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June 19, 2008

First day of summer comes this weekend.  Summer?  Not rainy, cold spring?  I'm sure things will turn around shortly in my beloved Toronto .... right?

What can I say, this week we lost a top American journalist to a heart attack and R. Kelly is acquitted.  Life sure can draw some interesting conclusions ...

Lots of great Canadian news below mixed with lots of global entertainment news! 

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



Speakers Corner Given The Gag

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(June 12, 2008) Speakers Corner has been silenced.

Rogers Television, current owners of the local Citytv station and its cross-country cousins, has effectively pulled the plug on the venerable Toronto institution, a conduit for the community for the past 20 years.

The street-corner public-access video booth, established in the late 1980s, has provided a platform for anyone with a loonie and 120 seconds to spare, from former prime minister Jean Chrétien to the Barenaked Ladies, to vent or praise or promote their issues – or themselves.

The original Speakers Corner at Queen St. W. and John St. was shuttered within days of the CTV purchase of CHUM almost two years ago, before the Citytv franchise was split off by government decree and sold to the Rogers conglomerate last year.

Even last night, the City website was still touting the booth's temporary relocation to the Rogers Centre and, eventually, to the new Citytv storefront studio in Yonge-Dundas Square, now under construction.

That would appear to no longer be the case. "No, it isn't," confirmed Citytv vice-president and general manager Jamie Haggarty. "But our plans are evolving every day. The (Speakers Corner TV) program will stay on the air till August, so we're not pulling the plug right away. But the plans for Dundas Square were just that, plans. We have nothing committed, nothing announced."

Back on Queen W., the Barenaked Ladies got their earliest exposure by cramming themselves into the tiny booth to sing "Be My Yoko Ono" (the 1990 clip can still be seen online, at tinyurl.com/56p772).

A decade later, then-prime minister Jean Chrétien made an election-year appearance to promote the vote, which he subsequently won by a considerable margin.

A young Mike Myers travelled frequently from Scarborough to the Corner to refine his act.

An unknown Scott Speedman, with no prior performance footage, drove down from Thornhill to use the booth to audition for TV's Felicity, the role that kick-started his career.

Madonna, Harrison Ford, Timothy Leary, Irving Layton, Stephen Baldwin, Kim Campbell, Pinball Clemens, Maury Povich ... all have stopped in at some point to speak their piece.

Even the elusive Prince, when he was living in Toronto, became an avowed enthusiast: "I love Speakers Corner," he told The Canadian Press in 2004. "I just love the idea of it. I am so tempted when I go by to stop the car and go into the booth and say what I have to say."

He never did. And now it's likely he'll never get the chance.

An internal announcement yesterday informed Citytv staff that the weekly Speakers Corner compilation show would not be renewed for fall. Should the concept be revived, it will likely be as an online entity.

"We like the brand," insisted Haggarty. "It's a great brand. It's just that viewership isn't coming through on TV. Our wireless guys and our digital team are looking at how we can evolve it to the digital media. We may still have the booth, but it'll be more of a Web presence than a television presence."

The Speakers Corner controversy is the second in as many weeks for the Rogers-run Citytv news operation, which just as abruptly announced the immediate cancellation of Silverman Helps, the station's 19-year viewer advocacy unit, fronted by veteran broadcaster Peter Silverman.

"I told them, time and time again, that I wanted to do one more year," protested Silverman, calling in from the cottage. "Twenty years of Silverman Helps had a nice ring to it. That would have been August of 2009, which would at least have given us the chance to tell the audience, `Look, he's retiring. He's an old crow now. He's done his bit. Don't write in any more, because the program is ending.'

"That would have been the decent thing for the people who relied on us to help them, and we had about 20,000 requests a year. That would have been the dignified way to go. Instead, we were called downstairs into the boardroom and told that, as of that moment, we were closed down.

"When we asked what the rationale was, we were told, `We don't have to give you a rationale.'"

A cloud of helpless resignation now hovers over what's left of the Citytv news team. Many despair over what they see as the abandonment of everything that originally defined the station and its two-way connection to its audience.

"We have more user-generated content than ever," argued Haggarty. "We're not any less committed to defending the consumer. We're reviewing and relooking at everything. This is all just a part of the process."

Wet And Wild At MuchMusic Video Awards

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

(June 16, 2008) The red carpet swiftly turned into a red river, but we knew it would take more than a soggy strip of flooring material to put a damper on the MuchMusic Video Awards.

An early-evening deluge timed perfectly to truncate the annual, big pre-show build-up to last night's MMVAs ceremony at Much headquarters on Queen West nevertheless added a new urgency to the usual hysteria that splays around Queen and John at this time of year.

There was a real sense of brewing terror in the air on the carpet while everyone who'd gathered outside the old CHUM-City building – the performers ambling to the entryway in ludicrously expensive outfits, the publicists and label folk nervously clutching armloads of umbrellas at the ready behind them, the dozens of journalists and hundreds of fans jockeying for position around the barricades – pretended not to notice the maelstrom brewing in the western skies.

As the storm grew closer and several shades of roiling purple darker, and moisture started to spackle the crowd, it became clear this wasn't blowing over. Lightning crackled in every direction at once, thunder rattled the bowels and suddenly the biggest, coldest raindrops of which the mind can conceive came hurtling out of the sky in full "biblical deluge" mode, sending everyone from Flo Rida to Girlicious and Simple Plan diving for the same entrance all at once.

Former Kid in the Hall Dave Foley was asked as we dashed for the main entrance together if he'd expected to witness the apocalypse from the red carpet at the MMVAs.

"I didn't know," he conceded. "I'm going to start gathering musicians two by two.

Inside the lobby, sweet Toronto pop singer Skye Sweetnam expressed some disappointment that her planned red-carpet intro atop the same tractor she rode in the video for "Human" – which was up for Best Cinematography at the awards, but lost to Hedley's "She's So Sorry" – had been scuttled to make way for mad dashes to the door by more famous, more international guests.

"It's okay. Maybe I can bring the tractor again next year," said Sweetnam. "It never goes out of fashion."

Nevertheless, the scene remained jovial, if somewhat damp.

The guys from Hedley came out of the evening smiling, taking four of the six categories in which they were nominated – Cinematography for "She's So Sorry," Best Video and Best Director for "For the Nights I Can't Remember" and MuchLOUD Best Rock Video for "She's So Sorry" – and trying very hard not to let their dominance over the proceedings contribute to their collective ego.

"We've never dominated," said front man Jacob Hoggard on his way to face the press after the show. "This is the first time we've come so close as to touch something we could call domination. We're really excited. We're really lucky. We've never dominated. I like to think you could call us forever underdogs."

Simple Plan were playing similarly modest. Drummer Chuck Comeau, for instance, refused to agree before the show started that he and the Montreal band "owned" the People's Choice award for favourite Canadian group. Which they officially do now, since they won their fifth trophy in a row last night.

"I'm not gonna say that because we might just lose it. We're going for five-for-five, knock on wood, but we're pretty humble about it," he said. "We got stoked every year when we win. If we get five, that's great, but if we lose it, we've already got four already."

The big draws of the night were the recently reunited New Kids on the Block – the former 1990s boy band that might better be described now as Aging Men on the Block – and Rihanna, who won Best International Video Artist.

The Kids, dressed in white suits, were off-key at times, doing a medley of their hits while busting out some decidedly tame dance moves to close the show.

With files from The Canadian Press

'Meet The Press' Host Russert Dies Of Heart Attack

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(June 13, 2008) WASHINGTON – Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press'' and its Washington bureau chief collapsed and died at work Friday after suffering an apparent heart attack. He was 58.

Russert, of Buffalo, N.Y., took the helm of the Sunday news show in December 1991 and turned it into the most widely watched program of its type in the nation. His signature trait there was an unrelenting style of questioning.

Washingtonian magazine once dubbed Russert the best journalist in town, and described "Meet the Press" as "the most interesting and important hour on television."

He also wrote best-selling books, Big Russ and Me, in 2004, and Wisdom of our Fathers, in 2006.

This year, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Russert also was a senior vice president at NBC.

Canadian Creator And Music Industry Groups Applaud Introduction Of Copyright Bill

Source: CRIA

(June 12, 2008)  Toronto  – A broad coalition of Canadian creator and music industry organizations today applauded the introduction of
copyright reform legislation by the federal government.

The eight groups, which represent approximately 21,000 professional performers and 15,000 musicians in Canada, Canadian artist managers, music publishers, music retailers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of musical instruments, and record labels of all sizes, jointly thanked the government for recognizing the need for copyright reforms.

The organizations are united in seeking balanced legislative measures that better protect the rights of artists, songwriters and other rights holders in today’s digital world while also respecting the needs of consumers to fully enjoy music and other digital products that they have legally acquired.

Copyright reforms sought by the organizations should reflect the right of creators to earn a living from sales of their work, and to be protected from theft and unauthorized use of their property over the Internet. At the same time, Canadian consumers deserve a wider array of choices to obtain and enjoy digital music, in line with the choices available in other countries where modern copyright rules are in place, along with flexibility in how the music they buy is enjoyed.

The organizations have long sought a legal framework for these rights in accordance with the 1997 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties, to which Canada is a signatory. Such a framework would put Canada on a level playing field with its major trading partners throughout Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America.

The organizations also recognize that, in today’s global information economy, properly implemented copyright reforms are essential to innovation and Canada’s future economic prosperity. Underlying this is the economic principle that people will be more likely to invest the time and money required for innovation, from cutting edge software to new online distribution models, if they can be confident their rights to those innovations are adequately protected.

To maximize the benefits for all parties – consumers, creators, businesses and other stakeholders – the legislation must provide clear rules so that all Canadians can understand what is acceptable on the Internet and other digital media.

The organizations supporting these principles include the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM Canada), Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA), Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA), Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), Music Industries Association of Canada (MIAC), Music Managers Forum Canada (MMF) and the Retail Music Association of Canada (RMAC).

About the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists
ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) is the national organization of professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. ACTRA represents the interests of 21,000 members across Canada - the foundation of Canada's highly acclaimed professional performing community.

About the American Federation of Musicians of United States and Canada
The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM Canada) is the largest organization in the world representing the interests of professional musicians, with approximately 15,000

members in Canada. AFM Canada is committed to raising industry standards and placing the professional musician in the foreground of the cultural landscape.

About the Canadian Independent Record Production Association
The Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA) is the trade organization representing the independent sector of the Canadian music and sound recording industry. For 30 years CIRPA has been the collective voice of independent music in English-speaking Canada.

About the Canadian Music Publishers Association
Since 1949 the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA) has ensured the views of music publishers working in Canada and its members are heard. It is our mission to promote the interests of music publishers and their songwriting partners through advocacy, communication, and education.

About the Canadian Recording Industry Association
The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) promotes the interests of Canadian record companies.

About the Music Industries Association of Canada
The Music Industries Association of Canada (MIAC) is a national, non-profit, trade association representing Canadian manufacturers, distributors and retailers of musical instruments and accessories, keyboards, sound reinforcement products and published music.

About Music Managers Forum Canada
The Music Managers Forum (MMF) is an international not-for-profit association that was founded in 1992 in the U.K. Its formation was intended to give managers an opportunity to discuss, educate each other and create a much-needed voice within the industry. Inspired by the UK example, the MMF Canada was launched as an ad-hoc organization in 1994, and was federally incorporated as a not-for-profit association in 2000.

About the Retail Music Association of Canada
The Retail Music Association of Canada (RMAC) is a non-profit trade association founded in 1985. Its member companies represent the retailers, wholesalers and distributors of pre-recorded music in Canada.

R&B Star R. Kelly Acquitted In Child Porn Case

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(June 13, 2008) CHICAGO – A jury acquitted R. Kelly on all counts of child pornography after less than a day of deliberations Friday, ending an ordeal for the R&B superstar that began when he was charged six years ago.

The Grammy award-winning singer dabbed his face with a handkerchief and hugged each of his four attorneys after the verdict was read. The singer had faced 15 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors had argued that a graphic sex tape showed Kelly having sex with a girl as young as 13 at the time. Both Kelly, 41, and the now 23-year-old alleged victim had denied they were on the tape. Neither testified during the trial.

The prosecution's star witness was a woman who said she engaged in three-way sex with Kelly and the alleged victim. Defense attorneys argued the man on the tape didn't have a large mole on his back; Kelly has such a mole.

The month-long trial centered on whether Kelly was the man who appears on a sexually graphic, 27-minute videotape at the heart of the case, and whether a female who also appears on it was underage.

Over seven days presenting their case, prosecutors called 22 witnesses, including several childhood friends of the alleged victim and four of her relatives who identified her as the female on the video.

In just two days, Kelly's lawyers called 12 witnesses. They included three relatives of the alleged victim who testified they did not recognize her as the female on the tape.

Kelly's hits include "I Believe I Can Fly,'' "Bump N' Grind'' and "Ignition.''


Braving A Dip In Halifax Harbour

Source: www.thestar.com - Kelly Toughill,
Special To The Star

(June 08, 2008) HALIFAX–I am swimming across the harbour when I spot my deepest fear: a bundle of semi-translucent white bits floating just below the surface.

Oh God. Is that a mass of shredded toilet paper? Have I been duped into taking a dip in what is still an open sewer?

Nope. It's just a pocket of tiny undulating jellyfish. I laugh, amused that the sea life I usually fear and avoid suddenly seems so benign.

There is much to laugh about in Halifax Harbour these days. For the first time in a generation, the beaches of this port city are safe for swimming.

It is a breathtaking change from just months before, when underwater pipes belched 200 million litres of raw sewage into the harbour every day – enough to fill Toronto's Rogers Centre 45 times over every year. The sheer disgust-level of the harbour was hard to overstate. On the wrong tide and the wrong wind, the stench could gag. The shoreline was littered with condoms and beach whistles – the euphemism for plastic tampon applicators.

Clubs that sailed in the harbour rinsed their boats down with a solution of bleach every day. And the water itself? Filled with brown fuzzy floatables. Yep, those are just what you think they are.

Three years ago, the city launched a $300 million project to build three sewage treatment plants – in Halifax, Dartmouth and the suburb of Herring Cove. Each is designed to strain the sewage to remove particles, and then disinfect the liquid with ultraviolet light. It doesn't eliminate chemicals and metals, but gets rid of the icky stuff, and kills bacteria that make people sick.

The biggest treatment plant – in Halifax – started up last November. Suddenly two notable sights along the waterfront were gone: the spout they called the "bubbling crude" in the heart of downtown, and the ripple off Point Pleasant Park dubbed the "seagull buffet" for the permanent cluster of birds feasting on the disgusting mess.

The water cleared, the smell went away. It wasn't hard to spot the difference.

Ewa Szudek is one of hundreds of people who walk dogs in Point Pleasant Park. She also gathers rocks from the tip of the park for her garden.

"I can feel the difference," she said.

"Before the rocks were slimy and slick; I had to scrub them before I put them in my garden. Now the rocks feel clean, healthy. And the dogs, when they get out of the water they don't smell any more."

Two months ago, testing started to show that the bacteria levels at three former beaches in the city had dropped dramatically, that the water was now safe for swimming. The city has not publicized the tests. In fact they refuse to release the actual results until a report goes to city council later this month.

But CBC commissioned its own testing, which duplicated the city's rumoured results, and both Mayor Peter Kelly and James Campbell, spokesperson for the project, confirmed the good news.

"Halifax Harbour is swimmable," Kelly said in a phone interview.

He said the city still wants to test bacteria levels during a heavy rainstorm, and may wait until the Dartmouth sewage treatment plant is turned on in July before formally issuing the all-clear, but a declaration will come soon. (Dartmouth still puts raw sewage into the harbour, but currents take it away from the three tested beaches.)

"This summer we will be able to have a few beach parties," Kelly predicted.

I decided to get a jump on the crowds and plunge in this week.

It seemed like a good idea when I pitched the story to the Star, but standing on the dirty sand of Black Rock Beach was another thing. The sign is still up warning people not to swim, and the shoreline has not been completely cleared of the trash left from before the sewage treatment plant was switched on.

I brought a friend, Alan Jean-Joyce, for encouragement, and a surfboard for safety, not knowing what the currents or the tides are like at that spot. And a wetsuit – for the water is still only 8C.

Alan was way ahead of me, slicing through the water while I was still staring at scummy yellow bubbles near shore. I had to remind myself that even pristine shorelines have bubbles. I was three strokes into the harbour when I spotted a small brown fuzzy thing dead ahead.

Eee gads! A floatable!

Nope, just seaweed.

Alan was soon cavorting and frolicking in the water, dipping his head and even taking huge mouthfuls of the stuff and spouting it toward the sky like a whale.

I began to relax as the deliciously cool seawater seeped inside my wetsuit, began to savour the scent of salt on the air, the play of diamond light on the tiny waves. Black Rock Beach is tucked into the east end of Point Pleasant Park at the tip of the Halifax peninsula. It is flanked by an industrial port, and is just a short walk from downtown. I lay back in the water and stared at a giant crane loading containers on to a ship bound for who-knows-where, then glanced back at a hawk circling over the park's forest. A tugboat churned past us, headed toward the open ocean, its bow pushing a wide wake of white water toward shore.

What a beautiful day.

Think I'll go for another swim tomorrow.



For Singer-Guitarist-Songwriter Alex Cuba, Finding His Musical Self Meant Leaving His Island Culture

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(June 12, 2008) Alexis Puentes has done it all wrong and succeeded wonderfully.

A Cuban expatriate, he left his burgeoning career as a jazz-fusion bassist to come to Canada, where there is next to no market for Latin music. He has since reinvented himself as a Spanish-singing guitarist-songwriter with the stage name Alex Cuba, even though his intimate voice isn't the clarion call typical of Cuban front men. His classically trained guitarist father even discouraged him from singing, in favour of Alexis's brother, Adonis, who possesses a sharper salsa voice.

And then there's Alexis's decision to relocate to remote Smithers, B.C., not exactly known as the epicentre of Latin culture.

"I was doing really well as a bass player. It's not as though I chickened out of that. I left just when I was gaining recognition. On one of the pieces [recorded in Cuba], I did a bass solo that was being studied at the highest school of music in Cuba, the ISA [Instituto Superior de Arte], in the improvisation class." Even over the phone from Smithers, the trills and cadence of his voice, like most Spanish speakers with heavily accented English, is itself worth setting to CD.

But a life playing jazz-fusion bass in Cuba's competitive hothouse of musicians wound up not being enough for Puentes, once the opportunity arose to come to Canada. And his counterintuitive path is paying off. His second, Juno Award-winning solo CD, Agua del Pozo, has recently been rereleased by EMI and is winning him wide acclaim and ever-larger audiences in Canada and internationally (he's in Toronto this week for performances at both the North by Northeast Music Festival and Luminato). Gratifyingly, he's also on the cusp of breaking back into the Cuban market on his own terms.

But this success meant having to leave Cuba. In a country so rich in music, where musical education is free and easily available, the skill level is very high, possibly too high.

"At this point, there is a lot of great Cuban music being made outside of Cuba," Puentes says. "Because of the amount of musicians all concentrated in one spot, competition there gets tight. We say that, you know, if you kick a rock, you'll find 20 musicians underneath the rock, saying, 'Hire me, hire me!' and they're all great!

"When you make it too accessible, then the chances to allow the real genius of music to come through get compromised, in my opinion. ... Every time they put in front of you a chart and it says, for example, C minor - as a chord, you have to find the best way, the most complicated way to play that C minor, so that people know in town that you're playing. And that really gets in the way of real creativity."

Puentes stresses repeatedly, though, that he isn't trying to put down musicians in Cuba, or to sound political with his comments. He describes his own state-sponsored education as "a feast of art," studying everything from music to painting to theatre. He also didn't grow up in a Cuban cultural bubble. By 14, when he had taken up the bass seriously, "it was Michael Jackson, [progressive jazz bassist] Jaco Pastorius and Guantanamera, all of that together. And I believe that sound is what makes who I am today." Still, he feels that much of the highly technical music produced in Cuba today is coming from the mind rather than from the heart.

In 1995, Puentes performed across Canada with his father as part of tour celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Canada. That's when Puentes met his Canadian wife in Vancouver. They spent a couple of years living in Cuba, in an extension to his parents' house, but then, being a young couple and feeling like they needed space, moved to Victoria. That's when Puentes's musical transformation started in earnest.

"I realized that jazz wasn't what I wanted to do in Canada. I realized that there was something else in there for me. And what it was is the fusion of everything I've done into one identity."

But as his career began taking off internationally, and as his second child arrived, his wife wanted help taking care of the family while Puentes was away. Hence Smithers, where she grew up. It became perhaps the best move he could have made, allowing him to break completely from the Latin market, while giving his songwriting the space to reflect and diversify within its Cuban roots.

"What happens is that I don't aim for a market. And I don't have to manipulate my sounds or my composition so that the Latin market likes it. I just go with the feel of it, what comes to me, and put it out. So as a result, it's giving to Latin music something fresh. If I was in Miami, I would get sucked right away by what's on the radio right now," he says.

"In these concentrated markets, if someone has a hit on the radio, in the next four weeks you'll hear songs that sound just like it. I'm happy that I don't have that in Canada. The end result is that it has given me a lot of satisfaction. Because maybe from the way I was raised listening to a wide range of music, I've really paid attention to the Anglo world. From the beginning, I was always tempted to do something that will cross over, without you having to speak my language."

But he has also learned that his new music is starting to be heard back in Cuba, even though his popularity back home will take time to germinate. "I want to focus on what I'm doing. And hopefully - hopefully! - once I get recognition, then I will go when Cuba already knows who I am. But now, it's too hard for me, for some reason. It's one of those things. You need to leave your country to become somebody and then your country will embrace you."

Alex Cuba performs tonight at midnight at Toronto's Tattoo Rock Parlour, as part of NXNE, and on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Toronto's Distillery District, with the Alex Cuba All-Stars, as part of Luminato (information: http://www.nxne.com and http://www.luminato.com).

Canadian Idol Top 24: Omar Lunan

Sandy Caetano, Metro

(June 18, 2008) Having already gotten a taste of how the music business operates, Omar Lunan figured he would try something new.

After having deals with two record labels that both went nowhere, Scarborough’s 29-year-old singer and single father felt he had nothing to lose by auditioning for Canadian Idol. He wasn’t even supposed to be at the auditions, but went with his younger cousin for moral support.

“I had a show the night before, so I met her there at 7:30 a.m. and she was at the front of the line so I had to find my way through to her (through) about 1,500 people,” says Lunan. “So we got inside and she got to a certain point and I got past, which is not bad for somebody who didn’t expect to be here.”

Lunan has been singing professionally since he was 17, when he was in a group called The Show. His biggest accomplishment musically occurred when he was 17 or 18, when he got to open up for artists like 98 Degrees, Usher, Foxy Brown, Genuwine, Sugar Jones, Soul Decision and more. He and his group were even nominated for a Juno.”In the same year I got my high school diploma, so that was a big year for me … I just love music and performing is awesome.”

All that matters at this  point in the game is providing a stable home and future for his two-year-old son, which is why Lunan says he’s in this competition.

“Me and mom are really good, though we’re not together, but I’ve made sure that we’re both really active with our son. We do everything we can for him,” he says.

Lalah Hathaway Shares Her 'Self'

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(June 18, 2008) *Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but the music of
Lalah Hathaway’s “Self Portrait” says more about soul music than a musical dictionary.

Her fifth studio album, the disc is a 12-song collection of jazz-infused R&B that she fashioned herself.

The singer, daughter of the legendary soulman Donny Hathaway, is now on the legendary label Stax Records – home to Booker T and the MGs, Sam and Dave, and Isaac Hayes.

It’s been four years since her last disc and like many artists, she’s had her share of label contracts and label contrasts, but she told EUR’s Lee Bailey that her new label home is a great fit.

“It’s about finding the right record label that will pay for you to express yourself,” she said about her sabbatical from the studio. “The industry is changing so much. [Artists] are out trying to find someplace that they feel comfortable doing their art and their craft. I hope that it will become a more frequent occurrence that I get to make records.”

And while she hasn’t ruled out going the independent distribution route in the future, Hathaway is quite pleased with working with the celebrated Stax name. She reiterated that being an artist looking for a deal is something most artists of longevity have experienced, along with bouncing from label to label.

“It’s kind of like dating,” she compared. “It’s like Match.com when you’re signed to a label. You go out with a guy and it’s all nice. First they pick you up and open the door for you, and then something goes horribly wrong. It seems that’s been my experience with record companies, until now.”

 So what makes this time different? Well, in a word, “self.”

“I can honestly say – and I don’t even have to say it; you will say it once you listen to it – it is my most coherent, cohesive body of work,” she said. “I made the record from front to back in such a short period of time and I’ve never done that before.”

 Just a teen when she first scored a record deal, Hathaway said her 1990 self-titled debut album whizzed by without much of her input.

“I don’t really understand how it got made,” she said. “I didn’t pick out most of the songs; I didn’t see the artwork until it was done. It was a blur.”

 She said her second disc, on a new label, wasn’t a much better project process as the record company was going through a “major upheaval”. Hathaway went through three or four A&R people and she fired her manager.

“In addition to that, the music industry really began to change and I was at a label that didn’t anticipate that. The third record was kind of an amalgamation of all the songs that I had been writing and working on and I was really just trying to struggle to get a deal. I call that time in the ‘90s vortex of time where a lot of us got loss.”

But the past has passed. Hathaway’s “Self Portrait” was created in a new process for the talented singer.

 “I feel really proud of my record. I’m happy with my experience in making the record. I feel like this is my best piece of work yet. I’m excited about being at Stax because they are so synonymous with the concept of soul music around the world. I think it’s a good match,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a deal, wrote the whole record and sang it, and put it out within a year.”

No surprise to Hathaway fans, the singer is incredibly impressive on “Portrait.” But the expectation of excellence, Hathaway said, can be a curse.

“Sometimes you tend to lay back and be complacent because on a bad day you’re still probably better than a lot of people,” she modestly explained. “With this record I have stretched. I feel [with] the writing on it, the sentiment behind it, the musicianship, the way the record aurally sounds, the mix, the mastering of the work – I’m really happy with the way it came out.”

Hathaway said she’s very content about the disc and satisfied that she’s done an impeccable job in sharing a bit of herself with fans of good music.

“I would love it if 10 million people buy the record, but I feel really successful already,” she said. “It is what I intended it to be and it’s better than I thought it could be. I’m very proud of myself in a way that I have never been before for a record.”

The first single, "Let Go," an up-tempo track co-written by Rahsaan Patterson, is already making waves at radio. The disc also features the penwork of singer-songwriter Sandra St. James and the production help of Grammy-nominated Rex Rideout. But even with an outstanding supporting cast, “Self Portrait” is all Lalah.

“It is absolutely a self portrait of me as an artist. From the music, the way that the credits read, the packaging, the colors, the way it was recorded, the musicians, the producers, the concept of the videos shoot and everything is mine. Everything I had my hand in, so I really do think that it’s a very good portrait of me as an artist right now.”

For more on Lalah Hathaway and “Self Portrait” – available now – go to her official website at www.lalahhathaway.com.

The Many Faces Of Alanis

www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(June 13, 2008) NEW YORK — There's a diamond ring on Alanis Morissette's hand and a story behind how it got there.

A few years ago, it seems, the singer's friends were teasing her about her claim that she could manifest things into physical form. “I said, I can do it with anything,” she recalled on a recent stop in town. So as her friends guffawed, Morissette proclaimed, “I'd like to welcome diamonds.” The very next day, during a last-minute check of a hotel room, what should she discover in the safe but a ring, sitting all alone. She left her number with the management, requesting that they call if anyone should claim to have lost the jewellery; no one did. Ever since then she's worn it, as she says, “to kind of remind myself of the whimsy of thinking I can manifest.” Besides, the ring – eight smaller diamonds encircling a large single stone, and appraised at $10,000 – looks awfully pretty, even if it is on her right hand.

Of course, for a couple of years, she wore a different ring, an emerald-cut platinum number, but she traded it, you might say, for this new album.

If you want to fully understand the story, you must wade into the sometimes icky intersection between art and tabloid chatter. (You can do so guilt-free by recognizing Morissette has occupied the intersection before.) Back in the summer of 2006, rumours began surfacing that Morissette's two-year engagement to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds ( Definitely, Maybe), whom she had met at Drew Barrymore's birthday party in 2002, was melting down. They made a few appearances together, but by February, 2007 representatives of both celebrities announced the two had gone their separate ways.

One month later, showing impressive resiliency, Reynolds turned up in the company of dewy actress Scarlett Johansson, then 22. (The two are now engaged.) Meanwhile, Alanis did what Alanis does best: She dove deep and emerged with nuggets of raw emotional truth. Flying off to London to meet with the producer Guy Sigsworth (Seal's Crazy, Bjork), the two wrote 12 songs in as many days. Two months later, they spun off another dozen, then whittled them down into what became Flavors of Entanglement, Morissette's first studio album in four years, which dropped on Tuesday.

The album reasserts Morissette's status as the musical Martha Gellhorn, an unusually adept war correspondent who has forged a career reporting from the front lines of her own turmoil. Across 11 songs that take in swirling tabla and cello, a menacingly metal buzz, and soothing piano ballads, Morissette gives an intimate blow-by-blow of her state of mind in the aftermath of the breakup. She declares a ban on commitment in Moratorium, is “reborn and shivering / spat out on new terrain” in the mournful Not As We, tentatively regains her footing in Giggling Again for No Reason, and turns a wistfully self-satirizing new page in the final sing-songy tune Incomplete.

“At that time I just needed to stop the insanity, so to speak,” reflects Morissette, sitting in a tiny meeting room of the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue that is still littered with the used water glasses of Goldman Sachs employees who had been conducting recruitment interviews an hour before. (We were supposed to have met for lunch in the hotel's restaurant, but after the maitre d' accidentally seated someone right next to the quiet table that had been reserved in Morissette's name, her manager, recognizing she might not be comfortable opening up with potential eavesdroppers a few feet away, insisted on the relocation.)

“I needed to step away from the addictive aspect of it – love addiction, and frankly co-dependence, and all the muck and mire of the version of commitment that I was entertaining,” she says. “The kind of marriage that I aspire to is not what I was doing.”

Does she blame herself for the breakup? “I do believe it always takes two to tango, so I don't take 100 per cent responsibility,” she replies. “But someone else's, whether it's my ex-fiancé or anybody, their 50 per cent is not my problem. Whether they own it or not, I have no control over.” She has a debilitating tendency to accept responsibility for anything bad. “If someone punches someone a mile away, it's my fault. That was how I used to operate. So now it's about stopping at that 50 per cent point – in all areas, frankly. So that's made for more mature interactions, not only in my romantic life but in my professional life and everything.”

Speaking with Morissette can be a strangely giddy experience. While most actors and singers become brittle and guarded after a few years of prodding by the press and the public, in person Morissette maintains a remarkably open mien; she even speaks with an occasional uptick. It may be that she has been doing this for so long – a one-time child actor, she recorded her first album of dance tunes at age 17 – that she knows no other way. But it may also be that the New Age patois she deploys – her speech is littered with mentions of phoenixes rising, of the need to “esteem myself from within,” and of being ambivalent about career success offering an “egoic thumbs-up from the outside” – conceals as much as it reveals.

Still, she laughs frequently, is a rare Canadian celebrity who retains specks of her Ottawa-area accent, and exudes genuine warmth, even when handily deflecting questions about Johansson's recent album of Tom Waits covers. (But then, the album bombed.)

Her aggression stays in the music, safely out of her personal encounters, whether romantic ones or interviews with the press. “It's not considerate to myself if I don't express my anger,” she explains. But, “it's not very popular to walk around admitting you're depressed or admitting you're suicidal, or admitting you're really, really vitriolically angry,” she says. “But it's not inappropriate in art to be angry and flailing, and physicalize all that emotion. It's actually welcomed.

“Because ultimately I'm still Canadian, and I'm still very concerned about being respectful and that kind of stuff.”

In the new album's final tune, Morissette sings, “I have been missing the rapture this whole time,” and at 34 she says she's reached a point in her life where she's no longer willing to endure torment in the hope of some far-off goal. “For a long time, the managers that I was working with would say, ‘Tough it out' – the theme is always suck it up – at the cost of myself. Suck it up, because if you do this tour, I know you're burned out, but if you do this tour you'll be – fill in the blank. Laying out the groundwork for the future. What future? I might be dead in five years.” She laughs. “What if I want to enjoy my life now? So that song is to me the most philosophical, spiritual song on the record.”

She's starting to take her own advice. About a year ago, she got a pair of tattoos, one on the inside of her right forearm that reads, “breathe” (she often forgets to take deep breaths, especially when concentrating), and one on the outside of her left forearm that reads, “gentle.” “People have shown me that, you put it on that side of your arm, you're ultimately asking other people to be gentle with you,” she giggles.

There are those willing to take up the challenge. She has a new boyfriend, who, as it happens, is neither a celebrity nor a Canadian.

A few years ago, an episode of the squirmy sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm revolved around Morissette secretly revealing to Larry David the identity of the former lover about whom she had written her angry hit single, You Oughta Know. In real life, though, she says she has no intention of outing the ex. “When I write songs, I don't write it for the sake of seeking revenge,” she explains. “I write it just to get it out of my body, so I don't get sick. So I think if I were to write it and then speak about who it's about, that would be my version of being offensive.

“I know it's torturous for people who are curious,” she nods. “Some people are really excited to find who these songs are about, but that's not why I write them.” I suggest to her that people may feel if they learn the identities behind the songs, the world might make sense to them. “Right, and God bless them,” she laughs, “maybe the world isn't supposed to. What's that Pema Chodron title, Comfortable with Uncertainty? If only we could all be more comfortable with uncertainty,” and here she emits an urgent whisper, “I think we'd all be a little bit more relaxed!”

MuchMusic Goes With The Flo

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

(June 14, 2008) Before Japanese women threw bras at him, before Bulgarians and Brazilians and Swedes were aware of the existence of Apple Bottom jeans, before the hush-hush movie projects and the houses and the cars, Flo Rida sat in a Miami strip club, studying the women on the stage.

Market research, yo.

When you're Tide, you get middle-aged women to test your new products. When you're Molson, you focus-group 21-year-old men. When you're a little-known rapper peddling an unabashedly sexual party song whose chorus includes the words "gave that big booty a smack," you see if it works for the strippers.

"I already had notoriety 'round the way from other records I'd put out," said the 28-year-old, real name Tramar Dillard, in a phone interview from Los Angeles last week.

"But this record in particular – the girls, they requested it over and over again."

So, soon, did people wearing clothes.

The song, "Low," which features that infuriatingly catchy chorus by T-Pain – "Apple Bottom jeans/Boots with the fur" – spent 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, selling more than 3 million copies; 32 weeks after it first hit the charts in late 2007, it still sits at No. 24.

"Low" enjoyed particular success on the Internet: No. 1 on iTunes for 14 weeks, it became the best-selling digital song ever.

No joke: the song went platinum as a ringtone. Dillard, like hundreds of thousands of teenage girls around the world, used it as his own ringtone. "Of course," he says. "I gotta promote my own situation."

Like so many so-called overnight successes, Dillard's came slowly. He began rapping as a teenager in Carol City, Fla., where he formed a group with friends. They released several mixtapes, earning them moderate local notoriety, and opened a show for the celebrated rapper Scarface.

In 2001, Dillard went to Hawaii and elsewhere as a "hype man" for Fresh Kid Ice, a member of the raunchy group 2 Live Crew. ("It reminds me of `Low': a lot of the girls, they tried to come on stage, they got their bras off and everything.")

And, early this decade – he doesn't remember the year – he boarded a bus to California, $200 in his pocket, planning to knock, uninvited, on the doors of record companies.

"And I don't have the dollars to get around town," Dillard recalls. "I'm just going by faith in God."

Death Row Records was closed. He got nowhere with Capitol Records. When he tried to approach potential star-makers in a mall, he nearly got arrested.

"I had this 60-pound bag, and I decided I was going to go inside the mall, the Beverly Center, because I heard a lot of times a lot of celebrities be in there, television, radio, magazines. So I throw my bag on a bench, go inside about an hour, and all the while, I'm hearing sirens and things, but I paid no attention to it. Come back out, my bag's missing. I go across the street to the gas station, ask the clerk, `Have you seen someone with a bag?' And they're like, `That was your bag, man? We called in a bomb threat.'"

Short of cash, he worked in construction – making "less than minimum wage, like $3 an hour" – and for a T-shirt company. Then, in Las Vegas, he worked for the MGM Grand hotel-casino, "digging through the trash, trying to restore the silverware that people may have thrown away."

He released an EP, Florida Streets, in 2003. In 2006, the owner of independent label Poe Boy Entertainment encouraged him to return to Florida: major labels, he was told, were beginning to notice him.

Dillard signed with Poe Boy, then with Atlantic Records. "Low," the first single from his March album Mail on Sunday, made him famous, and Timbaland-featuring "Elevator," the second single, reached No. 16. Then Mail on Sunday itself came out and hit No. 4.

Since then, he has toured in Asia, worked on a movie he won't talk about, fended off the solicitations of countless new "friends," and dealt with phone calls from bewildered fans – to the cellphone number he listed on MySpace – "every 15, 20 seconds."

Forgive him, then, if he's been too busy to figure out why he's flying to Toronto in a few days.

"I gotta go to Canada and ... um ... perform at the ... um ... what it is ... the MTV..."

He'll perform at the MuchMusic Video Awards tomorrow night.

George Clinton Gets 'Radio Friendly'

Source: J'ai St. Laurent-Smyth, Inque Public Relations, inquepr@comcast.net 

(June 12, 2008) *George Clinton, ringmaster of the longest running funk circus since James Brown's golden age, had a dream - a dream of taking his favourite R&B, doo wop and slow jams to re-create the sexy-steamy vibe of an ol' school "blue lights in da basement" session.

So he sent out invites to his rainbow coalition of musical friends. Before long, rock icons Sly Stone, Carlos Santana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, soul crooner El DeBarge, hip hop producer The RZA, gospel star Kim Burrell, and Shavo from the alternative band System of a Down were ALL laying down grooves "on the 1!"

Members of the P-Funk All-Stars also came to the party, including Gary Shider, Belita Woods and others.  The result: RADIO FRIENDLY, a mash note to richly righteous and soulful courtship of days gone by, slated for release on Shanachie Records - September 3, 2008.
"I've been waiting for years to do this record," George proclaims. "I knew that funk would come back. I knew that Motown would come back. And I knew, eventually, doo-wop would come back. I just felt I should be the one to usher it back in!"
Those who know George Clinton - the funk master who actually came up during the vocal group era - know that long before the funk mob known as Parliament-Funkadelic, he fronted a stand-up vocal group known simply as The Parliaments in 1955, which later morphed into a soul group of the same name that scored a minor hit in 1967 with "I Wanna Testify."  At the core of George's latter days funk there was always a lot of heart, so no one should be surprised by the top choice classics he hand-picked for his sacred detour back through music's soul music's tunnel of love. Just a few of the songs near and dear to Grandpa Funk's heart are the late, great Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love" from the `50s (the original of which was recorded shortly before the singer killed himself playing Russian Roulette), Motown master Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" from the `60s, and dearly departed Maestro of Love Barry White's "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up" from the `70s. In addition to these decades- spanning gems, Gangster of Love also features two original Clinton
compositions: an early Parliaments tune entitled "Heart Trouble" as well as the brand new "Mathematics of Love."

George Clinton has a way of not only crossing musical boundaries but also generational boundaries. As a result, the musicians on Radio Friendly came of age in different eras and come from different worlds.  "I want to get all the young musicians together with all the old school musicians," George

 George Clinton / Radio Friendly - press release - page 2 notes. "We need to come together! There shouldn't be any division in music. 
Soon as we got Sly and Santana, everyone wanted to get on the bandwagon."
Some might question how the hip-hop generation relates to romantic old school R&B, but George isn't one of them. "Rappers have been flirting with it all along, "he says. "Even Snoop Dogg is singing!  They just call it R&B now.  This is only one step back from what they are doing.  The simplicity of it is the connection.
Anything simple is funk."

 It's all part of George's program to re-insert more humanistic and musical values into the contemporary landscape of today's pop-soul music. So - once again - do not attempt to adjust your radio. There is nothing wrong.  George Clinton has taken control to bring you a special show - a reminder of finer and funkier things, most righteously dubbed Radio Friendly.

Sawnhey Ready To Let Loose

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(June 13, 2008) Nitin Sawhney wants people to boogie tomorrow night at Revival on College St.

The musician and composer is one of Luminato's artists in residence; while he has been busy giving chats and workshops so far this week, it's been a while since he rocked the decks at a club and he hopes people are looking forward to it as much as he is.

"It's the first one I've done in ages, and if people are prepared to expend a lot of energy and get into it, then they'll enjoy the evening," he said. "I haven't deejayed for a while, I was a resident at Fabric (the renowned London nightclub) and did a live CD there a few years ago. It's something I really enjoy, but I haven't done it a lot, probably because I want to protect my ears while I've been working on my latest album. Because when I do deejay in clubs, it does get very full on."

That's a warning to people who only know his recent recorded output as mellow and atmospheric: it's a much faster thing he does in dance clubs.

Sawhney is best known for being part of the deejays and producers dubbed the Asian Underground in the '90s, who caused a sensation by mixing traditional Indian sounds with modern electronica. Since arriving on the music scene, he has branched out into several genres, scoring more than 40 movies, composing video-game soundtracks, and getting involved with cultural initiatives at home and abroad.

He's bringing one of his acclaimed projects to the Molson Amphitheatre tonight, where he mounts his live soundtrack to the 1929 Frank Osten silent film classic A Throw of Dice, which he'll perform with members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, along with long-time collaborators Ashwin Srinivasan on flute, Aref Durvesh on tabla, and vocalists Tina Grace and Reena Bhardwaj. "This particular film, it is literally East meeting West, so it's quite interesting from that point of view," Sawhney said. "It's such an inspiring film, and the archetypal characters really, in a way, almost write their own music. "

For the past year-and-a-half, he has been working on his latest album, London Undersound, which he just finished mastering last week. He said it's about how he feels London has changed over the past few years.

"I suppose there's a zeitgeist feeling about what London is, and it's trying to examine that zeitgeist and what that's all about. It's quite mad," he said.

Sawhney said he has been enjoying Luminato, adding it has allowed him to get reacquainted with Tim Supple (he did the soundtrack to Supple's film version of Twelfth Night). He has also met with Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta – the two are talking about possibly collaborating together.

Vancouver Duo Called The Pack A.D. Rock With A Force And Confidence Well Beyond Their Years

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

(June 12, 2008) The Pack A.D.'s Becky Black and Maya Miller are the two coolest, most no-nonsense rock chicks in the country, I swear.

Seemingly within days of their signing to Mint Records late last year, awestruck tales of the gals' shared appetite for booze-stoked mayhem had drifted eastward from the label's Vancouver office. They've pretty much been on tour ever since, wreaking dirt-blues havoc on squalid clubs around Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. and sleeping in their van in Wal-Mart and Arby's parking lots between gigs.

They spend nearly every waking hour together, but fortunately, singer and slide-guitar firebrand Black and drummer Miller exude exactly the easygoing sorts of personalities required to maintain such a dogged two-person work ethic. Upon our initial meeting in Austin during this year's South by Southwest festival, they gamely agreed to knock back a few pints and accompany a stranger to a suburban-Texas gun range, revealing a shared passion for ultra-violent videogames on the drive out. They agreed Manhunt 2 was grossly inferior to the original because all the gore got cut out. I was charmed.

Charm will only get you so far, though, and the Pack A.D. has something much more important going for it: Lord almighty, do they rock – in a gritty, unhinged, kind-of frightening manner that's no doubt tightened up another few notches and grown more daunting since the band left several SXSW crowds feeling somewhat seared back in March.

Proof of the Pack's growing prowess as white-hot primitivist players is already in the can, and will arrive on Aug. 12 in the form of the pair's savage second album, Funeral Mixtape. The new disc comes a mere eight months after the Mint reissue of the band's impressive, self-released debut, Tintype, but the pair have been itching to get some new stuff out there because they feel the first disc doesn't properly represent where they're at.

"We started recording that album after we'd played, like, one show," says Miller.

"And after I'd been singing for about half a year," interjects Black, during an interview with the pair this week in advance of their North by Northeast showcase tomorrow night at Sneaky Dee's, plus two other appearances.

"We wanted the new record to sound as close as we could get it to how we sound live," says Miller. "That's one of the big differences on Tintype – it's just two different animals. The first album was all digital and really clean sounding and really restrained, and we're a little bit messier than that. In a good way, not a bad way. We just wanted to get across how we feel when we play it and make it..."

Black finishes for her: "Dirtier."

Considering the two had almost zero musical experience, when they started their first band on a drunken lark a little more than two years ago, they showed remarkable confidence in their abilities going into Funeral Mixtape. The album would be recorded live off the floor to analogue tape, they decreed, to get just the right amount of murk.

It's a blistering piece of work and 10 times the record the no-slouch Tintype was, with Black in particular coming into her own as a major vocal powerhouse. She was still finding her voice on the first album, but here she's devastatingly effective, feral and dead sexy on booming blues-rockers like "Blackout," and appropriately anguished on creakier, quieter numbers like "Worried." The soft side of the Pack A.D. is rarely heard onstage, but it makes them much more compellingly three-dimensional than their gut-busting live throwdowns let on.

"We never play the quiet songs live," says Miller. "We've figured out that we always end up playing last or second-last and, by that time, everyone's drunk and they want the stompers. They don't want the slow stuff, so we barely play anything slow. We basically leave that for albums and just rock it out now."

They're committed to rocking it out on two continents through to November at the moment, and the tour could very well carry on longer than that if Funeral Mixtape cracks like it should.

Black and Miller are fine with that.

"We like being on the road. Even sleeping in the van," says Miller. "Except lately, when it's been really, really hot because that's been horrible. That's what it's going to be like, though. We're heading to, like, Phoenix in August. Daytona Beach."

"We're playing at a naval base somewhere," laughs Black. "The day the sailors get paid."

"Apparently, it's going to be huge," says Miller. "We don't know if it's going to be scary or a good thing."

Just the facts
Who: The Pack A.D.
Where: Sneaky Dee's, 432 College St.
When: Tomorrow, midnight
Festival wristbands: $19 for a one-day pass, $29 for a three-day pass. Available at all participating NXNE venues

'Red' Shea, 70: Influential Folk Guitarist

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(June 12, 2008) Renowned Canadian guitarist Laurice Milton "Red" Shea, who helped define the groundbreaking musical styles of legendary Canadian folk artists Gordon Lightfoot and Ian and Sylvia Tyson and others, died Tuesday morning after being diagnosed two weeks ago with pancreatic cancer. He was 70.

A self-taught musician, Shea is noted in the Canadian Encyclopedia as one of Canada's most influential folk guitarists, along with Amos Garrett and David Rea. He played with the Good Brothers, hosted his own TV show, and was a staple on Canadian country music star Tommy Hunter's CBC-TV show.

"Red was irrepressible, he had boundless energy, and he was always ready to keep on picking when the rest of us were heading off to bed," Sylvia Tyson said.

Shea backed the Tysons in the pioneering country rock outfit Great Speckled Bird, and was musical director of the national CTV variety program, The Ian Tyson Show, in the 1970s. He also recorded with Ian in those years.

"He was the kind of guitarist I really love - inventive and rhythm-driven," Sylvia added. "And he was always telling jokes - great jokes."

Shea is universally credited with having been Lightfoot's most distinctive and original supporting player, adding his lucid filigree lead runs seamlessly into the famed singer's trademark finger-picking patterns to produce fluid, layered textures and crystal overtones that enhanced enhancing Lightfoot's recordings from 1966 through 1975. Shea was part of Lightfoot's touring band till 1971 and was an in-demand as a guitar teacher.

"He influenced so many guitarists," singer and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Good said. "He was the reason so many of us picked up guitars in the late 1960s and 70s and started fooling around with finger styles.

"(American folk-rock star) Dan Fogelberg dedicated on of his albums to Red, and the Guess Who paid tribute to him by naming him in their song `Lightfoot'."

Also an in-demand guitar teacher, Shea gave lessons "for many years" to Good's son, Travis, a member of Toronto neo-country rock band the Sadies.

"He instilled in Travis - much against his will - the importance of learning to read and playing classical styles. I can hear so much of Red in the Sadies.

"He was a unique musician, and always a student. He was always listening to other great guitarists and extending their ideas. Red was also an amazing human being, immediately likeable. He was more than a friend to us - he was like family."

Shea had a regular feature spot from the late 1970s till 1992 on the long-running country music program, The Tommy Hunter Show, ad-libbing tall stories and handing Hunter a guitar for his next song.

"His parts were never written, and we never knew what the joke was until the punch line came," Canada's "Country Gentleman" said. "He was a great and original musical stylist, but to me he was also a great television personality, a really good entertainer. He was a very happy and upbeat guy, a magnificent player and a generous teacher. He'll be sadly missed."

Shea is survived by his wife Lynn and children Colleen, Scott and Brett.

Visitation will take place at Thompson Funeral Home, 530 Industrial Pkwy. S., Aurora, Thursday from 7-9 p.m. A memorial service will be held at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Bloomington Side Rd., Aurora, Friday, at 11 a.m.

Latest British Buzz Act Are A Whole New Ting

Source: www.thestar.com - Shauna Rempel,
Toronto Star

(June 14, 2008) Katie White is having a stomping good time in North America.

"We're doing this thing where we get our vinyl records and put them on stage and dance on them when we're performing and then sell them at the next show," says the 25-year-old front woman for
The Ting Tings. "It's quite a weird experience to be dancing on your own head," she giggles over a cellphone earlier this week, enroute to Seattle for another stop on the U.K. band's first North American headlining tour to promote their debut album We Started Nothing, which came out June 3. The indie-dance duo hit the Mod Club on Monday.

The stomped-on-records-for-sale project is typical of the kind of artsy endeavour she and co-Ting, the 30-something Jules De Martino, got into while hanging at a suburban arts commune in northwest England.

That living arrangement, of course, was before they started taking the Internet and pop-music charts by storm a mere 18 months ago.

Those unfamiliar with the high-energy, insanely catchy tunes put out by the band with the onomatopoeic name (which apparently means something mildly lewd in Japanese) will doubtless recognize The Ting Tings' single "Shut Up and Let Me Go" – with the memorable clear-as-mud lyric "I want something unignorable" – from the recent TV commercial for Apple's iPod and iTunes.

That's not their only hit: The video for infectious dance-floor chant "Great DJ" has been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube, and the shouty, sassy "That's Not My Name" is being declared the song of the summer.

Other songs on the 10-track album include "Fruit Machine," a reference to that most British of pub diversions, which dissolves into a yelping series of "ka-ching, ka-ching," and "Traffic Light," a ballad exhorting a reticent lover not to act like the road signal, which sounds as though it samples an old-school Mario Bros. video-game soundtrack. Some tunes are more likely to become hits than others, but all have a winning combination of pop sweetness and indie cheek.

Sensations they certainly are, but it all could have turned out very differently for The Ting Tings. Or not at all.

De Martino and White were set to make a splash as two-thirds of a pop trio called Dear Eskiimo when, as they say on Coronation Street, it all went pear-shaped.

"We were signed and dropped. That whole band had gone wrong. We'd had a really discouraging time, we didn't get to get a record out. And then Jules and I were the only two band members who didn't want to get on with the real world."

So they repaired to the Islington Mill studios in Greater Manchester to lick their wounds. Despite its happy-go-dancing kind of vibe, the Ting Tings album was actually written during that uncertain and bleak time. De Martino produced it at the Mill on a shoestring budget.

After Dear Eskiimo was dumped by its major record label, "we sort of let go of the idea that we'd actually be in a band that was going to be known by people," White says.

"We just wrote these songs thinking nobody would ever want to work with us or hear them. So we wrote them just for ourselves and our friends ... to make us feel a bit carefree."

Some of the negative feelings understandably seep through. "It's quite easy to pull that frustration out. Especially when we do songs like `That's Not My Name,' it's so easy to get in that mindset of trying to rebel against people pigeonholing you and writing you off and pre-judging you. It's quite a good topic to get your teeth into when performing it live."

Now wearing their influences on their sleeves (Blondie and Talking Heads, among others), they are making the most of a second chance – third chance, if you count White's girl group TKO, which disbanded when she was 18. But with the musical hype machine declaring them "the next big thing" – which often translates into "flavour of the month"– White and De Martino would be well-advised to prove they have staying power.

An 11-city headlining tour is a good start, provided they can withstand the pace. White was given steroids for her vocal chords after ruining her voice performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this month. "We're shouting quite a lot (onstage)," White says by way of explanation.

On Monday, in addition to hyperactive dancing (and clapping, jumping, etc.) on a floor made from vinyl records, expect to see two Tings that sound like a lot more, thanks to the loop pedals of lyrics that augment De Martino's drumming and White's beginner-level guitar playing – it's an instrument she only took up recently. White has also been known to bang a cowbell and hit a large drum with a mallet over the course of an evening.

A busy summer lies ahead, with England's Glastonbury Festival a definite highlight. It was at last year's festival that The Ting Tings got their first big break, on a BBC-sponsored stage that gave invaluable exposure to artists who normally wouldn't be able to reach the festival audience.

"It was like our fifth or sixth ever gig away from the Mill," White says. "It'll be nice to go back and play on a slightly bigger stage this year."

Three 6 Mafia Stays True To Music And Fans

Source:  www.thestar.com - Gail Mitchell, Billboard

(June 17, 2008) What do you do after becoming the first African-American rap group to win an Academy Award for Best Song? If you're Three 6 Mafia, you stay focused on what brought you to the game in the first place: music.

Fresh off their first European tour, Three 6 Mafia members Jordan "Juicy J" Houston and "DJ Paul" Beauregard are anxious to spread the word about their latest studio album, The Last 2 Walk. The Hypnotize Minds/Columbia Records project bows June 24.

"We're grateful for the Oscar (for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow)," DJ Paul said during a visit to Billboard's Los Angeles office. "But we polished it, put it on the shelf and went back to the same frame of mind we've had the last 18 years."

"It's time for us to shake hands, throw back with the locals and make new friends as we promote this album," Juicy J said. "We had to get back to the main thing: music and our fans."

Right now, the fan base is building around the pair's high-energy dance single "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)." Featuring Project Pat, the song's co-producer Superpower and Hypnotize Minds artist Yung D, the song is No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.

"It's a different single for us," DJ Paul said.

"But all of our singles have been different. We put out various songs over the last year (including "Doe Boy Fresh," "Like Money" and recent street single "I'd Rather"), trying to make sure we got the right one. This is our fastest-growing song in Three 6 Mafia history."

Sparking the "Lolli" momentum was the pair's guest stint on CBS drama series Numb3rs May 9. The episode opened with Juicy J and DJ Paul (in their roles as hip-hop artists) performing "Lolli." Preceding Numb3rs was the act's 2007 Ashton Kutcher-produced MTV reality show, Adventures in Hollyhood. Both members agree that acting is easier than appearing in a reality show.

Three 6 Mafia's biggest single to date is 2005's "Stay Fly,'' which peaked at No. 9 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 13 on the Hot 100.

Produced primarily by Juicy J and DJ Paul, The Last 2 Walk also features guest stints by Akon, Good Charlotte, UGK and Lyfe Jennings, among others. The album's title is a reference to the group's remaining two members.

"We're the last two dudes to walk," Juicy J said of the former six-member Memphis group that became an indie force in the early '90s. "We've managed to stay true to our plan: making good music and building our label/production company. We are the two people who saw the dream. We'll never stop doing our thing."


Polaris Prize long list includes Buck 65, New Pornographers

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(June 12, 2008) A whopping 40 Canadian acts are in the running for the $20,000 Polaris Music Prize. This is the first year the long list – selected by 185 members of the Polaris jury – has been made public. The list was compiled based on an initial vote on albums released from June 1, 2007, to May 31, 2008. Artists on the long list include Buck 65, Cadence Weapon, Born Ruffians, Kathleen Edwards, the New Pornographers, the Weakerthans and Wintersleep. The short list will be revealed July 7. "Our objective with the Polaris long list is to expose even more of the essential music that's being made across the country and hopefully increase anticipation for what is sure to be a thrilling 2008 short list," prize founder Steve Jordan said in a statement. The focus of the annual prize, now in its third year, is on artistic merit, not record sales.

Amerie Signs With Def Jam

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2008) *After two moderately-successful albums through Columbia Records, R&B singer Amerie is hoping to take her fame to another level under a new deal with Island Def Jam. A source tells Britain's Daily Star newspaper: "Amerie's first two albums did well, but she's ready to step it up a gear now. She was offered a deal too good to turn down and the promise to build upon her reputation for classy and sexy R&B."   Amerie hopes to follow in the footsteps of her new label mate Rihanna, whose career enjoyed a global boost after Def Jam secured the power track "Umbrella" for her last year.

Grandmaster Flash Writes Tell-All

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2008) *Grandmaster Flash details his life story – from his violent family life to his drug addiction to creating turntable techniques that have come to define hip hop – in a new autobiography titled " The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats." "This whole book was scary for me," Flash tells the New York Daily News. "We as human beings, we don't willingly display our skeletons, our pains, our hurts - not the deep, deep, deep ones."  The Broadway Books effort, which hit stores this week, also includes the volatile relationship Flash had with Sylvia Robinson, who signed his group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to their first record deal with her label Sugar Hill Records.  "She did do some things that in today's world would probably get her head chopped off," says Flash, whose real name is Joseph Saddler, "but she did rule with an iron fist and we were under fear with her - although we did make some great records."

Ralph Tresvant Working On New Solo Album

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2008) *New Edition member Ralph Tresvant is preparing to release his first solo album in two years and his second via his own Xzault Media Group (XMG) label. The as-yet-untitled project, due later this year, includes the lead single "It Must Be You," which arrives July 1 on iTunes, Amazon.com and other digital download sites, reports Billboard.com. "This album is something I've been wanting to put out for awhile," Tresvant tells the Web site. "I'm not really thinking about this project as having a certain sound or sticking to a certain formula. I talk about love, social issues ... these songs round off where I've come from and who I am after all this time." Tresvant's last solo effort was the 2006 XMG release "RizzWaFaire." He has charted five top 10 R&B singles, including the 1990 No. 1 "Sensitivity." His business partner and XMG co-owner Dan Dillman says the company's upcoming plans include an up-close-and-personal tour featuring Tresvant.     As previously reported, New Edition will receive ASCAP's Golden Note Award during the performing rights organization's annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards at the in Beverly Hills on June 23. The group's 25-year career will be saluted during the ceremony.

Lionel Richie Says Commodores Will Reunite

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 16, 2008) *Before his set at Antigua's Romantic Rhythms festival Saturday, Lionel Richie told reporters that he and his former band, the Commodores, will reunite soon for a tour – possibly within the next two years. "We better do it now, or in the next 10 years nobody would care," he said, according to the Associated Press. The 58-year-old singer also said the group needs to get a reunion together quickly before it loses more band members. Lead guitarist Milan Williams died two years ago. Richie, who left the Commodores in the late 1970s and launched a successful solo career, says he's confident that synergy still exists between band members. He said Commodores' bass player Ronald La Pread joined him on stage during his last tour and played some of the group's old hits.

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Cash Money Records)
(out of 4)

(June 17, 2008) That this multi-tattooed, self-confessed cough-syrup addict has still managed to move more than 600,000 copies of his new disc in its first week and surpassed 2008 top sellers Mariah Carey and Usher, despite an Internet leak, makes one wonder if Dwayne Carter Jr., a.k.a.
Lil Wayne, a.k.a. Weezy, really is the best rapper alive as he's been professing.  Sure doesn't hurt that rap king Jay-Z, whose last name is also Carter, anoints him on their duet "Mr. Carter:" "I share mic time with my heir/ Young Carter, go farther, go further, go harder."  Wayne's creaky, singsong slur is an acquired taste and this album requires several run-throughs to catch the groove; but the payoff is a stylish collection of unconventionally constructed songs. The 26-year-old New Orleans native is a profane court jester with a grab bag of concepts “embodying an alien, fantasizing about dating a cop, playing a doctor trying to save hip hop, making lewd with lead single and oral sex ode "Lollipop," smartly answering Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" ("Let me catch my breath/ Talking 'bout leaving, you ain't gone yet") and dissing political activist Al Sharpton as "another Don King with a perm."  The disc would have benefited from tighter editing and some of his Wayneisms are cleverer than others. "My picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of definition/ Even Gwen Stefani said she couldn't doubt me" but it plays like an amusing comedy with a touch too much toilet humour. Top track: "A Milli" is a showcase for Wayne's deft wordplay.

James Carter: Present Tense

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(out of 4)

(June 17, 2008) It's a testament to this smoking quintet that the opening track, "Rapid Shave," renders the listener pressed to identify the leader, given hard swinging and immensely creative solos by trumpeter Dwight Adams, (Canadian) pianist D.D. Jackson, saxist James Carter and bassist James Genus.  Carter reveals himself on the next tune – which he penned in honour of multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy – milking honking notes like liquid before segueing into an unexpectedly dreamy ballad. Aided by drummer Victor Lewis, the cascading percussion of Eli Fountain and Latin licks from guitarist Rodney Jones, Carter, 39, is a master of all – tenor, soprano and baritone sax, as well as flute and bass clarinet – on this exquisite and grooving disc. Half the enjoyment is figuring out what instrument he's playing when.  With no Toronto date on the horizon, it's worth catching the Detroit native's upcoming concert at his hometown's Labour Day jazz fest, incidentally the best free jazz festival in North America. Top track: "Tenderly" finds Carter evoking the title of a beloved standard.

Ziggy Plays The Classics

Source: www.jamaica-gleaner.com

Ziggy Marley in Jamaica is the name of a compilation album featuring 16 of the Grammy-winning singer's favourite reggae songs. It is scheduled to be released July 15 by his Tuff Gong Worldwide label.  The 16-track set includes Mr Chatterbox, a song by The Wailers, the group his father Bob Marley was part of from 1962 until his death in 1981. Mr Chatterbox was produced by Bunny Lee.  Also included is the free-the-weed anthem, Legalize It, by Peter Tosh, another original member of The Wailers.  You Can Get It If You Really Want It by Jimmy Cliff, Sattamassagana (The Abyssinians), Book of Rules (The Heptones), Jah Jah Give us Life (Wailing Souls), Skylarking (Horace Andy) and Delroy Wilson's Better Must Come are also included on the album.  Ziggy Marley also contributes one of his own songs, Make Some Music.  


Relax - The Title Is As Outrageous As This Movie Gets

www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

Directed by Martin Gero
Written by Martin Gero and Aaron Abrams
Starring Carly Pope, Kristen Booth and Peter Oldring
Classification: 18A

(June 14, 2008) The most inspired element in Martin Gero and co-writer Aaron Abrams film is its title, blazoned in screen-filling letters in the opening credits. Obviously, some young filmmakers were listening when the bureaucrats were demanding that Canadians start making films Canadians want to see. Unfortunately, it was a bold enough move to awaken even right-wing politicians, perhaps leading to the infamous Bill C-10 to limit funding to morally objectionable material. Talk about damned if you do or don't.

In the meantime, critics can find some solace in the fact that Young People Fucking is never as outrageous as its title: A comedy about attractive middle-class young folks talking their way through embarrassing relationship issues, it could be called Friends with Benefits: Everyone's white, urban, straight and reasonably attractive and it would be no surprise if some enterprising American cable channel picked it up for a regular Friday night series.

Director Martin Gero and co-writer Aaron Abrams are nothing if not calculated - they're like seducers who work to a pre-made mix-tape and lights on a dimmer. The tightly schematic film follows four couples plus a threesome, over a single night, from foreplay to afterglow. A jaded seducer and a sweet young thing (Callum Blue and Diora Baird) go on a first date with a predictable flip. In the Best Friends episode, an aggressive woman and her doubtful best friend (Carly Pope and Aaron Abrams) decide to cross the friendship barrier, if they can only agree on the right music.

In The Couple, Kristin Booth and Josh Dean are struggling with the first pangs of bedroom boredom. In The Exes, Sonja Bennett and Josh Cooke struggle with too much baggage for a meaningless encounter. Finally, in The Threesome (Peter Oldring, Natalie Lisinska and Ennis Esmer) an insecure man decides to give his girlfriend a present of his doleful but well-endowed roommate.

Although Gero has impressive control of pacing, the performances and chemistry of the different couples are uneven. The first-date scenario - a British stud (Blue) is trying to change his ways when taking the apparently innocent office girl (Baird) home - feels like an overextended Fringe theatre exercise. The highlight is the story of the square young couple (Booth and Dean), experimenting with their first sexual device, earning perhaps the only laugh-out-loud moment in the movie.

The morally panicked guardians should really relax a little, slip into something more comfortable, get a massage. Since young people engaging in carnal activities isn't the kind of thing you can actually cut off at the source, they should be grateful for a movie that shows that sex has an emotionally vulnerable and funny side.

Kevin Spacey: He's Happy On The Outside

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
R.M. Vaughan

(May 23, 2008) It would be inaccurate to call Kevin Spacey a Hollywood exile. The big-budget films (Superman Returns, A Bug's Life, Se7en), the boutique studio hits (the recent 21, The Usual Suspects, American Beauty), his own production company, plus two Academy Awards for acting, sure make him look like a traditional movie star. And yet ... something of the outsider artist lingers over his career, perhaps by intention.

Spacey's decision, in 2003, to accept the position of artistic director at London's then-ailing Old Vic (from which he has mounted several successful productions) was translated by some wags as a retreat from movies, after his films K-PAX, Pay It Forward and The Shipping News failed to find large audiences. Tiresome questions about Spacey's sexuality, an issue only in Hollywood (which is about as liberal in such matters as Iran), have dogged him for years - leading to further speculation that the former Next Big Leading Man is using London as a kind of hideout.

My guess is that Spacey took a long, hard look at the quality of American films since the first indie boom of the 1990s and, like many good actors of his generation, decided to shift his focus from overblown films with dicey return potential (Speed Racer, anyone?) to smaller, smarter movies and plays. Call it the John Malkovich or Glenn Close move.

But all is not lost. Spacey's latest project, the HBO film Recount (playing in Canada on Movie Central and The Movie Network), is a lively, often very funny docudrama that pieces together the bizarre legal and political manoeuvres surrounding the 2000 Gore-Bush Florida recount. Spacey plays Al Gore's doomed-to-fail head strategist with great gusto and just the right amount of droopy-eyed pathos. Spacey would make a very convincing president himself - in a movie.


BORN: Kevin Spacey Fowler, July 26, 1959, South Orange, N.J.

ROLLING STONE: Spacey's family moved around, winding up in the Los Angeles area, where his father, a technical writer, found work in the aviation industry. Spacey grew up in modest homes in the suburban San Fernando Valley.

TWO STARS ARE BORN: Growing up, Spacey was close friends with another future movie star: the young Val Kilmer. Kilmer moved on to Juilliard to study drama while Spacey was stuck in L.A. 'doing stand-up comedy and working in a shoe store,' he has said. Kilmer encouraged him to apply as well, and Spacey got in - though he dropped out after two years to launch a career onstage.

How much did you know about the Gore-Bush recount before you started filming?

You know, that was one of the most startling things to me, because I've been involved in politics since I was stuffing envelopes for Jimmy Carter in high school. And I certainly felt I was keyed in. I know people in Democratic politics, I hosted the Tennessee ball for Al Gore in his second inaugural ... and I was stunned at how little I knew. I certainly knew about it over all, and knew how it ends, but the vast amount of detail - the human error, the people who were completely unqualified for their jobs ... I guess at the end of the day, when you whittle it down, you see it was the human element and a system that is unequipped to handle margins of victory so small. Really, the film ends up playing more like a thriller.

The situation is so strange, were you worried it would appear unbelievable to the audience?

I, no ... once I read the screenplay I went and read all the books. When I really got into seeing what happened, I started to see that it wasn't just one thing that went wrong - it was a confluence of many things. The details will be helpful to the audience, and perhaps shocking and surprising, and to a certain degree even funny. Some of it is so absurd, you can't believe that it's true. You get the sense in the film that it was not so much about Al Gore, but about the U.S. electoral process. Should every vote count and should every vote be counted?

Could it happen again?


Conservatives in the U.S. will probably write this film off as an example of typical Hollywood liberal bias.

Look, you can never predict what any one person may say. So far, the advance reviews, even on very Republican blogs, have said we got the story right. They've said it is balanced. All we've tried to do is present the facts. This is what happened, this is how people behaved.

Did you expect 21, a film about mathematics, to be such a big hit?

Ha! Well, in a way, math is only the basis for telling a story about underdogs. But the truth is, no matter if you're a gambler or not, the idea of going to Vegas and breaking the bank is a very thrilling idea!

I admire anyone, like yourself, who will work in theatre in London. The British media are the most evil in the world.

I have to disagree with you entirely! One has to put it in context. We were given a rough ride at first starting The Old Vic Theatre Company, but the truth is, I expected it. We came under criticism because I produced work that some people didn't feel belonged on the Old Vic stage. But I was facing a practical problem: If I'm playing under 75 per cent in a 1,000-seat theatre that is not subsidized, I'll be dead in the water. I had to try to do work that would reach out to a broader, younger audience. And now, we've just passed the one-million-patron mark.

Are you playing insane genius Joe Meek in the upcoming Telstar, and will you be playing insane genius Lex Luthor in another Superman movie?

I am not playing Joe Meek. I'm in it, but I'm not playing Joe Meek. And, look, I had a great time with Superman - but I probably know as much as you do about it. It's in development, and I am contractually meant to do a second one.

The weirdest thing I've read about you is that you're a pro wrestling fan.

Not true!

Oh, that saddens me.

Ha! Sorry to disappoint you!

Steeped In Bollywood, Flavoured With Maple Syrup

www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(June 14, 2008) LOS ANGELES — In The Love Guru, he plays an American guy who was brought up in India and is trying to make it big in Hollywood. But if Mike Myers wasn't Canadian through and through, the madcap multiculti comedy might never have occurred to him.

The seeds were planted when he was still a kid, devouring everything local television had to offer.

“As long as I can remember, as long as there was cable, there have been Bollywood movies on Toronto TV,” says the native of the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. “They were on Channel 47 at two o'clock in the morning. I'm an insomniac and I have been since the age of, like, 11. I can't remember his last name, but Rakesh would come on and it would be Indian Cinema Night and he would say things like, ‘Still awake? This next adventure . . .' and I would watch it and go, wow. This is just a tapestry.

“I thought it was so amazing that I lived in a country that views itself not as a melting pot, but as a salad bowl,” Myers, 45, adds. “A country that has a ministry of multiculturalism and they have a multicultural channel and at two o'clock in the morning I got to see Indian movies.”

The Bollywood influence is, naturally, all over the new movie (which opens next Friday) – Myers's Guru Pitka aspires to be the next Deepak Chopra, and it's got dance numbers that come out of nowhere, elephants, weird scenes inside the ashram, you name it.

The primary inspiration, however, came from Myers's Liverpudlian father, Eric, who instilled a love of British humour that propelled Mike directly from high school to Second City, then on to Saturday Night Live and movie superstardom as Wayne Campbell, Austin Powers and Shrek. It was the elder Myers's death 17 years ago that got his son thinking about the meaning of it all, checking out Indian philosophy and finally coming up with the wacky Pitka.

“My friends would ask, ‘What are you reading?' and I would say, ‘This wonderful thing called The Only Way Out Is In,' Myers says in a mellifluous, South Asian accent. “This voice started happening and I went, ‘Huh. What?' Then friends would call me up and say, ‘I'm feeling depressed. Talk to me in the voice.' I'd tell them, ‘You're a beautiful creature. The universe loves you.' ”

However cosmopolitan its origins may be, make no mistake; The Love Guru is the most Canadian movie Myers has ever made, even if it does co-star Jessica Alba as the owner of the Maple Leafs and Justin Timberlake as a goalie from Quebec.

The film was shot entirely in Ontario (even the India sequences); remarkably, for a guy who has a street named after him in Scarborough, he's never done that before.

“I shot half of 54 in Toronto, but otherwise this is the first time,” says Myers, who resides in New York now. “It was awesome. I got to skate at the Air Canada Centre. But I worked the whole time, so it's one of those ironies. I found myself in a room either performing or rewriting, as you do, when you make movies like I do. I actually didn't get out much. I went to some restaurants and at the one Leafs game I went to, I dropped the puck, which was a huge honour.

“But things are always bittersweet for me, only because I wish my father could see it,” adds the comic actor, who invokes his dad's memory so often it's as if the man just passed. “So that was a sad night for me. Happy to do it, honoured to do it, but this is the sort of stuff that would have delighted my father. This often happens in my career. When great things happen, there's a little bittersweetness about it. But I'm very grateful and happy for how great it's turned out.”

Torontonians may share in that happiness, if only because – and if you don't want the predictable climax of a hockey comedy spoiled, stop reading here – Myers now has the clout to make every Leafs fan's 40-year-long wish come true.

Sort of.

“The Stanley Cup is in the film,” he says proudly (yes, it's the real thing; The Love Guru was made with the National Hockey League's full co-operation). “I wouldn't touch the Stanley Cup until . . . I barely could look at it! But when the Leafs actually win the Stanley Cup, one of my fantasies would be to hoist it over my head and join the celebration on Yonge Street.”

Even though Myers takes his sweet time between film projects he can obviously do almost anything he wants to. As with so many things, the comic cash-magnet expresses an almost childlike, yet convincing, air of wonder about how far he's come from . . . well, not exactly nowhere, but Scarborough.

“I had no idea it would turn out so great when I was in Toronto wishing that I could do this stuff,” Myers recalls. “I saw Saturday Night Live when I was 11. Gilda Radner had played my mother in a TV commercial two years earlier, and there she was. Fourteen years later, Saturday Night Live was still there and I got a chance to be on it. It's just been a series of these miracles.”

Life isn't perfect, though; a lesson Myers learned from playing Guru Pitka.

“I do go up to visit my mom and my brother,” he says, “and I try to see as many games as possible when I'm there. It was another one of those ironies, though; I was only able to see one game this year because I was busy making a movie about the Toronto Maple Leafs!

“But I love the atmosphere. If you're Canadian, there's just something about going to a hockey game in Canada. It's beautiful.”

Special to The Globe and Mail


That Flopping, Cleansed Feeling

Source: www.thestar.com -
Los Angeles Times

(June 13, 2008) MALVERN, Pa.–He describes the experience of making Lady in the Water, the biggest flop of his career, as something akin to stripping off all his clothes and running outside to have the world collectively laugh at him. But in a good way. M. Night Shyamalan, 37, whose movie The Happening opens today, is not talking about large-scale humiliation but rather personal empowerment. "My hope for the movie was a personal one," he says. "I'm sick of feeling like I hope the cool people like me. I hope the teachers like me. You know that thing you do when you're in school? And you're in your mid-30s and you go, `I'm sick of feeling this way.' And you kind of like have this urge to take all your clothes off and run outside and say, `Make fun of me. Are we done? Is that it? Good, let's go on with our lives.' "That really is what happened and I feel like I've been cleansed in some way."

Passchendaele To Open Toronto Film Festival

Source:  www.globenandmail.com - Matthew Campbell

(June 17, 2008) TORONTO — Paul Gross' First World War epic Passchendaele will open the Toronto International Film Festival in September, organizers announced Tuesday. Mr. Gross, a Canadian actor and filmmaker best known for his role in the television series Due South, wrote, directed, and stars in the film, which tells the story of the brutal third battle of Ypres in 1917. The engagement was one of the war's bloodiest for Canada. Piers Handling, the festival's director and CEO, said in a press release that the film would allow Canadians to “experience their own histories” on screen, and called Mr. Gross' work “personal and passionate.” With a multi-million dollar budget, Passchendaele ranks as one of the most expensive Canadian films ever made.  Actors film a scene on set of the Paul Gross feature film, Passchendaele, in September 2007. (CHRIS BOLIN for THE GLOBE AND MAIL) Despite its international status and popularity with large American studios the Toronto festival traditionally opens with a Canadian film. Past opening-night galas have included Zacharias Kunuk's The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and Fugitive Pieces, by Toronto director Jeremy Podeswa.  The festival runs from September 4 to 13.



Bob And Doug Return, More Animated Than Before

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

(June 18, 2008) Fans of the Great White North can take heart and take off! Again.

Bob and Doug McKenzie will soon be among us once more. Not in the flesh, but their animated facsimiles, voiced by Canadian comic actors Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis.

They invented the characters for the now legendary satirical SCTV skit "The Great White North" in 1980 and portrayed them in the feature film Strange Brew three years later. And they will be up to their old antics when
The Animated Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie goes to air in Canada on the Global network in January.

"This is not for kids," Thomas said yesterday from his office at Los Angeles-based Animax Entertainment, the animation company he co-owns.

"The show is designed for Sunday nights, to fit between Family Guy and The Simpsons. It'll be multi-layered writing, gags for adults and kids."

Thomas, from St. Catharines, Ont., is overseeing the creation of the series with a team of American and Canadian writers in L.A., where he lives. Animation, design and storyboarding will be done in Canada – at Toronto-based Two Presidents Productions and House Of Cool Studios, respectively – as well as the music, by Thomas's brother Ian.

"Animax is upset because we can't do the animation in L.A.," Dave Thomas said. "But because Global was the first to pick up the show, Canadian tax credit regulations dictate where it has to be made."

The Fox network also recently put money into the project and, pending the airing of a soon-to-be-completed pilot, may pick up The Animated Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie in the U.S., said Thomas, who came up with the idea for the show and pitched it to Global.

"I have to say Christine Shipton (Global's vice-president for original programming) gave it the green light from the get-go. I hate dealing with television and movie studio executives, but she just got it. It was a dream and her enthusiasm is what got Fox involved."

Other characters will be voiced by Canadian actors, including Dave Coulier, Colin Mochrie, Pat McKenna, Derek McGrath, Ron Pardo, Jayne Eastwood and Ho Chow.

"The music is well underway, but with 15 shows to complete by January, I'm really busy," composer/songwriter Ian Thomas said from his home studio near Hamilton.

"The scripts make me giggle. The music is mostly orchestral, but you can't get close to Bob and Doug without tipping the hat to the punters."

Moranis, who lives in New York, "had to be dragged in kicking and screaming," his old partner said.

"Rick's virtually retired. He's not keen on doing anything much. He picks and chooses his own projects, and does them in his own time. But this one is pretty close to his heart."

Thomas, who has produced, directed, written and starred in numerous U.S. TV shows and movies, including The Dave Thomas Show, Grace Under Fire, The Simpsons, Stripes, Spies Like Us, The Experts, Coneheads and Rat Race, said his own performing days are behind him.

"I don't even like performing any more. Maybe it's an age thing, but the idea of running up and down the street with some kid director yelling, `Do it again!' doesn't do it for me any more.

"But I still love writing, I love making shows and I love the company I have here."

Da Vinci, With A Twist

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(June 14, 2008) Nicholas Campbell is holding court – Camel cigarettes and coffee in hand – at a diner in one of downtown Toronto's seedier neighbourhoods, where the cops and drug dealers still routinely duke it out for control of the streets.

The craggy actor chose the location – across the street from one of his favourite watering holes, Soupy's Tavern, because it's the closest thing that Toronto has to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The latter is a place where Campbell has hung out a lot in recent years, first in Da Vinci's Inquest, then in Da Vinci's City Hall, and now in a new two-hour CBC-TV movie called The Quality of Life: A Dominic Da Vinci Movie, airing tonight.

“These neighbourhoods are the places I'm most comfortable,” says Campbell, who likes the “honesty” of the people who “don't tend to wear as many masks.”

Slice-of-life writing, often about disenfranchised people, has also always been the hallmark of Da Vinci creator Chris Haddock, who created the role of the crusading coroner who becomes mayor with Campbell in mind. “I remember when I started to cook Da Vinci [more than a decade ago], I said, Okay, I've created a character here that has to be believable as being street-savvy,” says Haddock, based in Vancouver. “You look at Nick and believe everything that comes out of his mouth. Nick has a look absolutely right for the character. And I said, from Day 1, it's Nick or I pull. And the rest is history.”

In The Quality of Life – so named, Haddock says, because it's “an examination of what his own ideals are” – the audience catches up with Da Vinci almost a year into his mayoralty as a man who is now under pressure from big business to run for premier. Whereas fans of the show always knew where the old Da Vinci stood – even if you questioned his tactics – the rebel and outsider has now turned into a suit who is pressured to compromise his morals and political beliefs in order to get elected. “When we catch up with him, all the issues that would have got him elected have vanished from the public discourse,” explains Campbell. “So he really has to accommodate political behaviour into his M.O., which is not something he is used to doing as a city worker. Suddenly, he's the one advising other people and wrestling with his own demons in a corrupt political arena.”

The Da Vinci movie was inspired by Haddock's fascination with one of Vancouver's longest, unsolved mysteries – the 1924 murder of a Scottish nanny, Janet Smith, in the upper-crust enclave of Shaughnessy. “She'd been shot in the head and there was a burn mark of an iron on her body. In the original case, the police arrested the Chinese houseboy, who wasn't the guilty party, while the key suspect was out of town.”

The noirish thriller shifts the murder mystery into the present day, as Mayor Da Vinci finds himself enmeshed in the cover-up when a maid is found dead after a political soiree and sex party hosted at the lavish home of a Canadian media magnate (Michael Murphy) and his wife (Mary Walsh). The couple, who turn to their “fixer” (Hugh Dillon), also lean on the Vancouver mayor to get some behind-the-scenes help.

“The story of Janet Smith – and the suspected cover-up – has bubbled through Vancouver history for years,” Haddock continues. “It's really a tale about the huge division between the rich and the poor – how the powerful can get things handled their way. I thought it was a good template to say how much things have changed – and stayed the same.”

Campbell says the cast and crew returned to the Shaughnessy mansion – where Smith's body was reportedly found – which has long been rumoured to be haunted by the young woman's ghost. Campbell, taking a long haul on his cigarette, chuckles when recounting how many of his colleagues were genuinely spooked. “I was hanging around with people, and they were swearing they were seeing her. And I'm like, yeah, sure. Smoke another one. But there have been a bunch of reported strange occurrences, doors locking and opening, revealing rooms that no one knew were there. It was a gorgeous but creepy place.”

The collaboration between Haddock and Campbell began in 1989 when Haddock was called in to get the kinks out of the script on the television series Diamonds. “He was a writer, and they brought him in to please me,” says Campbell. “They said, ‘You're going to love this guy. He's got a scar,'” he says, rolling his eyes. “But he was good. On the face of it, the fixes he made were simple, and yet in unexpected ways, Chris always manages to inject scripts with a bittersweet quality.”

Haddock, whose most recent series was the critically acclaimed CBC show Intelligence, remembers the first-time meeting with Campbell in a slightly different way. “I can't say we hit it off right away, because he'd sneak into the writers' room, and ream us out if he thought the material was shoddy – which means Nick was there regularly. But he's one of the best actors this country has produced. His interpretation of Dominic is the perfect lens of what's going on in his city everyday. We keep re-inventing this character because Nick's managed to capture a voice that resonates with Canadians. I keep writing for him because his voice is out there as a character in the public's mind.”

The two men have more in common than a mutual admiration for the way each other works. If Campbell, who has spoken openly about his tax troubles with Revenue Canada, likes to hang out in the company of the disenfranchised, Haddock, his friend notes, is a “magnet” for the same group.

“He's a natural story gatherer,” says Campbell, who recently starred in another CBC miniseries, The Englishman's Boy. “If you stand in front of his building in Vancouver for any length of time, there inevitably will be a guy walking by with tin foil on his head, warding off the evil rays. And all of a sudden, I'll walk over and Haddock's deeply involved in a conversation with the guy. I'll try to eavesdrop, and everyone shuts up.

“The truth is, Chris always surprises me. And I think it's the same for viewers, which is why they've grabbed onto these shows.”

The Quality of Life: A Dominic Da Vinci Movie, directed by John Fawcett airs tonight at 9on CBC Television.

Shiri Appleby, ER's New Intern

Source:  www.thestar.com - Kimberly Nordyke, The Hollywood Reporter

(June 17, 2008) NBC's ER has added four new cast members – Shiri Appleby, Julian Morris, Emily Rose and Victor Rasuk – for its upcoming final season.

The quartet will recur as new interns at County General Hospital on the medical drama.

Appleby and Morris will play siblings Daria and Andrew Wade. Daria is a smart and eager to learn, while Andrew uses his looks, smarts and charm to get ahead.

Rose will play Tracy Martin, an ambitious intern who likes to control things, which often doesn't go over well with her superiors.

Rasuk was cast as Ryan Sanchez, a native New Yorker who's a tad nervous and is often found on his cellphone fielding questions from his wife.

"The new group of young characters – played by four charming and singular actors – adds a burst of fresh energy and a bunch of different personalities for us to play off of as we enter our 15th and final season," executive producer David Zabel said. "So while we will be reconnecting with the history of ER, as well as telling the ongoing stories of our current regulars, we also will track the development of these new young doctors."

Appleby, whose starred in Roswell, next appears in NBC's Fear Itself.

Morris' upcoming films include the Tom Cruise flick Valkyrie, Donkey Punch and the indie Elite 8.

Rose's credits include Brothers & Sisters and Jericho.

Rasuk appeared in Raising Victor Vargas and Stop-Loss.


Arsenio Hall Back As TV Host

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 12, 2008) *Arsenio Hall, who broke racial barriers in the early 90s as the first black man to host a late night talk show, is returning to television as the host of MyNetworkTV's new comedic clip series "Funniest Moments." According to the Hollywood Reporter, the program is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Wednesdays starting in the fall. "Bringing years of comedic experience and timing, both behind and in front of the camera, we are thrilled to welcome Arsenio to the MyNetworkTV schedule," network president Greg Meidel said. Next up for Hall is a voice part in the Weinstein Co.'s upcoming animated film "Igor," which is scheduled for release in the fall.

Tisha Campbell-Martin Coming To Lifetime

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 13, 2008) *Tisha Campbell-Martin, most recently of TV's "All of Us" and "My Wife and Kids," returns to the small screen this fall in Lifetime's "Rita Rocks," according to trade reports. The series stars "Mad TV's" Nicole Sullivan as Rita Clements, who, unfulfilled by her harried life as a married working mom, regains her identity by re-creating her glory days as a musician in a garage band. Campbell-Martin joins Richard Ruccolo, Kelly Gould and Raviv Ullman among the supporting cast. The cable network ordered 13 episodes of the series for a fall premiere. The series will air as part of a one-hour comedy block alongside the sitcom "Reba."


James Reaney, 81: Canadian Playwright

Source: www.thestar.com - Katherina Dehaas, Patrick Maloney,
The Canadian Press

(June 13, 2008) LONDON, Ont.–James Reaney, a national literary icon who stayed close to his southwestern Ontario roots during a celebrated 50-year career as a playwright, poet and professor, has died.

Reaney died Wednesday night in London following a long illness. He was 81.

"It was a peaceful end to a great life," his son, journalist James Reaney of London, said. "We know that he will be remembered and his contributions to Canadian culture will be valued."

Born on a Stratford, Ont.-area farm in 1926, Reaney was an acclaimed poet, playwright, author, opera librettist and University of Western Ontario English professor.

He won three Governor General's Awards for poetry and drama, the first in 1949 for a collection of poetry, "The Red Heart."

In 1960, he began teaching at Western and started publishing ``Alphabet," a semi-annual periodical devoted "to the iconography of the imagination."

In 1966 he founded the Listener's Workshop and began working with child and adult actors in choral ensemble works. Reaney, whose play ``Colours in the Dark" premiered in Stratford in 1967, received the Order of Canada in 1975.

His best known dramatic work may be a trilogy of plays about the 1880 massacre of the Donnelly family in Lucan, Ont.

He was 10 when his stepfather told him the stirring story, stoking in Reaney an interest that would lead him to write the three plays that not only dramatized the legend, but arguably also brought it into focus historically.

The trilogy is among a handful of Canadian works listed among the 1,000 most significant plays of all time by the "Oxford Dictionary of Plays."

He was also an amateur painter and pianist whose works were exhibited in London and Toronto.

Reaney enjoyed such respect that even small details of his life inspired artisans, says Martha Henry, former Grand Theatre artistic director.

Henry, who acted in two Reaney plays, recalled a tour last summer of his childhood home near Stratford

"It was amazing," she said. "We went up into the attic where he used to write. He's an icon. A complete original."

Reaney is survived by his wife, two children, including a daughter in Vancouver, two grand-daughters and two siblings.

Pride Festivities Off To Early Start For Young Performers

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Entertainment Reporter

(June 12, 2008) He's called Mother Duck around the theatre, but Chy Ryan Spain's well-inked body and artfully shaved-and-dreadlocked head speak of something a bit less tame.

The writer/performer/youth facilitator is a key figure behind some of the shows being presented at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre over the next couple of weeks.

The alternative-theatre/queer community centre has for many years been the culture hub for Pride celebrations, culminating in the parade and street festival which this year occurs on June 29.

The PrideCab, an evening of multidisciplinary performance on Wednesday, June 18, is the result of a season's worth of work by the Queer Youth Arts Programme at Buddies in Bad Times.

Spain has been a volunteer with the fall-to-spring after-hours programme since coming to Toronto from his native Philadelphia in 2005. He moves up to running the whole effort, which is aimed at queer youth aged 15 to 25, starting in September.

Spain says he spent many years with a similar youth-oriented endeavour in Philadelphia – first as a participant, later as a volunteer and instructor. Before moving to Toronto, he taught high-school English and drama.

"I didn't believe in study plans," says Spain. "I like improvisation."

It may not have pleased all of his teaching peers, but it is an approach that adapts well to working with creative-minded young people in Toronto's Gay Village.

Many of the participants in Queer Youth Arts at Buddies are theatre students, Spain explains. For PrideCab, they have spent every Monday and Wednesday night since the beginning of April devising, shaping and polishing presentations that span the live-performing gamut.

The show is directed by Evalyn Parry, while Spain makes sure everything works smoothly behind the scenes.

"I count the heads and make sure everyone woke up when they were supposed to," he smiles. Hence the Mother Duck nickname.

"It's very much a satirical cabaret," says Spain of PrideCab, which naturally lends itself to the politics of queer identity. "There is some spoken word, some burlesque, some stand-up, live music and even a satirical musical."

The musical is set in the future, "in 2012, a time when the Gay Village has been turned into a corporate theme park," Spain explains.

Many have noted in recent years that Toronto's queer community is no longer as tightly centred around the so-called Gay Village at Church and Wellesley Sts.

Spain acknowledges this, even celebrates it. "There is nowhere in Toronto that I wouldn't feel comfortable walking down the street holding hands with my boyfriend," says the activist. "In Philadelphia, there are neighbourhoods where I would never do that."

But that doesn't mean that young queers don't need a place where they can find community and a creative outlet that allows them to explore the different aspects of their sexuality.

For full information on all Pride-related shows at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, visit artsexy.ca

Just the facts
WHAT: PrideCab
WHEN: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.
ADMISSION: $10. Free if you're under 25.

The Sisters Rosensweig - A Classic Production Never Goes Out Of Style

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

The Sisters Rosensweig

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
By Wendy Wasserstein. Directed by Jim Warren. Until June 21 at the Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. E.

(June 13, 2008) Just like the pink Chanel suit that one of its characters is given as a present,
The Sisters Rosensweig, which opened last night at the Jane Mallett Theatre is a classic: highstyle, great lines and timeless appeal.

Wendy Wasserstein's play may be 16 years old, but her basic story of three Jewish sisters who learn who they really are is as good now as it ever was.

Brooklyn-born, twice-divorced super-executive Sara has been living in London for years and her other two sisters come to visit her for her 54th birthday.

Gorgeous is a walking cliché of bubbling suburban optimism, while Pfeni is a globetrotting travel writer whose constant motion hides a lot of unresolved feelings.

There's also Sara's daughter, Tess, who is about to run off with her Lithuianian boyfriend to participate in the revolution happening there. The other males include a very right wing British businessman, a bisexual British theatre director and a furrier from the Bronx.

Wasserstein shakes this together, garnishes amply with wit and pours it all over some crushed feelings. There are no mechanical happy endings, just some sturdy self-knowledge and the realization that in life, "the possibilities are limitless."

It's a good old-fashioned play in the best sense of the world and Philip Silver has given it the kind of understatedly elegant set you haven't seen in years. Jim Warren directs with one eye out for laughter and the other for tears; his balancing act is nearly perfect.

The three sisters themselves are lovely. Rosemary Dunsmore is truly an elegant faux-WASP iceberg, only showing us the 10 per cent above the surface until the rest breaks through movingly.

Sarah Dodd plays the Wasserstein surrogate Pfeni, and though she could be a bit better at snapping out the one-liners, the way she lets us see into her heart is magic.

Then there's the glorious Gorgeous, brought to unforgettable life by Linda Kash in a delicious performance. Strident one second, cuddly the next, turning from flirtation to rage on a dime, Kash is superb.

Richard Greenblatt is pure gold as Merv, the furrier, with a sense of fun that illuminates each scene he's in. Sara Farb and Andrew Craig also score as the daughter and her radical boyfriend, but the excellent Michael Hanrahan's mogul doesn't get enough to do and Steve Cumyn hasn't really nailed the director, who is far more complex than he's played here.

The Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company has done it again: an entertaining, classy, thought-provoking play not to be missed.


Fournier's Swan Song 'A Dance Of Experience'

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

(June 12, 2008) National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Jennifer Fournier is retiring in a trail of rose petals, in a homage to Isadora Duncan.

Her farewell performance is part of the much-anticipated Luminato Festival program, also featuring the National and Alberta Ballet, which opens tomorrow. The latter is presenting Jean Grand-Maître's much-hyped The Fiddle and the Drum set to Joni Mitchell songs. The bookend National works are Harald Lander's Études and William Forsythe's the second detail.

Tucked in the middle is Fournier with Sir Frederick Ashton's seven-minute long Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan. The piece, for solo dancer and piano, was choreographed for Canadian-born, London-based ballerina Lynn Seymour in 1976 for Ballet Rambert's 50th-anniversary gala.

According to Seymour, Ashton actually saw Duncan dance to a Brahms waltz in 1921 in London, where she carried rose petals in her hands that streamed behind her as she moved across the stage. It was an image that made a life-long impression, and as a tribute to the American-born, modern-dance pioneer, Ashton ends his ballet with the same Brahms waltz and the rose petals. The coral pink colour of the dancer's body suit is the exact shade of Duncan's costume as Ashton remembered it, and, à la Duncan, the piece is performed in bare feet.

Seymour came to Toronto to teach the dance to Fournier. Seymour was 37 at the premiere and Fournier is 39. "This is a dance of experience that should be interpreted by a mature ballerina," Seymour says. "Jennifer has wonderful physicality, but she is also very dramatic and musical. She has a good intelligence so she understands that the work looks deceptively simple but requires enormous output of energy.

Unlike the control of ballet, this piece is about risk, and Jennifer has the courage to make the dance her own."

Says Fournier: "Ashton has created a poem to Isadora's extraordinary spirit and charisma. The ballet reflects Duncan's meaty, muscular style that is very hard on the legs. On the other hand, you have to look lighter than air and dance with abandon. It is a poem about a journey through life. To interpret the piece, I'm reaching deep inside to find the Isadora that lives in us all - an artist who is free and wild and strong."

A different kind of courage was needed to make the wrenching decision to retire from dance. Fournier has always been a realist. As she points out, to keep in shape, a dancer, particularly a veteran one, needs to be busy, and fewer new works were coming her way. With a narrowing repertoire of what she could perform and still look her best, her career was clearly in its twilight years. "Because we start so early, we live a lifetime of dance in a brief span of time," she says. "When we are at the end of our profession, the rest of the world is coming into its prime. We have a half a lifetime left and it's scary to look into that void." Fournier also has a young family. She is married to journalist Marty Cej and the couple have two children, Olivia, 7, and Henry, 10 months.

"I didn't plan to have a second child before I retired," Fournier says. "It is a different energy to both dance and have two kids. Part of my decision to leave is guilt about not being there for Henry."

For National cognoscenti, the much-admired Fournier has always been the epitome of an intelligent artist blessed with wonderfully clean technique.

She makes ballet look effortless, whether in classical or contemporary works. Her performances radiate truth because she can connect the dots, merging movement and choreographic intent seamlessly together. In story ballets, her characters come alive. In thematic or abstract ballets, meaning is crystallized, and the dancer and the music are one.

Erik Bruhn took Ottawa-born Fournier into the National as an apprentice in 1984 when she was 17 and fresh from the National Ballet School. She joined the corps de ballet in 1986, and was promoted to second soloist in 1990, first soloist in 1994 and principal dancer in 1997.

When she was 19, Glen Tetley cast her as the prostitute in La Ronde and it is at that point, Fournier says, that she finally believed that she would have a career. The ballerina also had her bad times, however. She was not artistic director Reid Anderson's cup of tea and languished during his tenure. "If it hadn't been for the ballets of James Kudelka," she says, "my career would have been over years ago."

Fournier looks to the future with cautious optimism. "Since I was 8, I have seen the world only through the prism of ballet. Now, I can begin to learn about things I never had time for, like history, theology, women's studies, and writing. I don't have any skills but dance, but I can bring to my new life the things that dance has taught me - commitment, discipline and working to a goal.

"I'm ready for whatever lies ahead."

IN PERFORMANCE The National Ballet/Alberta Ballet mixed program runs at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre from tomorrow through June 22 (416-345-9595).

Jennifer Fournier's Farewell Dance Was Inspired By And Created For Two Ballet Giants

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

(June 13, 2008) "He'd seen her in Lima, Peru, where he was born. She had an absolutely amazing, magnetic quality to her. She didn't wear tights or corsets. In many ways her performances marked the beginning of modern dance."

The legend in question is Isadora Duncan. The "he" was Sir Frederick Ashton, who subsequently paid homage to Duncan in a solo called Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan. He made the dance for Lynn Seymour.

In the time-honoured tradition of ballet, Seymour is passing on the role to
Jennifer Fournier, who will dance the solo – challenging in every possible way – as her farewell performance in the National Ballet of Canada's summer mixed program.

The first performance is tonight at the Four Seasons Centre.

Seymour, a Saskatchewan-born dancer who became Canada's first claim to ballet greatness, premiered the solo in 1976 in London on a Rambert Dance Company program.

"It was quite a challenge," said Seymour, who flew from England to the ballet's studios to coach Fournier in the role. "It's a different way of moving, but very inspiring at the same time."

Working with Ashton was a thrill to someone considered one of the foremost ballerinas of her era. "He never gave you something that was easy for you. I think he loved women and he created some great roles for us."

Fournier, 39 and leaving the company at the top of her game (as all could see in her recent performances in Cinderella), can't feel bad going out in the footsteps of Duncan and Seymour.

"It's a very dramatic solo, incredibly fulfilling," said Fournier. The dance is done in bare feet, as Duncan would have had it.

Often thought of as a protégé of Karen Kain's, Fournier has been known as an intelligent and elegant dancer of great versatility. She counts herself fortunate for all the ballet giants she's brushed up against within a 22-year career on point.

First there was Celia Franca, the first artistic director of the National Ballet. Fournier met her when she was 10 and danced for her in The Nutcracker. Then there was Kain who coached her, and Suzanne Farrell who taught Fournier Balanchine ballets, and the late Glenn Tetley, when he set his dances on the company.

And now Seymour: "I'm so lucky to have worked with artists of such calibre," Fournier said.

The future for Fournier indicates studies at university, as well as more time with her husband, Martin Cej, and children Olivia, 7, and Henry, 10 months.


Joni Says She's Never Been Just A Singer

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman,
Entertainment Columnist

(June 12, 2008) Joni Mitchell hates the D word: dilettante.

Rejecting the notion that her celebrity as a singer/songwriter draws the public to her visual art show, "Green Flag Song," and the related ballet piece The Fiddle and the Drum – both showcased this week at Luminato – she says it works against her for those who want to dismiss her radical ideas.

"This is not my secondary thing," she explained yesterday, to two journalists, a publicist, an agent and Jean Grand-Maître, the Alberta Ballet artistic director who collaborated with her on a dance piece that will have its Toronto premiere tomorrow. "It's my primary thing."

After a slight pause, she added, with a throaty laugh: "Music is my day job."

Even in 1963, when she had her first paying gig singing at a club in Calgary, a newspaper referred to her as "a two-career girl" because she was also enrolled in local painting courses.

Forty-five years later, on a Toronto summer day, she wore a rich blue top, matching pants with a gold necklace that seemed casual but exquisitely enhanced her fresh blond-and-blue-eyed Prairie girl look.

She made a glancing reference to a health crisis but quickly changed the subject and declined to offer details except to say an astrologist told her she was genetically programmed to have a "life-and-death battle" at 65, the age she will reach in the fall.

She prefers to avoid personal talk and focus on the work.

"The ballet is so beautiful and it's the most exciting thing I've ever done," she proclaimed.

"It's about ignorance and human stupidity, and about the inconvenient truth that we've got to change or die. We have to suck in our belts a bit and go backward. Technology won't get us out of this."

In "Green Flag Song" – an art exhibit of 30-plus pieces – the disturbing green images are collages of photographs she took from a dysfunctional TV set that inadvertently captured her sense of a sickness infecting the world.

In the 50-minute dance piece, those images are wedded to three songs composed and sung by Mitchell.

As a result, she claimed, "important songs of mine that were dismissed as negative and sophomoric at the time suddenly become palatable."

When first approached about doing a dance piece, the idea was to focus on her life, not the planet.

"I'm most famous for personal stuff I've written, but who cares about that? There are issues I have tried to address for 40 years and no one listened. We're an ignorant species and we need re-educating."

But don't get the idea the ballet is a downer.

She believes that, like the movies of Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and Busby Berkeley, this work alludes to grim issues while still giving the audience a good time. And she is delighted that there now seems to be a public appetite for ideas once unpopular.

"In the '80s, I did my protest and no one wanted to hear it. The record companies buried it. Yet in a way it was a blessing that I lost my audience. I did my best work when no one was paying attention."

After living in Los Angeles for more than three decades, she would like to move back to Canada, if only she were not having so much trouble getting a year-round home built in the B.C. rural spot where she has a summer-only place.

After 90 minutes of talk, it was time for a cigarette. Don't get her started on the anti-smoking mood of our times.

The reason, she claims, is political, not concern for health. She has been smoking since the age of 9 and considers it a form of self-medication.

She spoke wistfully of the days of a rough childhood in North Battleford, when she would ride her bike to the edge of town to enjoy lighting up and watching the birds.

"That was the best part of my childhood," she said. " Nobody has any focus any more. I think it's because they quit smoking."

Affleck's Star Lights Up Calgary Event

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Dawn Walton

(June 16, 2008) CALGARY — Within spitting distance of the Calgary International Airport, at an anonymous conference hall, Oscar-winner Ben Affleck moved listeners to tears as he talked about his experiences in Africa.

The uninspiring location didn't detract from Affleck's earnest role and heartfelt message as ambassador for
OneXOne, the Canadian charity that has raised $7.2-million since 2005 for impoverished children around the world. It was the charity's first stop outside the Toronto International Film Festival.

The 35-year-old actor-director, who recently returned from another visit to the continent, said stops in Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan have opened his eyes.

"[It made me realize] how little I had done in my life," he said, "How shallow I've been in my own pursuits."

He held back no painful detail about the people he encountered, juxtaposing their stories with what he called "vain consumption" in the West, in a room oozing with oil money, where 325 guests paid $25,000 per table of 10. The tables alone raised $800,000.

Affleck said he met child soldiers, including one girl, who at the age of 12 was forced to execute her cousin. He met street kids crippled by polio - a disease eradicated in Western countries, but still devastating some parts of the developing world - who nonetheless manage to dance using their home-made crutches. He reflected on a mother who sold her daughter into life as a sex slave.

"You can make a concrete difference in the lives of people," he urged guests.

The little charity that could is the brainchild of Joelle (Joey) Berdugo Adler, head of Montreal-based Diesel Canada, a purveyor of premium denim-wear. She said her charity's efforts to date including getting thousands of malaria nets to children in Africa and bringing food programs to Haiti.

Affleck won an Academy Award for best original screenplay a decade ago for Good Will Hunting, which he co-wrote with childhood friend Matt Damon, who has also been an ambassador for OneXOne. Affleck is married to Jennifer Garner with whom he has a 2-year-old daughter, Violet. A tiny pink Calgary Flames jersey was tucked in his luggage for her.

Although events like OneXOne are about raising money, he said asking for donations can muddy the good going on in Africa.

"I think sometimes that gets out the message disproportionately that this is a place just full of misery and awfulness and suffering and it does a disservice in a way to 800 million people on a continent ... I meet them all the time and they go, 'Why is it that all of you in North America think we're lying around with flies in our eyes and dying on the floor?' And you feel a little bit ashamed because, you're right, I don't want to perpetuate that," he said.

Frank McKenna, former premier of New Brunswick and now deputy chairman of TD Bank Financial Group, said he was moved by Affleck's blunt talk about Africa and impressed by the way the non-profit organization gets money directly into the hands of children.

"One never has to worry about how the money is spent. It's beautifully spent," he said.

Affleck's celebrity status helped raise more than a quarter of a million dollars during the live auction on Saturday night, including $150,000 donated by five couples - all with ties to the oil patch including Murray Edwards, Charlie Fischer, Drew MacIntyre, Kevin Neveu and Dale Shwed - to take in two upcoming movie premieres, Affleck's comedy He's Just Not That Into You and Damon's war drama Green Zone.

It was a feat trumping the 2006 donation in Toronto of $75,000 by a female guest who was on the receiving end of a kiss from Brad Pitt.

Affleck, a Democrat and supporter of Barack Obama, who described himself as a "socialist" in a city known for its true-blue conservatism, joked about the $25,000 donated by Edwards, one of the owners of the Calgary Flames, for a hockey package.

"They paid $25,000 to meet with the team they own. That's like American capitalism at work. Sounds like Halliburton," he said, referring to the much-maligned U.S. oil field company, to hushed boos.

"Just kidding," he quickly added.


Tiger's Greatest Moment Yet

Source:  www.thestar.com - Dave Perkins, La Jolla, Calif.

(June 17, 2008) Tiger Woods called it his greatest championship yet and as magnificent and memorable as the 108th U.S. Open was, ultimately all 91 holes of it, it would have been that much greater had Rocco Mediate somehow done the unthinkable and posted one of the more remarkable upsets in golf history.

Mediate surely tried and he's not the first man, in sports or out of it, to wonder why the rich always get richer.

"I threw everything I had at him. He's impossible. You can't get him – and I thought I had him," the 45-year-old later said, reaching the same bottom line as hundreds of golfers before him. "He's not normal."

Woods, though, this week was all too human. He hurt a little, at times a lot, and wasn't at his best, and the world's 158th-ranked golfer, coming in, gave the sport's king all he wanted, stretching him to 19 holes before two loose shots on the first hole of sudden death produced bogey and gifted Woods with major title No.14.

It moved him within four of Jack Nicklaus' record total of 18. Woods has won each of the majors at least three times (Masters and PGA four each) and only Nicklaus did that. Plus, he now has moved, at least in theory, within a calendar year of catching Nicklaus; the monumental feat that once seemed remotely possible after his '97 Masters – which he identifies now as No.2 on his personal list behind this one – now is on the horizon, however distantly.

"All things considered, I don't know how I ended up in this position," said Woods, whose clutch 4 1/2-foot birdie at 18 extended things. "It was a long week. A lot of doubt, a lot of questions. And here we are, 91 holes later."

Only once did Woods go into that reserve of blinding magic, the one he mined several times on the weekend. He rope-hooked a 170-yard, 7-iron shot out of a bunker a fairway away at the 15th hole and on to the green, in birdie range.

"The catcher called pitchout, so I hit it over there to the right," Woods cracked. "I hit it so flush, it was probably the best shot I hit all week."

Mediate just shook his head.

"He was in the bunker? I had no idea where he was. I was away, so I hit my 5-wood on the green. And as soon as I heard his ball go by and I said (to his caddy), `Don't worry. Just look at the flag. That's probably where it's going.' And that's right where it went."

Yet Mediate continued to do what nobody has ever done, namely go head-to-head with Woods in a major and give as good as he got. Rocco stepped up and curled in a sliding, 20-foot downhill putt and after falling behind Woods by three after 10 holes, which would seem like the most fatal of death sentences, he had the lead.

"I talked to Paul Azinger the other day and he said, before the fourth round, when you regain the lead, don't be shocked. All of a sudden, I'm three (shots) down, but I go one-up in five or six holes. But I was ready for it. I kept trying to make him play. And I pretty much did. I scared him."

That he did. But not quite enough.

"Like I said, when I talk about golf, he doesn't count," Mediate said. "He's not normal. He's way above everything."

Above? Yes, he is. But not way above the dead-game Mediate this day.

Only a little above.

Celtic Pride Reclaimed

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

(June 18, 2008) BOSTON–They will swear they saw a statue smile here last night and a puff of cigar smoke rise into the night sky.

The statue – of iconic
Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach in typical repose on a bench with a stogie in his hand – at Faneuil Hall is sure to be the site of more than a few visits by reminiscing fans in the next couple of days.

In one of the most dominant series-clinching performances in professional sports history, the latest version of Auerbach's franchise hammered the hapless Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 to win the NBA championship in six games. It was the most lopsided victory in a finals elimination game and just three points off the biggest rout in finals history, Chicago's 96-54 win over Utah in 1998.

And now the team that Auerbach coached to nine championships, the team that gave the NBA its first – and arguably only – true dynasty, can lay claim to its 17th title on the backs of three stars and a solid cast of role players who simply overwhelmed the Lakers in every facet of the game.

"This is really sweet, obviously, for a lot of reasons," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "Just the players hanging in there, with all of us, we really pushed them to play together as a team and they did it."

The victory came in front of a rabid crowd that included Bill Russell, who was the dominant figure when Boston established itself as the most successful team in NBA history, winning nine titles in an 11-year span covering the late 1950s and the entire '60s.

Now that mantel has passed to a new group, to the likes of series MVP Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, each of whom have now won a championship for the first time in their careers.

"It's a lot of responsibility that comes with putting this great jersey on," said Garnett. "I'm just happy we were able to carry on tradition."

The win validates a bold off-season for Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who obtained Garnett and Allen in separate trades that created at least the possibility of a clash of egos and styles.

But the Celtics meshed immediately, winning 66 games in the regular season and rolling to a title in Pierce's 10th season in Boston.

"I knew I was going to get to play with other great players, I didn't feel it was a big adjustment," said Pierce. "I knew if I had some other guys to play with I knew I could make the adjustments.

"Once these guys got here, I knew we had guys who could play. ... I just sacrificed for the good of the team."

In a symbolic gesture, Rivers took all three out of the game at the same time.

"Well, I thought about it a minute before that, and I just thought they came in as a group and I thought we should take them out as a group," said Rivers. "So I did think about it right before I did it."

Garnett, who said he played like "garbage" in Game 5 and vowed to make amends, scored 26 points. Pierce, who was by far the best player in the series for his consistency of effort and ability, had 17 points and 10 assists. Much-maligned point guard Rajon Rondo had 21 points and six steals, while Allen contributed 26 points.

It's hard to fathom just how thoroughly the Celtics dominated the no-show Lakers from the opening tip. Kobe Bryant scored 11 points in the first quarter but was a non-factor the rest of the night, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom might as well have stayed in California for all the help they provided, and the bench was simply horrific.

Bryant finished with 22 points and Odom with 14 but the Lakers committed 19 turnovers that led to 32 Boston points and were outrebounded 48-29.

"I think everybody is disappointed that we didn't get a game out of this, give ourselves a chance," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who remains tied with Auerbach as the coach with the most championships in NBA history.

Sixteen teams set to race for the  North Sails Caribbean Keelboat Championships

Source: St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

On June 21st and 22nd, the best of the best in Caribbean racing will come together in St. Maarten to compete against each other for the 7th annual North Sails Caribbean Keelboat Championships.  This event brings together some of the region’s best sailors and gives them a level playing field to truly test their skills.  They will be racing in a one-design fleet of identical Sun Fast 20 boats owned by Lagoon Sailboat Rentals.  This event will be sailed in a 2-pool format, which will result in a final of a Gold Fleet and a Silver Fleet.

Included in the all star line up for this event is Michael Green out of St. Lucia.  Mike has sailed in the Olympics and dominated match racing in the Caribbean for many years.  He has been involved with many great Caribbean events and has graced the podiums on many islands.  He has not been back to this event for a few years and the organization is anxious to see how he performs over the weekend.  St. Maarten sailor Robbie Ferron, chairman of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, will attempt to stay in the gold fleet as he did last year.  This is no easy task considering he is also part of the organizing committee.  In addition, Bernard Sillem will grace the fleet and try once again to bring in a win.   Although he has not placed very high in this event, he has been sailing very well with his team this season and should have a positive outcome.   Emma Paul out of Tortola will be one of the few ladies to join this race.  She has dominated the Women’s Regatta in the past.  We have yet to see if she will sail with an all female crew or if she will have a change of pace and sail with a mixed crew for the weekend.  For the third time there will be a team representing Curacao.  Sergey Boer is attending for the first time and is looking to bring home a trophy for Curacao.  In addition to these teams Martinique will be well represented with Eric Baray calling the shots.  He sailed this event in the early years and is back to try and finish on top.   These sailors are all heavily involved in Caribbean racing year round and can often be seen at the larger events such as Sailing Week and BVI Spring Regatta.    With 16 teams already signed up, the fleets will be highly competitive and will have all the requirements for a great weekend; skill, competition, level playing field and last but not least a little bit of pure luck.

St. Maarten North Sails dealer, Tropical Sail Loft, and Lagoon Sailboat Rentals N.V are proud to put together this group of athletes and look forward to a fun filled weekend. 

For more information visit www.tropicalsailloft.com or contact Cary Byerley at director@bigboatseries.com or by calling 588-2474


Canada's Van Koeverden Wins Gold At Kayak Worlds

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(June 15, 2008) DUISBURG, Germany–Adam van Koeverden of Oakville earned a gold medal in the men's kayak singles 500-metre race Sunday to conclude the second stop on the World Cup paddling circuit. The reigning Olympic champion earned his third World Cup victory this year in a time of one minute 40.329 seconds. Tim Brabants of Britain was second in 1:40.425 while Torsten Lubisch of Germany was third in 1:41.107. In the canoe singles 500, Mark Oldershaw of Burlington won bronze as Canada ended the three-day competition with six medals. Three-time Olympic champion Andreas Dittmer of Germany was the winner in 1:51.239 with Aliaksandr Zhukouski of Belarus second in 1:51.333 and Oldershaw third in 1:51.547. Thomas Hall of Pointe-Claire, Que., was seventh. In women's competition, Karen Furneaux of Waverley, N.S., was sixth in the K-1 500 and Mylanie Barre of Lac-Beauport, Que., and Kristin Gauthier of Ottawa seventh in the K-2 500. The third stop on the World Cup circuit comes two weeks from now in Poznan, Poland.

Ex-Leaf Anderson Elected To Hockey Hall

Source:  www.thestar.com - Toronto Star Staff

(June 17, 2008) Russian stalwart Igor Larionov and Glenn Anderson, a playoff sharpshooter with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s, are the lone 2008 player inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Hunter reports. Anderson is fourth on the NHL list of playoff point getters with 214 points, including a fifth-best 93 goals. He was part of six Stanley Cup winners - five with the Oilers, and one more as a late-season pickup with the New York Rangers in 1994. He also played for the Maple Leafs and the St. Louis Blues during a 16-year NHL career. Larionov played on three Stanley Cup winners - with Detroit in 1997, '98 and 2002 - and two Olympic and eight Russian League champions. Larionov's Soviet Union team also won four world championships in the 1980s. Larionov came to the NHL in 1989 with Vancouver, and also played for San Jose, Florida and New Jersey. The late Ed Chynoweth, former president of the CHL, and referee Ray Scapinello were also inducted.  Among the names expected to receive consideration this year were former Leaf captain Doug Gilmour, who won a Stanley Cup with Calgary before his trade to Toronto made him one of the most popular players in Leafs' history, and Pavel Bure, often called the Russian Rocket for his speedy play. Neither were received enough votes for induction this year.