.com/anewearth.


A Tribute To The Midwife Of Indian Dance In Canada

Excerpt from www.thestarcom - Paula Citron

(February 15, 2008) While some senior citizens delight in slowing down, Menaka Thakkar has no such thought. "I'll retire from dance when I die," declares the celebrated Toronto choreographer, who turned 65 last March.

Her company's entire 2007-08 season is a tribute to her 37 years of performing and teaching classical Indian dance across this country. In Moving to Rhythm, which opens at Premiere Dance Theatre tonight, Thakkar looks to both the future and the past. "I never married and had a family," she says, "so my students are my children. This show is about youth."

Thakkar's new company work is inspired by the circular structure and rhythmic build of Ravel's Bolero. She first heard the famous concert piece when she arrived in Canada in 1972, and her dream of creating a dance in the style of Ravel is finally coming to fruition with a musical score by Montreal's Vasudevan Govindarajan and Toronto's Ron Allen.

Joining Thakkar's company for this show are guest artists who have close associations with her. Toronto's Nova Bhattacharya and San Francisco's Niharika Mohanty, are both acclaimed dancer/choreographers in their own right. To honour their former teacher, the women are performing bharatanatyam and odissi solos respectively. Pavitra Bhatt and Kalishwaran Pillai, two young bharatanatyam male dancers from India, are both guest teachers at Thakkar's school. Pillai is the son of Thakkar's legendary and revered guru, the late "Kalaimamani" Shri T.S. Kadirvelu Pillai.

Bhattacharya was Thakkar's very first Canadian pupil. After seeing a Thakkar solo concert, her parents delivered their 6½-year-old daughter into Thakkar's hands. Says Bhattacharya: "Menaka's story is the reverse of most immigrants who come to Canada to better themselves. Menaka gave up a glittering career in India to better us. She felt sorry for kids like me - the children of immigrants who had no connection with our cultural heritage.

"She's the Celia Franca and Betty Oliphant combined of Indian dance."

Thakkar has always been an iconoclast. When conventional wisdom argued that classical Indian dance was so complex, a dancer should only specialize in one style, Thakkar became a master performer/teacher in three - bharatanatyam, odissi and kuchipudi. "If you can learn many languages and keep them separate," she explains, "I felt you could do the same with dance."

Similarly, she believed that all dance was grounded in anatomy and gravity, and was curious to find commonalities between Indian classical forms and Western ballet and modern dance. "Geography, politics and costuming all affect the evolution of different dance styles, but dance itself is a common language," she says. "I wanted to test my theory - that only training makes western and eastern dance forms develop differently."

Her brother organized a solo concert for Thakkar to introduce bharatanatyam to Canada, and before the evening had ended, she had four invitations to perform and teach across the country. A flood of offers followed. When Thakkar converted her visitor's permit to a work permit, and then kept on requesting extensions of the latter, an enlightened immigration officer (this was the open multicultural Trudeau years) told her to apply for landed-immigrant status because the country could use people like her.

Thakkar opened her school, Nrityakala, The Canadian Academy of Indian Dance, in 1975. Her company was the first Indian classical ensemble to receive Canada Council operating grants. She continues to perform, teach and present papers all over the world.

"To see all these young people performing on stage gives me enormous pleasure and pride because I created them," she says. "The show is about my journey in Canada and the legacy I am creating. I look back over my 65 years and see that my art has been a lifetime gift."

Moving to Rhythm runs at Premiere Dance Theatre, Feb. 15 to 17. 416-973-4000.


Rochette Lands Silver With Powerful Free Skate

Excerpt from www.thestarcom - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(February 17, 2008) Four-time Canadian champion Joannie Rochette rode a season's best performance in yesterday's free skate to the silver medal at the Four Continents figure skating event in Goyang, South Korea.

The reigning Four Continents bronze medallist from Ile Dupas, Que., scored an aggregate total of 179.54. The effort in the free skate lifted her past world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who began the day in second but settled for third.

"I just wanted to come here and do my best and try the triple-triple in the short program so it's great to finish second," said Rochette.

Mao Asada of Japan won the gold, while Ando finished third. Mira Leung of Vancouver was fifth while Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., was seventh.

SPEED SKATING: Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., and Winnipeg's Shannon Rempel all won medals at a World Cup long-track event at Inzell, Germany.

Wotherspoon was second in the men's 500-metre event yesterday. Japan's Joji Kato won the race, while Japan's Keiichiro Nagashima was third. Morrison was second the men's 1,000-metre race. American Shani Davis was the winner with Jan Bos of the Netherlands third.

Rempel won bronze at 1,000 metres. She finished at 1:19.24 behind gold-medal winner Anni Friesinger of Germany, who won in 1:17.78.

FREESTYLE SKIING: Japan's Aiko Uemura won a World Cup freestyle skiing moguls event yesterday while Australia's Dale Begg-Smith won the men's competition at Inawashiro, Japan.

Uemura finished with two solid jumps and received 22.59 points from the judges for her first title of the season. In the men's event, Canadian-born Begg-Smith won gold after receiving 23.03 points, finishing ahead of Japan's Osamu Ueno, who had 22.68 points.

BOBSLEIGH: Canadians Helen Upperton and Kaillie Humphries narrowly missed winning medals yesterday at the season-ending world bobsleigh championships in Altenberg, Germany.

Upperton, 28, finished fourth with a four-run time of three minutes 52.09 seconds. The Calgary pilot, who sat seventh following the first two runs Friday, rallied with brakeman Jennifer Ciochetti of Edmonton to make the push for a medal.

Rookie Kaillie Humphries, 22, also of Calgary, led Canada 2 to fifth spot with a time of 3:52.53.

BIATHLON: Magdalena Neuner won the women's mass-start race and Russia captured the men's relay gold yesterday at the world biathlon championships in Ostersund, Sweden.

Neuner, a German, finished the 12.5-kilometre race in 39 minutes 41.3 seconds and missed four targets. Norway's Tora Berger, who had one miss, was three seconds behind in second.

NORDIC COMBINED: Petter Tande of Norway won a World Cup Nordic combined event yesterday for his second victory of the season at Liberec, Czech Republic.

Tande completed the mass-start event with 250.8 points, edging Anssi Koivuranta of Finland. Ronny Ackermann of Germany was third.

Ackermann leads the overall standings with 1,016 points.

Star wire services

Glittering Medal Haul By Canadians

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

(Feb 18, 2008) Jeremy Wotherspoon keeps on showing that his decision to skip last season was the right one.

The speed skater from Red Deer, Alta., moved atop the season standings in the 500 metres by winning gold at Inzell, Germany, yesterday, one of five medals claimed by Canadians at a World Cup event.

Wotherspoon gained some revenge on Japan's Joji Kato, who handed the Canadian only his second loss in eight 500 races on Saturday, by winning in a time of 35.35 seconds.

With two 500 races remaining next week in Heerenveen, Netherlands, he also regained the lead in the season standings with 780 points to 712 for South Korea's Lee Kang-seok.

"It's always nice to get that, it's a good sign of consistency and a good sign that I did a lot of the right things for me in my year off and coming back this year," said Wotherspoon. "The main thing, being consistent and staying at a pretty high level throughout all my World Cup races, has shown that I've made some good decisions."

Mike Ireland of Winnipeg tied for second in the 500 with Japan's Keiichiro Nagashima at 35.70. Kato and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., tied for fourth at 35.85, a career-best finish at the distance for the Canadian.

Morrison did pick up a silver medal in the 1,000 with a time of 1:09.86, finishing behind American Shani Davis, who broke the track record of 1:09.65.

"It's fun; (Davis) and I have always had a little bit of rivalry because we used to train together," said Morrison. "I was closer to Shani in the overall final time (than on Saturday) but my top-end speed just isn't there right in the first lap.

"I'm going to work on that next week and try to get that sorted out in time for the single-distance world championships."

Mark Nielsen of Calgary also won gold, winning the 100-metre sprint gold in 9.55 seconds.

On the women's side, Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg claimed bronze in the women's 1,000.

Germany's Anni Friesinger also repeated her win from Saturday, picking up her 54th World Cup victory. Friesinger was 1 1/2 seconds ahead of Ireen Wust of the Netherlands in 1:17.95.

FREESTYLE SKIING: An outstanding season for Steve Omischl continued yesterday with a silver medal at the World Cup freestyle skiing aerials event in Inawashiro, Japan.

The Kelowna, B.C., resident and native of North Bay made his sixth podium appearance in seven starts while eyeing the third overall World Cup aerials title of his career.

Omischl, 29, led after the first round of jumps. But he was overtaken when Anton Kushnir of Belarus nailed his second jump, a quad-twisting triple somersault.

"I'm a little bit disappointed, given my results of the past few weeks," said Omischl, who has four wins, one second and one third, to lead the overall standings with 569 points. He also captured the coveted crystal globe, for leading the men's standings, in 2007 and 2004.

MEN'S SLALOM: Two-time slalom world champion Mario Matt has another accomplishment to add to his résumé.

The Austrian won the inaugural men's World Cup slalom in Zagreb yesterday, putting a damper on the homecoming of Ivica Kostelic, who learned to ski on the Sljeme hill outside the Croatian capital. Kostelic finished second.

Star wire services

East Tames Beast Of West

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

(Feb 18, 2008) NEW ORLEANS–Chris Paul was supposed to arrive here in 2005 as the promising young point guard who was going to carry the Hornets to NBA prominence.

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina followed mere months after Paul was chosen fourth overall in that June's draft, destroying lives and families and a city that is still being rebuilt today and delaying the impact he'd have on the city and the team.

Last night, capping what was a weekend dedicated as much to the city as the sport, Paul almost gave the locals something else to lift their spirits.

Had it not been for the brilliance of LeBron James, Paul could very well have carried the Western Conference to a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the
NBA All-Star Game that would have capped a New Orleans weekend perfectly.

"The total weekend was a success," Paul said after James had 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists as the East, widely considered the weaker team, beat the West 134-128. "Especially with the community efforts and the people of New Orleans coming out and getting excited and the way the NBA reached out to the community would be something I'll never forget."

It's an oversimplification to suggest that something as relatively inconsequential as a basketball team or an all-star weekend can really help a city as broken as New Orleans get back on its feet.

The NBA's Day of Service on Friday was a genuine success, not only because of the houses painted, the schoolyards spruced up and the playgrounds built, but because it once again shone the spotlight on the blight that still exists.

If even one person out in the big wide world read or saw anything from Friday's event and learned how much there remains to be done here, the weekend and the day will have served a good purpose.

"I wouldn't say we've been forgotten after a couple of years of post-Katrina but I think it's kind of simmered down and (that) the city is getting back on its feet," said Hornets coach Byron Scott. "We are, but we still are in dire need of support, we still need a lot of help, we still need the attention to let everyone know that this city is not where it should be at this particular time.

"Us who are here understand it is a process, it is going to take some time, it's not going to happen overnight. Again, we do need the spotlight of everybody understanding that we have a long way to go."

Paul is the anchor on which the Hornets are built, both on the court and in the community. He's seen as the best young point guard in the NBA, trying to become the first player ever to average 20 points, 10 assists and three steals in a season.

He was excellent last night, with 16 points and 14 rebounds, almost rallying the West from a 16-point deficit before James and Ray Allen carried the East in the fourth. Allen hit three straight three-pointers and James had a tremendous game-breaking dunk in the final 30 seconds.

Not bad for a guy so nervous before the game he said he couldn't eat.

"I mean, we (he and fellow all-star rookie Brandon Roy) were on the bus on our way to the game ... we were like little kids," said Paul. "Stomach was turning ... I don't think I could keep any food down or anything like that.

"(It was) totally different from anything I've ever experienced ... because this is one of the biggest stages, if not the biggest, as an NBA player."

And, not surprisingly, the biggest name shone brightest.

"I mean, to add the MVP trophy with the win means a lot to me," said James. "It really means a lot to go out there and perform the way I was able to in front of the fans of New Orleans."

The entire weekend was aimed towards New Orleans and creating awareness of the work that remains to be done. But the event, and the weekend, turned into a celebration of the flavour of the city, from the food to the music to the culture.


More Tests Needed To Find Why Hockey Player Died

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 19, 2008) WINDSOR, Ont.–It could be months before medical officials learn what caused the death of junior hockey player Mickey Renaud. The 19-year-old captain of the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires died suddenly Monday after collapsing at his home in nearby Tecumseh, Ont. An autopsy was conducted today and the results have been released to Renaud's family, but regional supervising coroner David Eden says the details will not be released to the public. Eden says the autopsy is the first in a series of tests to be conducted over the next few months. The Spitfires have called a news conference for 4:30 p.m. ET today, with team president and coach Bob Boughner and vice-president/GM Warren Rychel expected to attend. Renaud's funeral is scheduled for Friday morning in his hometown.


8 Surefire Fat-Burning Tips

Raphael Calzadilla, B.A., CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

Sometimes certain moments in our lives leave an unforgettable impression. About 5 years ago, I was up late on a weekend night and watching TV. An infomercial was promoting an exercise machine that could help you achieve your weight-loss goals in 6 minutes a day. Six minutes a day -- yeah, right! That infomercial got me thinking about how many people buy into fat loss myths. On the part of the consumer, this has to do with a lack of knowledge and hope for the magical workout and the magical diet. Neither of which exist.

If you ever see a quick fix promise, always go back to the fundamentals. Fundamentals will never let you down, and they will never lie to you or mislead you.

There are eight points to consider when attempting to burn body fat.

1. Control Blood Sugar -- Your goal should be to control blood sugar. Controlling blood sugar levels helps to shed fat. This is accomplished by taking in some protein, carbohydrates and good fats spread evenly through the day every two to three hours and by not over eating.

A sample meal schedule might look something like this:

6:30 Breakfast
9:30 Snack
12:30 Lunch
3:30 Snack

6:00 Dinner
9:00 Small Snack

This method will have a profound impact on fat loss. However, don't forget that calories must still be slightly below maintenance.

2. Calories Count -- Your goal is to eat as much as possible while still losing fat. For example, if I can get you to lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week on 1,400 calories per day, I'm on track. If I try to accelerate the process and lower your calories to 1,200, I sabotage your efforts. Anything more than a 2-pound loss per week will strip muscle tissue and give one a soft look.

A good example is the person who goes on a crash diet and ends up thin but still soft and flabby when they get to their goal weight. This takes place because they lost not only fat, but also valuable muscle. They lowered calories too much, lost at too fast of a rate and did not try to eat the optimal amount of calories for fat loss.

3. Eat Breakfast -- A balanced breakfast comprised of carbohydrates, protein and a little fat is a critical start to the day. The point of consuming breakfast is that it breaks the fast from an overnight sleep. In addition, breakfast will rev the metabolism for the rest of the day. This is your first opportunity of the day to get blood sugar back to a balanced state after the all night fast and is critical for sustaining fat loss.

4. Ratios count! A calorie is not a calorie -- Do you know those people who tell you to simply lower your calories to lose fat? The people who never mention protein, carbohydrates or fats? They're wrong.

Protein, carb and fat ratios are important. The correct ratios (which can vary depending on an individual's response to food) help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which helps to increase energy and fat loss. Generally, 40 percent to 50 percent of carbohydrates, 25 percent to 30 percent protein and 20 percent to 30 percent of healthy fats is the best starting place.

Carbs are necessary for energy and not the enemy everyone makes them out to be. The key is how much you consume. Protein is also critical to build and retain muscle tissue, which in turn helps to burn more fat.

Finally, good dietary fats are extremely important. They help to balance hormonal levels, increase strength and create satiety (fullness). If you're looking for a plan that takes this into account I recommend eDiets GI plan (Glycemic Impact Diet).

5. Weight Training -- To affect muscle versus fat ratios you have to train with weights or perform some type of resistance training. An intense weight workout lasting no more than 60 minutes is the most efficient route to go. You don't have to workout with a bodybuilding routine, but you do need to work the entire body approximately three alternate days per week.

6. Cardio -- Cardio should be approached as a tool to lose fat. It should not be used as a never ending event in the hope that all body fat will magically burn off. Excessive cardio is counter productive and will burn not only fat, but also valuable muscle tissue.

If fat loss is not taking place, increase the intensity of your session, not the time. The key is to perform all that is necessary -- and no more than that. This is accomplished by incorporating interval cardio training (integrating slower levels of intensity for several minutes with very high levels for several minutes). Intervals are great for boosting the metabolism and creating more of a post caloric burn (calories burned 24 hours after the workout.

7. Water Intake -- From the standpoint of water intake and fat loss, you want to be in a position where the liver is converting stored fat to energy. The liver has other functions, but this is one of its main jobs. Unfortunately, another of the liver's duties is to pick up the slack for the kidneys, which need plenty of water to work properly (more than most people realize).

If the kidneys are water-deprived, the liver has to do the work of the kidneys along with its own (lowering its total productivity in the process). The liver then can't metabolize fat as quickly or efficiently. If you allow this to happen, you're setting yourself up to store fat because you've made the liver less efficient at turning stored body fat to energy.

Usually if you multiply .55 times your weight, that should be enough in ounces of water to suffice. Water is the underrated fat-loss tool.

8. Discipline -- This is the seldom used word in the fitness industry. As I mentioned earlier, you'll read a lot about the new magic workout, the new magic diet, the machine that's sure to burn fat off your butt, etc. It's all a bunch of nonsense.

It's about doing the right thing and the hard thing at times. One day of discipline leading to another day of discipline. You build your body and your mind simultaneously. Without this, every point I've made above is fruitless. The good thing is anyone can do it -- if they choose to.S


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit, scientist, and philosopher

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."