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July 3, 2008

Welcome to July (already?!) 
Hope that you all enjoyed are semi-long weekend celebrating this great nation.

Well, on a personal note, some of you may know that I have an upcoming hip surgery next week on Tuesday.  So the newsletter slated for July 10th will not be coming to your inboxes while I concentrate on recovering.  But you can expect one on Thursday, July 17th, as I expect all will go well with the beginning of recovering to full steam again.  For those of you who already knew, all your support and love has meant the world and I thank you from my heart.

OK, enough with that stuff ... there is TONS of music news this week - in fact tons of global news everywhere! 

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



Stars Gather To Celebrate Mandela's 90th Birthday

www.globeandmail.com - Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

(June 27, 2008)
LONDON — Will Smith charmed the crowd, Amy Winehouse wowed them just by showing up – but Nelson Mandela proved the biggest star of all at a concert Friday in honour of the South African statesman's 90th birthday.

Acts including Queen, Razorlight, Leona Lewis and a host of African stars joined more than 40,000 music fans for the outdoor show in London's Hyde Park, hosted by Hollywood star Smith and held to mark Mandela's birthday on July 18.

American singer Josh Groban and the Soweto Gospel Choir also performed at the event, which comes 20 years after a 70th birthday concert at London's Wembley Stadium that helped press South Africa's apartheid authorities for Mandela's freedom.

The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for Mandela, who told the crowd that the 1988 concert had made a difference.

 “Your voices carried across the water to inspire us in our prison cells far away,” said Mandela who spent 27 years in South African prisons. “We are honoured to be back in London for this wonderful celebration.

“But even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete.”

Proceeds from the show – for which there were 46,664 tickets – are going to 46664, the AIDS charity named for the number Mandela wore in prison.

Mandela looked frail and leaned on a cane as he was helped onto the stage by his wife, Graca Machel. But his brief speech brought thunderous applause.

“Where there is poverty and sickness including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done,” Mandela said. “Our work is for freedom for all.

“We say tonight after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

Also on the lineup were Annie Lennox, reggae star Eddy Grant, girl group Sugababes and African artists including Emmanuel Jal, Johnny Clegg and Papa Wemba.

One of the biggest stars was Winehouse, whose participation looked doubtful after she collapsed at home last week and was hospitalized. But she made it. Looking composed if slightly unsteady – and buoyed by the crowd and her excellent band – she performed two of her best-known songs, “Rehab” and “Valerie.”

She returned at the end of the show to lead the artists in a rendition of The Specials' 1984 hit “Free Nelson Mandela.”

Winehouse spent several days in a London hospital undergoing tests. Her father said she had developed the lung disease emphysema from smoking cigarettes and crack cocaine, although her spokeswoman later said Winehouse only had pre-emphysema symptoms.

One of the past century's most admired political figures, Mandela attracted a sense of respect approaching reverence from concertgoers and performers alike.

Singer Leona Lewis dedicated her global chart-topper “Bleeding Love” to him, saying that when she was a child her aunt and grandmother told her stories “about this incredible, wonderful and great man, Nelson Mandela.”

“Happy birthday. Thank you so much for everything,” she said.

Many who turned out on a cool, blustery London evening said they had come to see the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Mandela rather than any particular act.

“Ever since I was at university, 35 years ago and I learned about the injustices in South Africa I have wanted to meet Nelson Mandela,” said London primary-school tutor Sheelagh Leith, 51. “I have always wanted to be in his presence.”

Singer Jim Kerr of Scottish band Simple Minds, which played the 1988 show and performed again Friday, said the mood was very different 20 years on.

“I was angry the last time,” Kerr said. “It was very much a protest concert. This is a joyful occasion.”

Mandela, a frequent visitor to London, has been in the city since Monday for a week of birthday events. At a star-studded dinner on Wednesday, he criticized Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, saying there had been a “tragic failure of leadership” in the southern African country. Zimbabwe's opposition pulled out of Friday's presidential election runoff, citing state-sponsored violence, leaving Mugabe the only candidate.

Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994. He retired from politics in 1999 and has since campaigned to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Felicien 'Working My Butt Off' For Olympics

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

(June 27, 2008)
Perdita Felicien is convinced her best race is ahead of her – she just doesn't know if she'll get a chance to deliver it in Beijing.

In an exclusive interview yesterday with the Star, her first since a foot injury in February jeopardized her chances of racing at the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Pickering hurdler said her odds of being able to compete in China are 50-50.

The former world champion, who battled back from a disastrous fall at the 2004 Athens Games to win a silver medal at last year's world championships, had to spend four weeks on crutches to keep her weight off her injured left foot. Originally diagnosed as a mid-foot sprain, it turned out there was ligament damage and a small fracture.

She's resumed training in Toronto, but is unable to hurdle yet and got an injury exemption from next week's Olympic trials in Windsor.

The 27-year-old refuses to give up.

"Why can't I get back? Why can't I make it happen?" said Felicien. "Why can't I at least try so that when I'm old and grey I can tell my grandkids I fought for this dream."

Felicien was in good spirits yesterday, talking about her comeback over lunch at a downtown restaurant. Normally very accessible, she chose to remain mum until now on her injury so she could focus her energy on her recovery.

She said she doesn't feel a desperate need to compete in Beijing because of what happened in Athens.

"Everybody looks at everything through the mirror of Athens," said Felicien. "I don't look at it that way. I don't win medals that way, by looking in the past. I'm looking forward. I'm working my butt off to be there (in Beijing).

"But if for some reason I'm not, you're going to get people that say, `That's too bad. Poor Perdita. Poor Perdita.' No, it's not poor Perdita, because I absolutely feel blessed to do what I do and to do it for a living. And I still do feel like my best race is ahead of me. I haven't run the race of my life that's going to seal off my career. And that's why I wake up every morning, that's what keeps me going."

Felicien injured her foot when she landed awkwardly in practice. When it didn't heal over time, she went in search of the best medical help, seeing four specialists in all.

"It's like the fellowship of the foot," she joked.

It turned out there was more damage that first suspected to the part of her foot that maintains the arch. Felicien said the only time she cried throughout the whole process was when she learned she'd be on crutches for an extended period. She felt she could let her emotions go because she was with Wilbour Kelsick, her long-time chiropractor and trusted confidante.

"He said, `P, this is your journey, this is what you do, this is why we do this, this part of the test of learning how to endure, learning how to make it through that,'" said Felicien. "My mom didn't raise a quitter, she didn't raise someone who's going to be crying and feel sorry for herself. She raised someone who's going to rally."

Felicien undergoes an MRI every two weeks to check on the foot, which is healing ahead of schedule. It will be her decision, in consultation with the doctors, on when she begins hurdling.

Felicien's long-time coach, Gary Winckler, said the difficult thing will be getting her rhythm back and whether she can train full tilt once she starts hurdling.

"I really can't say for sure," he said of her prospects. "I'd say that probably the odds are against her just because of time. But you never close the door or any situation like this."

Under the terms of her injury exemption, Felicien would have to run a time of 13.11 seconds or faster in a 100-metre hurdle race by the end of July, no problem under normal circumstances.

But both Felicien and her coach agree it's not worth putting her future at risk.

"Beijing was never like, `This has to be my swansong,'" said Felicien. "This is not going to be my last Olympics. I always planned to be in London (2012) and a few years beyond if my body allows me to."

CanStage is on Fire with 7 Doras

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

(June 30, 2008) Only 12 days after the beleaguered Martin Bragg resigned as artistic producer of the Canadian Stage Company, his organization raked in the lion's share of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards in the General Theatre category last night.

Bragg's company took home seven of the important honours: Outstanding New Play (Judith Thompson, Palace of the End); Production of a Play (The December Man); Production of a Musical (Fire); Direction of a Musical (James MacDonald, Fire); Best Performance by a Male in a Musical (Ted Dykstra, Fire); Female in a Musical (Nicole Underhay, Fire) and Musical Direction (Ted Dykstra, Fire).

Fire tells the story of Cale and Hershel Blackwell, two brothers torn apart by differing lifestyles and their pursuit of the same woman.

On accepting his award for his portrayal of Cale, Dykstra said: "Last time I was fortunate enough to win one of these was 20 years ago and it was for the same show.... Stick to what you know." In fact, Dykstra had won the same award for the same role in the 1989 production of Fire.

Last night, the play won five awards for its Canadian Stage revival, the most of any production.

Meanwhile, Soulpepper Theatre Company was the organization with the second highest award total, at four: Direction of a Play (Alisa Palmer: Top Girls); Performance by a Male in a Play (Joseph Ziegler, The Time of Your Life); Supporting Performance in a Play (Stuart Hughes, The Time of Your Life) and Sound Design (Mike Ross, Under Milk Wood).

Palmer first thanked David Bowie, "who helped me through the drug-addled years in New Brunswick."

Other prominent winners were Lally Cadeau (Best Actress in a Play: Rose) and New Musical (Jim LeFrancois and David Oiye for ArtHouse Cabaret).

Peggy Baker was a two-time winner in the Dance category for Choreography and Performance for Portal while the highly popular Measha Brueggergosman won the Opera Performance award for her unanimously acclaimed turn in Opera Atelier's Idomeneo.

That production – nominated for six awards in total – lost out to the Canadian Opera Company's production of From the House of the Dead for Outstanding Opera Production.

Absent from the winners was Megan Follows, who was nominated twice for Performance by a Woman in a Play for her roles in Top Girls and Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters.

While presenting the Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play award, Follows remarked to her mother, Dawn Greenhalgh, as she opened the envelope: "You're going to get lucky tonight"; the winner was her husband Stuart Hughes for his work in The Time of Your Life.

The Dora Awards, in their 29th year, are handed out for excellence in Canadian theatre, dance and opera. They're named after Dora Mavor Moore, the late actor, director and teacher who founded the New Play Society, a training ground for writers, performers and technicians. In total, 219 shows were eligible for this year's awards, 47 of which were new plays or musicals.

A complete list of all award winners can be found at tapa.ca.

With files from Susan Walker and The Canadian Press

Mississauga Former Stripper Dishes About Stormy Relationship With Rapper/Actor Mos Def

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

(June 29, 2008) While kiss-and-tell books have been a staple of rock ’n’roll, it’s early days for the genre in hip hop. Bestowed with the industry nickname Superhead, former music video performer and Virgin Islands native Karrine Steffans got the ball rolling in 2005 with her New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Video Vixen which explicitly detailed dalliances with entertainers, such as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre.

New Yorker Carmen Bryan followed with 2006’s It’s No Secret, which outlined her relationship with her daughter’s father, rapper Nas, whom she two-timed for five years with his rival Jay-Z, and on occasion with basketball star Allan Iverson.

Now a Canadian woman in getting in on the action.

One-time stripper
Alana Wyatt-Smith, 29, who has a 7-year-old son with Toronto hip-hop artist Saukrates, has penned Breaking the Code of Silence, a memoir examining her 2005 marriage to American MC-turned-actor-Mos Def, three days after they met, as well as encounters with various professional athletes and celebs.

She also recounts a rough-and-tumble upbringing that included childhood sexual abuse by a relative and being beaten into a coma by a violent boyfriend as a teenager.

Wyatt-Smith would prefer to distance her book from that of Steffans and Bryan, insisting that it’s not an exposé, because she disguises the identities of the bulk of her lovers. (Another key difference is that the Americans’ books were released by reputable publishing houses and consequently don’t suffer the errors in spelling, grammar and coherency that plague her self-published narrative).

“I disagree with putting names of people in there, just out of respect for their wives and children,” said Wyatt-Smith in an interview. “If this was about making money, getting rich, I could have wrote a tell-all book, 10 times better than Karrine Steffens. People want to know about the biggest names in the NBA, who proposed to who, and did what, and this and that; I could have put some stuff in there that would have made it a No. 1 seller within days. I use nicknames, initials, that myself and the gentleman would know; the ones named I got permission from.”

Except, of course, for the biggest fish, Mos Def, legally named Dante Smith. The Star tried unsuccessfully to reach the 34-year-old Brooklyn native for comment through his record label, booking agent and entertainment lawyer.

Highly rated for his socio-political stance and distinctively mumbling flow, Mos Def, who will be in town on the Rock the Bells tour next month, also fronts a hip-hop-jazz big band which played Carnegie Hall last night and is a burgeoning actor who appeared in acclaimed films such as Monster’s Ball and Be Kind Rewind.

In her book, Wyatt-Smith, a Grade 7 dropout who previously supported herself as an exotic dancer, model and video music performer (Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot),” recalls their first public outing, two days after they met in Toronto:

“He had asked me if I would attend a MuchMusic performance featuring Kanye West. Now, that was a little awkward because a year prior I had met Kanye in Vegas and we had a moment! NOT SEXUAL! I REPEAT, KANYE WEST and I NEVER have had sexual relations,” she emphasises in the book. She adds: “Much to my surprise, Mos introduced me as his wife.”

The next day, August 17, 2005, the pair were married at Toronto City Hall. In the wedding photos included in the book they look happy and sober.

“There were stories that we may have been on drugs when we go married.....it was true honest love at first sight; although it took me a while to get to know him, and I think it was more in his heart than it was in mine. I kind of went along with it.”

Within six weeks, the couple had attended Fashion Week in New York, the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami, purchased a $850,000 house in Caledon — and separated.

She said she filed for divorce in October following what she claimed was a loud argument that got out of control while they were in Brazil, where Mos Def was filming a movie.

“I don’t believe that his intent was to hurt me, I believe that he was trying to prove a point,” she said. “But I had shared and cried with him many nights about my past (abusive) situation and I asked of him not to do that, because it brings back memories; so I found it to be more disrespectful, because he knew what I had been through.”

Wyatt-Smith said she didn’t press charges because she didn’t “want to cause problems” in the hopes that his outburst was “a first and last.”

She said there were several attempts at reconciliation, but that Mos Def, who has six children with four different women, has a demanding though not abusive demeanour that she found difficult to abide. They have not been together since October 2006, but despite a $115,000 financial settlement are not officially divorced.

“He won’t sign the papers,” she said. “He told my lawyer if he can’t have me, nobody else will.”

On the afternoon the Star visited Wyatt-Smith’s mod Mississauga condo, she’s wearing her wedding rings, but gushing about a current boyfriend who in a few weeks will be history.

“To keep the guys away, honestly,” she demurred on the subject of the flashy diamond. She’s sweet and chatty, but just as contradictory on the subject of her, well, husband: on one hand blaming their incompatibility on her inability to be submissive; on the other expressing a desire to reconcile — “Since Mos, I have yet to experience being loved.”

Toronto-born of Italian and Jamaican parentage, Wyatt-Smith reveals a hard knocks start that found her on her own at 13 and sucked into a fast lifestyle for survival. She said she supports herself now with “odd jobs here and there, hosting,” but is taking a writing course in hope of reinventing herself as an author and journalist. She also fancies herself a motivational speaker with a story she believes is tailor-made for Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks and her holy grail — Dr. Phil, despite Internet naysayers who brand her a gold-digger.

“You have the girl out there that’s 35, 36, still carrying around the fact that her uncle molested her when she was 7 years old and hasn’t told nobody. That is a horrible thing to walk around with, I’ve done it.

“Then there’s the woman out there who doesn’t know the difference between `Is he my lover? Is he my pimp?;’ I’ve been there. Or, `I’m dating this NBA player, he flies me to 13 cities straight out of 82 games, I think he’s in love with me, but does he really like me?’ No, I’ve done it. And `Oh, my gosh! I thought he really liked me, we built this huge chemistry up until he came here, then he never called me after we slept together;’ I’ve been there. I saw death; I wound up on a hospital bed for three months because of my first boyfriend.

“If you have a question, I can answer it,” she insists.

“Even sitting around a jail or shelter with abused women, that’s the thrill I’m going to get from this book. I’ve never been a Louis Vuitton shopper type. I’m not fancy, I’m not expensive. In fact, I’ve never owned a Louis Vuitton bag.”

Robin Thicke's Got 'Something Else' For You

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(July 02, 2008) *Singer Robin Thicke has become a staple in contemporary soul collections. And now Thicke has another disc for music fans to add.

His third album, titled “Something Else,” hits stores in September complemented by a promotional tour beginning in August.

Described as a “further expansion’ of his breakthrough disc, “The Evolution of Robin Thicke,” the disc is laden with classic soul rhythms.

The first single from his latest project, called “Magic” has already garnered strength at urban radio with its track's reminiscence of Curtis Mayfield.

 “It was just the inspiration of the great music of Philly and Motown and the ‘70s and Gamble and Huff,” said the platinum-selling artists of the track, as he claimed to have no particular creative process.

However, if Thicke did claim a process, it certainly started long ago.

Thicke is the son of “Growing Pains” sitcom dad Alan Thicke, who in his own right was a musical artist and theme weaver. The elder Thicke is responsible for composing the themes of several game shows and his most memorable offerings are the TV theme songs for “Different Strokes” and “The Facts of Life.” But while these tunes have a certain musical longevity in pop culture, Robin Thicke’s pursuit of music was anything but pop.

“I’ve always naturally, organically been connected to soul music,” Thicke told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “When I was 7 or 8 years old, it started with popular soul music like Michael Jackson and Prince. Then I got into Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and then I started listening to gospel music like Commissioned, John P. Kee and the Clarke Sisters and then I got into rap music and hip hop, Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. And then I got into the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Mayfield.”

At this point, Thicke explained, he cannot just pinpoint a single influence.

“It feels like when you’re making music you don’t know where it’s coming from anymore. It’s just sort of embedded in your soul,” he said. And continued that that’s the reason, he finds, that he has been able to cross his blue-eyed soul into the ranks of contemporary soul masters.

“I think that music is the cornerstone of crossing boundaries. It’s always been a part of healing and opening up doors,’ he said.

From those thoughts and his very early attraction to soul music, Robin Thicke began his pursuit of a music career at age 16. Amusingly, to Thicke, there are a number of music fans who consider him an overnight success.

“Well, it’s been a long night,” he said.

In 2000, you might recall a shoulder-length haired gent zipping through traffic in a music video for a track that pieced in samples of Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven.” The song was called “When I Get You Alone.” The artist was Robin Thicke, who at the time simply went by his surname, Thicke. The song got some US play, but did well in Europe.

Thicke began doing work for other artists, penning a number of hits for artists such as Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Mya, Brandy, Marc Anthony, and Usher’s “Confessions” CD – a collaboration for which Thicke earned his first Grammy.

“As time goes on you realize how much everything happens for a reason,” he said of his delayed entrance as a successful artist. “I think too much success too early would have hindered me. So it was good for me.”

But then came “The Evolution” and it’s first single, “Wanna Love U Girl,” which led to a string of follow-up soul hits that the singer has become quite known for. Now, fans are becoming familiar with the first single from his forthcoming disc, “Magic,” which Thicke admittedly said has some political undertone.

“I happened to have written that song when good things were happening to me and I was realizing how much greatness we all have in us and how sometimes the world tries to beat it out of us,” he said. “Sometimes you’re expressing your vulnerabilities and sometimes you’re expressing your positive nature and that’s what that is. Some of us are searching for something bigger internally. I think my music tends to connect with a lot of those people that are searching for something else.”

He mentioned the singles “Magic” and “Dreamworld” when speaking on how his music carries a bit of ambition for a better day – a key phrase for another success story. (Click HEREto HEARMagic")

“I think this music is about what [Barack] Obama represents – hope and change with a little idealism mixed in. The album is called ‘Something Else’ it represents what we’re going through as a country and a world. It’s time for change; it’s time for hope. It’s time for Barack Obama.”

It appears to be time for “Something Else,” too.

To hear more from Robin Thicke and the new disc, hit up his website at www.robinthicke.com.


Explore Sands Of Time In Namibia

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Catherine Dunphy, Toronto Star

(June 26, 2008) Sossusvlei,
Namibia–The show of rock and sand found in Namibia may be the most dramatic in the world. Certainly it's unsettling, maybe even scary, the way it hammers home nature's gorgeous potency ... and our small place in it.

This arid southwest African land of two great deserts – the Namib and the Kalahari – pushes up against one of the loneliest coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps better known in some quarters as the birthplace of Brangelina's toddler, Shiloh Jolie Pitt, there are still places in Namibia where neither roads nor people go. And fewer than two people per square kilometre live here; only Mongolia has a lower population density.

As one campground owner said: "There's plenty of room. We like it that way." He also cheerfully noted the nearest doctor was 300 kilometres away.

But every year, more than 800,000 tourists swell the country's 1.8 million population. Most are Germans come to see the mythical land they owned until the end of World War I when the League of Nations handed it over to neighbouring South Africa. (Namibia won its independence in 1990).

The rest are eco-tourists and amateur photographers lured by Namibia's timeless show of untrammelled and all-powerful nature.

Dramatic mesas, buttes and geological monoliths thrust up and out of arid plateaus and the plains of grass shimmer green-grey into the middle distance. (The grass will disappear, though, within a month or two of the dry season that starts in March.)

At Fish River Canyon, there are cracks and fissures second only to America's Grand Canyon. The huge Etosha salt pan anchors one of the largest and most pristine game reserves in the continent.

Namibian tourists rent helicopters to hover over the restricted Skeleton Coast (named for the victims of all the shipwrecks there), balloons to traverse the Namib desert, and 4by4 vehicles to handle desiccated ancient river beds. They surf sand dunes near Swakopmund and hike many kilometres from any lights or sound to sleep under beds designed to open to the dazzling night sky of the southern hemisphere.

Yet these are just opening acts, all of them, for the show at Sossusvlei, where the world's largest sand dunes shroud huge clay pans in the heart of the Namib Desert, the Earth's oldest desert.

We drove for about seven baking hours, much of that on a dirt road through the Namib Naukluft Park, a strange and beautiful and terrifying terrain that was, well, empty. No fences, no telephone poles, no Monopoly-sized homes on a far away horizon.

The only sound was the desert breeze. I was travelling with my husband and my in-laws, but I could taste the loneliness.

After three or four hours, we spotted a sign marking the Tropic of Capricorn. As we approached, it seemed a mirage, looming roadside out of the parched clay, and we clambered out of the car. We said we wanted a photo of a marker quite literally in the middle of nowhere, but really, I think, we needed to touch something – even a sign – that showed we weren't the only ones who'd ever travelled this long sand-swept road.

Respite came at the aptly named town of Solitaire which, as it turns out, wasn't a town (although our Namibian map sure made it look like one) but a way station decorated with rusty hulks of old cars and trucks half buried in the sand.

Still, there was gas and clean washrooms and tomato-and-cheese sandwiches on homemade bread.

"Hey, California's burning," said the chef himself, a big guy with a friendly, heat reddened face who tracked current events and noted the top stories – such as a father in Austria harbouring his daughter and their children in a basement for years – on a blackboard near the entranceway.

Not recorded was the death just the day before of an 8-year-old boy from France, killed when his father accelerated through a sand puddle – for that is what the pockets that accumulate in dips in the road look like – and lost control of his rental car on the road we had just travelled.

"Twelve tourists die a year. They go too fast and too close to the edge of the dirt road," the chef clucked.

Chastened, we drove away at a much slower pace. The sand shifted constantly under our vehicle as if throwing off our presence. At our lodge that night, we decided not to see Sossusvlei on our own but to take a tour. The deciding factor? Our guide would do the driving.

It was still dark at 5:15 a.m. the next day when we set out with Rian but by the time the park gates opened an hour later, the morning light was clear and still.

Nothing prepares you for the sweep and scope of Sossusvlei's majestic sandscape. Sculpted throughout million of years by the wind, the voluptuous red dunes alternately glow like burnished coals or pulsate in hot glory. They are living sculptures, always changing. At a height of more or less 300 metres, Dune 45, located a logical 45 kilometres into the park, is putatively the tallest dune, and the place where most people decide to scramble – or attempt to scramble – to the top.

Rian is dismissive of it – and them.

"It's not the highest, the wind is always shifting the tops of them," he says, glaring through the 8 a.m. waves of heat at the trudging tourists. "There's nothing to see at the top there anyway."

Instead we leave Dune 45 and drive on to the Dead Vlei, through sand so deep our 4-wheel drive becomes stuck. Deflating the tires doesn't work; we shovel hot sand with our bare hands out from under the chassis until finally the car lurches forward.

Vlei is the Afrikaans word for a pan or flatland and the Dead Vlei is littered with the twisted corpses of Kamel thorn trees, one-dimensional dark figures against the flat light of a pummelling sun. Rian tells us he once had to break up a pornographic photo shoot right here, when he worked as a park ranger, and it seemed like the right place for such a sad activity.

Rian has decided we will climb the dune also named Sossusvlei. Perhaps not the highest dune, at least not today, in his mind it's the only summit worth reaching. It is now late in the morning and I am sapped from the heat, from the incessant assault of hard, dry blowing sand. I stand at the foot of Sossusvlei, looking up, up, up at the curved crest of the dune. It resembles a scoliotic backbone of some enormous prehistoric creature and I just know I won't make it to the top. There's nothing solid. It is all sand, all treachery.

Still, I take a step, my foot sinking deep and fast, a wave of fine sand gushing round my ankles into and under my socks. Another step, another sand rush.

I am the last in our group, whose footprints vanish in this unforgiving sand before I can reach them. The particles are so heavy, each step is laboured. Yet when Rian urges me to keep going, I do and at the top I stand with my family and gape at the spectacle of 360 degrees of sweeping sand dunes speckled with baked pans — some with silver grey clay, some dotted with those dark dead trees.

"Now you can say you have stood at the top of one of the largest sand dunes in the world," Rian announces with precise pride.

Later, with surprising gallantry, he takes the arms of me and my sister-in-law and holding them high as if leading us in a minuet, takes us straight down the dune's flat windward side. The drop is steep – if not 90 degrees then not far off – and the sand cascades in front of us, carrying with it small blue-black bugs like surfer dudes.

Our grinning husbands lope past us, but we continue our stately pace, sinking into Sossusvlei's steep side with every step.

The dune envelops us. This ancient and inspiring dune is safe, I suddenly realize, protective of whoever and whatever's around it. I'm almost sorry when I reach level ground.

Catherine Dunphy is a feature writer at the Star.


Showing Youngsters How It's Done

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

(June 27, 2008) Never mind those celebrated young lions, or jazz's next fresh face, the septuagenarians passing through this edition of the
TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival have it all covered.

Wednesday night, Memphis native Charles Lloyd turned in a magical display of high-calibre improvisation at Enwave Theatre. Backed by a stellar collection of young bucks – pianist Jason Moran (who worked the piano over like it owed him money), bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland – the 70-year-old flautist/saxist was as vigorous and inventive as anything going.

The songs from his new disc, Rabo de Nube, ranged from classically inflected ballads to funky, smooth jazz burners, all delivered with a meditative air.

On Tuesday, American vocalist Sandy Stewart, 70, helmed the cabaret series at Old Mill Inn, accompanied by her noted pianist son Bill Charlap on chestnuts such as "Tea For Two," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Just One of Those Things."

She's imbued with a syrupy quiver that took some getting used to, along with the way she clipped some notes abruptly and held others, though none as high as one suspects she used to.

What captivated was Stewart's effortlessness and conversational, authoritative approach; she seemed as if she was confessing rather than interpreting.

Monday night, the mainstage tent saw Montreal-born Oliver Jones, 73, serving up tunes from his new disc, Second Time Around, with a simpatico trio. The spirit of Jones' late mentor Oscar Peterson hovered indirectly through his swinging, incandescent style, as well as in renditions of Peterson classics "Place St. Henri" and "Hymn To Freedom."

The night, however, belonged to 78-year-old pianist and Pittsburgh native Ahmad Jamal, who drew gasps from the rapt, capacity crowd as he tightly directed his small ensemble through the smooth, precise changes of his impressionistic compositions.

Among the vets still to come: the granddaddy of them all at 87, pianist Dave Brubeck performs with his quartet and the Toronto Jazz Festival Orchestra at the Four Season Centre on Wednesday (8 p.m., $40-$130).

Sax Summit Blows Roof Off The Rex While Chicago Trumpeter Rejuvenates Chestnuts

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

(June 29, 2008) There are two things to hope for on TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival outings: stellar performances by favoured acts and the discovery of brilliant new talent.

A prowl through the city's jazz venues scored on both counts.

Billed this year as a Saxophone Summit, shows at the Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar are under the umbrella of the main fest's Club Series, but organized by the Rex, which describes it as "a festival within a festival."

The announcer didn't overstate when he outlined the venerable Queen St. W. hangout's commitment to booking "the best Canadian talent" and "the best in jazz" as an introduction to the Davidson/Murley/Braid Quintet's first set Friday night.

The group is co-led by pianist David Braid and saxists Mike Murley and Tara Davidson, with support from bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Ian Froman.

Apart from being outstanding contemporary jazz improvisers, or maybe because they are, it's the calibre of the compositions – contributed by each of the leaders – which resonate.

For example, Murley's "Joni's Steps," an homage to his cat, has a recurring hint of John Coltrane's seminal "Giant Steps," but the versatile players' breezy approach allowed for bold, joyous runs, including a surprisingly ferocious duet between Vivian and Froman.

If you missed out, the band's current disc DMBQ:Live is a worthy substitute.

Across town at artsy Trane Studio on Bathurst St., Chicago trumpeter Corey Wilkes celebrated the release of his recording debut Drop It.

The artist-in-residence at the Jazz Institute of Chicago and member of the highly regarded Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Wilkes is clearly rooted in bop and blues but fuses his sound with funk and R&B.

It was exciting to hear him turn a sleepy old chestnut like "Willow Weep for Me" into an almost unrecognizable sultry, upbeat burner; and then go completely the other way with a sensitive, lyrical reading of the soul classic "Feel Like Making Love" that had some of the audience singing along.

Wilkes, 29, would have fit neatly in that erstwhile young lions' brigade of Joshua Redman, Christian McBride and Roy Hargrove.

People were snapping up his CD after the show, which is mostly originals and includes poetry. Trane Studio owner Frank Francis is planning to bring him back soon.

It's worth remembering that after the festival ends today, the music continues throughout the city at these venues and several others with the cheapest great jazz in North America: low cover charges, no drink minimums.

Pan-African Band Serve Up Cuban Songs Tossed With American And French Influences

Source: www.thestar.com - John Goddard,
Staff Reporter

(June 29, 2008) What's remarkable about Orchestra Baobab is how deeply its players seem to have internalized all of West African pop music.

"Specialist in all styles," the band calls itself. The musicians seem to be making a joke – how can you specialize in everything?

But the claim rings true.

"It's a salad," singer Rudy Gomis, 61, said not long ago of the band's stylish, inclusive sound, "a mixture of Cuban songs and influences from Senegalese griots (hereditary praise singers), and from the Congo, Nigeria, France and America, played by a pan-African band with members from Senegal, Togo, Morocco and Guinea."

Orchestra Baobab formed in 1970, disbanded in 1985 and reunited in 2002.

The revival might have remained short-lived except the band scraped off its rust and audiences responded to its mix of easy-going attitude and tight, expert musicianship.

Western stars counted among the fans. Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band and Trey Anastasio of Phish joined them on David Letterman's The Late Show in 2004 and later travelled to play with the group in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.

Last month, the 11-piece orchestra released a new album, Made in Dakar, reaffirming their seriousness of purpose.

It is a lively and surprisingly contemporary disc, incorporating new elements into an essentially Afro-Cuban sound.

"Beyond refreshing," wrote Banning Eyre, of the U.S. Afropop Worldwide online magazine and radio show.

To appreciate the Baobab sound, it helps to know that throughout the 1930s and 1940s Dakar musicians played Cuban music introduced by sailors. Without knowing the language, singers also sang in Spanish.

By 1960, the year of independence, Dakar bands were picking up traditional instruments again and singing in local languages. In 1970, the Baobab Club opened. Several young players from the city's top group, the Star Band, left to form the club's house band.

Each member brought his own style. Quickly, the orchestra rose to No. 1, and although members came and went the band more or less reigned, with hit after hit, for 15 years.

Its end came with the rise of Youssou N'Dour, Senegal's first true pop star and still its top singer.

Fittingly, N'Dour co-produced Made in Dakar with Nick Gold of World Circuit records, the man most responsible for bringing the group out of retirement. N'Dour also sings on one track.

Orchestra Baobab play Harbourfront Centre on Thursday at 9 p.m.

Calgary's Jazzy, Star-Studded Comeback

www.globeandmail.com - Norval Scott

(June 27, 2008) CALGARY — Dave Brubeck has only to walk to his piano to gain a standing ovation from a sold-out Calgary audience. A dapper figure who doesn't entirely look his 87 years, the jazz legend sits and starts to play.

The packed house falls completely silent, hanging on every note, and erupting into reverent applause at every opportunity. While Brubeck's performance has elicited many reactions throughout his long career, on Thursday his music signalled something very particular:
Jazz in Calgary is back from the brink.

The current resurgence is clearest at the city's annual summer Jazz Festival, which for years has struggled both to attract marquee names and to make money, and which almost collapsed in 2006 when its promoter pulled out at the last minute. But bands booked to be at the 2006 fest appealed to a separate local association, C-Jazz, to find somewhere for them to play. In response, C-Jazz effectively took over the festival, and has steadily been rebuilding its reputation.

The lineup for this year's festival, which opened Tuesday, is by far the strongest in recent memory. As well as Brubeck, such big names as trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, and Maceo Parker (a one-time band mate of both James Brown and George Clinton) all played this week to capacity crowds.

“People are coming to play, and the city's getting into it,” says Patrick Maiani, executive director of C-Jazz. “We have an intelligent population with a hunger and thirst for the finer things in life, and people are looking to enjoy culture and music.”

Despite Calgary's reputation in some quarters as a cultural backwater, the city has long been a hub of country-and-western music. As well, it nursed a thriving blues scene in the 1960s and seventies, and aficionados say that historical connection is still there for the right acts to tap into.

But until recently, Calgary hasn't been able to attract the big names. Not only did the city's main jazz festival play second fiddle to Edmonton's own, larger event, but the promoter who ran both shows, Marc Vasey, developed a reputation for not paying artists on time. As a result, many of the big names shunned Alberta, and the festival began to die.

But the change of leadership – and the renewed willingness of major names to travel to Calgary – has breathed new life into the festival. Ticket receipts for this year's shows are four times those of 2007, and 16 times those of 2006.

In an interview, Brubeck said he was delighted at the reception he received. “It was a great audience, and a great auditorium. All the things that make a concert good happened.”

“It's just rocking right now, there's so much happening,” says Dale Turri, communications director with the Calgary Professional Arts Alliance. “Jazz has had its problems in Calgary in the past, and that's made it hard to keep things running. But now the right people are at the helm, and it's remarkable how much has happened in such a short period of time.”

Another boost has come from Calgary's burgeoning oil wealth, which has helped create a range of benefactors keen to support the city's ongoing cultural development. Pipeline giant TransCanada Corp. is the main sponsor of this year's festival, while oilmen like Richard Gusella, chief executive of oil-sands firm Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd., have also stepped up. “Any exposure to great music is good for a city like Calgary,” says Gusella. “And if there's a chance to hear Dave Brubeck … well, we all played the piano as kids. Why wouldn't you step up?”

While a confluence of factors is improving the lot of jazz in Calgary, it's clear a key element in that rebirth is the leadership of Maiani, a 46-year-old self-confessed jazz buff whose lazy, hipsterish drawl completely fails to mask his passion for bringing the music he loves to a wider audience.

“It always takes one crazed individual – one dedicated, insane person – to spearhead a festival, and that's him,” says John Reid, Prairie regional director of the Canadian Music Centre and founder of the original Calgary Jazz Festival. “He's gone and raised money to get the big names in, and that's got everyone talking. Calgary has always had a strong audience for jazz, but hasn't always had the [shows] or the infrastructure. Now Pat's doing a great job lining that up, and things are blossoming.”

With this year's festival already a success, Maiani is confident that next year's 30th-anniversary fest will do even better. “We have a new young audience, and there's tons of money and belief in this town,” adds Maiani. “Is it possible to create this whole new core of happening things in Calgary? I think it is, and the festival can be a catalyst.”

Meet Mother Corp.'s Daddy Dearest

www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Wells

(June 27, 2008) Richard Stursberg smoothly glides through the sky-busting atrium of the CBC building, heading toward the sleekly tall Carole MacNeil, who stands, smiling, sunglasses perched on head. He brushes a kiss upon her cheek, a gift that MacNeil, co-host of CBC News: Sunday and Stursberg's “girlfriend” – his word – rises ever so slightly on the toe of one black patent pump to receive.

Taking the stage, the vice-president of English-language services for CBC radio and television smiles down upon his people. Diana Swain in a pantsuit as white as a nun's wimple. Heather Hiscox in a white-and-wheat ensemble. A spiky-haired Wendy Mesley in jeans. (Go Wendy.) The CBC-TV personalities are identified by name cards that have been placed on the tabletops. The presence of the cards is rather off-note, for one of Richard Stursberg's self-defined missions has been to transform his roster of hosts into stars needing no such identifiers.

Stursberg, up there on the stage, appears immensely comfortable, immensely pleased. To understand why this is so, you have to understand what, in Stursberg's view, the CBC is all about. “In the past, people had different views as to what the appropriate role of the CBC was,” he will say in an interview. “While it's certainly true to say that the CBC is a cultural organization, we take the view that the biggest cultural challenge facing English Canadians is ultimately our failure to produce entertainment shows, Canadian shows that Canadians actually want to watch.”

By this measure, Stursberg says the CBC is on “a very big roll.” He's liking the public broadcaster's numbers, particularly a 7.8-per-cent prime-time share on CBC-TV, beating Global Television in the crucial post-suppertime hours. Across several conversations, he returns to this central theme: that the winning game at the CBC is about creating “popular programming” for television viewers. Prodded to come up with a more overarching vision for a multimedia broadcaster that is much deeper and broader than prime-time TV – seeding such words as “citizenship,” “civil society” and “cultural excellence” into the conversation proves to be of no help – Stursberg replies, “I don't know why people want to sort of say the CBC has some high-art role. I don't quite understand that. The Canada Council is there to fund the high arts.”

Inside the Mother Corp., it is Stursberg's job to steer a large, diverse constituency. There are high notes of anxiety in some quarters. Fear. Distrust. And proclamations of distaste for what they see as his imperious manner. “Trudeauesque,” says one.

How does he feel he's being perceived within, say, the news department? “I would say that I think the news department is, um, thinking about me. I don't think they dislike me. I don't think they like me.” Radio? “I think they've been actually pleasantly surprised to find out that I'm not the great Satan.”

From his stage-centre vantage point in late May, Stursberg played to an audience gathered for the unveiling of the TV network's fall schedule. The main message: “We succeed when our content reaches and resonates with the broadest cross-section of the greatest number of Canadians.”

For that to be proved to be commercially true, Stursberg must continually amass eyeballs: Viewership begets advertising. This explains why the Canadian-centric investigative consumer report Marketplace – a show that carries no commercials – is being pushed aside in the fall season to make way for the resolutely American game show Jeopardy!, a show that bears an exclamation mark.

This would also explain the incongruity of the scene before us, with Stursberg reassuring the crowd that the CBC remains “the most important cultural institution in Canada,” while the button-eyed Alex Trebek looks on, well, gamely. In an interview, Stursberg responds this way to critics who see Jeopardy, or rather Jeopardy!, as nothing but artery-clogging junk: “The only reason we put American shows on in the first instance is to generate revenue. … For every extra dollar of margin we can generate out of a show like Jeopardy!, it just means an extra dollar we can put into Canadian programming. It's not as though the money is going anywhere else.”

Is this the slippery slope?

Marc Raboy is the Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications at McGill University. “The CBC is doing some commercial programming that is simply aimed at getting the eyeballs in order to get advertising dollars,” Raboy observes. “I think it has a downward-spiral effect. I think it has a perverse effect on the whole programming ethos.”

‘A cowboy sometimes'

“The CBC is so vast. It's like a country. Every month I find something new.”

Richard Stursberg is on the move, having suddenly issued a “Come with me” directive, exiting his seventh-floor office, heading down to the lobby, then hopping an escalator to the archival bowels of the corporation where the cool stuff resides. Not the gun collection, about which Stursberg was recently informed, and which, he says, ranges from muskets to modern. And not Rusty and Jerome, who left in a huff months ago. But Joyce Hahn's shoes. “I know it sounds weird,” says Stursberg, “but the interesting thing is, she was tiny.”

And there they are, teeny tiny black-leather DeMarco three-inch pumps, size 4B. “She was beautiful,” says Stursberg of the star of Cross-Canada Hit Parade a half-century ago. “She was a great singer. She was a fantastic dancer.”

The signposts are everywhere connoting the CBC's role in the creation of, for lack of a better term, Canadian culture, not least in the form of the diminutive Ms. Hahn, born 1929 in Eatonia, for Pete's sake, the Saskatchewan town named after Timothy E. himself.

This is the archival foundation of Richard Stursberg's empire, which extends coast to coast to coast and embraces roughly 4,700 employees and a budget of close to $800-million. Big picture, he aims to make the public broadcaster more commercial and more accountable. Frame by frame, he has recorded a seemingly endless reel of contentious decision-making. Most recently, the CBC failed to renew the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme. “Was the jingle a nice jingle? Yeah, certainly it was,” he says. “Were we disappointed to have it taken away? Sure. But on the other hand, it's something that's not going to make any difference to Hockey Night in Canada. People come to Hockey Night in Canada because they're coming for the hockey. They're not coming to listen to the jingle.”

In an earlier interview, Stursberg defined as “colossal” the rights-holders' demand for between $2.5- and $3-million to secure clear title to Dunt-da-DUNT-da-dunt. “We're kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't,” he said. “If we don't conclude the deal because we're not prepared to pay too much money, then people say, oh, you lost the jingle. But then if we pay too much money, we get trashed for paying too much money.”

Skip back a step and you arrive at the moment last winter when the CBC sold off the U.S. and international rights to more than 1,000 hours of television “product” – Heartland, The Border – and a further 1,000 hours of television shows produced in-house to ContentFilm PLC of Britain. The sale came as a surprise, to say the least, to domestic distributors. “It wasn't proper and it wasn't right,” says Peter Emerson, president of Oasis International, a film distributor based in Toronto.

In January, Stursberg fanned the flames by telling Carol Off, in an interview on CBC Radio's As it Happens, that Canadian companies did not have the reach, the financing, or the catalogue to be able to effectively sell the CBC properties abroad. “The absurdity of that is he was putting his library to a company that is not bigger than my own,” counters Emerson. “If he was talking about Disney or Warner Brothers or Universal, then we wouldn't have taken up that fight. But he wasn't. He was doing a backdoor deal with ContentFilm.”

Stursberg told Off that there was no need for a public bidding process because the deal was “below the tendering limits.” When I ask him to clarify the financial threshold that would have compelled public tender, he responds thusly: “The way it works is, the signing authorities are delegated by the board to the president and the president to me. It fell way below my signing authority in terms of the value of it. We don't have any particular requirement in any of our policies to take any of that stuff to public tender.”

This seems a cavalier approach to the management of CBC assets, regardless of their commercial value. It also goes against what is meant to be the corporate mantra of the day: Transparency is in, in, in. Does he have any regrets as to the way the matter was handled? “Not particularly.”

Notes of self-assurance are easy to detect. Admirers and detractors alike say that Stursberg holds himself in high regard, that he adheres to a deeply rooted intellectual view of what he needs to do, that he is both sincerely motivated and ruthlessly effective at plan execution. The outstanding question: Is the plan the right plan?

“Richard's a cowboy sometimes,” says Laszlo Barna, president of Barna-Alper Productions Inc., the production house behind Céline, the upcoming CBC biopic on Celine Dion. “He's a very logical person. If he's taken with the logic of what he does, he doesn't much care in terms of what's popular and what's not popular. He follows his reasoning, and from time to time that's gotten him into a little bit of trouble.”

Multimillion dollar CEO

In one way, Stursberg is a child of the CBC, and in another he is not. He did not grow up watching Joyce Hahn singing You've Got the Love live in prime time. Nor was he raised on The Friendly Giant and the big guy's gentle sidekicks, Rusty and Jerome. Speaking last month on the future of the BBC in the wake of yet another report on the future of Britain's public broadcaster, the writer-producer-actor-humorist Stephen Fry spoke of the “fierce attachment to the broadcasting we grew up with” and how the BBC was “deeply stitched” into his being. (Fry remains bitter about having missed the second episode of Doctor Who, broadcast in 1963.)

The CBC was not stitched early into Stursberg's being. His preadolescent years were spent free of Canada's public broadcaster, in Parkway Village, the postwar collection of residential housing constructed by the United Nations in Queens, N.Y. Stursberg's father, Peter, was the CBC's correspondent at the U.N. Richard attended the United Nations International School – “They didn't want children having to pledge allegiance to the American flag and all that jazz,” he says. He not only coveted, but owned, the Davy Crockett coonskin cap and sang along to the Mickey Mouse Club song. “I was in love with Annette Funicello,” he says of the perky brunette in the bullet bra. “Who was not?”

His first remembrance of the CBC is rooted in the early sixties, after the Stursbergs moved to Ottawa. “I was watching the CBC and they had a show, a play, Mr. Sycamore. And the gist of it is that it's about a man who's tired of the hurly-burly of life and so he decided that what he's going to do by way of solving this, he's going to dig himself a hole and he's going to plant himself in the hole, and he's going to transform himself into a sycamore tree.”

It sounds dark and Beckett-like. Stursberg says that was not the case.

Stursberg ultimately made his way in Ottawa by tacking a bureaucrat's course, including time as assistant deputy minister, culture and broadcasting; as president of the Canadian Cable Television Association; and latterly in the private sector, as head of legal and governmental affairs at Unitel. His career-turning moment, at least in financial terms, dates to 1999, when he took on the job of chief executive officer at direct-to-home satellite provider Star Choice Communications Inc. It was Stursberg who steered the merger of Star Choice with Canadian Satellite Communications Inc., or Cancom.

“From a technical point of view, it was a great merger,” says Anil Amlani, who was hand-picked by Stursberg to be the combined company's chief financial officer. “Cancom sold to cable companies, and Star Choice sold to consumers, and both of them had separate transponders. If you combine the company and get a single transponder, you get a tremendous amount of savings. … That was one of his biggest accomplishments.”

Stursberg's fan base at Cancom was nurtured by the riches reaped by the executive team. “When I joined the company, the stock was $17.50,” says Amlani. “It went up to $57 and Shaw [Communications] bought it out at $63. Investors were excited. Ecstatic.”

According to corporate filings, the potential value of Stursberg's share options when the stock was sitting at just under $30 was more than $7-million. “We ran the stock price up, more than quadrupled it actually,” Stursberg says, declining to quantify his ultimate take. “I did okay. It was very nice. … It allows you to go and do other things. Like be here.”

“Here” is the seat of Stursberg's empire, a tastefully appointed office – art by Attila Richard Lukacs, Angela Grossman – appropriately adorned by an outsized TV screen tuned to CBC. Stursberg removes his suit jacket. He rolls up his shirt sleeves. He grasps his right knee between his hands, rocking back in his chair. His silver hair is combed back. The two side-by-side Mexican silver rings he sports on his right hand seem curiously West Coast laid-back for a man of his seemingly uptown tastes.

It has been seven months since Stursberg's job as executive vice-president in charge of English television was redefined as executive vice-president English services, encompassing CBC Radio and CBC.ca. As such, he is shaping the future of public broadcasting in Canada, perhaps unalterably.

In March, the corporation axed the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the last of its kind. For Stursberg, this is a clear cost issue, the resolution for which lies in the outsourcing strategy he has deployed throughout the organization. “The problem is, it costs about $750,000 a year to run it. We said to ourselves, we can do that, or we could record with a bunch of other orchestras and not retain our own.” What can't be calculated is whether there will be a cultural cost for reordering the corporation's DNA in this way.

Over time, Stursberg's thinking as to the nature of public broadcasting has shifted. Barry Kiefl, who was research director at the CBC from 1983 to 2001 and now runs his own company, Canadian Media Research Inc., says that once upon a time Stursberg expressed the view that the broadcaster was too reliant on sports, too reliant on commercial activity, and should reposition itself into a “true” public broadcaster, à la PBS.

“There was a point in time,” Stursberg agrees, “when I thought perhaps it would have been a good idea for the CBC not to be so heavily involved in sports. That just betrayed the fact that my grip on the economics of the organization was not as strong as it should be.” Key to Stursberg's grace of conversion is the realization that it would cost him “a ton of dough” to fill up all those hockey hours, “and then I would lose money on every single property.”

The revenue battle today is engaged on an ever-shifting digital landscape. Recall a moment not all that long ago, but before the dawn of video on demand, when The Beachcombers drew two million viewers. “It was attracting this mass audience for programming that, if you saw it today, you'd say ‘How in hell did anyone ever watch it?'“ says Kiefl. “But TV was pretty compelling back then in its form.”

That mass audience is no more. Today, as Kiefl points out, 500,000 sets of eyeballs is deemed a success. Stursberg has overseen the axing of shows – jPod, Intelligence – that displayed great promise but couldn't meet that benchmark. Little Mosque on the Prairie, on the other hand, has proved a hit and will be returning in the fall.

“I'll tell you what cultural product is,” says Laszlo Barna. “Cultural product is when you depart from programming trends because you have other priorities in terms of the nation's storytelling. It doesn't mean indulge yourself in irrelevant, obscure, unpopular little films. In this sense, I think Richard has got it absolutely right. The two have to go together. You can't call something cultural product when nobody's watching it.”

Buying Jeopardy! is an age-old broadcaster's trick aimed at wooing and then migrating viewers. “The theory is they're going to use Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! as an audience draw to hand over to their Canadian programming,” says Barna, who has made a career out of producing quintessentially Canadian television movies – the FLQ crisis; the Sue Rodriguez story. “I hate to give up those slots to those shows, okay? Are they wrong? Are they right? I dunno. Time will tell.”

In Stursberg's view, original Canadian programming offers a delicious revenue-building opportunity. “Because we make our own shows, or commission our own shows, we can build advertisers in from the beginning,” he says. The trend of allowing advertisers into what Hollywood director Cameron Crowe called “the tent” has been on the march for the better part of a decade both in film and TV. Think: product placement. “What you find gets the high numbers is easily-appealing subjects: a baby; a big, broad joke; a high concept,” Crowe told The New York Times in 1997.

Can quality programming that, as the CBC likes to say, “matters to Canadians,” thrive in such an environment? Stursberg appears serene in responding to the concerns of such creative types as Crowe. “Did Cameron not think they were in the tent already? What planet is Cameron living on?”

In fact Stursberg appears serene in all of his judgments. Says a documentary producer, of the storm that Stursberg has kicked up around himself: “He revels in it.”

Integrated news-gathering

Through two lengthy in-person interviews and two telephone chats, Richard Stursberg has put on display his passion for the CBC and the ways and means by which it must be remade.

“The way we put it to ourselves,” explains Strusberg, “is we say, ‘We have to stop thinking about ourselves as a radio company, or a TV company. We have to think of ourselves as a content company.'” This is not revolutionary talk, at least not outside of the CBC. Virtually all media companies are seeking ways to integrate what everyone now refers to as “content,” delivering it across different “platforms.” McGill's Raboy notes that the BBC has been masterful at this.

But underpinning the strategy of integration must lie the bedrock principle for the corporation, which in Raboy's view is this: “I think the CBC has a role to play in fostering public understanding, awareness and debate on the important questions of concern to Canadians. That sounds as though I'm talking about information programming, but it can also be done through entertainment programming as well. That's why we have a public broadcaster.”

On the information-programming side, Stursberg speaks abstractly about a “more integrated news-gathering set of structures,” and practically about plans to physically combine, say, the radio- and TV-news teams onto the same floor at CBC headquarters, which should prove an interesting cultural challenge in itself.

How that will translate for the television viewer is far less clear. “What does that mean for a news environment that is breaking continuously? You obviously have to be there all the time. … What does it mean when you have a show like The National? Everybody already knows the news in some sense before they get there. Very interesting question.”

The diaphanous answers on the news side quickly give way to a return to an exposition on entertainment programming. “As we've been pushing in a much more broadly populist direction … a lot of people say, ‘Well, aren't you dumbing down?' which I find an unbelievably patronizing kind of thing to say. We would say we would like to make more popular entertainments. … It's as though they don't actually watch television. They don't watch what constitutes successful television.”

Could this signal a lack of engagement in the news side of the file? Stursberg answers some questions with precision: He says there is no truth to the rumour that CBC News: Sunday, co-hosted by MacNeil and Evan Solomon, is on the block. And he rejects the suggestion that he asked Tony Burman, the former editor-in-chief of English-language news, to make cuts that he refused to make. “No, I didn't ask Tony Burman to make cuts that he would not make. In fact, as I mentioned, the top line for news has remained constant throughout the entire time I've been here. When we went to return to local news, Tony was in charge of local news and Tony agreed with that.”

According to one former CBC insider, Stursberg referred to news as “the black hole” of spending. Beefing up local news coverage, which has been a Stursberg directive, logically must translate into cuts elsewhere within the division. Stursberg won't say where. Burman left last summer, and could not be reached for comment.

Last September, a group of more than two dozen managers gathered to hear the news that John Cruickshank, former publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, had been named as Burman's replacement. A question was asked of Stursberg: How should the corporation respond to media queries about why someone with no experience in radio and television had been hired to fill such an essential post? To which Stursberg is said to have replied: “Well, I was hired as vice-president for television and I have no experience creating television programs.” It is believed that Stursberg intended to sprinkle the moment with a dusting of levity. Instead, he was met with Kremlinesque silence.

Don Cherry, Anne Boleyn

Sunlight is splashing through the CBC atrium. Strusberg is pumped. Upbeat. “We're right in the midst of the selling season,” he says enthusiastically. “There's lots of interesting things going on.”

The other day, the broadcaster played host to the advertising community. A few cocktails. The opportunity to dress up in Henry VIII's togs and pose for a Tudors photo.

Outsized photographs of the CBC's stars have been posted on the lobby walls. David Suzuki. Peter Mansbridge. Don Cherry.

Stursberg stops to remark upon these images, which he wants to show off in order to make a point. Notice the intriguingly placed CBC logo on the shoulder of Natalie Dormer, a.k.a. The Tudors' Anne Boleyn. And there, on Sophie's apples.

To the visitors who drift through this space, the logo placements will seem nothing more than whimsically placed exploding Cs.

Are the logos meant to signal how branded the shows can be?

“Yes,” crows Stursberg, his voice rising high and light. “Absolutely. And that we can work with the advertiser to integrate them into how we evolve the shows.”

Stursberg appears inestimably happy and at home here. It's as if he's been handed the best job ever. He asks a question, seeking no answer: “Who hasn't always loved the CBC?”

Marquees Set To Glitter In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com -
Martin Knelman, Toronto Star

(June 26, 2008) If you want your summer vacation to include arts and entertainment, Toronto is among the best of all places. In late August, you'll be able to choose from five Broadway or London musicals running simultaneously. And within the city there are many other cultural options. A sampling:


In its third year, this ambitious four-week event (July 22 to Aug. 17) starts with a concert by pianist André Laplante at the historic Carlu in College Park. Also on the program: Ariadne auf Naxos, a humorous opera by Richard Strauss. (416) 597-7840; tsmaf.ca


Canadian premiere of the hit Broadway musical, directed by Des McAnuff, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who sold 175 million records. Presented by Dancap Productions. From Aug. 21 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St. (416) 872-1111; jerseyboysinfo.com


Puppets who talk dirty are the attraction in this Tony-winning spoof of Sesame Street, another Dancap import. July 29 to Aug. 31, Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St. (416) 872-1111; dancaptickets.com


The beloved play by celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is performed by Kenneth Welsh, one of Toronto's greatest actors in this Soulpepper Theatre gem. July 11 to Aug. 2 at the Young Centre in the Distillery District. (416) 866-8666; soulpepper.ca


This stage musical – Monty Python by way of Broadway – was a huge hit when it visited Toronto in the summer of 2007. Now, it's back by popular demand, but not for long. Sept. 9 to Oct. 5. Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St. (416) 872-1212; mirvish.com


Stage version of the hit movie opened last fall. It's hardly a classic musical, but there is no end in sight to its run. Royal Alex Theatre. 260 King St. W. (416) 872-1212; mirvish.com


After a long run at the Canon, this way-over-the-top Queen musical pastiche reopens at a more intimate venue on July 16 for an indefinite run. Why fight it? Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St. (416) 872-1212; mirvish.com


While gearing up for the Toronto International Film Festival, you can savour the work of the great Italian director (including his 1963 masterpiece The Leopard) from July 18 to Aug. 23 at Cinematheque Ontario in Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Toronto, 317 Dundas St. W. (416) 923-FILM; cinemathequeontario.ca


About 100 objects, both historical and contemporary, explore the achievement of the company that revolutionized England's ceramics industry in the 18th century. While you're at it, you can check out superstar architect Daniel Libeskind's Crystal extension and see the new space he has created for the museum's beloved dinosaurs. Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park, (416) 586-8000; www.rom.on.ca


The comedy festival, which runs from July 24 to July 28, includes gala nights hosted by Martin Short and Jason Alexander. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. (416) 593-4828; roythomsonhall.com


The veteran jazz icon and his band are a highlight of the TD Jazz Festival. July 2 at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W. (416)872-1111; tojazz.com


In this outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Canadian Stage Company gives Shakespeare a hip-hop spin. To Aug. 31. (416) 367-1652; canstage.com

Stars In Their Own Right, The Other Members Of G-Unit Understand The Celestial Order Of The Fiddy Universe

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Dale,
Staff Reporter

(June 28, 2008) 50 Cent's manager, Laurie Dobbins, looks around the MuchMusic studio. Minutes after finishing a newspaper interview, her client has taken a seat, in a chair to her left, for an interview with a radio station. The second-most-famous member of G-Unit has not. "Where," Dobbins asks, "is Banks?"

That would be Lloyd Banks, a rapper with a Billboard No. 1 album, No. 2 album and No. 3 album to his name. He is, at present, wearing a white-gold-and-diamonds Statue of Liberty pendant, asking a reporter to weigh the gargantuan medallion he has temporarily handed to a friend, and standing, on a riser that makes him about 7 feet tall, maybe 10 steps away from Dobbins – who, for at least a moment, has no idea he is there.

This is Lloyd Banks' life.

If G-Unit were the United Nations, Banks would be, say, Brazil: big and wealthy enough to be important, never important enough to be the centre of attention when 50 Cent's United States is in the building. Banks and the group's third member, Tony Yayo, are stars; 50 Cent is a global icon who owns a 48,500-square-foot house, gets personal audiences with Nelson Mandela, and can have sex using his own name-brand condom.

The funny-because-it's-true possible title of Yayo's upcoming solo album is – actually – I Am 50's Tax Write-Off. Banks is more accomplished than Yayo, who was denied entry into Canada for G-Unit's rare small-venue show at Circa nightclub last Sunday night because of his criminal record. But, despite the money in the bank and the solo hits and the fawning women, Banks, too, understands the celestial order of the universe of 50 Cent Inc.; he understands he would probably not own jewellery heavy enough to keep a struggling chiropractor in business if his boyhood friend had never become an empire unto himself.

"I'm not dumb, deaf or blind," Banks says.

G-Unit's second album, Terminate on Sight, comes out in Canada on Monday. The group's double-platinum 2003 debut, Beg for Mercy, was released nine months after 50 Cent's solo debut became an international sensation.

"I'm definitely appreciative," Banks says. "I'll say one thing to you, the best answer I can give you. When 50 sold 12 million records of Get Rich or Die Tryin', he had two opportunities. One, that the label was presenting to him, was a second album – solo. Because if you just signed an act, and your act sold 12 million records, you're there imagining what kind of numbers he can do on the second project.

"Instead of that, he said, `This is my artist, Lloyd Banks. This is my other artist, Tony Yayo.' He's there, getting a recording deal for our group project. And that was the next album, our group album.

"He's not a selfish person."

He does like money.

Trickle-down rap economics work best when the trickle begins as a flood. 50 Cent, as much a brand as an artist, might have more revenue streams than any entertainer in the world.

The rapper, real name Curtis Jackson III, is wearing his trademark do-rag-and-baseball-cap combination, the diamond-studded cross necklace that once got him branded a "Satanist" by a Christian group, and a white t-shirt. Speaking softly, his eyes fixed on whomever he is speaking with, he manages to be likeable even when he is boasting.

"I was ahead of the opportunities. I always felt like I could do different things. And the energy from the music allowed me to do business," Jackson says, lounging on a couch with Banks. "As opportunities opened up for me, I explored every possibility."

There are, of course, the albums: two Billboard No. 1s, two No. 2, over 20 million sold worldwide in all. But there is also a Right Guard body spray, a "Formula 50" flavour of Vitaminwater, a "Magic Stick" LifeStyles condom named after one of his sultry songs, a video game and its upcoming sequel, a G-Unit record label, clothing line and sneaker line.

And then there are the movies: a 2005 semi-autobiographical film, Get Rich or Die Tryin', the in-production Microwave Park, and Righteous Kill, to be released in September, in which he stars alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Jackson's very branding success, however, has challenged the realer-than-thou essence of his brand. Sure, the argument goes, he used to sell cocaine, he was shot in 2000, he was raised in Queens in dire poverty. But, as the 32-year-old says himself in grousing about hassles at the Canadian border, he was convicted for dealing drugs in 1994, "a long time ago." How can he embody the hard-knock streets when he is making $100 million on a single investment deal, as Forbes reports he did when Coca-Cola bought Vitaminwater's parent company, in which he had a minority stake?

"Two weeks ago, I spent time with Em(inem) in Detroit, went to spend the weekend with him at his house. I stayed there," Jackson says. "We had conversations, and the same things you're saying came up – about the financial changes that people are aware of. But it doesn't affect you reflecting on your past. It doesn't affect you writing from a perspective that's real for you. It's art."

And, he says, "regardless of how rich you are, there's no real significance in success. There's a lot of successful people. And you know what they reflect on? They reflect on how far they came. So you keep looking back at what you didn't have.

"Do you understand? You sit there and look back, and creatively, when you sit there, that thought process allows you to go back into a space where you're creating as if you didn't have anything.... If you don't reflect on that, how do you write something that's real?" Jackson asks.

"You have your whole life to make your first album," says Banks. "But you can't get your whole life out in 16 songs."

In conversation, like in song, Jackson's confidence sometimes seems more like arrogance. But, still only about a decade out of poverty, he occasionally appears to forget who he is: the movie shoot with Pacino and De Niro, he says, "was a great experience, because it preps you to deal with big, big, big, big stars." (Jackson ranked 32nd on Forbes' 2007 "Celebrity 100" list, 8th in 2006.) And he speaks with rare candour about his successful effort – a sometimes deceptive effort – to make himself a symbol for both hedonism and street toughness.

The 50 Cent of Jackson's music incessantly drinks and uses drugs; Jackson himself abstains from both. "There's drinking and smoking in the music because – you know why? Because there's 500,000 people who consistently want to get high and listen to a record." When he is not partying or getting women naked, the 50 Cent of Jackson's music talks about murdering his 'hood enemies; Jackson now lives in Mike Tyson's old mansion in a wealthy Connecticut suburb.

"If as much shooting as there is in the music happened in real life," he says, "everybody would be dead in hip-hop. As much as rappers write about those altercations in the music, everybody involved in hip-hop would be dead.... If a person says everything he says on his records is real, they're lying. It's a lie. A rapper's job is to write what sounds good."

Take it from the man who has redefined a rapper's job.

Jakob Dylan Follows In His Father's Footsteps

Source: www.thestar.com - David Bauder,
Associated Press

(June 26, 2008) NEW YORK–At 38 years old and the father of four, Jakob Dylan won't be taking any backpacking trips through Europe. A musician's equivalent of that, however, inspired his first solo album.

Asked by friend T-Bone Burnett to be his opening act on a tour last year, Dylan eagerly accepted. It was a break from the rock band he fronts, the Wallflowers, and a chance to hang out backstage with musicians he admires such as Burnett, drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Marc Ribot.

"It was the opportunity I was kind of waiting for," he said in a recent interview. "I was kind of confused. I didn't want to get right back on the treadmill and write another record for the band. Relationships with the record company (Interscope) had dissipated. It was a bad relationship. Not a crossroads, but we just weren't sure what to do next."

Dylan landed at Columbia, his father Bob's label, and told label chief Rick Rubin he was writing some songs without the band in mind.

He couldn't have gone to a better person. Rubin has produced his share of rock and rap, but his ability to rip protective layers off an artist to get to the essence of a song – his work with Johnny Cash, for instance – is the defining characteristic of his control room talents.

So Dylan entered the School of Rick Rubin, leaving with the disc Seeing Things. The stripped-down affair highlights Dylan's voice and acoustic guitar with only a few musical colourings.

Stark and impressionistic, the songs on Seeing Things require concentration. With no band behind him, Dylan needed to carry them on his own. For the most part he does.

He likens his compositions to paintings, with rich imagery the brush strokes. War is a frequent backdrop to these songs, although the author is quick to say it's not necessarily the current one. He's not much for explaining songs, anyway, feeling listeners have the right to take what they want from them.

Dylan going acoustic is sure to invite comparisons to pop, who, you might recall, had some success in that arena. Musically Jakob is his own man, however. The new song that most makes you think of his father is the opening "Evil is Alive and Well," which structurally and thematically sounds like an inverse to "Gotta Serve Somebody."

Whether his father's work influenced his interest in doing Seeing Things is the one question he knows will come up in virtually every interview. He's easygoing and funny about it.

"I probably let my vanity down in that department a long time ago. If that was my concern, there wouldn't be a lot of options for me to do, period, in my life. If you talk to some people, somebody will tell you he actually invented soup."

Lizz Wright Opens Up To Her Childlike Curiosity

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

(June 28, 2008) Since her 2003 debut Salt, rural Georgia native and minister's daughter Lizz Wright has won acclaim for a pastiche of jazz, gospel, folk and blues. Her latest effort The Orchard is a soulful, sensual blend of covers and originals Wright co-wrote. The Star caught up with the 28-year-old singer by phone from her Brooklyn, N.Y., home in advance of her Diesel Playhouse gig tomorrow night during the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival. (8 p.m., $40):

Q. Have any instrumentalists influenced your approach to music?

I said once that I want to sing the way that (guitarist) Bill Frisell plays. He has this beautiful, distinctive voice that I recognize from different recordings kind of right away, the way you recognize Miles Davis, except Bill is playing anything from Americana to very avant garde jazz stuff.

Q. Do you play any instruments?

Piano and guitar. I mostly play to write. I'm going to start playing in my shows a little bit again. It's funny, you know, now I've been around long enough to kind of relax about myself, I feel like a kid again. I feel like I have some space to grow and don't mind doing it in front of people any more. I used to really mind that.

Q. What are your earliest musical memories?

My mom said I was 6 the first time I sang in front of the church. I remember also singing "Amazing Grace" every day in kindergarten after Bible story. That must have been the last group of people who had Bible stories in school. And I don't remember the melody, but I remember humming the same thing when I would see the bread that has the little girl on the back with the blond hair – Colonial Bread, I think. I always thought she was Goldilocks and I learned that story and was eating that bread around the same time and I would hum the same thing every time I saw it.

Q. Why did you choose to cover Ike and Tina Turner's "I Idolize You" on The Orchard?

I saw the (1971) documentary Soul To Soul about this big musical festival in Ghana with a lot of American soul and gospel artists. I hadn't seen any footage of Tina earlier in her career and I was just struck by just the fire and how she looked like a goddess and a warrior. A couple weeks later, I heard the original to "Idolize" and what really made me want to do it was there was no way I could have found to remember some of the voices and the songs of the women from church growing up. But the fight that I heard in her voice in that original recording – the grit and the growl in it – is something that I grew up listening to and I hadn't heard anybody sing like that since I left home.

Q. What about Led Zeppelin's "Thank You"?

(Writing partner Toshi Reagon) is a huge Led Zeppelin fan. I didn't really know who they were. I did the song because Toshi was sitting in her living room with her guitar and she said, "I'm going to play something for you and I don't want to talk about who it is, or where it's from. I'm just going to sing it for you and you let me know if you feel connected to it."

Q. This is your second album with producer Craig Street. What's his vital contribution?

The biggest thing is learn to respect my curiosity and to stop trying so hard to analyze myself and play into my ideas about history. To use those things if I want to, but to be free. Making (2005's) Dreaming Wide Awake was so full of pep talks, because I was frightened to do something different. Because there was some success with Salt, there were some ideas about who I was and I felt obligated to keep up with those things. He was never bothered by that and I was really fascinated by his openness, so I spent a lot of time with him, because I really wanted to adopt that attitude ... Mainly, there were jazz critics who wanted me to take on a certain kind of mantle and a place in history and who considered it a great honour that I was even considered that. That was great, but I couldn't get up under it.

Return Is Worth The Wait

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner,
Entertainment Reporter

(June 26, 2008) In its heyday, Return to Forever was the one jazz fusion band that sometimes sounded like a rock group straying into jazz, rather than the other way around.

That might partly have had to do with the fact that once it settled into what became its most familiar incarnation, the quartet mirrored a rock arrangement: no horns, just leader Chick Corea on keys, Stanley Clarke on bass, Al Di Meola on guitar and Lenny White on drums.

It might also have had to do with their amped-up reputation for high-decibel performance.

That foursome – which held sway from 1974 to 1976 – is back on the road, stopping at the Sony Centre last night as part of Return to Forever's first tour in more than 30 years.

"It took us long enough," Clarke told the appreciative audience, which greeted the musicians with a standing ovation. "If we had waited any longer, we would have had to come out here in wheelchairs."

The group, while not threatening to add to the hearing impairment of anyone in the house, hasn't surrendered much in the way of forceful delivery. The opening set, favouring tunes from a newly issued, two-CD anthology, provided a vigorous and coherent reminder that fusion, for all its detractors, can still deliver heart-stopping musical punch.

But it was the quieter, acoustic set that kicked off the second half of the show that left the most indelible impression, not only in terms of sonic nuance but as final testament to the consummate musicianship of all involved.

Working through a section that included "No Mystery" and "Romantic Warrior," the arrangements afforded first Di Meola, then Corea and finally Clarke an opportunity to demonstrate their deft, improvisational sensitivity to the material. White, while mostly content to fill in the background, was never less than keenly attuned to the musical conversation. Or the setting, for that matter.

"I am a sports fan," he said at one point. "And it's nice to see Cito get his second chance."

The jury is still out on Gaston's return as manager of the Blue Jays. But Return to Forever is hitting it out of the park.

African Kora With A Cuban-Irish Accent

Source: www.thestar.com - John Goddard,
Staff Reporter

(June 26, 2008) Seckou Keita went to England to teach music and ended up learning a few things himself.

Hired to teach at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, he also began studying music theory for the first time and developing a more formal way of playing than he knew from growing up in Senegal, West Africa.

He expanded his musical range. Bands hired him to play the djembe drum and, after touring widely, he founded his own London-based group about four years ago playing kora – the 21- or 22-stringed lead instrument of hereditary musicians, or griots – that he started learning at the age of 4.

"We don't force our ears to listen only to griot music," he said by phone from London this week of his band
SKQ, or Seckou Keita Quintet. "In our music you can hear African, Arabic, Cuban, Irish ... It's a new thing."

Hereditary musicians like Keita tend to make versatile players. They learn their instrument the way the 17th-century painters learned art – by practising for hours a day at their master's knee.

The kora takes four standard tunings, Keita said – one each for the Manding-speaking areas of Mali, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and the southern Senegalese region of Casamance.

He uses all four, plus some experimental ones. He sharpens or flattens certain strings to variously create a bluesy or a Middle Eastern sound.

At 30, Keita also makes a mesmerizing performer. He whirls around onstage and often leaps into the air with his large, winged instrument while playing almost impossibly rapid trills.

Backing him are half-brother Surahata Susso on drums and percussion, Italian stand-up bass player Davide Mantovani and, most surprising of all, Egyptian violin player Samy Bishai.

"Having an Egyptian violin on top of the mix is something that I love," Keita said.

"When it comes to collaboration, it is always really hard. Ninety per cent of the time it doesn't work," he said. "But in our case, I believe our instruments are speaking the same language."

The latest addition to the band is singer Binta Suso, the drummer's sister and Keita's half-sister, who sings in the powerful griot style without the usual rough edges.

"She has a special voice," Keita said, "and she has the ability to complement my experimental tunings. She has the touch."

The group opens for a special midweek double bill next Wednesday with powerhouse Nigerian Afrobeat band Seun Kuti & Egypt 80.

Just the facts
WHO: Seckou Keita and SKQ, opening for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
WHEN: Wed., July 2; Keita 8p.m., Kuti 9p.m.
Waterfront stage, Harbour- front Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.
Admission: Free

At A Ripe Old 75, Willie Nelson Is Still Out There On The Road

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(June 29, 2008) He's just celebrated his 75th birthday: Wanna bet that country music icon Willie Nelson is in better shape than you?

He's an avid jogger, a serial golfer and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He's still on the road performing more than 100 dates annually, and in the studio so often he averages two albums a year at a time when most artists struggle to put out an album once every three years.

There's no shortage of energy on the activism front, either: He still hosts the annual Farm Aid concert that he co-founded to help the farming community he feels the U.S. government has all but abandoned, and recently he lent his name to a biodiesel fuel brand partly due to his concern for the environment.

Those are only the somewhat recent accomplishments in a pioneering career that has seen its fair share of ups and downs. His albums may not be selling in the millions anymore, but there was a time in the mid-to-late '70s when Willie was everywhere: the radio, the concert stage, the silver screen. He was country music's most pervasive superstar.

And you all know the hits: "On The Road Again," "Crazy," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "Night Life," and many, many more. He's recorded and released close to 300 albums, and if he isn't in the Guinness record books for issuing the most duets – he's sung with everyone from Julio Iglesias ("To All The Girls I've Loved Before") and Ray Charles ("Seven Spanish Angels") to Waylon Jennings and even Aerosmith – he should be.

As Selena and Stevie Ray Vaughan biographer Joe Nick Patoski so succinctly summarizes in the title of his latest work, Willie Nelson has indeed lived An Epic Life – a life that includes four wives, eight children, a battle with the Internal Revenue Service, and the respect of the world.

For those who haven't read Nelson's 1988 self-penned tome Willie, An Epic Life is a good way to get caught up – and perhaps even burst some of the myths and perceptions you have about this Lone State wonder.

Born in Abbott, Texas, on April 29, 1933, the son of a blacksmith and a singing teacher was actually raised by his grandparents from the age of 6 months, due to his parents' split.

Nelson got into heavy living early: not only did he receive his first guitar and write his first lyrics when he was 6 years old, but he also smoked his first cigarette. Labour in the cotton fields followed a year later, and he got drunk for the first time on beer at the age of 9.

At 10, he joined a local polka band and received $6 for playing guitar, a catalyst for Nelson to realize his dream of making a living at music.

Now the way most of these stories go, you'd expect Nelson to be a troublemaker who spent more time in jail than on his education, but that wasn't the case at all with Willie. He was an exceptional student, an accomplished athlete and one of the most popular kids at school.

However, his restless gypsy spirit was best suited to music, although it took him quite a while to achieve that goal, toiling as a D.J. and a salesman to make ends meet and support his family. Nelson was also a prolific songwriter, and when times were especially lean, he thought nothing selling future hits like "Night Life" – which included the potentially lucrative publishing rights – for cash.

In fact, his future classics "Crazy," "Night Life" and "Funny How Time Slips Away" were offered to a bandleader for $10 apiece, but Larry Butler refused and just lent Nelson what he needed. "Night Life" eventually landed with another party for $100.

Nelson tried to sell the song "Hello Walls" to Faron Young for $500 when he reached Nashville in 1960, but Young also did Nelson the favour of lending him the money rather than take the publishing rights. When "Hello Walls" hit No. 1, Nelson received his first royalty cheque for $14,000.

Willie was on his way, although it would take awhile for him to establish himself as a major country artist. In the 1970s, he recorded the bare-bones Red Headed Stranger and later married pop and country together for the standards album Stardust. But where Nelson really broke out was through an RCA Record compilation album called Wanted: The Outlaws, on which he was paired with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser.

The album sold more than one million copies and began a phenomenon, and Willie fever exploded. In 1976 alone, seven Willie Nelson albums dominated the charts, a trend that was to last well into the '80s, spurred on by the Urban Cowboy movement.

With his rickety nasal voice, unique style of phrasing and a tempo-challenged guitar technique that felt somewhere between jazz and country, Nelson has been an unlikely influence on today's generation of Americana and roots-driven country talent.

He wasn't perfect – he had battles with the bottle and has been a womanizer – but the Country Music Hall Of Fame legend has shown five consistent qualities throughout his career: confidence, composure, productivity, persistence, and modesty.

Still going healthy and strong midway through his eighth decade, Willie Nelson has done it his way – and is an inspiration to us all.

Nick Krewen is a Toronto freelance writer.

At 95, Legendary Pianist Pinetop Perkins' Career Is Still Smoking

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

(June 26, 2008) Legendary blues pianist Willie (Pinetop) Perkins attributes the Lord's beneficence for keeping him alive and still working.

He's 95, but is just 15 years into a solo career that has crowned his life's work as sideman – to blues masters Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, Earl Hooker and Robert Nighthawk – with countless awards and accolades for his own music.

"I'm just an old man still tryin' to do the best I can," Perkins said during a recent phone conversation from Boulder, Colo., after his hearing aid had been adjusted to prevent feedback. "I look to the Lord, hopin' he'll forgive me ... I'm just trying to make a dollar or two."

In recent years, Perkins has been a prolific recording artist, putting out an album a year since he started out on his own in the early 1990s, under the watchful eye of manager Pat Morgan, a former public health professor who has organized a small band of trained health-care workers to function as ad-hoc roadies on the ancient musician's frequent road trips. Perkins picked up a Traditional Blues Grammy earlier this year for his collaboration with David (Honeyboy) Edwards, is the oldest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Grammy, awarded in 2005, and just released a new CD, Pinetop Perkins and Friends, that includes contributions from Eric Clapton, King, Jimmie Vaughan and Eric Sardinas.

Perkins feigns no special insights into the reasons for his own longevity, nor for the apparent long-term tonic effects with which the blues has blessed so many of his contemporaries.

He has smoked since age 10 – "I'm smokin' now," he chuckled down the line – and would eat Big Macs for every meal if he had his way. He performs two or three concerts a month, and will be in Toronto tonight at Sound Academy 2 (formerly The Docks), with long-time accompanist, drummer and harmonica player Willie (Big Eyes) Smith. When he's not on the road, he makes the rounds at the numerous blues and roots clubs in Austin, Tex., where he lives, playing whenever a spot opens up.

"I don't get paid for that, but I sell a lot of CDs," he said.

Perkins is particularly grateful for having lived long enough to achieve a much-deserved and dignified seat at the table of blues masters. Twenty years ago he was heading for oblivion, for a place in the footnotes of blues history. "I feel like it's all comin' back to me, all the work I did, all the music I played ... People will get to know about it now, Lord willin'."

Pressed to recount some of the high points of his career, notably with Waters, whose band's music Perkins is credited with having organized and arranged into a magnificently distinctive, hard-rocking style, he said, "Too many to remember ... we played so many places, had so many great times. We brought the blues to people who never heard it before."

Not that Pinetop Perkins spends his time looking back.

"I'm gonna keep playin' as long as folks like what they hear," he said.

Just the facts
WHO: Pinetop Perkins with Willie (Big Eyes) Smith; Jack de Keyzer and Jerome Godboo opening.
WHEN: Today, 9 p.m.
WHERE: Sound Academy, 11 Polson St.
TICKETS: $35 at 416-645-9090, toll-free 1-888-655-9090 or online at ticketpro.ca. $40 at the door.

Ralph Tresvant Comes With New Single

Source: Xzault Media Group

(July 02, 2008) *Los Angeles, CA. - Ralph Tresvant is celebrating 2008 with an unprecedented amount of industry recognition, professional independence, new music and plenty of entrepreneurial endeavours, with the recent announcement of ASCAP's prestigious Golden Note Award and a hot new single It Must Be You, Ralph Tresvant's marquee has risen back into the spotlight and America and industry insiders seem excited and ready to receive this Legendary Icon as a breath of fresh air in an industry that desperately seeks change.

Ralph Tresvant has a lot to celebrate for his 25th anniversary, with the recent announcement of ASCAP's prestigious Golden Note Award, fresh new music, and the taking control of his career by releasing his new single through his own independently owned and operated label, Xzault Media Group.

Xzault has direct distribution deals with Apple's iTunes, I. O. D. A. and other national retailers that he says gives him the freedom and power to provide his music directly to his fans in an up-close and personal way. Listen to an advance preview of his new single, It Must Be You exclusively on www.iTunes.

Ralph Tresvant is a shining star that has been captivating audiences for over 25 years as a solo artist, actor, entertainer, writer, producer and legendary front man of super group New Edition. Ralph Tresvant has helped pave the way for so many others like New Kid's On The Block, Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Usher and Justin Timberlake, who have all followed in his footsteps.

Dan Dillman, Ralph's business partner at Xzault, states: "Ralph Tresvant is an icon in the entertainment world; he's a stars star, with a built-in fan base that spans over three generations of music lovers. Ralph Tresvant's voice is the one you hear on all the New Edition hits and Ralph is currently preparing for his Up-Close and Personal Tour where he will be performing 25 years of hit songs, everything from Candy Girl, Mr. Telephone Man, A Little Bit of Love, Count Me Out, Helplessly In Love, If It Isn't Love, Crucial, Sensitivity, Stone Cold Gentlemen, Money Can't Buy You Love, Yo Baby, Yo Baby, Yo, When I Need Somebody, My HomeGirl and more including his latest single, It Must Be You. This is a show that you just can't miss! The concerts will take place in very intimate up-close and personal settings across the country and then we will take the tour around the world."


India.Arie Prepares For Broadway Debut

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

(June 26, 2008) *India.Arie will make her Broadway debut this August in the upcoming revival of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," produced by Whoopi Goldberg. According to Playbill.com, this new Broadway production from director Shirley Jo Finney features choreography by Tony winner Hinton Battle and includes updated writing to make it more relevant to women today; expect a reference to the Iraq war instead of Vietnam, and there will be a new story about a woman faced with HIV infection. "For Colored Girls...," a prose-poem portrait of black women in America, originally featured Shange and Trazana Beverley, who won a Tony for her performance. Whoopi Goldberg and DreamTeam Entertainment Group (Victor Walker, Harold Wheeler and Ned Goldstein) serve as executive producers for the revival. Complete casting will be announced shortly.  Previews will begin at the Circle in the Square Theatre beginning Aug. 19. The official opening will begin Sept. 8. Tickets go on exclusive sale to American Express Card members July 9. Tickets for the general public will be available beginning July 19.

Stevie Wonder Talks About Upcoming Albums

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

(June 26, 2008) *Stevie Wonder, currently on tour throughout the U.S., says he will follow up his 2005 CD, "A Time 2 Love," with two new albums currently in the works.  The first is "The Gospel Inspired by Lula," which he began recording after the death of hiss mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, in May 2006.  "Some of it is going to be traditional gospel but some of it is going to be ... I'm trying to do some (different) stuff," Wonder said during a recent conference call. "I might do something in Arabic. I might do something in Hebrew. My whole thing of the title is just saying 'Spreading the good word, the message. The second project is titled "Through the Eyes of Wonder," which he described as a performance piece that will reflect his experience as a blind man. "What I want to do with our live performances is to create visuals that [give] my take on how I see the world and how most various things affected me," he said.  In addition, Wonder said he'll be involved in some special media pieces honouring Motown's 50th anniversary this year. Also, there were rumours that the singer would hook up with Tony Bennett for another duet album – this time singing a set of Marvin Gaye covers produced by Quincy Jones. Wonder did not confirm the project but said that, "I'm the last one to hear about it and the first one to agree. Definitely Tony and I talked about doing some stuff together. And Quincy and I have always wanted to work together on a project. Tonight, Wonder is scheduled to perform in Milwaukee at the Marcus Amphitheater.

Wyclef Brings Investors To Haiti

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 1, 2008) *Wyclef Jean was in Haiti recently accompanied by a group of foreign investors he hopes will pour money into the local economy, which represents the poorest country in the Americas, he tells Reuters. "I understand that there is a food crisis that needs to be addressed urgently, but at the same time donors need to inject funds in projects likely to bring sustainable results," he told Reuters in an interview at the end of a five-day visit last week. The Haitian-born entertainer said the most important contribution the international community could make to Haiti is to invest in agriculture, road projects and economic infrastructure. "Charity will never solve Haiti's problems," said Clef, 35. "Haitians want jobs, they want to develop their agriculture to produce food, not to everlastingly receive food assistance."  Wyclef was appointed last year by Haiti's President Rene Preval to serve as a roving ambassador. Last week, the former Fugees star was followed by cameras from CBS's "60 Minutes" for an upcoming episode about his humanitarian efforts.

BBC Airs Long-Lost Beatles Interview

www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(July 01, 2008) LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. aired on Tuesday a long-lost Beatles interview featuring John Lennon and Paul McCartney talking about the day they met and their songwriting partnership. The precious film had sat forgotten for 44 years in a garage in south London until film fan Richard Jeffs realized a piece of pop history was contained inside. Experts were surprised to find the audio portion still usable for radio broadcast. The nine-minute interview was recorded at the Scottish Television studios in April, 1964, during the early days of Beatlemania. It will was broadcast for the first time on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday and will be repeated later this week. On the tape, Lennon tells how he was playing with a skiffle band outside Liverpool when McCartney introduced himself.

Revlon Chooses Nicole Scherzinger

Source: UOMO Media

(July 02, 2008) *TORONTO, Canada - UOMO Media Inc., a multi-channel entertainment and media company, is proud to announce that the Tricky Stewart written and produced duet 'Power's Out' featuring Nicole Scherzinger and Sting, was chosen as the music for Revlon's advertising campaign featuring actress Jessica Alba. The song, 'Power's Out,' is a track off of Nicole's debut solo album, Her Name is Nicole. 'At UOMO, we are constantly creating new business opportunities to monetize our assets across various media platforms,' said Mr. Camara Alford, CEO and Chairman of UOMO Media Inc. "Revlon's selection of "Power's Out" compounds and demonstrates the fact that our media properties continue to be impactful, proving broad mass market appeal to both the consumer and business marketplace. Our roster of talent has powerful songs that marry well with equally iconic brands.' Tricky Stewart is a Grammy award winning music producer and songwriter and has worked with many hit recording artists including Rihanna, Janet Jackson, and Mariah Carey. Earlier this year, Tricky Stewart and Redzone Entertainment, signed an exclusive international management agreement with UOMO Media.


What Common 'Wants'

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(June 27, 2008) *The sci-fi, full throttle, adrenaline-laced action flick “
Wanted” opens in theatres this weekend, telling the story of an apathetic regular Joe who's recruited into a secret society of assassins, headed by their wise leader Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and co-piloted by a femme fatale named Fox (Angelina Jolie).

Adding complement to an already dazzling cast, hip hop legend
Common cuts his teeth on another action film, as Gunsmith – a strong silent type.

In addition to having a stellar cast of big names, the film was shot in Common’s hometown of Chicago. However, the rapper told EUR's Lee Bailey and other reporters that neither his costars nor his homecoming were the main real attraction to doing the film.

 “I read the script and knew that this was something fresh and new,” he said of what drew him to the part. “I want to be a part of things that are groundbreaking, things that feel new and feel like they can become something that’s classic.”

 It was only after reading through the script that the rapper/actor found out that he’d be surrounded on the set with the likes of Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, James McAvoy.

 “Those are all actors that I really love. I was like, ‘I want to be a part of it,’” he said.

 Modestly, Common said that though his part had few words, he was quite honoured to be in the cast. He explained that he understands that a career grounded on small significant roles is a good basis for longevity in Hollywood

 “I am a new actor and I know I have to take things in steps,” he said. “I knew my role didn’t have a lot of lines to say, but I feel you’ve got to be the best with the role that you’re given and be present regardless and bring what you can to that role. You’ve got to be humble enough to take on certain roles at certain times and know that you’ll have opportunities to have leads in movies as you keep taking these steps.”

Furthermore, at times it’s even more difficult to have a silent role than one with a lot of dialog, and Common felt that that challenge helped him work on his craft.

 “You have to be able to say things without speaking. When somebody looks at that screen they need to see, whether the character is speaking or not, that this character is alive, that there’s something going on,” he said. “Whatever dialog they do give you, or if they add or take away, you’ve got to be the core of that character and let that character be alive. That’s what I strive to do. It is a challenge at times, but I love the challenge.”

 Common clearly was up for the challenge and passed with flying colors. Even after he’d finished his parts in the film and was hanging in Chicago to promote his album, he was called back for more face time in front of the camera.

 “They called me back to do more. They wanted to put me in more scenes. I felt honoured. I was grateful,” he said. “I knew this was something good, so any camera time – I was excited.”

 In the film, Freeman stars as the group’s leader, Sloan. Sloan is a wise and enigmatic teacher, as was Freeman to Common on the set. Impressed by Freeman’s iconic status, Common admitted that he was a little awestruck by the Oscar-winning actor.

“I looked over at Morgan Freeman and said, ‘Man, that’s Morgan Freeman.’ This is an incredible actor and I’m in a scene with him,” Common recalled. “It’s a blessing to be in his presence. He did come over and give me some acting wisdom. When he did that, I got chills.”

 Though Common’s acting career is building right along with his love of the art, the lyricist said that he’s still quite in love with hip hop. It just happens that around 2000 he found himself disenchanted with the industry, which led to his affair with acting.

 “I was looking for a new way to express myself. I love music, but I felt I had creative energy that I wanted to express in new ways,” he said. “At that time, hip hop was feeling a little limited to me, so decided to take an acting class. From the first day I went, I just loved it.”

 Common would take classes whenever he had the opportunity between studio time and touring. He got his first chance to perform in front of cameras on an episode of the TV show ‘Girlfriends’ and got even more excited about acting.

 “My first film was ‘Smokin’ Aces,’ and when I got that chance, it was over. I was building a career in this.”

 Construction continues. Up next for Common is a role in the fourth of the “Terminator” film series called “Terminator Salvation,” expected in theatres next summer.

 “I’m doing more work and I’m looking to do a lot more roles. I want to have a career as an actor,” he said, suggesting that one day, reporters will sit with a young actor and ask about him.

 “I want us to be able to sit here and say, ‘You know he’s one of the great actors of our time. How does that feel working with him?’”

 “Wanted” opens nationwide this weekend. For more on the film, check out the official website at www.wantedmovie.com.

Related story:
URBANTHOUGHTCOLLECTIVE.COM: Edwardo Jackson's Review of 'Wanted'

TIFF Lineup To Include Big Winners At Cannes

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(June 27, 2008) 
Programmers for the Toronto International Film Festival unveiled a lineup yesterday of 27 films to be screened at the 10-day fete in September, and the list includes many of the big prize winners at Cannes.

The 33rd edition of the festival - which runs Sept. 4 to 13 - includes a special presentation of Laurent Cantet's Entre les murs (winner of the Palme d'or at Cannes); Italian Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah (the Grand Prix winner); Arnaud Desplechin's drama Un conte de Noël (a special prize winner); and Steve McQueen's Hunger, winner of the 2008 Camera d'or, which follows Bobby Sands - who died in 1981 after a 66-day hunger strike in support of the Provisional Irish Republican Army - and other IRA inmates held captive in Northern Ireland's notorious Maze Prison. More than 10,000 people attended Sands's funeral in Belfast.

TIFF will also host a Masters screening of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's Le Silence de Lorna, which took home the best-screenplay prize in Cannes last month, as well as Three Monkeys, which received the best-director award for Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

The South Korean "kimchee western" film, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, from Kim Jee-woon, will have a coveted gala screening at TIFF for its North American premiere. The film - the biggest-budget movie ever produced in the country - is set in the 1930s when the Korean Peninsula is in chaos after falling to Japanese imperialists.

Toronto director Atom Egoyan's new film, Adoration (in competition at Cannes in May and winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize), will get its North American premiere with a special presentation.

Masters Presentations are scheduled for acclaimed British director Terence Davies's Of Time and the City; Chinese director Jia Zhange-ke's 24 City; and Poland's Jerzy Skolimowski's Four Nights with Anna.

The Brazilian entry Linha de Passe, from Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, gets a Contemporary World Cinema screening. Set in the heart of Sao Paulo, the story of four fatherless brothers netted Sandra Corveloni the best actress award from the Cannes jury.

Digital Access A Priority For NFB

www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(July 1, 2008) First, the bad news.

National Film Board of Canada recently eliminated 30 jobs. Some were layoffs, some were achieved through attrition and a hiring freeze, cutting its staff to about 450, in order to help wring $2.5-million from its budget to pay for digital upgrades. The news has sent a wave of doubt about the current health of the NFB through the film community.

Now, the good news.

The film board remains on a hot streak, breaking new ground at every turn, from its much-lauded documentary Up the Yangtze to its re-entry into experimental fiction filmmaking, with the current release Family Motel and a new work this fall from Deepa Mehta. Meanwhile, no showcase of world-class animation during the past year has been complete without the NFB's brilliant, bizarre and Oscar-nominated Madame Tutli-Putli.

So which is it? A film board in trouble, or one on an upswing? Reached by phone in France, where he was attending a documentary festival, NFB chairman Tom Perlmutter tried to add some perspective.

The NFB gets annual funding of about $64-million from Ottawa, and earns about $8-million from film revenue. Over the last decade, the cap on money from Ottawa has meant perpetual belt-tightening.

Yet, during that time, the digital revolution has meant continual upgrades at the NFB, from archiving to distributing films across ever-changing digital platforms. Later this year, the NFB will be announcing a major new initiative for distributing its films over the Net.

Still, getting the board's films to wider audiences remains a major problem in a market bloated with Hollywood fare.

“The question of where you can see NFB films is absolutely the vital question,” Perlmutter said. “We're available in all sorts of venues, whether it's broadcast, festivals, community screenings. [But] it's not enough in terms of a general audience.”

Some new initiatives are already in the works, such as the NFB's “e-cinema” program, which gives smaller cities and communities access to digitally transmitted NFB films. Also, the film board continues to play a key role in schools, with its films shown about six million times every year in schools across the country, Perlmutter said.

He wants the NFB “to strengthen our relationship to the schools, to be much more connected to the teachers and to the teaching community, to make sure we are able to deliver our films. They really need the kind of Canadian points of view on the world and on Canada on formats useable in the classroom.” And this means easy access to films digitally.

But to pay for new equipment and new methods of sending films across digital platforms, the NFB has had to cut its operating budget and allocate that money to capital costs, Perlmutter explained. Even the Telecine equipment the NFB uses every day to transfer films to digital formats is “at the point of dying,” he said.

However, Perlmutter said he insisted that no money be diverted out of the budget for films. The money had to come from administrative costs. Still, this included eliminating three in-house film-directing jobs in Montreal. Two of the three were held by Beverly Shaffer and Paul Cowan, although Cowan is still making the adaptation of Margaret MacMillan's book Paris 1919 with the NFB. The remaining position held by filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin was changed to reflect Obomsawin's role as a liaison and mentor to Canada's native film community.

“We are trying to build for our digital future,” Perlmutter explained, “in terms of making sure we're prepared, and that we're putting the film board in a place where it can be really responsive to wherever this industry is going.” Implicit in this comment, of course, is the fact that no one, even those on the cutting edge of documentary, animation and experimental filmmaking, is sure where the film industry is going.

Superbad Hero A New Twist For Smith

www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. Directed by Peter Berg. 92 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(July 1, 2008) John Hancock (Will Smith) takes the crab cake in this summer of grumpy supermen. He's more corrosive than Iron Man and flintier than Hellboy.

As he demonstrates in the opening frames of Hancock, a movie that is two-thirds of a great idea, he's the kind of hero who makes you think villains aren't so bad after all.

Roused from his alcoholic stupor to stop a high-speed chase on a Los Angeles freeway, Hancock causes nearly $10 million in property damage. The city's gratitude is muted by complaints that his cure for crime could push L.A. into penury. Thanks for nothing, man!

All of which makes Hancock one of the most realistic and stimulating superhero movies in a long while, until it slams into a brick wall about an hour into its 92-minute run.

Director Peter Berg (The Kingdom) and screenwriters Vy Vincent Ngo (BMW's The Hire ads) and Vince Gilligan (TV's The X Files) have cottoned to a reality that most action films ignore: the high cost of being saved. How many times have we watched guys like Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk stop bad guys by stomping a few buildings and bridges into rubble? Pity the street sweepers and demolition crews who must follow in their wake.

And Hancock, who is like Superman with bad manners and a major attitude, isn't the least bit contrite or polite.

Chronically depressed, hung over and hygiene-averse, he haunts park benches and has to be goaded into lending a hand.

Dudley Do-Right, he's not, and he's also the antithesis of the smooth characters that Smith normally plays.

But things change after Hancock saves public relations image-maker Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) from a fatal collision with a train (which the train doesn't survive).

Ray sees Hancock as a rough gem in need of some polishing, which he intends to provide. Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron), however, views the homeboy hero as the lump of coal in the Christmas stocking: "You see the good in everybody, Ray. Even sometimes when it's not there."

Hancock's mysterious origin and motivation keep the movie alive in the early going. We aren't, at first, burdened with the standard back-story about radioactive insect bites or errant gamma rays.

Nor are we troubled with any kind of explanation why Hancock doesn't just move to a remote locale where he can smash things to his heart's content, without having to deal with ingrates who quibble about unscheduled demolitions.

It seems that Hancock has been hanging around L.A. for so long, for reasons unknown, he's become familiar to the point of contempt. He's as popular as a hand grenade in a china factory, a situation Ray intends to change.

Another change is far less welcome. It's that point in the movie where it abruptly switches from a story of redemption into a tale of the fantastic that trashes any semblance of logic.

In fact, it's nuttier than M. Night Shyamalan's killer trees. But at least no one could say they saw the twist coming.

Not helping matters at all is Berg's insistence on using shaky-cam techniques that do nothing but invite vertigo.

Why have a camera this unhinged when the ground is already crumbling beneath us?

The film invites humour, which Smith excels at, but too often it is of the vulgar kind. A prison scene where Hancock finally makes good on his repeated threat to shove somebody's head up somebody else's butt is funny only if you're into the crudest of sight gags.

It's possible, even likely, that Berg and his screenwriters simply didn't know where to take the story. The original script has reportedly been bouncing around Hollywood for the past decade.

Hancock is still worth seeing, if only for a glimpse of what might have been a truly innovative idea. As it is, the movie is as rough around the edges as Will Smith's ham-fisted hero.

Actors Guild Considering Studios' 'Final Offer'

www.thestar.com - Ryan Nakashima, The Associated Press

(July 1, 2008) LOS ANGELES – The contract between movie and TV actors and major Hollywood studios expired early Tuesday after the studios made a final offer and the Screen Actors Guild said it would take more than a day to study it.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said the offer was worth more than $250 million (U.S.) in additional compensation to members of the guild over the three years of the proposed contract.

The current pact expired at 12:01 a.m. PDT, but both sides said they would continue to work under the old contract after the deadline passed.

"In short, our final offer to SAG represents a final hope for avoiding further work stoppages and getting everyone back to work," the alliance said in a statement. The alliance said film production had been "virtually shut down" because of uncertainty about a deal.

The AMPTP will meet with guild representatives Wednesday afternoon to explain the offer, but will not entertain counterproposals, spokesman Jesse Hiestand said.

The guild said it would prepare a formal response once it analyzes the 43-page offer, but SAG's chief negotiator, executive director Doug Allen, immediately criticized it.

"This offer does not appear to address some key issues important to actors," he said in a statement.

For example, residual payments to actors for reruns of productions that were made only for the Internet were "incalculable," he said, adding it would "mean the beginning of the end of residuals."

The offer, made less than five months after the 100-day writers strike, was in line with deals cut with directors and writers guilds, as well as the tentative deal reached in May with the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, both sides said.

The guild, however, has waged an all-out campaign against the AFTRA deal, which some 70,000 members were asked to ratify.

SAG, which represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV and other media, shares 44,000 dual members with AFTRA, which includes actors, singers, announcers and journalists.

Results are due July 8.

The guild has said the AFTRA deal left many areas for improvement, including on residual payments for DVD sales, in the area of advertising weaved into scripts and on compensation for Internet content.

That position suggested SAG would turn down the producers' final offer, said Jonathan Handel, a former lawyer for the Writers Guild of America.

"SAG says it's reviewing the offer, but in fact what we can expect is a thorough rejection," Handel said. "This really is a situation where we're looking at a bit of a stalemate.''

AFTRA declined to comment.

The dispute has split actors who have taken sides between the warring unions.

Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey and others have urged support of the AFTRA deal, arguing that doing otherwise could result in a painful repeat of the writers strike, which ended in February and is estimated to have caused more than $2 billion in economic damage.

Jack Nicholson, Josh Brolin, Holly Hunter and others support SAG's tactics, saying AFTRA should return to the bargaining table to get a better deal.

"I hope that cool heads prevail and that people get a chance to work," actor Ron Perlman told Associated Press Television at the weekend premiere of his Hellboy II: The Golden Army. "I'm hoping and praying that they find some middle ground."

Will Ferrell told AP Television last week that a strike would be unfortunate.

"I don't think anyone wants to have to deal with a strike or go on strike, but if that's what has to be done, that's what has to be done," he said.

In its statement Monday, the producers alliance warned of the damage of another walkout, saying a work stoppage would cost SAG members $2.5 million in wages every day.

Other labour groups in the industry would lose $13.5 million, while the California economy would take a daily $23 million hit, it said.

"With each passing day after June 30, there will be less work for those whose livelihoods depend on our industry," the statement said.

Hollywood Producers Make Final Offer To Actors

www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(July 1, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Hollywood producers said they made a final offer to the
Screen Actors Guild on Monday, hours before their current labour contract was to expire, but the guild responded by saying the offer fell short in some key areas.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said the offer was worth more than $250-million in additional compensation to members of the guild over the three years of the proposed contract.

The current pact was to expire at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, but both sides said they would continue to work under the old contract after the deadline passes.

“In short, our final offer to SAG represents a final hope for avoiding further work stoppages and getting everyone back to work,” the alliance said in a statement. The alliance said film production was “virtually shut down” because of uncertainty about a deal.

The AMPTP will meet with guild representatives Wednesday afternoon to explain the offer but will not entertain counterproposals, spokesman Jesse Hiestand said.

The guild said it would prepare a formal response once it analyzes the 43-page offer, but SAG's chief negotiator, executive director Doug Allen, immediately criticized it.

“This offer does not appear to address some key issues important to actors,” he said in a statement.

For example, residual payments to actors for reruns of productions that were made only for the Internet were “incalculable,” he said, adding it would “mean the beginning of the end of residuals.”

The offer, made less than five months after the 100-day writers strike, was in line with deals cut with directors and writers guilds, as well as the tentative deal reached in May with the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, both sides said.

The results of a ratification vote for the AFTRA deal are expected July 8.

Ledger's Joker Academy Award Winner?

Source: www.thestar.com - David Germain,
The Associated Press

(July 02, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Jack Nicholson's Joker was a blast. Heath Ledger's Joker is as dark and anarchic a figure as Randle McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the role that brought Nicholson his first Academy Award.

Ledger's performance in the Batman tale "The Dark Knight" is so remarkable that next Jan. 22, the one-year anniversary of his death, he could become just the seventh actor in Oscar history to earn a posthumous nomination.

"I do think that Heath has created an iconic villain that will stand for the ages, and of course, I would love to see him get an award," said Christian Bale, who reprises his "Batman Begins" role as the tormented crime fighter. "But you know, to me, you can witness his talent, celebrate his talent within this movie. Anything else is gravy."

Superhero flicks usually are not the stuff Oscar dreams are made of. Yet Ledger delivered so far beyond anyone's expectations that he could end up as the second performer to win Hollywood's top honour after his death.

"He may be the first actor since Peter Finch. He may even win the damn thing," said Gary Oldman, who co-stars as noble cop Jim Gordon in "The Dark Knight," which hits theatres July 18.

Finch is the only person to win posthumously, earning the best-actor prize for 1976's "Network" two months after he died.

News of Ledger's death at age 28 from an accidental drug overdose broke just hours after the Oscar nominations were announced last January, darkening what normally is one of Hollywood's happiest days. The nominations next year fall on the same date because they were moved back two days from their traditional Tuesday announcement to avoid conflicting with the presidential inauguration.

With nothing remotely like the maniacal Joker among his credits beforehand, Ledger had been a surprising choice to fans, some feeling he was too young, others sensing he would not live up to the campy but earnest performance Nicholson gave in 1989's "Batman." (The role earned Nicholson a Golden Globe nomination, though he did not make the Oscar cut.)

As filming progressed last year, word began leaking from the set about the feverishly psychotic persona Ledger was creating.

With a marketing campaign heavily focused on the Joker, the movie trailers that followed presented a Joker with sloppy, ominous clown makeup that looked as though it had been applied in a windstorm. The brief footage revealed a character whose cackling humour cannot conceal the malevolent soul beneath.

"Whatever Heath channelled into, he's found something quite extraordinary," Oldman said. "It's arguably one of the greatest screen villains I think I've ever seen."

Fans were hooked, but some were sceptical when Oscar buzz for the performance started circulating after Ledger's death. Comic-book tales and other big action flicks rarely are taken seriously by awards voters, who are willing to honour them for technical achievements but generally not for acting.

Scepticism dissolved once Warner Bros. began screenings for "The Dark Knight."

"Heath Ledger didn't so much give a performance as he disappeared completely into the role," filmmaker and lifelong comics fan Kevin Smith said on his MySpace blog after seeing "The Dark Knight." "I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but he'll likely get at least an Oscar nod (if not the win) for best supporting actor."

Ledger's performance is surpassing even the sky-high expectations hardcore fans have going in.

"He was better than I thought he was going to be," said Bill Ramey, founder of the fan website Batman-on-Film.com, who caught an advance press screening. "I think he legitimately would deserve an Oscar nomination, not just out of sympathy to his passing, but because he was just fantastic in the movie. ... It's right up there with Hannibal Lecter," which earned Anthony Hopkins an Oscar for `"The Silence of the Lambs."

Along with Finch, past posthumous Oscar contenders include James Dean, who was nominated for best actor twice after his death, with 1955's "East of Eden" and 1956's "Giant."

The other actors nominated after their deaths were Spencer Tracy (1967's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"); Ralph Richardson (1984's ``Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes"); Massimo Troisi (1995's "The Postman"); and Jeanne Eagels (1929's "The Letter").

The aura surrounding Ledger since his death is a sign that, like Dean, he could endure as a mythic figure of talent silenced before his time. Ledger had a best-actor nomination for 2005's "Brokeback Mountain" and was considered a gifted performer just coming into his own.

That will not necessarily improve his Oscar chances. Dean had two shots after his death and lost both.

"The fact that only one actor has ever won an Oscar from the grave tells us that in general at the Oscars, the feeling is when you're dead, you're dead," said Tom O'Neil, a columnist for TheEnvelope.com, an awards website. "Maybe the point is that the Oscars are all about hugs. Nobody wants to hug a dead guy."

Oscar voters tend to hand out the trophies for heroic or sympathetic roles, so Ledger's supremely evil characterization could prove a drawback along with the action-genre stigma.

Yet there are notable instances when actors playing villains made such an impression that academy members could not resist voting for them.

Besides Hopkins as cannibalistic killer Lecter, bad guys who won include Fredric March in the title role of 1932's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"; F. Murray Abraham as Mozart's mortal enemy in 1984's ``Amadeus"; Kathy Bates as a novelist's demented fan in 1990's ``Misery"; Denzel Washington as a corrupt cop in 2001's "Training Day"; and Charlize Theron as a serial killer in 2003's "Monster."

The last two years have brought Oscar wins by Forest Whitaker as brutal dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," Tilda Swinton as a murderously ruthless attorney in "Michael Clayton," Daniel Day-Lewis as a savage oilman in "There Will Be Blood" and Javier Bardem as a psychopathic killer in "No Country for Old Men."

"When a performance as a villain is that memorable, it can be held up as being that much more special," said Chuck Walton, managing editor of online movie-ticket site Fandango.com. "Oscar voters have a lot of respect for actors willing to really let themselves go and inhabit darker roles."

Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are profuse in their praise of Ledger but have been diplomatic about the Oscar talk. Awards publicity generally pads a movie's box-office and DVD receipts, and the studio has cautiously avoided any appearance of profiting from the added attention Ledger's death has brought to the film.

"The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan sidestepped the Oscar question, saying that he was simply happy that early viewers were responding to the performance the way Ledger would have liked.

The Effects Of Stardom On Brendan Fraser

Source: www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand,
Movie Critic

(July 02, 2008) There's a quiet, dreamy tone to Brendan Fraser's remarks, as if he's not quite present in this hotel room where he's sprawled on a sofa. Long, tiring day on the publicity trail?

Could be. The 39-year-old American-born actor of Canadian descent, who spent four years as a teenager at Upper Canada College – the unpleasant aspects of which gave him material for his role as a prep school student in the 1992 movie School Ties – is promoting not only a movie, but a technology.

He stars in Journey to the Center of the Earth, a 3-D movie adaptation of the 1864 sci-fi classic by Jules Verne. It opens July 11.

It's the kind of effects-heavy movie Fraser is familiar with. In his 1999 hit, The Mummy, he engaged in furious sword fights with mummies onscreen. During the filming, Fraser slashed away in front of a blue screen. The CGI folks put in the mummies afterward.

"In my case, I prefer to have no one there," Fraser says. "It's easier for me. You can swing away with your sword without worrying about running through a stunt man. The CGI people can then do what they do. The audience doesn't want to see anybody's homework."

In the same way, Fraser is perfectly comfortable with pretending to be running from a vicious predator in this latest movie, even though nothing's behind him.

They don't give Oscars to this kind of acting, but Fraser doesn't mind. Ever since 1991, when he drove to Los Angeles in his mother's Chevrolet, after graduating from an acting course at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Fraser has accepted without hesitation the roles that have effortlessly fallen to his lot.

"I'm like most actors," Fraser says.

"They don't idle well. They like to work. I know I'm one of those types, too. I've had some very good fortune in the last 15 years or so in terms of being able to work, and I guess being in this kind of big-budget picture ... allows for some leeway to work on projects that are a little more hand-picked."

He is referring to such critically acclaimed movies as Gods and Monsters (1998) and the 2002 adaptation of the Graham Greene novel, The Quiet American, where Fraser's acting was more sophisticated than the scream and run from the monster variety.

He recalls The Quiet American director Phillip Noyce telling him over the phone, "You do something for money or you do something for love. By the way, it's going to be a long cold winter for everyone, so don't feel left out."

What did Noyce mean by that? "The industry always seems to be in a state of flux, so yes, you have got to make a decision about what's important to you," Fraser replies. "In that case, in that instance, what was important to me was that Noyce delivered a package which we're proud to say stood for what the movie always intended to be, which is an anti-war film."

The events of 9/11 resulted in the movie being postponed for a year. Finally The Washington Post ran an editorial with the title, "Let the Quiet American Speak," shortly after the movie debuted at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. "God bless Canada," Fraser says.

Hopping from the literary continent of Graham Greene to the literary continent of Jules Verne, from anti-war film to thrills in 3-D, Fraser promotes the latter with, it seems, equal sincerity.

"This film is quite a gamble," he says of Journey. "It's the first time ever that there's been a picture that's been pre-conceived and pre-visualized for two years, with a screenplay that is narrative-driven – it's a beautiful family picture shot in high-definition 3-D – delivered to its audience at the zenith of visual effects."

Its director, Eric Brevig, insists that 3-D exists for more than thrills.

"To me, 3-D makes any scene that much more heightened," he says. "Even My Dinner with Andre would be more interesting in 3-D."

But Brevig, who has done 3-D visual effects for Walt Disney theme parks, has not hesitated to fill the movie with the equivalent of 3-D theme-park rides.

"In a theme-park ride, you're scared, you're exhilarated, you know you're going to be okay: that's the sense I wanted to convey to the audience," Brevig says. "In a theme- park ride, you establish the situation, you establish the rules, you start to do something and it goes wrong, it goes crazy, you survive and it's very satisfying. It's essential storytelling. It's a three-act play in two minutes."


Ben Affleck Trades Acting For TV Reporting

www.globeandmail.com - Reuter

(June 26, 2008) 
LOS ANGELES — Oscar winner and actor Ben Affleck has taken on a new job, if only for one assignment, travelling to the war-torn eastern Congo to do a report for Thursday's edition of ABC television news program Nightline.

Affleck has gone to the Democratic Republic of Congo three times this past year, and in an essay posted on ABC's website, he said he wanted to draw attention to the violence, starvation and disease in the region that kills 1,200 people a day.

“It makes sense to be sceptical about celebrity activism,” wrote Affleck, 35, star of movies such as Hollywoodland and Oscar winner for the screenplay of Good Will Hunting.

“There is always the suspicion that involvement with a cause may be doing more good for the spokesman than he or she is doing for the cause,” Affleck said.

But Affleck said he hoped viewers could separate any reservations about his involvement from “what is unimpeachably important about this segment: the plight of eastern Congo.”

Emily Lenzner, a spokeswoman for ABC News, said Affleck was not a correspondent for Nightline, and that the program shows only one trip he took to Congo from last month.

“We basically went with a camera and a producer and just basically followed him around,” Lenzner said. “It was his observations, his journey that we pretty much documented.”

Accompanying Affleck were producer Max Culhane and cameraman Doug Vogt, who along with ABC journalist Bob Woodruff was injured in a 2006 roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

Affleck approached Nightline about doing the program.

In his essay, he talked about young boys being widely used as child soldiers and girls being forced into marriage. He said he met with warlords, peacemakers, survivors and aid workers, and he described bands of roaming militias brandishing AK-47s.

On Wednesday, the head of Congo's UN peacekeeping mission said that a million people are prevented from returning to their homes because of frequent suspension of peace talks.

Conflict in eastern Congo has lasted for many years with ethnic violence growing out of neighbouring Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists attacked Tutsis.

Since 1998, about 5.4 million people are estimated to have died in the Congolese violence and the ensuing humanitarian crisis, most from hunger and disease.

Affleck is not the first Hollywood actor to draw attention to Africa. George Clooney and Don Cheadle have long advocated for relief in the Darfur region of Sudan. Brad Pitt visited the continent in 2005 with ABC's Diane Sawyer for Primetime Live to talk about fighting poverty and the spread of AIDS.

Nightline airs on Thursday at 11:35 p.m. EDT on ABC.

David Duchovny's Naked Truth

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

(June 27, 2008) LOS ANGELES–
David Duchovny never gets used to seeing himself naked onscreen.

"I just think it's embarrassing to be naked in front of a lot of people," says the actor. "I guess I'm a bit prudish in a way. I wish I wasn't – I wish I could let my freak flag fly a little more."

Duchovny was speaking to reporters earlier this week on the set of his delicious dark comedy Californication, which returns for a second season in September on Showtime and in Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central.

Duchovny stars as Hank Moody, a brilliant if troubled novelist trying to hold on to his wife and child while battling all the distractions and temptations of Hollywood. The first season found Hank up to all sorts of sexual hijinks, even though, as Duchovny maintains, the show is really about "this guy's quest to pull his family together."

He says that now that Hank is back together with his wife Karen (played by Natascha McElhone) and daughter Becca (young Canadian actor Madeleine Martin), other characters on the show will take up most of the sex slack.

The former X-Files star – who goes back in character as special agent Fox Mulder in the upcoming feature The X-Files: I Want to Believe (in theatres July 25) – says there is a basic problem with shooting sex scenes: "Sex is a ridiculous-looking behaviour," he says, adding, "if done correctly."

Which is just fine for Californication, he says. The adult cable show is, after all, a comedy.

"We don't do sex to turn you on in this show," he says, speaking for the rest of the cast as well as series creator Tom Kapinos. "That's not the way we approach it. We approach it as the ridiculous human behaviour that it is."

Duchovny is only half kidding.

"For me, theoretically, sex is ridiculous because you're driven to do it. Once a human being is out of control it becomes funny. To me that's the essence of comedy: it's when you're driven to do something that you don't necessarily want to do."

This may come as a shock to Duchovny's actor wife Téa Leoni, to say nothing of their two children. Duchovny just thinks the sex act itself is, as he said before, "funny looking."

A pause.

"When I do it it's funny looking."

None of the female foreign press reporters at the session were buying it. Sure, sex was very serious when he was younger, he says.

"That's how we go, isn't it? As we mature, everything becomes more and more ridiculous. Gone from serious to comic," he says, looking around the room. "I'm just talking about performance here."

A performance he's happy to talk about is getting back under the skin of his old X-Files character, Fox Mulder.

"Mulder is as old as I am – he always will be," says Duchovny, 47. He was 32 when he started playing the special agent on the paranormal series, which ended a nine-season run in 2002.

For The X-Files: I Want to Believe, he says there was no effort to make the character "the same guy he was in 1993."

Duchovny says The X-Files was his "sixth or seventh job" at the time and that he's a much better actor now. He also feels he can bring some of what he has learned playing Hank Moody to his old role, although he cautions that the new X-Files movie is not a comedy.

"It's more skewed toward horror, a throwback to the first couple of years on the show," he says.

He says he hopes to do another X-Files film with creator Chris Carter and co-star Gillian Anderson. He sees Mulder as cut from the same iconic cloth as Indiana Jones or James Bond, two other characters allowed to mature over time. "I like the way they've aged," he says.

Duchovny, of course, says he didn't set out to make Mulder iconic. "I try to make every role iconic," he says. "I just fail most of the time."

Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont. He was a guest of the Movie Network and Movie Central while on the set of Californication in Los Angeles.

More Hannah Ahead For Miley

www.thestar.com - Cortney Harding, Billboard

(July 1, 2008) Let's get it out of the way. That Vanity Fair photo shoot?

For a teen idol who has suddenly been turned into glossy rag mag fodder, 15-year-old
Miley Cyrus is remarkably sanguine when asked about the bare-shoulder, bedsheet-entwined photo.

"I was embarrassed," she says in her rapid, self-assured clip, "but also it's like, every career thing that I do can't be perfect, and sometimes my decisions are wrong. I think that just makes me even more relatable ..."

Cyrus has moved on. She's got a new record, Breakout, out July 22 and is currently filming a Hannah Montana movie in Tennessee, followed quickly by a return to the Disney studios to shoot another season of the show that made her a household name. After the season wraps, she'll hit the road for another tour, hoping to mimic the remarkable success of her last outing.

Q: How is the new album different from your previous efforts?

A: It's grown-up. I wrote all the songs except two. My last one, Meet Miley Cyrus, was more just meeting me, finding out who I am, and here it's more getting in depth of what's been going on in my life in the past year.

Q: Not many people are aware that you're a songwriter. A: Songwriting is what I really want to do with my life forever.... I wrote my first song when I was probably 7 – it was called "Pink." ... At this point, though, when I'm writing I like to not listen to music at all because I don't want to ever be like, "Oh, this is cool," and start to sound like anyone else.

Q: There were many kids who were disappointed they couldn't see you on your last tour. Are you planning to tour and what are you going to do to make sure all your fans can see you?

A: Yeah, we're definitely going to go on tour. We're not sure when we're going to do that.... In terms of the kids who couldn't get in, I don't know if I could do more – we did 76 shows last year and I don't know that I could do more than that. Maybe I could do that and take a little break and go back into it? Also, the 3-D movie was awesome for the people that didn't get to come see the show.

Q: Those kids can also watch you in the third season of Hannah Montana, which starts filming soon. Will you want to stay with Disney for the long term or move on to different projects?

A: It will wrap up, eventually. I mean, I won't be Hannah Montana by the time I'm 30. But we've only done two seasons, so we definitely want to work on that hopefully for another two years.

Q: And the film you're working on is also tied to the Hannah Montana story, correct?

A: The story of the new movie is basically about going back to Tennessee and wanting to just kind of get back to your roots, but then realizing that maybe you don't want to go back to them.

I think the movie is about just having the Hannah character not disappear, but kind of be put on the back burner for a minute and have Miley Stewart just really show her talent and also her ambitions and dreams and other things.

Q: Do you plan to act in other films that aren't connected to Disney or Hannah Montana? Perhaps some sort of really edgy indie film?

A: I've been talking to people about some cool movies, but right now I mostly want to stay within my company and keep them happy, and keep everything that we're doing successful and focus on that.

Q: A recent Canadian survey highlighted your show as being great for young women because it showcases a wide range of body types. Is that important to you?

A: I stress about that stuff like everyone else, but at the end of day, I'm a good ol' Southern girl that likes her Cracker Barrel at 9 o'clock at night and if I want it, gosh darn, I'm going to eat it. I'm not going to make myself miserable....


Camp Rock's Drummer Is One Of Many GTA Students Bitten By The Musical Theatre Bug

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

(June 26, 2008) It's a case of art imitates life imitates art. Disney's High School Musical movies (and spinoff stage show) and now Camp Rock trade in the everyday stories of teenage performers. Those shows, along with TV hits such as American Idol, Canadian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, in turn stimulate a stream of applicants to performing-arts high schools.

Giovanni Spina has been living the high school musical dream. Even at his Catholic elementary school, he says, "I always knew that I wanted to act and sing and dance." In Grade 9, he entered Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts in North York.

"It was a great opportunity to immerse myself in what I wanted to do," says Spina, who turns 20 this week. He didn't always get the lead in high school productions such as Grease and West Side Story, but he was always picked for the heaviest singing roles.

In 2007, just as he was completing his first year in the Ryerson University theatre program, the budding triple-threat went to a Toronto casting call for Camp Rock.

He knew he'd done well at the first audition, Spina says. He has been drumming since he was old enough to hold a pair of sticks. He'd always been in a church choir or a school choir and as a teen sang with the Centro Scuola choir at the Columbus Centre. So singing and delivering lines was not a problem.

But he choked on the second audition when the casting team asked him to rap a little. "I couldn't pull anything out of my head." He forgot all about Camp Rock, until late August 2007, when he got called in for a third audition and was warned he'd have to take time off school to be in the movie.

"I had absolutely no desire to do that," says the amiable performer. "Ryerson is a very rigorous program. You have to give it everything." In the end, after consulting with his parents – his mother is a middle-school teacher and his father a facilities manager for Cineplex Odeon – Spina negotiated a year's deferral so that he could take up the opportunity to do the supporting role of Andy, the drummer, in Camp Rock.

The movie premiered on the Family Channel last week and a "rock-along" version airs on Friday, July 4, at 7:30 p.m.

Since the movie's first broadcast on June 19, three songs from Camp Rock have hit the Top-10 song list on iTunes and the soundtrack CD is No. 2 on the top iTunes albums chart. Disney just announced a sequel, shooting next spring.

Thousands of young people would sacrifice all their social time to do what Giovanni Spina is doing. But for the average elementary and secondary-school student in the GTA, getting any kind of arts education in a mainstream school is pretty hopeless. The education cuts from the Mike Harris era of provincial government that severely curtailed music, theatre and visual arts opportunities for all students have left a permanent gap.

For those whose parents can afford to send their children to acting, dancing, music or singing lessons, the GTA is fertile ground for a burgeoning number of private schools.

Hundreds of students annually audition at each of Toronto's arts high schools, including Earl Haig, Etobicoke, Rosedale and Cardinal Carter. The same is true at Peel Region's Mayfield and Cawthra Park secondary schools. As well, schools such as Oakwood Collegiate Institute, with its intense music program, are turning out scores of trained performers, many of them with the three-way requisites of singing, acting and dancing.

The Etobicoke School of the Arts is the oldest free-standing high school dedicated to arts education in Canada. The ESA music theatre program is known for the annual, full-scale musical production – this year it was Anne of Green Gables. "We offer instruction in voice, drama, music theory, dance and technical theatre," says the head of music theatre at ESA, Paul Aikins. Three ESA students are competing in the Top 24 contestants for Canadian Idol and another is in How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? One graduate is doing Cabaret at Stratford this season.

"A lot of students are coming here with lots of training," says Aikins. "They have to be pretty top-notch."

Now entering his 10th year at ESA, Aikins has seen a big increase in would-be entrants: last year, 187 tried out for 50 Grade 9 places. The musical theatre bug has bitten. "Lots of teachers in the elementary system are encouraging kids to pursue some kind of arts training," he adds.

Not that they have to: Disney is doing it for them.

Dennehy Dazzles In Double Bill

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Hughie Krapp's Last Tape
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)
Hughie by Eugene O'Neill. Directed by Robert Falls. Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett. Directed by Jennifer Tarver. Until Aug. 31 at the Studio Theatre. 1-800-567-1600

(June 30, 2008)  When true greatness comes our way in the theatre, we have to pause and try to find the words to express it properly.

That's the happy dilemma this critic finds himself in after the Saturday night opening of Hughie and Krapp's Last Tape at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Two very different plays by two giants of 20th-century theatre are linked by the common theme of grief and that the stupendous Brian Dennehy appears in both.

Dennehy has performed in Hughie several times before, but Krapp's Last Tape marks his debut in the role and the combination of the two shows is sheer theatrical dynamite.

Hughie is in many ways the simpler play of the two and may seem slight at first glance, but once viewed through the rear-view mirror of Krapp's Last Tape, it acquires a stunning retrospective power.

One of the last works O'Neill ever wrote, Hughie is set in the lobby of a fleabag hotel in the New York theatre district, where – in Patrick Clark's starkly effective design – a clock dominates the action, reminding us of the one element we can't escape.

The wonderfully understated Joe Grifasi plays the new desk clerk at the hotel, replacing the recently deceased Hughie of the title.

With a slight uncertainty, in swaggers Brian Dennehy as Erie Smith, resident of the hotel, coming off of a five-day drunk he went on after Hughie died.

Smith is a hollow man who's failed at everything he's tried, but he keeps the "pipe dream" of success flickering in a corner of his heart.

Hughie was Erie's enabler, to use the trendy modern term, the one who helped him think his fantasies could become reality. But this new desk clerk has a sphinx-like impassivity that neither confirms nor denies Erie's dreams.

Grifasi is brilliant as he looks at this hollow braggart and with his cool, neutral eyes provides an MRI into his soul.

By the end of an hour, Dennehy has blustered, charmed, crashed and burned. Nothing really happens, yet everything happens.

We see a man who's lived on lies and finally realizes that maybe, just maybe, he better switch to the truth.

Dennehy, with the guiding hand of his director, Robert Falls, has such texture as Erie that it looks effortless. It's not a showy performance, but it's a heartfelt one.

He gives us small feelings the way only a big man can and at times is so disarmingly honest that you have to look away.

On its own, it would be a fine piece of work, but then, after a 20-minute intermission, we catapult into the sublime.

The minute Robert Thomson's merciless lights flick on the face of Dennehy as the haunted Krapp, you gasp in astonishment.

It's the eyes of the damned that look out at you, all the easy bonhomie of the first play long forgotten.

There are no tricks of makeup, but the profounder magic of an actor reaching deep, deep inside himself to create another person.

Beckett's Krapp is 69 years old, living on bananas and memories of the past. He keeps playing the audio tapes he has made over the years and listening to them as they form a prison of despair he can't escape.

It's a marvel to hear Dennehy's voice, perfectly capturing the sound of a man 30 years younger, when there was still hope and possibilities in his life.

It's even more of a marvel to look into the death's head he wears today and watch him as he's forced to confront the man he used to be.

Jennifer Tarver has directed with a rigorous hand. There is no gratuitous movement, no easy sentimentality. This is the thing itself, a man going 10 rounds with the person he was 30 years before.

It's not pretty. It has no facile uplifting ending. And Dennehy is brave enough to simply lay his cards on the table, even though he knows he has a losing hand.

A great actor at the service of two great playwrights. It doesn't get any better than that.

National Arts Centre 'Legend' Dies

www.globeandmail.com - Sandra Martin

(July 02, 2008) Hamilton Southam, the diplomat, founding visionary of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and many other cultural and historical institutions – including the annual celebration of Canada Day on Parliament Hill – died quietly in his own bed Tuesday afternoon in the Rockliffe Park area of Ottawa.

He was 91 and had lived a very long and active life of public service.

Born into the third generation of the Southam newspaper dynasty, he grew up in a gilded world of wealth and privilege, in which winters were spent in Florida and summers in Europe and their family enclave at Big Rideau Lake. Passionate, romantic, a lover of beautiful women, obsessed with culture and the high arts, he was in many ways an 18th- century gentleman, given to quoting poetry, rereading the classic works of literature and history, attending opera, ballet and theatrical performances, and collecting paintings by modern masters.

Until the end of his days, he expressed his faith in the ultimate meaning of life by quoting these lines from Milton's Samson Agonistes: “All is best, though we oft doubt,/What th' unsearchable dispose/Of highest wisdom brings about,/ and ever best found in the close.”/

Fighting for his country for six years in the Second World War stiffened the public service component of his complicated character. After working in journalism, he turned his back on the family business and opted for diplomacy in its Pearsonian heyday, serving as Ambassador to Poland, among other postings. But it was his lengthy tenure in the trenches of the cultural, linguistic and nationalistic battlefields that forged his legacy as the builder and founding general director of the National Arts Centre, a visionary fundraiser and force behind The Canadian War Museum, the Battle of Normandy Foundation and the Valiants Memorial. He was an active contributor to many other cultural institutions.

The 19th-century belonged to the opening up of the country and the building of railroads to connect peoples and communities, but the 20th, he believed, deserved an equal measure of enthusiastic support from private initiative and public largesse for the building of museums and performing arts centres and the fostering of intellectual and artistic connections among Canadians. For decades he waged an often thankless campaign for greater subsidies for opera, ballet and classical music, and while he was quick to voice criticisms of ineptitude and slothfulness, he never wavered in either his personal or financial commitment to his self-appointed cause.

Gordon Hamilton Southam, who was born in Dec. 1916, was named after an uncle who had been killed two months earlier at The Battle of the Somme. His family called him Hamilton because he had an older cousin Gordon who lived next door, in what amounted to a family enclave in the elite Rockliffe Park area of Ottawa. His parents' house, called Lindenelm, later became the Spanish embassy.

Hamilton's father, Wilson Southam, the eldest of six sons of William Southam (1843-1932), the proprietor of The Hamilton Spectator and founder of the Southam newspaper empire, was the publisher of The Ottawa Citizen. Hamilton's mother, Henrietta Cargill, was the daughter of businessman and politician Henry Cargill, who collapsed and died after making a speech in the House of Commons on Oct. 1, 1903.

(William Southam's practise had been to send each of his sons to a different part of the country to run the family owned local newspaper, and Wilson, probably because he was the eldest son, got Ottawa. Conrad Black's former company, Hollinger International bought the Southam family's daily and weekly newspapers in 1996, before he launched The National Post. CanWest Global bought these assets in 2,000).

The youngest of his parents' six children, Hamilton went to Elmwood School for three years. At age eight, he enrolled in Ashbury College, the private boy's school in Ottawa, to which Southams had been sending their sons since 1910. In his 10 years at Ashbury, from 1924-34, Hamilton at first attended school patchily because his parents took him (and a tutor) south with them every winter. French was taught as though it were a dead language, so it was years before he became bilingual. But the school did nurture his abiding love for Latin, the classics, and poetry, which according to the custom of the time, he was required to memorize in great swatches, and which he delighted in declaiming until the end of his life. He also played Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, “lightly with exactly the right touch of flippancy,” according to drama critic Ted Devlin.

While at Ashbury he also did some classes, probably summer school, at Glebe and Lisgar Collegiates and entered Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1934. He graduated with a degree in history in 1939, having taken a year out, halfway through, probably because of a mild depression. About this time he was involved in a serious car crash, leaving him with a crooked smile which gave a new distinction to a classically handsome face. After U of T, he sailed to England intending to do a Master's degree in modern history at Christ Church College, Oxford. Almost as soon as he arrived, Britain declared war on Germany and he enlisted in the British Army as an officer cadet in the Royal Artillery.

Simultaneously he renewed his friendship with Jacqueline Lambert-David, the daughter of a sculptor from a land-owning French family. They had met in Canada that summer through family friends. When the hostilities commenced, she managed to make her way back to London via a ship from New York as the United States was still neutral. They married in London on April 15, 1940 while he was in training. (They eventually had four children and were divorced in the late 1960s; she died late in 1998) A month after the wedding, he received his commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery.

Meanwhile, the 40th battery of the Canadian Army (in which his uncle and namesake, Gordon Southam, had served and died in the First World War) had mobilized for active service under Frank Keen, assistant editor of the Hamilton Spectator, as the 11th Canadian Army Field Regiment, 40th Battalion of Hamilton. As soon as the battalion arrived in England, Lt. Southam applied for a transfer from the British Army so that he could serve with the Canadian Forces. In the autumn of 1943, when the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, which was heavily engaged in Italy, urgently needed replacements, he volunteered to join the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. He fought in the battle of Ortona in December, 1943 and the final battle of Monte Cassino from April to May, 1944 and was part of the advance of the Canadian Army up through Italy and later from Marseilles northward in France. He was mentioned in dispatches for “gallant and distinguished services” and demobilized with the rank of Captain.

When Germany surrendered in May, 1945, he was on home leave in Ottawa, after six continuous years of service, but his wife and their first child Peter, who had been born in 1943, were still overseas. His father, Wilson Southam, arranged a job for him with The Times of London, so he could rejoin his family and get a journalistic foothold on Fleet Street. While working in London, he also sent a series of articles on post-war Europe to The Citizen in Ottawa. When passenger ships began crossing the Atlantic again, he and his family moved to Ottawa where he began working for The Ottawa Citizen as an editorial writer in 1946.

After about a year, he decided that journalism was not for him (although he would later serve on the board of directors of Southam Inc.) “I couldn't write quickly enough,” he told me in an interview in his home in the Rockliffe area of Ottawa in 2004. “My editor would give me a subject—500 words on such and such a subject by 3 o'clock. My instinct was to go to the parliamentary library for a week and then come back with the 500 words,” he said. “I was wretched.” He went to his Uncle Harry Southam, then the publisher of The Citizen, and said, “I can't manage to do this so I am going to external affairs.”

He wrote the examinations and joined external affairs in 1948 under Lester Pearson at a time when Canada “had a role to play” and when being part of the foreign service was “riding the crest of a wave as far as I was concerned.” It was “a wonderful time” and “I was very happy there,” Mr. Southam said, quoting Wordsworth, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!”

In 1949, Mr. Southam (and his family, which now included a second son, Christopher, who is now called Abdul) was posted to Stockholm, Sweden as third secretary under Ambassador Tommy Stone. After nearly four years, he and his family returned to Ottawa where he worked in the Security and Intelligence Branch of External Affairs for six years, eventually becoming acting head of the Defence Liaison division. He was sent to Warsaw, Poland as chargé d'affaires in March, 1959. By then the Southams had two more children, Jennifer and Michael. This posting was one of the highlights of Mr. Southam's diplomatic career because he solved the “Polish Treasures” problem.

After Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, the curator of Crakow, the historical capital of Poland, removed a number of treasures, including tapestries and the sword of state from Wawel Castle, bundled them into a truck and drove them through Romania and Yugoslavia to Italy hoping to store them in the Vatican for safekeeping. After the curator and his treasures were sent packing by Pope Pius XII, he managed to load them on a ship, which ended up, after a circuitous route, in Canada. Some of the treasures were warehoused in the basement of the old National Gallery in Ottawa, the voluminous tapestries were sent to a museum in Quebec City and other precious artefacts were deposited in the vault of the Bank of Montreal in Montreal and in the Hotel Dieu de Québec Hospital.

After the war, Poland, then behind the Iron Curtain, requested the return of its state treasures. That was fine with the Canadian federal government, but not with Maurice Duplessis, then Premier of Quebec. He refused to hand anything over to a Communist government, arguing that the tapestries were rightfully the property of the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, there was a diplomatic fracas “and that is why we never sent an ambassador there and they never sent an ambassador here,” explained Mr. Southam in an interview in 2004. “Relations were at a low chargé d'affaires level.”

Mr. Duplessis died in office in September, 1959 and was succeeded as Premier by Paul Sauvé, “a more rational man who said ‘there is no problem, send them back.'” Mr. Southam who had arrived in Warsaw in March, 1959, was thus in situ when the national treasures were returned to their homeland, causing Poland and Canada “to unfreeze their governments and to exchange ambassadors.” And so, Mr. Southam's grateful government promoted him “sur place” to the rank of Ambassador in April, 1960.

In 1962 the Southams returned to Ottawa where he was appointed head of the Information Division of External Affairs. He was at work one day when he received a visit from Faye Loeb (the wife of Jules Loeb, the brother of Bertram Loeb, the Ottawa grocer who founded IGA chain) who wanted him to help spearhead a citizens' move to build a performing arts centre in Ottawa. Rashly, he promised to find an appropriate candidate and, if necessary, to take charge himself.

“Time ran out and Faye came back,” is the way he described his assumption of the leadership of the National Capital Arts Alliance in 1963. At its height the alliance included about 60 arts organizations in Ottawa. They raised enough money (about $7,000) to commission a feasibility study, which recommended both the building of a performing arts centre and the holding of an annual national festival in Ottawa. In 1964, Mr. Southam took the completed study (with its projected costs of $9 million) to Lester Pearson, his old boss at external affairs who was by then the Prime Minister of Canada, and persuaded him that the proposed building would be an ideal Centennial Project for the federal government.

“He thought about it for a month and then came back and said, ‘We'll do it,'” according to Mr. Southam. “After that it was his project and he never gave up on it.” The Prime Minister arranged for Mr. Southam to be lent from External Affairs to Secretary of State, which appointed him co-ordinator of the National Arts Centre in Feb., 1964. The decision about the architect for the new facility was left up to Mr. Southam. There was no time for a competition, in Mr. Southam's view, so he recommended Fred Lebonsold, who had already built the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, won the competition for Confederation Centre in Charlottetown, and was in the running (and would later build) Place des Arts in Montreal. Mr. Lebsonsold did a quick estimate of $16- million dollars and signed on as the architect.

When Mr. Southam was appointed inaugural director of the NAC in 1967, he said: “We hope to put Ottawa at last on the cultural map of Canada and, to the extent we can do so, put Canada on the cultural map of the world.” He oversaw the construction of Mr. Lebensold's hexagonal buildings on 2.6 hectares on the banks of the Rideau River, defending vociferous critics along the way. In 1968 he appeared before a hostile House of Commons Committee on Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts to defend the rising costs (which reached a final tally of more than $46-million) of the still unopened arts centre and promised that the NAC “will establish Ottawa at last as a capital city worthy of a great country.” He continued: “I am not saying that it enables Ottawa at a stroke to match London or Paris…[but it] will be able to look Helsinki, Warsaw or Brussels in the face.”

(By this time, Mr. Southam's first marriage had disintegrated. He married Gro Mortenson of Oslo, Norway in 1968, with whom he had two children, Henrietta and Gordon. He and his second wife were divorced in the late 1970s, but as with all of Mr. Southam's wives, she remained on affectionate terms with him.)

The multi-faceted performance centre, with three halls including the country's first professional opera house, two restaurants, two theatre companies and its own touring symphony orchestra opened in June 1969 with the National Ballet of Canada performing two commissioned ballets – The Queen by Grant Strate to music by Louis Applebaum, and Kraanerg by Roland Petit to music by Iannis Xenakis. The following night the NBC danced John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet and watched aghast in the ballroom scene as something went wrong with the technology in the orchestra pit and conductor George Crum, and some of his musicians, slowly ascended above stage level, leading Mr. Crum to say later that it was “the only time I ever looked down on Celia Franca” who was performing as Lady Capulet. Among other groups and solo performers who appeared in the two-week inaugural festival were the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under Franz-Paul Decker, with Jon Vickers as soloist; the Toronto Symphony in its last concert under the directorship of conductor Seiji Ozawa, in a program which included Harry Freedman's Tangents; the Orford String Quartet; the contralto Maureen Forrester; the soprano Sylvia Saurette; the chanteuse Monique Leyrac; and singer Gordon Lightfoot. After two terms as director-general, Mr. Southam, then 60, stepped down in March 1977.

After a short respite spent sailing his yacht, Mr. Southam was persuaded by Secretary of State John Roberts in March 1978 to become chair of Festival Canada and take charge of the country's annual birthday party celebrations on Canada Day for a generous remuneration of $1 a year. That same month the Broadcasting Committee of the House of Commons required him to appear on short notice to answer its questions about his mandate and budget. Some members of the partisan committee severely criticized the fluently bilingual Mr. Southam for preparing a report only in English – he said later that he hadn't had time to have it translated – he sent a letter resigning from his post in French to the minister. It was rejected and Mr. Southam oversaw celebrations in hundreds of communities across the country and a blow-out televised extravaganza on Parliament Hill on the theme, You and Me — Le Canada, c'est Toi et Moi. “When the minister asked me if I would come back from retirement and look after this, I said yes because I consider myself a public servant,” he said later. “I think there's some advantage to the principle of the main federal representative taking part, as Canadian are doing, on a volunteer basis. It shows that their non-partisan volunteer approach to the celebration of Canada is shared in Ottawa.”

In March 1980 Mr. Southam joined a group including Arthur Gelber, chair of the Ontario Arts Centre, musician and impresario Louis Applebaum and Ed Cowan, a former publisher of Saturday Night Magazine, to form the Lively Arts Market Builders (LAMB). The scheme, in which Mr. Southam invested heavily, was to create a television channel devoted to producing and broadcasting plays, concerts, films and programs on the arts. The group received a cable television license from the Canadian Radio Television Commission and launched the pay-TV C Channel in January 1983 with Mr. Southam as chair of its board and Mr. Cowan as president, but it failed to attract enough subscribers and went into receivership six months later. Rogers Cablesystems Inc. bought its pay-TV licence in December, 1983, for $12,500.

(The following year Mr. Southam married for the third and final time. Marion Tanton, a French woman he had known and loved for many years, was the wife of the late Pierre Charpentier, a former Canadian ambassador, and the mother of his three children. She died of cancer in the Southams' home in Ottawa in May, 2005.)

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Mr. Southam chair of the Official Residences Council in Jan., 1985, a civilian oversee group that he had established amidst mounting criticism of the cost of renovating, refurbishing and maintaining official residences. Mr. Southam's tenure was not an easy one, requiring him to manoeuvre between spending public money to enable Canadian diplomats and politicians to entertain dignitaries and preside over ceremonial events and the stigma that lavish living conditions were “mere perquisites of high office – fringe benefits, as it were, that go with the job.” During his years on the Council, there were political brawls about work done on the Speaker's House in Kingsmere, Stornoway, the residence of the opposition leader, and both official residences of the prime minister.

His beloved NAC went through a long period of turmoil beginning in the mid-1980s, involving funding crises, a revolving series of chairs and artistic directors and a strike by the NAC orchestra, before it began to stabilize more than a decade later with the appointment of David Leighton as chair of the board and arts administrator Peter Herrndorf as president and chief executive in the late 1990s.

“During all those dreary years, the government had appointed people to the board for political reasons,” said Mr. Southam in 2004. “As soon as those two [Leighten and Herrndorf] were in place [thanks in no small part to his behind the scenes lobbying] there were no more problems. They know how to do their jobs.” Early in 2,000 a grateful NAC re-named its opera auditorium, Southam Hall, in his honour.

After attending the rededication of the tomb of the unknown soldier on Sept. 17, 1999, Mr. Southam met some friends for lunch at the Rideau Club. He had been “moved” by the ceremony and by Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson's “wonderful” speech and he began thinking that the fallen soldier “should have some company on Confederation Square,” rather like the “great cloud of witnesses,” described by St. Paul in his epistles. Those lunchtime musings led to his final public campaign, which was finally realized seven years later when Governor-General Michael Jean unveiled the $1.1-million Valiants Memorial. Consisting of five bronze statues, nine busts and a bronze wall commemorating 12 heroes (including Joseph Brant, Sir Isaac Brock and Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarksi V.C.) and two heroines (Laura Secord and nurse Georgina Pope) the Valiants, which were sculpted by John McEwen and Marlene Moore, are located in Confederation Square, adjacent to the National War Memorial, around the Sappers Stairway leading down to the Rideau Canal.

He considered the Valiants his second great project after the NAC. “I have started foundations [including the NAC, the Battle of Normandy and the military museum task force] but I don't count those,” he told me, pointing out that he always tried to serve his country as a soldier, a diplomat and a mandarin, but his campaign for the Valiants was different. “This is serving an idea. It is reminding Canadians of the great deeds done by great people for them ... Parliament Hill is full of statues of prime ministers and politicians, some of them good, some of them not good. But in Ottawa there shouldn't just be statues of politicians. It is the capital of the country and there should be statues of the men and women who have made this country.”

Aside from building monuments to others, Mr. Southam, as he entered his ninth decade, was sitting in the study of his Ottawa home, a well proportioned light-filled room, lined with bookcases, rereading the complete works of Anthony Trollope and “contemplating three generations of reading.” He had his grandfather's books on the top shelf, his father's Everyman editions on the second and his own books on the third shelf. As well, he was examining his own soul. “I have lived my life, and that which I have done may God himself make pure,” he said. I meditate and I don't compare today with yesterday. I have more important comparisons, concerning my inner life, and I have much to think about. He was an Anglican, but he “was thinking the same thoughts as a Catholic or a Jew or a Muslim. “The soul is a more important part of our being than character,” he said. “It is essential.” And so he spent his last years in contemplation and in visiting with close friends and family, enjoying life and engaged with the world around him well into extreme old age.

Yesterday afternoon, on Canada Day, he was about to go for a drive with his valet when he suddenly felt tired. He lay down for a rest and quietly died.

Gordon Hamilton Southam was born in Ottawa on Dec. 19, 1916. He died at his home in Ottawa on July 1, 2008 of complications from cancer and a broken hip. He was 91. Survived by his second wife Gro Mortenson, six children and his extended family. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Actors' Union, Producers Reach Agreement

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(July 02, 2008) NEW YORK–The actors' union and Broadway theatre producers have reached a tentative agreement for a new 39-month contract that covers Broadway shows and touring productions. Actors' Equity Association and the Broadway League, which represents both producers and theatre owners, had been negotiating past the deadline of midnight Sunday, when the last contract expired. The contract agreement, announced Wednesday in a joint statement, averts the possibility of a strike. Stagehands walked off the job in November, shutting down more than two dozen Broadway shows for 19 days and costing producers and the city of New York millions of dollars in lost revenue. More details on the actors' new contract were expected later Wednesday.


Coffers Growing For Gaming Industry

Source: www.thestar.com -
Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(June 28, 2008) They don't call it the fastest-growing entertainment medium for nothing. PricewaterhouseCoopers is forecasting the global video game industry to grow another $27 billion (all figures U.S.) by 2012.

This would bring the totals of the $41.9 billion business (based on 2007 worldwide sales) up to $68.3 billion, a compound annual growth rate of just more than 10 per cent.

While TV-based console games, the largest category, will grow by 6.9 per cent annually, online and wireless games will grow the fastest at 16.9 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' upcoming report entitled "Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2008-2012."

The only category forecasted for negative growth is computer games, expecting to fall 1.2 per cent a year until 2012.

AEROSMITH TUNES REVEALED: Due out Monday, Activision's
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (guitarhero.com) is the latest in the mega-popular music game series, and The Game Guy has received a slew of emails from Toronto Star readers asking for info on the track listing.

More than half of the 41 songs are from the Bad Boys of Boston, ranging from '70s classics including "Draw The Line," "Dream On," "Back in the Saddle," "Sweet Emotion," "Toys in the Attic" and "Kings and Queens" to '80s and '90s hits, such as "Let the Music do the Talking," "Livin' on the Edge," "Love in an Elevator" and "Rag Doll."

Songs from other bands found in the game include Cheap Trick's "Dream Police," The Clash's "Complete Control," Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You," Run DMC's "King of Rock," The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary," Lenny Kravitz's "Always on the Run," Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" and Stone Temple Pilot's "Sex Type Thing."

FREE SUDOKU FOR YOU: Glance at the newsstands in your favourite magazine shop and you'll likely see a sea of Sudoku books, each offering dozens of those wildly popular number puzzles. But you can save cash by downloading a free Sudoku game for Windows PCs that also offers a few bells and whistles not found in its paper counterparts.

"Pure Sudoku Free Edition" (veryfreesudoku.com) contains 20,000 free puzzles, plus you get to choose from one of 43 unique backdrops to suit your mood. Need to get back to work? No problem: You can save your puzzle progress and resume at a later time.

Whether you're a novice Sudoku player or hardcore fan, this game offers four difficulty settings to suit your skill level.

For the uninitiated, Sudoku (pronounced "su-doe-ku") challenges players to fill in all the blank squares on a 9x9 grid with the correct numbers – but the catch is that each row and column must contain numbers 1 though 9, with no repeats. What's more, the nine 3x3 boxes that make up the grid must also contain numbers 1 through 9. Sudoku puzzles start with some numbers in the grid so you can begin the deduction process to fill in the rest.


WALL-E: Magnificent New Pixar Movie

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell, Movie Critic

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)

(June 27, 2008) A Pixar animated film starring the voices of Ben Burrt, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard and Elissa Knight. Directed by Andrew Stanton. At theatres everywhere. G

 Not so far away, on a smouldering orb formerly teeming with life, a determined little robot called
WALL-E is making his world a better place.

It's the year 2700, the orb is Earth and WALL-E's world, revealed in a magnificent new Pixar movie, is very much his own. WALL-E is the planet's last mobile entity (if you don't count the cockroach who outlasted Keith Richards) following a catastrophe of unknown origin.

WALL-E's job, which he has faithfully done for hundreds of years, is to scan rubble with his big binocular eyes, looking for things he can collect for future use, or sweep and mash into compact trash cubes. He stacks the cubes into piles ironically resembling fallen skyscrapers.

WALL-E's full name is Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class. His motto is "Working To Dig You Out." But who and where are the "you"? Is there anyone out there whom he's digging for?

Even stoic WALL-E is starting to wonder. All those years of hard labour have brought him an enormous collection of gadgets and trinkets – iPods, Rubik's cubes, sporks – and given him an almost human sense of loneliness, which he staves off with repeat viewings of an ancient videotape of Hello, Dolly!

That's the opening dice roll of WALL-E, the newest and greatest of all films by Pixar Animation, the little Disney studio with the Midas touch.

Although in this case the touch has produced something more valuable than gold: the rust on WALL-E's battered frame. He's R2-D2 and E.T. smashed into one irresistible mobile love machine.

A delight for both children and adults, WALL-E is also the bravest of Pixar creations. This is a movie not afraid to risk terrifying the same audience it also hopes to charm.

In presenting a world so utterly devoid of life, evidently the result of war, disease, climate change, or some other cataclysmic event, the situation is even grimmer than I Am Legend, which at least had Will Smith, his dog and a barely recognizable Manhattan. WALL-E is Al Gore's worst-case global warming nightmare made real.

Nor is there any concession made for the impatient or the attention-deprived. There is barely a recognizable human word heard in the film's first half hour, as WALL-E establishes an almost silent routine straight out of the comic playbook of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Mr. Bean.

Director Andrew Stanton, who also co-wrote the film (with Pete Docter and Jim Reardon), was on safer commercial ground with his previous Pixar creation Finding Nemo, an undersea tale of a father's search for his son.

There's a connection between that movie and this one, because WALL-E is also about a quest, one that explains why Stanton sees this as a love story, not as an environmental horror movie.

The little robot's monotony is broken one day by the hovering arrival of EVE, a sleek and spectral search bot – searching for what? – who is more determined even than WALL-E.

She quickly becomes the apple of WALL-E's lonely eyes, and his clunky attempts to woo her begin to bear fruit – until something happens that changes the destiny not only of the two robots, but also of that sad ruined orb and its former inhabitants.

And what of those ex-Earthlings? It gives nothing away to say that they are circling the globe inside a gigantic spaceship called Axiom, which looks like something out of 1960s or 1970 sci-fi – no accident there, since Blade Runner, Alien, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey are major influences on this film.

The exiled Earthlings have been aboard the Axiom for so long, they've all turned into Jabba the Hutt, no longer capable of walking. Reclining on electric couches, they gorge on synthetic food and entertainment provided by the mega corporation Buy 'n' Large (BnL).

They're waiting for the day when Earth might once again become habitable. But in the meantime, they'll have another super-sized meal of "Cupcake in a Cup" and other chemical delights, while heeding fashion slogans like "Try Blue, It's The New Red." But here's a much better slogan, key to the film's sentiments: "I don't want to survive. I want to live."

Alert viewers will enjoy hearing Sigourney Weaver's voice as that of the Axiom's nanny computer, recalling "Mother" of Alien, and the big red eye of a malevolent machine will bring fond memories (and shivers) of HAL 9000 from 2001.

True sci-fi geeks will recognize WALL-E's squeaks, squawks and whistles as being close to those of Star Wars' R2-D2, and no wonder – sound guru Ben Burrt provided them for both characters.

Comedian Jeff Garlin voices the Axiom's captain, whose indolent existence is about to get new meaning. The one human face everyone should recognize belongs to comic actor Fred Willard, who plays the BnL CEO who urges everyone to don't worry, be happy and pass the Tub o' Corn.

You might be thinking that WALL-E is an awfully cynical movie, and to a certain extent, you're right. It foresees a future where humanity has finally polluted the Earth past the breaking point.

Yet hope arrives from the unlikeliest of sources, in this case a goggle-eyed rust-pot with tread feet and a big thumping mechanical heart.

All WALL-E yearns to do, as he learned from Hello, Dolly!, is to hold the hand of the one he loves, just like that Beatles song of long ago.

In a summer season where everything else on the screen wants to be bigger, louder and more obnoxious, that's pretty special, don't you think?

He's A Robo-Romantic

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(June 27, 2008)
Andrew Stanton looks at a wasteland and sees love.

His robot romance
WALL-E, the latest Pixar creation, that opens today, is set in a post-Apocalyptic world where it's hard to imagine hearts even beating, let alone fluttering. But Finding Nemo, his previous Pixar movie, managed to hook viewers who might not have previously considered the family ties of fish. So maybe he's on to something.

Stanton, 42, who directed and co-wrote WALL-E, insists that he's a robot Romeo, not an environmental Cassandra. He started working on the film years ago, long before Al Gore energized the ecology movement with his global warming pronouncements.

He came to Toronto recently to preach from WALL-E's book of love:

Q. Do you really see WALL-E as a love story? The environmental calamity theme is front and centre.

A. Yes, I do see it as a love story, and the environmental theme was an accident. I was just trying to pick a very gettable visual situation to make this the last robot on Earth. Trash just seemed obvious to me, because you didn't have to explain it. You'd get it visually. It allows him to look through the detritus of humanity and be fascinated by it ...

So I had no idea life was going to get (so pro-environment). I mean I recycle, but that's about it! I don't have a message or political slant. If I could be that prescient that early on about other things, I'm sure I'd be really rich.

Q. Some people might see this as a real downer of a movie. The basic premise of a ruined Earth is incredibly depressing.

A. I guess so, but I felt that was what made WALL-E shine that much brighter and be more charming. He's this light in the midst of all this darkness and ... the thing that I fell in love with from the get-go: the character. The conceit from the start was the last robot on Earth. That's what made him special.

Q. WALL-E feels like a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film, especially at the start.

A. Well, that's a compliment, because we watched nothing but their bodies of work for a year and a half, every day at lunch ... and realized that we actually lost something when sound came in. We didn't gain something, because they had perfected the art of storytelling with the staging with the camera and the action imposing so that you walked away going, `What can't you do with visual storytelling?'"

Q. Did you intend WALL-E to be an homage to E.T.?

A. As a matter of fact, I never noticed that comparison until people pointed it out after the movie was done. Frankly, we just went for what we thought was appealing. I don't know what unconsciously I'm influenced by, but honestly we've been so blatant about what we are making homages to, I'd have fessed up if I was (influenced by E.T.)

Q. Are you worried that some people might have trouble with WALL-E's long silent passages and subtle jokes?

A. No. I came from a small town in the middle of nowhere. I saw all these films growing up that were from all over the map and that maybe weren't assumed to be my cup of tea. I just want to give the audience the benefit of the doubt that they're smart.

Facebookers Can Now Become Virtual Art Dealers

www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(June 21, 2008) A new game played on the popular social network site puts the "face" back into Facebook.

Prized Collection lets Facebookers become art traders, as players create personal galleries packed with their favourite photos collected from other players, with the goal of owning the most "valuable" or popular gallery.

This free game begins by giving you a modest gallery space and enough cash to start acquiring your friends' Facebook photos, which get added to your collection.

Pick the ones that stand out, because you'll also be challenged to sell intriguing photos to others for profit, as you vie to become top collector.

You'll also meet a cast of zany characters (who might help or hinder your art dealing), earn valuable badges and even "steal" others' photos if you're so inclined.

Developed by New York's rmbr (www.rmbr.com), Prized Collection is ready for play at Facebook.com/apps. For a limited time, new players who sign up will receive $4,000 in starting capital and photo bonuses.

Go `all in' with cellphones

You don't need a Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable to have fun indulging in a poker game while on the go. Gameloft's Million Dollar Poker Featuring Gus Hansen (www.gushansenmobilegame.com), available for cellphones, is one of the best we have played.

Available for dozens of mobile phones for $4-$7 (depending on your carrier), this pocket-sized casino sim lets you be a poker superstar as you face off against smart opponents, thanks to clever artificial intelligence created with the help of champ Gus Hansen.

Texas Hold 'Em is the name of the game in Million Dollar Poker, which features multiple game modes – including a meaty career option – all of which are played from a first-person perspective.

Rock Band still jamming

Harmonix/MTV Games' mega-popular music-based video game – where you play guitar- and drum-shaped controllers to launch your virtual band to stardom – has hit a milestone for downloadable content.

More than 200 bonus songs can now be downloaded and played in Rock Band, whether it's individual tracks or complete albums; MTV Games says it has sold more than 12 million tracks since the game debuted toward the end of last year for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The latest offering includes the Pixies' 1989 hit album, Doolittle, which costs $1.99 per track for PlayStation 3 or 160 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360, or $18.99 for the entire album (1,520 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360).

Also new is "Hammerhead," the lead single from The Offspring's highly anticipated new album, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace.


Pop, Lock And Krump In Gritty City

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(June 27, 2008) The latest generation of dancers in Toronto is redefining theatrical dance shows. Moves that used to look more at home on the street than the stage give
The Red City: Society in Motion a distinctly gritty, urban look. The narrative line is very much that of teens and 20somethings defining their own society.

These young, talented performers (48 of them, plus four leads and seven b-boys) dance and mime a story of navigating a life fraught with pressures (sometimes deadly), enmities, conflicts and struggles. Yet, as they say in the program notes, "in an inexplicable way, we find the ability to coexist."

It comes as no surprise when one of the lead characters, a young man, is shot dead in an early scene depicting gang battles. Another young man is a leader, to whom youth rally with raised fists. A female character cradles a newborn child in her arms, possibly the offspring of her dead boyfriend.

Jazz dance, hip hop, lots of b-boy acrobatics, even a little ballet figures in a show created by Luther Brown and Danny Davalos. Popping, locking and krumping: that's how it moves in The Red City.

The dancers are from Brown's Do Dat Entertainment and Davalos's One Immigrant Productions.

The colours of the costumes are red and black, evoking a West Side Story for our times.

The choreographers are Brown, Davalos, Heather Leslie, Natalli Reznick, Linda Garneau, Faye Rauw, Kojo "Tuch" Mayne and Mariano Abarca.

Brown, a judge and choreographer for the Canadian production of TV's So You Think You Can Dance, is the most obviously gifted. His scene "Chaos" shows why he's much in demand in the music industry.

Brown has a keen eye for dancers who can telegraph a story without words and makes movement that builds real drama.

The music is eclectic: everything from Madonna, Justin Timberlake and M.I.A. to the Eagles' "Hotel California," Gotan Project and Peter Gabriel's hymn to South African martyr Steve Biko, to a few bars from a Beethoven symphony.

The women are well co-ordinated in black and white (stripes and satin) in some jazzy formations from Garneau. Leads Danny Lawn, Laura Cota, Tiffany Mark and Niko Stefanos are all strong dancers from whom one is sure to hear more. Markwell Ottolino-Perry, with a '50s hairstyle, looks as if he stepped out of the original production of West Side Story.

The whole piece doesn't hold together as well as it might, but it is fascinating to watch a new kind of concert dance emerging with as big a blend of dance styles as there were cultures and ethnicities represented onstage.

The final performance of The Red City is tonight at 8 in the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E. Tickets are $21.


The Time Has Come, Walrus Editor Says

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner,
Publishing Reporter

(June 28, 2008) There are any number of ways to gauge success, but there probably is no better testament to the achievement of The Walrus than the fact that it still commands shelf space on a magazine rack near you.

Nearly five years after its debut, Canada's national, general interest magazine soldiers on, no small accomplishment in the perilous world of periodical publishing. But, after next Friday, the publication will no longer be able to rely on the obsessive, dutiful vigilance of co-founder
Ken Alexander, who announced his departure from the editor's chair earlier this month.

At the time, Alexander cited a desire to spend more time at home with his wife and two children. It's a shop-worn trope that in this case might actually be true, if you credit the 16-hour workdays, weekends often included. Alexander leaves his as-yet-unnamed successor with a publication that has won the most National Magazine Awards for three years running and has a paid circulation of nearly 60,000.

We caught up with him at the Duncan St. offices of The Walrus, where he was busily overseeing the production the September issue.

Q. Your editorial for the current July/August issue advises readers to check out of the electronic rat race and "return to the couch or hammock." Sounds apt. Do you plan to take your own advice?

A. My wife read it and laconically said, "When? When?" The work is so intense, relentless and fascistic in some sense that you can forget who you are and what your own intellectual needs might be. So, yes, the need to recharge my batteries has been on my mind for some time.

Q. Where do you think the magazine is, in terms of the original mandate?

. The dual purpose is to create a place where writers and readers meet and also to provide a sophisticated injection around issues of public discourse. The idea being that in this crazy, hectic world what we really need is to take a few hours out on a Sunday afternoon on the couch and read a magazine, which should occupy a special realm between broadsheets and books. We've gone a long way toward achieving those goals.

Q. What about the objective of filling a perceived vacuum by publishing a Canadian equivalent to U.S. monthlies Harper's and The Atlantic?

A. Those were two American models that intrigued me, partly because they're paid-circulation magazines that have loyal readerships and that speak up to readers. I like that dynamic very much. I'm really not a believer in controlled (free) circulation because I don't know if those magazines are read. There's been a lot of pseudo-science about readership. I have a very clear sense of who our readers are.

Q. So you're confident you've built a solid foundation.

. Most definitely. We've just done a survey that went out to subscribers only. Clearly, there's an enormously strong attachment to the magazine. It's rock solid.

Q. Is there a high point that stands out in your mind?

A. Citing specific highlights is difficult because it's a continuous process, but there are highs and lows every day. There's that third draft of a piece that arrives and it's clear that the writer and the editor have been simpatico. That kind of experience happens all the time. It's a tonic.

Q. What about all the magazine awards?

A. Recognition is terrific. You don't live in a vacuum. It's good to be applauded for your efforts. When a writer gets a book contract based on a piece in The Walrus, I'm just thrilled to death. And I'm pleased to say that has happened often.

Q. What's the biggest challenge today?

A. Some people are saying that there has been a shift or even a revolution in the past five years in terms of people's reading habits, that the Internet is taking over and all of that. Those issues were all manifest when we started. And if anything they've accelerated. When you start something like this, it's a guarantee you're going to make a tonne of mistakes. That's what a launch period is about. And if you think of a launch period as five years to establish a brand, then we've done quite a lot. I'm very grateful for the whole experience. It's the best job in town. No question.

Q. If there was one thing you could do for the Canadian magazine business by fiat, what would it be?

. Public funding. I look at this as very much a cultural endeavour that requires the same kind of support that other national cultural endeavours receive.

Q. So what's next for you?

I'm not really in a position to talk about it, but I have a number of offers before me, some of them book offers. I'm going to take a little time. I'm going to read Infinite Jest. (Laughs.)


Blockbuster Deal For Raptors

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

(June 26, 2008) Jermaine O'Neal was too enticing a proposition for the Raptors to pass up.

With health concerns from both sides eased, a blockbuster trade involving O'Neal, T.J. Ford and Toronto's 17th pick in tonight's NBA draft has been agreed to in principle, a significant move the Raptors hope gives them the most potent frontcourt in franchise history.

Even as the Portland Trail Blazers tried to get back into the Ford sweepstakes yesterday, the Raptors decided they like the immediate impact Indiana's O'Neal will have rather than waiting for anything they could have obtained with the draft pick.

Neither side would officially comment on the state of the discussions, which first became public Monday morning. And there is always a chance the deal could fall apart at the last minute.

But even as Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo told reporters yesterday he had "four or five active conversations" going on involving Ford, the biggest stumbling block to the Indiana deal was being averted.

Toronto had concerns about the state of O'Neal's knee after he missed half of the 2007-08 season with an injury; Indiana was worried about Ford's history of neck and back injuries and that seemed to be enough to scuttle the trade.

After an exchange of medical records on Tuesday, each side determined the risks were worth taking on a deal that will also ship Rasho Nesterovic and one other Raptor player to Indiana to satisfy the NBA's arcane salary-cap rules.

Also because of those rules (Ford is under a value-limiting contract known as "base-year compensation" until July 1) the trade cannot be finalized until the league's signing moratorium is lifted July 9.

As well, Toronto will have to make the 17th pick in tonight's NBA draft, acting on behalf of the Pacers, and include that player in the deal.

Earlier yesterday, Colangelo confirmed that the Raptors had told Ford immediately after the season they were going to try to move him in order to anoint Jose Calderon as the team's starting point guard.

"There was discussion with T.J. at the end of the season and also with his agents or representatives since the end of the season where we amicably discussed the scenario that might play out where he might be part of a trade and he's comfortable with that," said Colangelo.

O'Neal is an expensive acquisition, due to make about $44 million (U.S.) over the next two seasons. But even if the 29-year-old doesn't return to optimum form because of his knee injury, he still gives Toronto salary-cap flexibility in the not-too-distant future.

"I'm constantly also not only trying to balance improving the roster for the current day but to maintain flexibility in the future and have the ability to make adjustments as you go forward through either completely remaking the path or to add to the progress that's been made or to a developing roster," Colangelo said earlier yesterday.

The deal ends a harried time for the Raptors as they shopped Ford.

According to league sources, Portland made an offer that included Channing Frye and Martell Webster. Both of them have contracts that expire at the end of the season but because of Toronto's long-term salary obligations, they wouldn't give the Raptors nearly the financial flexibility the O'Neal contract will when it runs out.

O'Neal, a 6-foot-11 centre who has struggled with injuries for parts of the last four years, is entering his 12th NBA season. He averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 42 games last season; he's averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds over the course of his career.

The Raptors envision as strong a frontcourt as they've ever had with O'Neal playing alongside Chris Bosh in some kind of inside-outside duo that should give Toronto a huge boost on defence. It will also allow the Raptors to bring Andrea Bargnani off the bench as he tries to regain his rookie season form.

And Colangelo held out hope yesterday that he might still be able to get involved in the draft with some other transaction.


Seven Deadly Workout Sins to Avoid This Summer

By Staff eDiets

Exercise is the best thing for your health regardless of your age, level of fitness or goals. However, it can also be dangerous if you don't avoid some common mistakes and take the proper precautions. Engaging in an exercise program with little foresight and planning can lead to burnout, frustration, injury and although rarely, death. Now that wouldn't make for a fun summer, would it?

If you want to maximize your workout and look your best this summer season, it is going to take a combination of motivation and the correct information. Heed the following seven deadly workout sins:

1. Skipping the warm-up. Doing too much too quickly will send your heart rate soaring and put unprepared muscles and joints at a high risk for injury. For beginners, rapid increases in heart rates can lead to light headedness, nausea, dizziness, fainting or ultimately heart attacks and stroke. Muscles need time to adjust to the demands placed on them during exercise. Before hitting the weight room or jumping into your regular cardio workout, you should take a few minutes to gently prepare the body for heavier activity by walking slowly, for example.

2. Jumping into the sauna or hot tub immediately following a workout. The temperatures of saunas and hot tubs can be detrimental to a body that already has an elevated temperature and blood vessels dilated from activity. Your body needs to dissipate heat in order to bring your heart rate back to a resting zone and re-circulate blood back to your organs. High temperatures in hot tubs and saunas will cause light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or worse -- heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heart attacks. Instead, try a cool shower or allow your heart rate to return to resting levels before getting into the saunas and tubs.

3. Holding your breath while lifting weights. Holding one's breath during weightlifting increases blood pressure significantly, possibly leading to light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, hernia, heart attack or stroke. To avoid creating high internal pressures, inhale and exhale with each exercise phase of a repetition and breath naturally during cardiovascular activity.

4. Not having a physical prior to beginning an exercise program. You want to have the most benefit with the least amount of risk; it would never be wrong for you to get a complete check up prior to beginning activity -- especially if you are older than 45 or have other risk factors like smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol or a positive family history. If you have two of the above criteria, you are considered to be at risk for heart disease, diabetes or stroke. While exercise is the best thing for your condition, beginning a program without the proper guidelines can do you more harm than good.

5. Exercising above their determined heart rate range. Continually pushing your heart rates to the maximal limits during your cardiovascular workouts is overstressing your heart and lungs unnecessarily. When your heart rate is up to maximal loads, there is a greater chance for irregular heart rhythms. You do not need to place such high demands on your heart to see cardiovascular benefits or to burn fat.

6. Using hand or ankle weights while walking or during aerobic classes. Many fitness guidelines indicate that the use of hand weights during the aerobic portion of step training produces little if any increase in energy expenditure or muscle strength. The risk of injury to shoulder joints is significantly increased when weights are rapidly moved through a larger range of motion. It is recommended that hand weights be reserved for strength training, where speed of the movement can be controlled. In addition to shoulder injuries, ankle weights on the arms increase heart rate significantly and can lead to cardiovascular complications in less fit individuals.

7. Wearing head phones when exercising outside. The beat from your favourite musician or the intrigue of the latest audio book may keep your interest during an outdoor exercise session, but your awareness is diminished and the risk of twisting your ankle or getting hit by a car is increased. Besides, studies show that although music or entertainment may help you to exercise longer, your intensity is not as high.

8. Not listening to your body. Abnormal heart beats, pain, chest pressure, dizziness or insomnia following intensive exercise are signs of an over-trained body that may be at high risk for a heart attack and injury. Take a hint: slow down the pace or reduce the number of routines. It would be advisable to have a medical professional assess your condition if you experience any of the major warning signs of cardiac distress during an exercise session. If any symptoms persist during or following an exercise session, have your signs evaluated.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Wayne Gretzky

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take."