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LE NEWSLETTER

March 13, 2008

 

Happy Easter (already!)!  Seems like this snuck up on us this year so for those that celebrate it, please enjoy safely.

I'm so happy to bring you my coverage of the
28th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta with stories of individuals include the people that attend the regatta, the boating enthusiasts, those behind the regatta, and the locals that enjoy the nightly parties featuring local talent as well as the headlining talent - Shaggy and Alison Hinds.

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

 

::TOP STORIES::

Morning Without Music Is A Dwindled Dawn

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(March 19, 2008) In his documentary film and just-released album
Here Is What Is, Daniel Lanois searches for the "source of the art." Specifically the hunt is for the origins of music and song, but the process would apply to any art form. The search begins in Lanois's Toronto recording studio then moves to a church in Shreveport, La., and then to Morocco where he hooks up with Brian Eno and U2. What he finds is that music comes from within one's self, starting humbly and poorly formed - something from nothing - and builds out from there. The secret is that there's no secret. Lanois has worked with some of the most accomplished recording artists of his time (Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and others), but the résumé and gold records count for little in the cold light of dawn. Recently, Quebec native Lanois spoke about the process of making music and chasing "sonics," his word for sound-crafting techniques.

"I was a Globe and Mail delivery boy for a good four years [in Ancaster, Ont.]. I had some fairly serious routes, so I got used to getting up at 4 in the morning. I was living in this fascinating world, of a little kid walking and delivering papers for a couple of hours. I loved it; it was fantastic. I've been getting up at 4 in the morning ever since, except now it's to go down in the studio to work on my sonics.

"There's something sacred about that time of the morning - the first stroke of expression and no distractions. The sonics, and early mornings, have always been part of my thing. That was what was happening then, and it's still kind of happening now. I'm so grateful that we have the ability to wake up in the morning and be excited about possibilities and song ideas.

"I guess part of me likes to be sure that I'm being driven by the right force. There are times when I look at what's going on around me, and people having massive successes and commercial hits. I've gotten them myself, with U2 and Peter Gabriel and all that. But we never go into those records thinking we know how to make a hit. We have to turn up in the morning in the sandbox and have to invent something and get excited and discover magic. That part of the project never changes, whether you have commercial success or not.

"It's something that keeps me humble. I'll go in tomorrow, and it doesn't matter that I have 10 Grammy awards - it's not going to help. I have to go in and feel the spark and start building a sculpture and harness all the beauty that's available to me.

"So, every day is like starting all over for me. And I like what Brian Eno says in the film, about how that's how things start, in a small way. It's like that for everybody, really. It's easy to assume that someone else has all the gifts and all the successes and access to the machine. But it only ever starts with a little spark."

HERE IS WHAT IS

Daniel Lanois

Maple Music

***½

Deep into his eighth studio album, in a serene Bono moan-croon, Daniel Lanois asks for dreams, colours, ideas and crashing thunder - "Give me faces that I've never seen, take me places I have never been." The melody of I Like That is as simple as the song's little wishes and wants. But small things can resonate big in the hands of a gifted producer and musician, and Lanois exploits his talents, sublimely, on the album Here Is What Is.

With legendary Band pianist Garth Hudson and limber jazz drummer Brian Blade, Lanois weaves a fascinatingly textured, spiritual soundtrack, from Louisiana gospel to the hazy gleam of Where Will I Be to Brian Eno interview clips to the spun silver of Lanois's steel guitar. It all comes in shimmering waves, with gentle laps, crashing tops and deeper pulls underneath. Don't fight it - go with the undertow.

B.W.

Murray Questions Handling Of Flubbed Juno Nominees

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(March 19, 2008) TORONTO — Canadian singing legend
Anne Murray is questioning the integrity of the Juno Awards after initially being left off the list of best album nominees.

An error in the way sales figures were calculated at first omitted Murray, and after being corrected resulted in six candidates vying for a trophy instead of the usual five.

Speaking by phone from a tour stop in Bethesda, Md., Murray said Tuesday that means “the person who is not supposed to be in there could conceivably win.”

“It was strange because I knew what my (sales) numbers were and I saw some of the other numbers and I thought, ‘Well, how did they figure that?”' Murray says of the initial list of nominees announced Feb. 5 in Toronto.

“Because it is strictly numbers with the album of the year, and so I was surprised.”

“You wonder how seriously they take it, the counting and all of that.”

The Juno Awards will be handed out April 6 in Calgary.

Ten days after revealing the nominees, officials said they had incorrectly factored in digital sales and should have included Murray's disc, Duets: Friends and Legends in the best album category and Jill Barber in the best new artist category.

That put Duets up against Avril Lavigne's The Best Damn Thing, Celine Dion's comeback disc, Taking Chances, Dion's French disc D'Elles, Feist's breakout The Reminder and Michael Buble's chart-topping Call Me Irresponsible.

Nominees for the best album category are determined by calculating the average of net sales, in part drawn from figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan. The winner is then voted on by members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS).

CARAS, which runs the Junos, would not say which of the other five albums or best artist nominees would have been excluded if the error had not occurred, but said the differences between the fifth and sixth rankings were very small.

Spokesman Stephen Stohn said the error only came to light when Murray's label, EMI, and others contacted CARAS with concerns a mistake had been made.

In order to make sure the incident is never repeated, Stohn said CARAS has formed a committee of music label representatives that will review all future nominee lists one day before they are officially announced.

“Next year this type of discussion, rather than happening after the nominations are announced, will happen with a very closed and very confidential group of people who are in the know, to just look and say, ‘Listen, does this all make sense? Does this jive with what we know?' ” said Stohn, who admitted he's had to field questions from several people trying to figure out who are the unintended nominees in the two categories.

Music watcher Larry LeBlanc said the bungle has sent waves through the industry, noting he, too, has been drawn into speculation with other insiders over who is the “weak link” in the best disc category.

“The Anne Murray gaffe was flabbergasting,” says LeBlanc, a veteran music journalist who wrote the liner notes for the “Duets” disc.

“It casts a doubt on all but one album” in that category, Murray's disk.

Barber said she has mixed feelings about the incident, in which she was belatedly added to the roster of best new artist nominees.

“I felt a little bit of disappointment that I wasn't included in the initial big unveiling but I mostly just felt really excited to now be included,” she said by phone from Vancouver.

Barber faces off against Belly, Jeremy Fisher, Justin Nozuka, Serena Ryder and Suzie McNeil. She's also up for best roots and traditional album.

Despite her comments, Murray said the flap doesn't bother her that much.

“It matters not, it's splitting hairs at that stage,” said Murray, who is also up for best pop album and is slated to perform on the show.

“They're all really good-selling albums and all good, upstanding artists, so whoever wins, may the best man win.”

Juno organizers also made a mistake in the rap recording of the year category.

After they realized that rapper Classified had been nominated for the same release last year, they dropped him from the category and added rapper JDiggz.

Anthony Minghella, 54: Directed English Patient

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com

(March 18, 2008) LONDON (AP) – Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who turned such literary works as "The English Patient,'' "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain" into acclaimed movies, has died. He was 54.

Minghella's death was confirmed Tuesday by his agent, Judy Daish. No other details were immediately available.

"The English Patient," the 1996 World War II drama, won nine Academy Awards, including best director for Minghella, best picture and best supporting actress for Juliette Binoche.

Based on the celebrated novel by Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, the movie tells of a burn victim's tortured recollections of his misdeeds in time of war.

Minghella (pronounced min-GELL'-ah) also was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay for the movie and for his screenplay for ``The Talented Mr. Ripley.''

His 2003 "Cold Mountain," based on Charles Frazier's novel of the U.S. Civil War, brought a best supporting actress Oscar for Renee Zellweger.

The 1999 "The Talented Mr. Ripley," starring Matt Damon as a murderous social climber, was based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It earned five Oscar nominations.

Among his other films were "Truly, Madly, Deeply" (1990), and last year's Oscar-nominated "Michael Clayton," on which he was executive producer.

Minghella was recently in Botswana filming an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's novel "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." It is due to air on British television this week.

The book is the first in a series about the adventures of Botswanan private eye Precious Ramotswe; a 13-part television series was recently commission by U.S. network HBO.

Producer David Puttnam said Minghella was "a very special person.''

"He wasn't just a writer, or a writer-director, he was someone who was very well-known and very well-loved within the film community," Puttnam told the BBC. "Frankly he was far too young to have gone.''

Minghella also turned his talents to opera. In 2005, he directed a highly successful staging of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" at the English National Opera in London. The following year, he staged it for the season opener of New York's Metropolitan Opera. It was the first performance of the Met's new era under general manager Peter Gelb.

Jeff Ramsay, press secretary to Botswanan President Festus Mogae, called Minghella's death a "shock and an utter loss.''

He said the director had been coming to the country ahead of the detective film and learning about Botswana.

Ramsay said Minghella had told him how he had been forced to shoot "Cold Mountain" in Romania and that it had "seemed wrong." He said this made the director "more sure that the film could only be shot in Botswana.''

Born the second of five children to southern Italian emigrants, Minghella came to moviemaking from a flourishing playwriting career on the London "fringe" and, in 1986, on the West End with the play, "Made in Bangkok," a hard-hitting look at the sexual mores of a British tour group in Thailand.

He worked as a television script editor before making his directing debut with "Truly, Madly, Deeply," a comedy about love and grief starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman.

In a 1996 interview with The Associated Press, Minghella said ``English Patient," which starred Binoche, Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, was the pinnacle of his career at the time.

"I feel more naked and more exposed by this piece of work than anything I've ever been involved with," Minghella said.

He said too many modern films let the audience be passive, as if they were saying, "We're going to rock you and thrill you. We'll do everything for you.''

"This film goes absolutely against that grain," he said. "It says, `I'm sorry, but you're going to have to make some connections. There are some puzzles here. The story will constantly rethread itself and it will be elliptical, but there are enormous rewards in that.'''

Ivan Dixon, 76: Hogan's Heroes Co-Star

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(March 19, 2008) CHARLOTTE, N.C. –
Ivan Dixon, an actor, director and producer best known for his role as Kinchloe on the 1960s television series Hogan's Heroes, has died. He was 76.

Dixon died Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte after a haemorrhage and complications from kidney failure, said his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon of Charlotte.

Actor Sidney Poitier said the two men became friends after Dixon was his stunt double in the 1958 movie The Defiant Ones.

"As an actor, you had to be careful," Poitier said in a statement. "He was quite likely to walk off with the scene."

Dixon began his acting career on Broadway in plays including The Cave Dwellers and A Raisin in the Sun. On film, he appeared in Something of Value, A Raisin in the Sun, A Patch of Blue, Nothing But a Man and the cult favourite Car Wash.

But he was probably best known for the role of U.S. Staff Sgt. James Kinchloe on Hogan's Heroes, a satire set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War. Kinchloe, in charge of electronic communications, could mimic German officers on the radio or phone.

While her father was most proud of work in plays such as A Raisin in the Sun and for films such as Nothing But a Man, he had no mixed feelings about being recognized for the role of Kinchloe, his daughter said.

"It was a pivotal role as well, because there were not as many blacks in TV series at that time," Nomathande Dixon said.

"He did have some personal issues with that role but it also launched him into directing."

Dixon also earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in the CBS Playhouse special The Final War of Olly Winter.

In addition to acting on television, he also directed hundreds of episodic shows, including The Waltons, The Rockford Files, Magnum, P.I. and In the Heat of the Night.

Born April 6, 1931, in New York City, Dixon graduated in 1954 from North Carolina Central University in Durham.

His honours include four NAACP Image Awards, the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award from the Black American Cinema Society. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild of America and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 53 years, Berlie Dixon of Charlotte and a son, Alan Kimara Dixon of Oakland, Calif.

Two sons, Ivan Nathaniel Dixon and N'Gai Christopher Dixon, died previously.

At Dixon's request, the family said, no memorial or funeral is planned.

ABBA Drummer Dies In Accident In Spain

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ciaran Giles, The Associated Press

(March 17, 2008) MADRID, Spain–A drummer for the Swedish pop band ABBA was found dead with cuts to his neck in the garden of his house on the Spanish island of Mallorca but police said Monday an autopsy showed it was an accident.

A neighbour found the body of
Ola Brunkert on Sunday evening at his house in a coastal area outside the eastern town of Arta, a Civil Guard spokesman told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

He said an autopsy was carried out and confirmed initial investigations. "It was an accident," he said.

The spokesman said Brunkert hit his head against a glass door in his dining room, shattering the glass and cutting himself on the neck. He managed to wrap a towel around his neck and left the house to seek help but collapsed in the garden.

Brunkert lived in the coastal apartment complex of Betlem in the municipality of Arta, in the eastern part of Mallorca.

Brunkert had lived in Arta for around 20 years. His wife Inger died less than a year ago, said an Arta municipal official.

ABBA band member Benny Anderson told the Swedish daily newspaper Expressen that he was sad to hear of the drummer's death. "It is tragic," he said.

Band member Bjorn Ulvaeus added that Brunkert had been "one of the best."

"I remember him as a good friend when we worked together in the mid-1970s. He was a very creative musician who contributed a lot when we toured together and worked in the studio," Ulvaeus told Expressen.

According to ABBA's official website, Brunkert and bass player Rutger Gunnarsson were the only musicians to appear on all ABBA albums.

Brunkert, who was 62, first played with ABBA on the group's first single, "People Need Love," and toured with the band in 1977, 1979 and 1980.

He had been a jazz drummer and a member of the blues band Slim's Blues Gang, before joining pop group Science Poption in the mid-1960s.

ABBA, with the four regular members Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Ulvaeus and Andersson, was one of the world's most successful bands, with album sales of more than 370 million. The group has not performed together since 1982, but continues to sell nearly three million records a year.

 

::ST. MAARTEN HEINEKEN REGATTA 2008::
March 6-10, 2008

With the sun shining and the city bustling with regatta fever, I attended the exciting 28th Heineken Regatta in the lovely and warm St. Maarten.  Welcome to my travel log with its fusion of stories about individuals, places to shop and restaurants - and of course, the regatta! The stories of individuals include the people that attend the regatta and the locals that enjoy the nightly parties featuring local talent as well as the headlining talent. This year, the musical headliners which were of particular interest to me was soca queen, Alison Hinds and Mister Lover Lover  Shaggy, who created quite a buzz by his presence on the island. 

St. Maarten is the smallest Island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments-namely the Dutch and French. Both Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin have maintained a peaceful coexistence for over 350 years, the longest of any two bordering nations, with euro, dollar and Netherlands Antilles guilder accepted as currencyAnother unique factor on the island is that the shopping is completely duty-free! 

I stayed on the Dutch side at the Wyndham Sapphire Beach Club and Resort in Cupecoy Bay which is at one of the furthermost tips of the island.  It is the perfect location for its independent couple travellers - meaning you have a full suite, including kitchen, Jacuzzi on your private outdoor deck, little grocery store accessible and it is a definite plus to rent a car, as I spent a small fortune on taxis to get around the island.  You can take the girl out of the city but you can't take the city out of the girl!

******************************************************
::MARCH 4, 2008::

Canadian content in the regatta!!  While I was in St. Maarten I came to learn that a work colleague from Toronto was also not only attending the regatta but in the regatta - what a small world!  Caroline Burns and her husband Mike sailed on the boat Grand Illusion.  Here’s what she had to say about participating in this year’s exciting regatta:

“My husband, Mike, and seven sailing buddies participated in the 2005 Heineken Regatta and enjoyed it so much they entered again this year.  We chartered a 50' Beneteau, named Grand Illusion, and entered the Open Class.  While some on board were a little overwhelmed, I enjoyed the rush of the wind and power of the waves as we practiced tacking and jibing. 

The second and third days of the race were calmer so all 10 of us boarded the Grand Illusion to experience racing.  It was exciting and an adrenaline rush at the start as 12 boats in our class all waited for the sound of the horn to start the race.  Even though most of the crew weren't 'qualified' sailors we competed well and had enough of a competitive edge to place 6th overall.  The weather was fantastic for each day of racing and the on shore entertainment was outstanding!  And then there were the restaurants and shopping!  We will definitely go back!”

Ed Furry sat beside me on the plane and he was one of the crew for the boat Storm, classified as Spinnaker 3 in the regatta.  (Ed owns and operates Sail 22 (www.sail22.com)). Turns out that Ed also managed the acclaimed Morning Light, a 52’ race boat whose legacy will be captured in a full-length documentary film, produced by Roy E. Disney's Pacific High Productions in association with Disney Studios.  The target release date is in 2008. In July, a young crew will sail the Morning Light in the Transpacific Yacht Race, a biennial 2,225-nautical-mile sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu. 15 crew members were selected from more than 500 applicants after intensive tryouts in Long Beach, Calif., last summer. They are training in Hawaii.  Crew members will range in age from 18 to 23  at the time of the race, the youngest ever in the Transpacific Yacht Race.  

My sacred first stop on my first night was to get some of the best ribs and fish on the island, from Johnny Under the Tree!  He cooks with his huge grills under the trees where many travel to and wait their turn to get their ribs, chicken, mahi mahi.  Unbelievable as usual.  As usual, the people in St. Maarten extended a courteous and friendly hand to the many many tourists from all over the world - most in town for the regatta.

********************************************************
::MARCH 6, 2008::

I spent this day in Philipsburg exploring the popular boardwalk, shops, restaurants and meeting up with one of Canada's most-published travel writers, Melanie Reffes, one of the islands most notable writers and publishers, Lasana Sekou, House of Nehesi Publishers, and his colleague, Arsene Reiph, at the trendy and fab Holland House hotel.  Check out an article on Lasana's life, inspirations and his latest poetry book by Melanie Reffes HERE.

Meanwhile the regatta held the Budget Marine Commodores Cup followed by the welcoming Party at Port de Plaisance. 

********************************************************
::MARCH 7, 2008::

Over the years the regatta has grown out to be the biggest regatta in the Caribbean.  This year I wanted to experience aspects of the island that I had not yet explored. 

One of these days was at the beach of Grand Case on the French side of the island.  A sweet and fun couple, Bill and Ellen Roeger from Philly, let me accompany them to the French side this day to discover the unpopulated and beautiful and beach.  With it's white sand and crystal blue water, it is spotted with little shops that serve you food and drinks just steps away from your beach chair, which include Creole Rock Cafe (ask for Fabiola) and Lolos (great ribs for only US$6!).  While enjoying the day, the boats from the regatta breezed by in the high winds and gave us a beautiful spectacle to observe.

Later that day, there was a press conference at the Sonesta Maho Beach Club and Casino featuring the artists performing during the four days of the regatta.  Attending the press conference were El A Kru, Antigua’s most popular exports with five International Soca Award nominations in 2007.  Representing St. Maarten was Jacob of Intwine, named so because of their cultural roots and different musical influences.  Grammy award winning, Jamaican American Shaggy, on the cusp of the release of Intoxication, has once again found that perfect balance of slick and streetwise. To date, Shaggy has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. 
 
 He spoke this day on going indie and breaking away from his former major label and their inconsistencies and commitment to his career.  Shaggy stated that music industry execs "don't understand the culture of dancehall or reggae and our music has suffered.  I urge the media and all people to support our music." 
 
 Born in Barbados, Alison Hinds, the Queen of Soca, is known for her uplifting music known for its infectious rhythms and spirited spicy lyrics that inspires jubilant audience participation.  Alison spoke on the challenges of being a woman in the music industry, specifically in her genre of soca.  She said one of the secrets of her success is that "when I perform, I really enjoy what I do."  Alison's concert was held on International Women's Day and her message for women in the industry was to "beware of invisible eyes" meaning that people are watching women closely and to represent yourself well at all times. 
 
 All artists were very gracious with their time, answering questions and posing for pictures.

********************************************************
::MARCH 8, 2008::

More exploring of the famed Philipsburg with its local vendors and many shops catering to the vacationer who likes good duty-free deals.  Lots of shopping available, though not much in the way of variety.  Jewellers abound with the most bling you could ever hope to see.  One of those was Grand Jewelers on Front Street - ask for Sunny.  And the most amazing home-made ice cream ever at Vanille et Chocolat.  Have a seat in their funky parlour, indulge in their delicious delights, right on the boardwalk. 

The regatta had most classes race from Simpson Bay to Marigot followed by the prize-giving ceremony and party at Waterfront in Marigot featuring Alison Hinds

********************************************************
::MARCH 9, 2008::

Closing day of the regatta - which means all the hype of this entire regatta is leading to this.  This night is the final musical showcase featuring Shaggy.  Given the many traffic constraints of the island, especially during the regatta, I set up shop for the evening early at The Wharf, owned by Elvis Bennett of Trinidad.  The place was hopping all night with good food, good people and general excitement as the final concert was being held across the street at Kim Sha Beach. 

The entire show was hosted by Gee Money and Empress, two well-loved radio personalities on the island.

Youth Waves was one of the opening acts for Shaggy and what an exciting show they gave!  They even managed to keep all the Shaggy fans entertained for their full show.  Highly energetic and talented group for sure with their unique blend of Reggae, Zouk, Soca, Calypso and R&B.

Shaggy fans were not disappointed when he hit the stage with a host of other artists performing alongside to fully compliment the mega talent of the Grammy-award winning Big Yard recording artist.  His band was killer and drove the fans into a frenzy while they were grinding to the beats on the beach of Kim Sha.  An outdoor concert with all these talented artists and the rest of the world just faded away ... except for those that stood beside the 7' speakers!  Tons of fun, tons of people, tons of great music and tons of traffic!

********************************************************
::MARCH 10-12, 2008::

I spent my last two days in St. Maarten in my beloved Philipsburg at the very cost-effective Seaview BeachHotel - right on the beach.  “Seaview Beach Hotel, was opened with two floors and eleven  rooms as the island's first modern hotel in 1948.” (Excerpt from National Symbols of St. Martin -  A Primer by Lasana M. Sekou).   While this hotel is not as 'plumb' as other hotels on the island, the price is right at the starting price of US$100/night, which includes WiFi for $9/day, direct access to the beach and the many restaurants and shops in Philipsburg!

Lest we forget the results of all the toil and drama that unfolded during the regatta, here are the closing press releases from the regatta with exciting plans for 2009!

With the 2008 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta on the Books, Organizers Look Ahead to the 29th Running of the Great Celebration of Caribbean Sailing and Partying

Source:  Heineken Regatta


St. Maarten, N.A. (March 10) – The sensational 28th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta finished in fine fashion last evening with the traditional prize-giving ceremony on Kim Sha Beach followed by
musical entertainment by Grammy-winning recording artist Shaggy, who had an overflowing throng of thousands of sailors and islanders dancing by the sea.

The Fleet is In: TP 52 Panthera, SeaCart 30 True Look, and a Pair of J/Boats Among Big Winners at 28th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Source: St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

St. Maarten, N.A. (March 9, 2008) – The 28th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta wrapped up today, in similar fashion to the way it began: With clear skies and a steady breeze offering ideal conditions for a
record-setting fleet of competitors. And after the series’ final race, a point-to-point contest from Marigot, on the island’s French side, to Philipsburg on the Dutch side, an impressive array of winners emerged.

::SCOOP::

Literary Lasana: St. Maarten’s Literary Powerhouse

By Melanie Reffes, Excerpt from Nights Magazine

Flashing his mega-watt smile and wearing a crisp white button down shirt, Lasana Mwanza Sekou is a happy camper people-watching at the bar in the popular and swank Holland House on Front Street in Phillipsburg. With the cerulean sea on one side and a bustling hotel lobby on the other, there’s no shortage of fodder for his imagination. “People and their stories are what inspire me,” he smiles stirring a strong cup of coffee.

As the founder of House of Nehesi– the largest publishing house in the Eastern Caribbean -   the 48 year old is a literary powerhouse with a string of eleven books of poetry, monologues and short stories to his credit.  He was a James Michener Fellow at the University of Miami, knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands and the recipient of a fellowship at the International Writers Workshop in China in where he created his critically-acclaimed 37 Poems –referring to the thirty-seven square miles of his beloved St. Maarten.

Born Harold Lake in Aruba, he grew up in St. Maarten and studied in the United States where he changed his name to Lasana Sekou - African words for poet warrior.  After publishing his first collection from his dorm room at the State University of New York, he returned to St. Maarten having written four more volumes of poetry.  On a roll, he expanded his portfolio to include co-directing Traditions – the Islands first drama extravaganza and producing the critically acclaimed Fete CD of traditional music by the legendary Tanny and the Boys.

Ten years after it was first published, Brotherhood of Spurs, Sekou’s powerful collection of short stories chronicling three centuries of St. Maarten history has been reprinted for a new generation of readers. The Salt Reaper, poems that delivers his thoughtful message of Island independence is taught in high schools and universities. His work is performed on stage, included in literary journals such as Callaloo and the Caribbean Writer and translated into Spanish, Dutch, German and Chinese.

Despite being one of the most prolific writers in the Caribbean with a schedule that would exhaust someone half his age, Sekou is a humble guy when he talks about the accomplishments of HNP over the past quarter century. “We are getting an increasing number of writer inquiries from around the world, “he says with a shy twinkle, “imagine that?” 

HNP has published the work of thirty authors including former Nigerian diplomat Fabian Badejo, controversial American author Amiri Baraka and high school teacher Wendy-Ann Diaz whose children’s book Claude’s Adventures came out last year.    “Caribbean writers are world-class, “Sekou beams,” this new generation is hungry for recognition which today is a realistic goal.”  

In addition to mentoring young talent, Sekou is the project manager for the HNP non-profit Foundation which promotes the arts through events like the annual Book Fair held alternately on both sides of the Island in June.

Back at the bar in the Holland House which is getting crowded during Happy Hour, Lasana is still sipping the café he’s nursed for nearly an hour while he chats to just about everyone who recognizes him . On his drawing board include another collection of short stories, a documentary about Ponum - the traditional slavery dance and speaking at conferences around the world.  “Even while I’m on the road, “he says, “I always look forward to coming back home.”

www.houseofnehesipublish.com

Mark the Calendar:

6th annual St. Martin Book Fair -  June 5 - 7, 2008


Founded in 2003 by Conscious Lyrics Foundation and House of Nehesi Publishers, the St. Martin Book Fair is one of the must-see events on the Island.  Held every June alternately on both sides of the Island, the fair attracts bookworms who come for three days of readings, workshops and a chance to meet dozens of authors from around the world. ”


Amongst the new crop is Brother Rich, Nana Sweetie – an anthology of short stories, vignettes and poems written by thirteen aspiring writers who took part in the House of Nehesi Creative Writing Program. “As its editor, “said Rhoda Arrindell, “I am honored to be selected by the book fair to represent St. Martin writers.” 
 According to coordinator Shujah Reiph, the event is now gaining the recognition it deserves.    “This year we were contacted by tourists from New York and Puerto Rico, who are coming in just for the Book Fair, “ he said proudly, “ News about our cultural event is growing here at home and abroad.” 
 
6th annual St. Martin Book Fair  -  June 5 - 7, 2008

Visit www.houseofnehesipublish.com for information.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Vancouver Rockers Ladyhawk Takes Their Best Shots

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(March 16, 2008) Calling your album Shots is a pretty good indicator that you like to drink. Add a back CD photo of band in mid-beer spew, and all suspicions are confirmed. Good thing the music fits, too. Vancouver's Ladyhawk celebrate the grand tradition of dirge-y drunk rock with the boozy, bruise-y songs that make up the band's excellent second album. Cups will certainly runneth over when the boys stop in at the Horseshoe next Saturday evening.

It might seem out of control, but in truth the band is pretty deliberate, according to guitarist and singer Darcy Hancock – who with guitarist/vocalist Duffy Driediger, bassist Sean Hawryluk and Ryan Peters on drums make up the band.

"We don't really just jam to see what happens. We kind of like to know what we're doing, you know," Hancock says. "We write at practice, so we probably had about half of this album written by the time the first one came out (in 2006)."

From the opening salvo lyrics of "Get back to your city, boy" on short stunner "S.T.H.D." which is all raucous vocals and distortion to the relative balladry of "(I'll be Your) Ashtray" and "Faces of Death," the Ladyhawkers' sense of purpose is well evident.

Everyone lives in Vancouver now, but they returned to their hometown of Kelowna to record this album, because, well, it was cheap.

"Everyone in Vancouver who was offering their space was charging way too much money. We knew the people who are running an art gallery in this house until it gets developed (in Kelowna) and we called them up, and it was 200 bucks. So it was a lot cheaper, and there was free food from the parents' house."

Of course, the house lacked heating or plumbing, which added a bit of drama. Good thing too, as their friend, Rob Leickner, filmed a documentary about the making of Shots.

The result, Let Me Be Fictional, is now making the rounds of the festival circuit, just as the band gets a further bit of buzz south of the border through being touted by National Public Radio's Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney fame.

Back north of the 49th, the band readies for a cross-Canada tour with Immaculate Machine in the east and the very sonically appropriate Black Mountain in the west.

While his bandmate jokes on NPR.com about how every Toronto band is a collective with a glockenspiel and flutes, Ladyhawk seem to follow more of a lunchpail, rock 'n' roll aesthetic. That might because the Vancouver scene seems to have changed – and perhaps for the worse – over the past few years.

"I think when we started, there felt like a bit more of a scene and a community (in Vancouver), and now there doesn't totally feel like one," says Hancock.

As for the band's name, like with many things, it seemed like they had to drink on it.

"I'm pretty sure that the idea came possibly from the movie (Ladyhawke), says Hancock. "Duffy was just trying to think of band names one night, and he really liked that one ... he wrote about 50 names for us to choose and we were supposed to put a star beside the ones we liked, so whatever one got the most stars was supposed to be our name. We all hated Ladyhawk. And then, there was no doubling up of any stars on any name, so we kept thinking about it, and got drunk and ended up going, `ah, yeah, sure.'" he says.

"I really wanted to be called White Chocolate. But now I know it doesn't really suit us. It doesn't make sense."

Pink Martini - Straight-Up Fun With A Global Twist

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Music Critic

(March 17, 2008) There is such a manufactured quality to so much adult-contemporary music, that experiencing something authentic is as refreshing as the first breath of spring.

Portland, Ore.-based band
Pink Martini made its Massey Hall debut on Saturday night, 14 years after they were founded as a local for-fun-and-charity quartet.

Pink Martini now headlines top musical venues, including selling out a multi-night gig at the Hollywood Bowl last year.

The band has grown to number a dozen – still led by ebullient, bleach-blond pianist Thomas Lauderdale and fronted by siren-diva China Forbes. But they still hum along on the happy energy of people who are doing this more for fun than profit.

For an unbroken two hours, we were treated to a musical buffet from all corners of the globe.

The band interspersed its often quirky songs with instrumental numbers showcasing the considerable talents of the percussion players (who have an affinity for the Latin dance floor), trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, violin and even a full-size harp.

The bulk of the music came from Pink Martini's third, and most recent, album, Hey, Eugene.

It's a wacky mix of music from films of the 1950s and '60s, with new creations by Forbes, Lauderdale and other members of the band.

As Forbes explained before singing the album's title track, the song was inspired by meeting a semi-drunk man at a New York City party, who declared that Forbes was the best salsa dancer he had ever seen. He insisted on getting her phone number, and she never heard from him again.

One of the movie songs, "Taya Tan," is a whimsical affair that recalls something Melina Mercouri would have sung several decades ago.

We found out from Lauderdale that it comes from a Japanese B-movie called The Black Lizard.

The world influences may be there – and one can hear them in the inventive orchestrations – but the focus with Pink Martini is on music as a form of escape.

Whether it is Lauderdale's arms flying up and down the keyboard with great flourishes, or Brian Davis's lovely conga work, there is a happy lightness to this band that gives their shows an intimacy and immediacy that manufactured bands like Il Divo just can't match.

The positive energy is infectious.

The last time Pink Martini came to town, 2 1/2 years ago, they played the Phoenix, a standing-room-only venue that encouraged audience members to pair up and dance in front of the stage.

Massey Hall makes no allowances for dancing, but as the audience stood and clapped along with a rousing encore of jazz-favourite "Brazil" (which the band recorded on its debut album, Sympathique, more than a decade ago), you could tell that people were itching to break free of the confining rows of seats.

The musicians, casting big, grateful smiles at their listeners, looked like they could keep going for the sheer pleasure of it.

The audience wouldn't have minded.

South African Idol Winner Heinz Winckler Stars In Rent

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(March 15, 2008) It was supposed to be an Idol-stuffed run of Rent that hits the Sony Centre next week for five shows – but that might be up in the air.

This touring production of the venerated Broadway show was supposed to feature
Anwar Robinson (a seventh-place finisher in the 2005 edition of American Idol) and South African Idol winner Heinz Winckler. Unfortunately, Robinson suffered a knee injury and has left the production to heal. That said, according to Winckler, things are definitely looking up.

"Anwar's been out for a couple of weeks but he should be back just before we get to Toronto. That's been a big adjustment for the whole cast," he says on the line from the show's run in Tulsa, Okla.

"A couple of weeks ago, I got sick in Chicago, and then one of the other guys had a back injury and then it just seemed like everything was going wrong.

"For, like, three shows, we had to use all of the (understudies) in the cast because we had about four or five people out. That was a huge challenge and our stage manager was having a rough time, almost pulling his hair out just trying to figure out who to put in and how ... Thankfully, that's over with now and things are going much more smoothly. And we're looking forward to getting Anwar back soon."

Winckler, who plays the HIV-positive Roger in the production, won the inaugural South African version of Idols in 2002 and has released two albums in his home country.

He's now focused on breaking through on this side of the ocean and has been using musical theatre as his avenue to gain a foothold in North America.

"My approach at this stage is to do the best job I can," he says. "I'm hoping to get a record deal in the States. I'm trying to get my green card to stick around in America, and try to work both sides of the career. I would love to get a record deal and make that work, and I'm really enjoying musical theatre and acting so I'd like to pursue that as well."

Winckler says that when he auditioned for Rent, he'd never seen the award-winning play – and that actually worked in his favour.

"I had already done another audition for Hairspray, which was the same casting company, and they referred me to the Rent people. So by the time I got there, they kind of knew a little bit about me and actually preferred that I hadn't seen the show before.

"Then, the day after, I went to see the show on Broadway and I loved it," he says. "I was blown away. I needed to see it again because it was a fast-paced show, and I felt like I missed a couple of things."

Of course, while watching the show, he was transfixed by the actor playing his part and kept wondering what his own take would be. As well, after he got the job and got to rehearsals, it was evident to him why the musical is such a success.

"You kind of realize the genius of (writer) Jonathan Larson and how well the show is put together and the music works, and that comes across because it is so different from anything else you've probably seen before that," he says.

"You really walk away with a kind of high spirits, because it makes you really go out and say, `Yeah, there's no day like today and I should make the best of every moment that I'm alive.' That's the big message of the story."

He says he's excited about coming with the show to Toronto, as he actually performed here as Tony for a short run in West Side Story in 2004.

"I spent about four weeks there. I didn't really do anything tourist-y, but I did go to a lot of barbecues and little parties at people's houses. So I did get a chance to enjoy some Canadian and Toronto hospitality."

Rent runs at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts from March 19–22.

For tickets and info, call 416-872-2262 or go to ticketmaster.ca.

Perez Hilton - Gossip Monger Becomes Hit-Maker At Festival

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press

(March 17, 2008) AUSTIN, TEXAS — Last year, when gossip blogger Perez Hilton came to the South by Southwest music festival, he was just a spectator.

This year, he arrived as one of the music industry's key playmakers - and his newfound power was on full display as he played host to one of the festival's more coveted parties.

"Thank you Perez!" Robyn, the Swedish-born pop star who is releasing an album in the United States this summer, gushed on stage Saturday night as she performed in front of a packed crowd filled with industry insiders, artists, and the typical hangers-on. Even more people lined the block around the venue in downtown Austin, hoping for a chance to see acts ranging from Internet darling Katy Perry to established artists such as Robyn and N.E.R.D.

"There's a lot of great acts performing these past couple of days, but not all on the same stage on the same night," boasted Hilton, sporting bleached blond hair with streaks of pink. "The musicians performing speak for the evening."

They also speak to Hilton's ever-increasing clout within the music industry. While his site routinely posts salacious details about perennial gossip targets such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and the crew from The Hills, he also regularly gushes about his favourite artists and songs - like Robyn.

Numerous articles have been written crediting Hilton (real name Mario Lavandeira) for helping to boost an artist's sales and profile from his postings: The New York Times reported last month that Warner Bros. Records was in negotiations to give Hilton a development deal that would make him an executive on the label.

"It's very flattering," Hilton said with a smile about all the attention.

So, not surprisingly, Hilton lined up a few key artists to perform at his party. The biggest act was undoubtedly N.E.R.D., the trio led by superproducer Pharrell Williams, who said Hilton's site is a key outlet for groups such as his.

"He's connected to the kids, he's connected to our demographic - people who want to be in the know, and he's opinionated and that's what makes it work," Williams said.

Hilton's ability to create buzz for an artist is hard to duplicate, Perry said.

"Managers in the industry want their acts to be featured on his blog because it does give a lot of press, and hopefully good press sometimes," she said. "He's got some pretty good ears. He's featured myself and some friends of mine so we're grateful." (Recently, Hilton heaped praise upon the Montreal band The Mission District on his website, which the band says helped raise their profile.)

Not everyone is happy about Hilton's success. As popular as his showcase may have been, there were some at SXSW who grumbled about the fact that a gossip maven has decision-making power in the industry.

But Hilton insists he and his site have musical integrity.

"I only post things on there that I really enjoy and love and support - there's no payola Perez," Hilton said. "So I think readers who read my site know there's an authenticity there and they really respond to that."

Hilton said even though he gets managers and record label executives begging him to promote their artists, he gets most of his tips from fans who send him music links online, and he insisted he isn't swayed by pushes by industry insiders.

Hilton may be giving his own advice to artists soon, if the Warner Bros. deal works out. And while he's known for his scoops, he's still peeved at the Times for revealing the tidbit.

"I'm such a fatalist I don't like making announcements like that unless it's done. Hopefully it's going to happen - we've been talking for a while now," he said.

Not that Hilton's depending on that label or any other to secure his place in the music industry.

"If it doesn't happen, I'll just do it on my own," he said.

Usher Grown And Sexy On New Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 17, 2008) *Collaborators on
Usher’s new album "Here I Stand," due in June, reveal that he’s all ‘growed’ up now…if his new material is any indicator.   They say the new husband and father will give his fans a blend of mature music and songs that will give the women something to move to. 

 "He's a grown man now," producer Polow Da Don says of the R&B singer's mature sound on the new album.

Polow, who produced the album's first single and current #1 song in the country, "Love in This Club," worked on two other records for the album as well.

"This one joint is called 'Angel,' " Polow said. "I think it's the best and biggest song I've been a part of. Usher and Nelly actually wrote the song together. Me and this dude named Brian Kennedy produced the record. We was all in the room, kicking it, talking. This is when we had our first real conversation about dude getting married…’

Polow said "Angel" was cut right around Christmas, during the time in which Usher's dad was gravely ill (Usher's father died earlier this year).  He says:

"[Usher] was open with his feelings and emotions at the time," Polow added. " 'Angel,' it's the full circle of his life. The first verse is dedicated to his mother. She's his angel. He's [singing] about being a little kid, being a badass and taking his mother through the hardship and not realizing the whole time she was always there. She is his angel. The second verse is about meeting this woman who is now his wife. No matter how bad he treated her or what he did - not recognizing she was special, thinking she was just a girl - as things unfold, she's his angel. And he's a grown man now. The third verse is about him and his wife having a child, and now he has to be a protector. Everything is the other way around. His son is now his angel that he must protect. Everybody is gonna love it, and it makes you think [about] whoever in life has been there for you."

The third song Polow recorded with Usher is way more physical than emotional.

" 'Lights, Camera, Action,' we made that song after the first night we played 'Love in This Club' at the club, Jermaine Dupri's club," Polow recalled. "It's a nice little way to tell a girl, 'Let's make a porno.' It could be with your girl or a new girl. It's telling her, 'You know you love right. ... There's something I wanna do with you I never tried before.' The song goes, 'First I go hit the lights/ I set up the camera/ Then we get to action.' It's dope. It's a dance joint. Usher's album is strong."

Former Roc-A-Fella R&B artist Rell wrote the title track, which is produced by the Grammy Award-winning team Dre & Vidal.

"It's a ballad," Vidal Davis said. "Classic. It's a smash. It shows that despite all the things he's been through, he's still here. The first time [Usher] heard it after Rell wrote it, he said, 'I gotta cut that.' He's really grown [on] this album. He's talking about some issues."

Dre & Vidal worked with Usher on 15 songs last year in New York and Atlanta and finished with him in August. "Here I Stand" is said to be addressing Usher's fans and family. "The song is saying, 'No matter how far I go, no matter how long it takes, here I stand,' " Vidal said.

The album isn't quite finished, so the final track list has not been announced yet. There's still no guarantee that all three Polow songs will make the cut. The video for "Love in This Club" is going into production soon.

South By Southwest Embraces Hip Hop

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 17, 2008) *The ‘world’s biggest music festival’
South by Southwest, held in Austin, Texas, has transcended its usual fare of metal acts, singer-songwriters, and indie-rock bands, by adding hip hop artists to the list of performers. 
 
SXSW music programmer Matt Sonzala, who has made it a point to increase the profile of rap at the festival – but was having a hard way to go,  was responsible for securing Ice Cube, Bun B, The Clipse, Dizzee Rascal, 2 Live Crew, Talib Kweli, and the Cool Kids, among the 150 hip-hop performers that are scheduled to grace this year’s event.

"Early on, I was trying to get artists to come down," Sonzala, who has been working for SXSW for five years, told The Associated Press on Saturday.  "When I would talk to the labels, people would tell me things like, 'Why would I send my artists to that hippie festival? Why would I send them to this rock festival?"

But once labels started seeing the benefit of playing the SXSW - including garnering key publicity and making key industry contacts - Sonzala doesn't have that much of a problem anymore.

"…they see what it is, it's really the world's biggest music festival," he said. "Word has just spread," Sonzala concluded.

Houston rapper Bun B of U.G.K., who recently lost his partner, the late Pimp C, both part of the group U.G.K., said he reached out to acts like Kweli and Banner to appear this year. He said for many rappers, SXSW wasn't on their radar: "(But) I think it absolutely should be."

"Honestly I didn't know too much about this, and people would say, 'What - you don't know what that is? ... If you don't go, you trippin'!'" said Del the Funky Homosapien, who will play SXSW for the first time this year. "That's when I started realizing."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Kravitz Shifts Canadian Tour

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(March 13, 2008) TORONTO — Lenny Kravitz will not be going our way this spring. The U.S. retro-rocker, 43, hospitalized last month with what was described by his spokeswoman as “extreme dehydration and fatigue” due to severe bronchitis, has postponed or cancelled a string of Canadian dates. Upcoming shows in Toronto, London, Ont., Calgary and Winnipeg have been rescheduled for the fall, while an appearance at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place was cancelled outright.  Mr. Kravitz, promoting his latest album It Is Time for a Love Revolution, had previously postponed a series of European concerts. Rescheduled concerts include:

Winnipeg's MTS Centre (March 17), moved to Oct. 29.
Toronto's Air Canada Centre (March 20), to Oct. 26.
London's John Labbatt Centre (March 22), to Oct. 25.
Ottawa's Scotiabank Place (March 24), cancelled.
Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome (March 31), moved to Nov. 1.

Two Tribute Concerts For Jeff Healey Announced

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(March 18, 2008) Toronto — Two concerts honouring the late Toronto guitarist Jeff Healey and organized by family and friends will be held in early May. The family had arranged a private funeral for Healey shortly after he died on March 2 from cancer. And now it has announced two Toronto tribute shows for the public at Sound Academy on May 3 and Healey's Roadhouse on May 4. Both tributes will feature Healey's House Band and the Jazz Wizards, Healey's band which specialized in his passion for jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. The final line-up of featured artists who had played with Healey and will be performing at the tributes is scheduled to be announced in a couple of weeks.

Maceo Parker: Roots & Grooves

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Heads Up)
 
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(March 18, 2008) It may never have occurred to you to want to hear
Maceo Parker with a big band singing Ray Charles tunes, but the veteran alto saxist says it's something he's always wanted to do. This double album captures the former James Brown sideman on tour with Germany's highly regarded WDR Big Band. The first disc, "Tribute to Ray Charles," features bluesy, head-bopping interpretations of Charles tunes such as "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and "Them That's Got." The 18-piece ensemble provides rich complement to wailing Parker solos that never stop for breath. He also doubles as a singer with close mimicry of Charles's gravel on "Busted," "Hit the Road Jack" and "You Don't Know Me." The second disc is as its title promises: "Back to the Funk." With the addition of electric bass, Parker lays down sweaty grooves on a host of originals: "To Be or Not to Be," "Advanced Funk." If funk is your thing, this disc is a perfect fit. Top Track: An electrifying "What'd I Say" gets feet moving.

Grant Stewart: Young at Heart

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Sharp Nine Records)
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(March 18, 2008) It Toronto-born and New York-based, tenor saxist
Grant Stewart, 36, has been making his name playing with the likes of Harry Connick Jr. and Dick Hyman. He's imbued with a robust, mellifluous sound that conjures Sonny Rollins and Ben Webster on standards such as the title track and "You're My Thrill." Accompanied by pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth, Stewart delivers solos that are steeped in tradition, yet thrilling and devoid of showboating embellishment. In the Joshua Redman category, but less cerebral. Top track: He dances to a Latin pulse on Neal Hefti's "Repetition."

Randy Jackson: Randy Jackson's Music Club

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Concord)
 
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(March 18, 2008) American Idol judge
Randy Jackson is revisiting his producer roots with a genre mash-up disc of newcomers and has-beens like fellow judge Paula Abdul. It's a lacklustre set of country, gospel, R&B, pop and rock, considering all the talent and money Jackson had to work with. Some tunes are unnecessarily chockfull of artists – Richie Sambora, Travis Tritt and Lucy Woodward on "Willing to Try" – while Joss Stone's update of Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By" is most notable for its rollicking drum machines and Kelli Love's "Who's Gonna Love You Now" is an Alicia Keys imitation. Abdul's first recording in a decade doesn't augur well for her forthcoming album: "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow" is a vapid pop tune with digitally masked vocals à la Janet Jackson and Britney Spears's recent recordings. Randy has said he wanted to emulate Quincy Jones's projects such as Back on the Block, but he's fallen well short of the originality and continuity that comprised The Dude's compilations. Top track: A nice turn on Michael Bublé's "Home" by John Rich and Anthony Hamilton.

 

::FILM NEWS::

Will Ferrell - The Master Of Comedic Slam-Dunks

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(February 29, 2008) When Hollywood talks about "bankable" stars, it's really only talking about a handful of actors - Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Jodie Foster and Will Ferrell.

For every interesting box-office failure Ferrell offers the public, such as Melinda and Melinda or The Producers, he makes at least two megahits: consider Elf ($220-million worldwide); Anchorman ($90-million); Talladega Nights ($163-million); and last year's Blades of Glory ($145-million). Even Bewitched, dismissed as a flop by critics, hauled in $131-million, and none of these big numbers include home rentals. That math makes Ferrell's antics a solid investment. He's more than bankable - he's the bank itself.

And the former Saturday Night Live player earns every penny. A shameless ham, he will do anything for a laugh: run around naked, drape his ample, hairy trunk over a kitchen table, sport swimwear that would shame a Chippendales model, or, in his latest film, the deliriously silly Semi-Pro, vomit, sing a puerile disco song, wrestle a bear (yes, a real bear) and allow the camera to lovingly pan up his jiggling thighs, right into the underside of his jockstrap.

Fans flock to Ferrell's films because he creates characters endowed with a loveable mix of manic narcissism and keen vulnerability, guileless idiots-savant who are half Tasmanian devil, half wobbly puppy. You watch him because you know he will always up the frantic ante.

How do you know when something's funny?

Um, I never do. And I think anyone who says they do is a liar. That's why we shoot so many options on each scene, to get different versions and takes, because until we get back to the editing room, we literally don't know. Obviously, in each of those moments, there are things I personally think are funny, but in terms of whether it's going to work for an audience and be considered funny by everyone. ... That's where we give ourselves some wiggle room and try to have different versions. I learned this on Saturday Night Live, when there would be so many times during a read-through when you'd be reading a sketch and everyone at the table was just falling out laughing - and then you'd put it up and. ... crickets. And vice versa. We'd say, 'Oh yeah, that might work,' and barely chuckle, and audiences would think it was so funny. So I just kind of developed this really thick skin. I don't know how many times after a take I've said, 'I don't know, I hope it's funny.'

Are some people innately funny?

Yeah, yeah! I think people are. We've all had friends that made us laugh. There's just something about knowing instinctually what's funny or how to make people laugh. And some people are quietly funny and have never exercised it, then they learn later how to bring that out of themselves. I remember taking a stand-up comedy workshop, right after I graduated from college, a six-week course that ended with a performance. The teacher would book rooms for the people who did well at the end of the class - technically in nightclubs, but really in restaurants - and we'd all tape our acts and bring them back for analysis. And I never saw anyone who wasn't particularly funny getting any funnier.

You often use the same actors in your films. Are you building a Preston Sturges-style company around you?

Sure! If I can keep getting paid to do it! If you have actors that you're friends with who are funny, like, why not work with them all the time? And we do sometimes write parts for specific actors whose voices we hear when we're writing.

Your last two films, and now Semi-Pro, are often described as satires of sports movies - but I think they actually are sports movies, just funny ones.

They're really three different movies. Talladega is really more of a cultural movie, we're talking about that NASCAR culture. And Blades of Glory came along because no one had really looked at figure skating comedically, so that was commenting on everything from the sport to the attitudes of the people involved. And with Semi-Pro, we're not making fun of basketball as much as we're taking a look at the American Basketball Association [a now-defunct league] and the ABA era, which was so strange. Anything you read about the ABA, the stuff we do in the movie isn't nearly as outlandish. Way stranger stuff happened. But we do use the sports-movie arc; we either make fun of that arc or use it to our own advantage.

You appear to have no boundaries around how your body is presented in films.

Hee-hee! Yeah, not really. I'm not really an exhibitionist in my private life, but I did kind of make a quiet promise to myself that if I was gonna have any success in comedy I would never hold back - there wouldn't be a moment of me saying 'Oh, I don't do that.' That's kind of the whole purpose of comedy, to go to places that people wouldn't normally ever dream of going. And a part of that is the physicality of it.

More power to you. Why are the 1970s such a bottomless well for comedy?

It's an alien time. You can't believe that people dressed like that for real, and the attitudes were so bizarre. I just did an interview with Bob Costas, the sports announcer, who got his start in the old ABA, and he was commenting on the outfits, which are hilarious, and he said if you walked into a bar wearing the stuff I'm wearing in the movie, people would want to know where you got it and how much it cost. No one would have batted an eye. I guess we'll look back on the nineties. ... but maybe we won't. I mean, the eighties were kind of kooky, but not like the seventies.

A Will Ferrell movie is a kind of social contract with an audience: People know what they are getting, or at least think they do, before they buy a ticket. That must be both gratifying and a bit constricting.

Yes, you know ... I guess I am thematically attracted to the same kinds of things, in a way. And it's certainly gratifying that people understand that, but I'm also trying to keep an eye on that, change it up a little bit. I am conscious of that, [so] I'm very excited about a movie I have coming out in July, Step Brothers, because to the naked eye it will be another Will Ferrell movie, but it really isn't. It's a living-room comedy, a domestic comedy. But I've never really tried to cater to any one thing at one time. I've never consciously thought, 'Oh, I don't do that in a Will Ferrell movie.'

Anchorman ends with you in a duel with a bear, and you take on another bear in Semi-Pro. What's with you and bears?

I love any sort of big game. Yeah. Bears, cougars. My next goal is to get in a fight with some sort of large bird of prey. But in Land of the Lost, I fight dinosaurs -

Land of the Lost!

Ha! Yeah, we start filming Monday. Is that a good reaction you just had or a bad reaction?

*****

Particulars

Born: July 16, 1967, Irvine, Calif.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Unlike many comics, Ferrell claims a relatively sedate childhood; he remained close to both parents after their divorce, and while his father was a professional musician (a member of the Righteous Brothers), Ferrell was no child actor. At the University of Southern California, he joined a fraternity and studied to be a sportscaster.

ON STAGE

After college, Ferrell worked odd jobs and launched a performing career. (He met his future wife in an acting class.) Ferrell took comedy classes with the Los Angeles improv group the Groundlings, and soon joined the company.

LIVE FROM NEW YORK

Ferrell - followed by his friend and fellow Groundling Chris Kattan - moved on to Saturday Night Live in 1995; he became a star during his seven-year stint. (And with his George W. Bush impression, he coined the word "strategery.")

ON THE BIG SCREEN

Ferrell had a small role in the first Austin Powers movie, then starred with Kattan in the SNL sketch spinoff A Night at the Roxbury (1998), a notable bomb. But he found success with another SNL colleague, writer Adam McKay - the two co-wrote Anchorman and Talladega Nights.

Rachel McAdams - Where Her Heart Is

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(March 17, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Something I said really tickled actress Rachel McAdams - or what I said was so goofy she couldn't let me live it down. Regardless, we had a lot of laughs. It's not often you get to do that with one of Hollywood's hottest rising stars.

Noting that a number of current television and movie notables were born, like her, in London, Ont. - Crash director and Oscar winner Paul Haggis, David Shore, the creator of TV's smash House M.D., even her Notebook co-star and Oscar-nominated former boyfriend Ryan Gosling - I simply asked, what's in the water up there?

"What's in the water of London, Ontario?" McAdams repeated, laughing heartily in her black cocktail dress and strappy, thick-heeled shoes. "I don't know! It's like there are a lot of Australians in Hollywood and a lot of Brits. I don't know if there's just another quality from living somewhere else that you bring to the screen. I'm not really sure, and I don't feel that differently as a Canadian from an American.

"Or a London-vicinity Canadian, specifically," she added, starting to chuckle again. "That's funny, there's something in the water ..."

Actually, McAdams, grew up across the county line in St. Thomas, Ont., and what she does onscreen apparently knows no boundaries. She was mean and funny in, well, Mean Girls, and The Family Stone. Sweet and funny in Wedding Crashers. Romantic as all get out in The Notebook, and again in a very different way in her latest release, Married Life (which opens Friday) and presumably will be again in the upcoming The Time Traveler's Wife. She was scared out of her wits but persuasively resourceful in the thriller Red Eye, and will tackle political and social themes in two other forthcoming films, The Lucky Ones and State of Play.

Then there was all that Shakespearean stuff, onstage and off, in her recurring appearances in the successful Canadian TV series Slings and Arrows.

You can trace some of that aptitude back to London's Original Kids Theatre Company, which she attended after her early interest in figure skating waned. "The first half of my life, I was definitely more sports-driven," McAdams explained. "But if you haven't decided that you're going to train for the Olympics by the time you are nine years old, then it's a hobby. ... Then I discovered theatre, and that became something I wanted to pursue my whole life.

"In London, where the water is funny," she says, "I went to a children's theatre group - more for young adults, I guess - and started doing Shakespeare one summer. The following summer, I did Greek classics and just got a real education in theatre in a very non-confrontational, fun way. And I guess that's where I got bit. Then I decided I would pay a lot of money to be a trained actor, so I enrolled in York University's theatre program. And it paid off."

In the case of Married Life, that payoff would be more artistic than monetary. The low-budget movie set in 1949 is part infidelity melodrama, part murder mystery and occasionally a farce, but all of it feels grounded in realistically quirky human nature.

McAdams plays Kay, a blond beauty whom a middle-aged man, Harry (Chris Cooper), has fallen in love with. Their affair is more emotional than sexual, just the opposite of Harry's relationship with his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Meanwhile, Harry's caddish friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) makes moves on Kay when his pal's not around. Nothing about this romantic quadrangle turns out the way you might expect.

"It's very grown-up," McAdams enthusiastically notes. "I read the script and I thought, this is a very mature film. It's not easy, but it's well-crafted. The dichotomy of that, I thought, would be a great experiment. The characters were roughed-out enough that they're interesting, but there was a lot to explore still."

"Rachel is extremely ambitious with the emotional life of her characters," says Married Life director Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue). "There's also this emotional level that I think she has as an actress which is just beneath the surface. It's something that the audience wants more of, and on that level, she really understands the nature of what it is to be a movie star, which is to provide something but, also, to hold something back."

You feel a bit of that when talking to McAdams. She doesn't discuss her personal life (she and Gosling reportedly broke up last year), but she's happy to share her views on romance. Not surprisingly, she likes hers to have a little mystery.

"I think relationships are incredibly complex and unique and there are no right answers," McAdams said. "I don't think you can ever know your partner inside and out. And I wouldn't want to, personally. I think that keeps love exciting. When you wanted to be with an individual in the beginning, you appreciated them for the things that you didn't know about. So you want to keep some of that, right?"

No wonder McAdams was drawn to The Time Traveler's Wife, the adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's best-selling novel about a man, played by Eric Bana in the movie, who jumps back and forth to various periods in his life and the effect that has on his marriage.

"I love romance," she admits. "I love romance in general and I love romantic films. I always will. And I hadn't done one for quite some time, so [Time Traveler's] felt like the right thing to do.

"I'd like to dabble in every genre. But I rarely enjoy a film that doesn't have some kind of love story to it. It doesn't have to be the focus and it doesn't have to be sweeping or typical. But when love isn't involved, I'm not as interested."

Love comes up a lot (even more than water) in conversations with McAdams. Asked about her fairly swift success in Hollywood, she gushes: "It's nice to be able to work and do what you love. And travel ... I feel incredibly blessed that I get to continue to do this and I hope I can always do it."

She has to be prodded for any complaints about her growing celebrity. There was some media tongue-clicking two years ago when she pulled out of a semi-nude Vanity Fair cover shoot with Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley, but she just says of it now, "It was the right thing for me to do at the time. No regrets.

"There's no handbook, there's no right or wrong way to do it," she added about managing stardom. "So sometimes you feel like you're just stumbling along and hoping for the best. But that's part of the fun, too."

For the moment, McAdams is keeping more or less rooted in Ontario. "I obviously travel for work, but my primary residence is in Toronto," she says. "It's close to all the people I love, and Canada's just home for me. It's where my heart is; it just is. I don't know that I will never live anywhere else. I'd like to try lots of different places. But I think I will always come home to Canada."

She takes a perfectly timed comic pause, before adding, "It's the water."

Essential McAdams

Education

Central Elgin Collegiate

Institute in St. Thomas, Ont.;

Toronto's York University.

Key roles

Slings and Arrows (2003)

Mean Girls (2004)

The Notebook (2004)

Wedding Crashers (2005)

The Family Stone (2005)

What's ahead

The role of Clare Abshire in The Time Traveler's Wife, slated for release later this year. McAdams is also set to star as a reporter in the Kevin Macdonald film State of Play

Quote

"When Wedding Crashers came out, everyone was hyped up, calling Rachel the new It Girl. I felt anxious about that because it's so diminishing to her talent... But her selectiveness shows wisdom greater than her years about her place in the industry. ...She has the opportunity to be this huge, huge movie star, but in her heart she's a character actress."

-Tom Bezucha, director of The Family Stone, in an interview with Elle Magazine

'2001: Space Odyssey' Writer Arthur C. Clarke Dies

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(March 18, 2008) COLOMBO, Sri Lanka–Arthur C. Clarke, a visionary science fiction writer who
won worldwide acclaim with more than 100 books on space, science and the future, died Wednesday in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, an aide said. He was 90.

Clarke, who had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the 1960s and sometimes used a wheelchair, died at 1:30 a.m. after suffering breathing problems, aide Rohan De Silva said.

Clarke moved to Sri Lanka in 1956, lured by his interest in marine diving which he said was as close as he could get to the weightless feeling of space.

"I'm perfectly operational underwater," he once said.

Co-author with Stanley Kubrick of Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey – a movie based on Clarke's 1968 novel of the same name – Clarke was regarded as far more than a science fiction writer.

He was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.

He joined American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as commentator on the U.S. Apollo moonshots in the late 1960s.

41,000 Movies Seized In GTA Raid

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Brett Popplewell, Staff Reporter

(March 18, 2008) The infamous Canadian movie piracy industry has suffered a blow after raids in the Toronto area resulted in two arrests and shut down a counterfeiting DVD operation.

Working off a tip from local investigators with the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association, Toronto police raided six retail stores, a print shop and a home in the GTA last Thursday.

Police seized 81 DVD burners, 41,000 pirated movies and more than 3,500 blank recordable DVDs, and equipment used to bootleg, package and sell discs.

Two people have since been charged with fraud over $5,000, and possession of property obtained by crime.

"It's not just actresses and producers and directors out here in Hollywood who are losing money, it's everyone right down to the kid that sells popcorn in the local theatres losing out from this piracy," said Mike Robinson, the Los Angeles-based director of anti-piracy operations for North America.

Robinson says his organization, the Motion Picture Association of America, is investigating other DVD bootleggers in Canada and the GTA.

The MPAA and its Canadian counterpart represent the interests of Hollywood's major studios, which lose more than $6 billion (U.S.) due to piracy each year.

Canadian officials have been accused in the past of complacency in the prosecution of those profiting from the production and sale of counterfeited intellectual property.

Until last summer it was not illegal to record films being screened in Canadian cinemas, allowing for blatant bootlegging to occur inside movie theatres across the country.

That law has since been amended.

Still, Dean Leland, spokesperson for the Empire Theatres chain, says punishments for bootleggers need to be harsher to keep them from reoffending.

"At least now, these criminals know that the police are on to them, but there are several billion dollars of revenue available to them. The punishments involved would still seem to be minor," he said.

Robinson agrees and says he wishes the government would do more to shut down vendors who knowingly sell counterfeited goods.

"We have problems with vendors on Canal St. in New York City and in the Fashion District in Los Angeles," Robinson said.

"The difference there from in Toronto though is that in places like the Pacific Mall, the stuff is being sold in storefronts."

Last week's bust was the second of its kind in Canada in the past month. Police seized 200,000 CDs and DVDs in a similar raid on Winnipeg-based Audiomaxxx.com on March 5.

Arcand's 'Mistake'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(March 19, 2008) The world, wrote 18th-century author Horace Walpole, is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel. For Quebec's most celebrated filmmaker,
Denys Arcand, both perspectives seem equally true.

Drinking good wine, eating a lunch of Provençal salad and seafood while discussing his new film, Days of Darkness, Arcand was in jovial spirits. He laughed easily, talked about the fun of using out-and-out slapstick in a movie for the first time, the amusement of fantasy sequences. He cheerfully declared the middle section of the film – a medieval fantasy sequence – “a mistake.”

“I knew it as I wrote it. It's contrary to every law of dramatic structure, completely un-perfect. I knew better than this. I did it because I had to do it. I know you're not supposed to have the whole direction and tone of the film change in the fourth act although – not to make comparisons – in the fourth act, Hamlet goes to England and he disappears with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and suddenly he reappears in a graveyard.”

Ah, the graveyard. As personally upbeat as Arcand seems to be, he sees signs and portents of doom everywhere: global warming, epidemics, illiteracy and superstition.

 “Personally, I think we are going towards another Dark Age. After the first Dark and Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire, society crumbled for a period and there was a rise in faith and religious wars. I see this coming again in modern times.”

In fact, the movie was originally going to be called The Dark Ages but Arcand said that American distributors objected, perhaps because the title was either too literate or too negative. Logically, The Dark Ages would be the sensible follow-up to his last film, the Oscar-winning The Barbarian Invasions (2003). Along with the Oscar-nominated The Decline of the American Empire (1986), the three films form a loose trilogy.

If those previous films were dramas marked by mordant wit, Days of Darkness – which opens on Friday in Toronto and Vancouver – represents a shift to the broadly satiric. Arcand described it as “both funnier and more sombre. It's a film of extremes.”

It stars Quebec comedian Marc Labrèche as Jean-Marc, a Walter Mitty-like figure who lives a rich fantasy life, typically involving beautiful women (Diane Kruger, Emma de Caunes) pandering to his sexual desires and ego. In real life, he's cuckolded by his real-estate-agent wife and a works as a minor civil servant in the government complaints department, located in Montreal's crumbling Olympic Stadium. The time seems to be the near future, where plagues ravage the countryside and civil discord is rampant.

Initially, said Arcand, the movie came directly out of his experiences with the extraordinary success with The Barbarian Invasions. “I did 70 billion interviews all over the world, I took billions of planes, but I was always alone. And I wondered, ‘Who would like to be in my shoes?' There must be a man somewhere this would please, who would love to be performing at Cannes, facing you, talking to these microphones. Slowly, this image came to mind of this man, living in Laval, who nobody ever listens to, who fantasizes about making grand declarations the way I do….”

In its way, Days of Darkness is Arcand's grand declaration. He described The Decline of the American Empire as the collapse of relations between the sexes, and The Barbarian Invasions as one man who, facing his death, realizes he has nothing but his friendships. The current film is a look at “a whole society disintegrating.”

The fourth act “mistake,” which draws parallels between modern life and the medieval world, was inspired by a strange sight Arcand saw one Sunday when he was driving by Mont Royal in Montreal. He saw people dressed in medieval armour, “with wooden swords and maces, hitting each other in the face. I got so interested in this. In the U.S. they have these medieval fairs everywhere.”

Arcand visited such a medieval fair in Florida and was struck by how the participants found something fulfilling that was missing in their own modern lives. He met, for example, an engineer who designs aircraft engines who said dressing up and doing battle represented “the happiest times of his life.” He met a woman who said this was the only place she could meet a man “who would recite poetry to her. These events are very important to the people that attend them and provide a sort of refuge when normal life becomes unbearable.”

If there's a treatment for “the shackles of modern society,” Arcand doesn't claim to know what it is. The former history student thinks most of the grand historical theories, from communism to democracy, “have fallen apart.” The best we can hope for is some “personal peace of mind” through modest realism: “Stop dreaming. Stop looking at Entertainment Tonight and thinking that you're going to bed with Angelina Jolie tomorrow. You won't.”

FILM TIDBITS

Halle Berry Gives Birth

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 17, 2008) *Oscar winning actress
Halle Berry gave birth Sunday morning at Cedars Sinai hospital to a baby girl at approximately 10am!  The 7 lb 4 oz baby is the first child for he 41-year-old actress and her 32-year-old boyfriend Gabrielle Aubry. Although the couple said they have no plans to marry, Berry told Oprah in an earlier interview, the two of them are fully committed to each other. They met in November 2005. The actress told Oprah Winfrey on her show last year that playing a mother in her latest movie, "Things We Lost in the Fire," helped convince her that motherhood was for her. "I think it validated that I was meant to be a mother because every day I dealt with the character as a mother and thinking as a mother," Berry said. "It let me know that I must be a mother." In the February cover story for In Style magazine Berry gave a clue as to her future motherhood plans. "I may only do this one time, so I want this moment to be as big as it can be," she said. "I want the biggest bang I can possibly imagine." No word on what the couple will name their baby girl, but in the In Style interview she said the baby would take the father's last name.

 

::TV NEWS::

Michael Returns To `Lost' After Long Absence

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Derrik J. Lang, The Associated Press

(March 14, 2008) WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.–So Michael is on the boat, but what's he been up to all this time?

"I wish I could tell you," actor
Harold Perrineau said in an interview with The Associated Press.

It's the question that's nagged Lost viewers since the tormented single father castaway played by Perrineau sailed away with his son from the ABC drama at the end of the second season – and didn't return at any point during the third.

Although he's been listed as a cast member throughout the current fourth season, Perrineau didn't appear onscreen until Thursday, when Michael was introduced as a deck-swabbing crewman named Kevin Johnson on that mysterious freighter that's been drifting off the coast and apparently giving those aboard a deadly case of cabin fever.

Viewers will find out where Michael has been for the past season and a half – about half a month in island time – during the March 20 episode, which was filmed last year before the writer's strike forced ABC to shut down production.

The Michael-centric episode – or should we call him Kevin now? – will feature flashbacks detailing what happened after Perrineau's character shockingly gunned down fellow passengers Ana-Lucia and Libby in order to release seemingly evil Ben and retrieve his son Walt from captivity.

"I hope people see Michael's return and think, `Oh, this is gonna be good,'" Perrineau said over lunch. "I hope they think this ride is good. We busted our butts doing this one. It felt like we were making a movie because there's so much stuff that happens in this episode."

Getting the rest of the Michael-related Lost questions out of the way: Was Michael ever able to get back home to New York? Will his son also return to the show? And was he the man in the coffin during that jaw-dropping flash forward at the end of season three? According to Perrieanu, the answers are yes, maybe and he has no idea.

"Oh, I thought for sure it was Michael in the coffin," he said. "But I still don't know."

Perrineau, whose Lost return was triumphantly teased at Comic-Con 2007, says the show's writers have kept him just as clueless as the audience. He hasn't read any scripts for the six planned post-strike episodes.

However, that doesn't mean viewers should expect less Michael after next week. Perrineau was scheduled to report to set in Hawaii following his interview.

"I know I'll be there until the end of the season," he said. ``I have no idea if it goes beyond that or not."

The 44-year-old actor from New York tenses up when he talks about the third season. Perrineau was the only one of the 14 original Lost cast members to not appear in a third-season flashback, mind-bending vision or otherwise. He says he "wasn't so happy" about the creative decision to leave Michael and Walt off the island and focus on others.

"I was hurt, really hurt," said Perrineau. "I told myself I had to watch the show, so I at least knew what was going on in case I was brought back, but then I was like, `Why?' I never knew what was going on before. Why should I start trying to figure it out now?"

Instead of waiting by the phone to hear if his character would return to the series, Perrineau moved on to other projects, including a part in the film 28 Weeks Later and a role in the CBS pilot Demons. When Demons didn't get picked up, that made room in Perrineau's schedule to get Lost again.

"I started with Lost, so I really want to see Michael until the end," says Perrineau. "I don't know what that means. I guess I won't know what that means until the end. I just know I didn't want Michael and Walt to get on that boat and that be it. That didn't seem so cool."

Perrineau believes Lost masterminds Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof really do have a plan for Michael, and he thinks it might finally come together now that he's returned to fray. Of all the questions Perrineau has about his character, the one thing he's most interested to know is surprisingly simple.

"It seems like all the other characters on the island have dealt with redemption, in some form or another," said Perrineau. "But not Michael. He's only ever contended with being a father. The thing I want to know is: Why was Michael put on the island in the first place?"

Now that Perrineau's back, maybe he'll get his answer.

Monday Night Sitcoms Save CBS

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, TV Columnist

(March 16, 2008) And they said the traditional four-camera sitcom was dead.

Of course, they say that every 10 years or so. And eventually, the form comes back around, as everyone then claims they always knew it would . . . until another decade goes by, and another Joey or a Cavemen or a Jezebel James comes along to grind it all back into the dust and start the process all over again.

In between, there is invariably a kind of a "golden age" – rarely more than a couple of golden seasons – in which several shows, often on the same network, usually on the same night, converge. Back in the days of Cosby and Cheers, and then Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier, NBC called it "Must See TV."

And though NBC would appear to be back in the game with 30 Rock, My Name is Earl and The Office, these are all laff track-free "single camera" comedies – another animal entirely.

Back in 1973,
CBS had arguably the best prime-time sitcom line-up in television history with the Saturday-night juggernaut of All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart.

And while that same network's current Monday-night sitcom block is nowhere near that level of excellence, you can't argue with numbers, and the numbers for the CBS sitcoms are very good indeed.

The five-year veteran Two and a Half Men, the three-year-old How I Met Your Mother and the freshman effort Big Bang Theory all return (though not in that order) with fresh episodes tomorrow night.

The sophomore success, Julia Louis-Dreyfus's New Adventures of Old Christine, rejoined the schedule last month (tomorrow night's episode features a guest cameo by Canadian Dave Foley).

Here's a quick peek behind the scenes of the other three, culled from sessions at the seasonal critic's fall preview:

8 p.m. The Big Bang Theory: The boy geniuses of Big Bang – played by Rosanne vet Johnny Galecki and gawky newcomer Jim Parsons – can certainly walk the walk and talk the talk of the unnaturally intellectually gifted.

But does all that physics gobbledygook really make sense?

"Everything is authentic," assures series co-creator/producer Bill Prady. "We worked hard to get all the science right.

"We have a consultant who is a physicist and astrophysicist at UCLA, who came in and drew our boards for us (a reference to the formula-crammed white boards that dominate the guys' apartment).

"In fact, we're working on giving Sheldon (Parsons) an actual problem that he's going to be working on throughout the season, so there's actual progress to the boards."

Of course, unless you happen to be an actual physicist, how would you really know?

"Well," muses Prady, "we do know that the parody of the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation was in fact a parody of the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation . . . at least, it made our consultant laugh."

8:30 p.m. How I Met Your Mother: Every TV season there are, on average, about a dozen Canadian actors taking on major roles in American series – virtually all of them playing Americans.

Vancouver-born Cobie Smulders the notable exception. Robin Scherbatsky, her Mother character – who against expectations did not turn out to be the titular "mother" at all – shares at least that aspect of her personal history.

"Robin is Canadian because Cobie's Canadian," acknowledges co-creator/producer Carter Bays. "At first it was just, like, 'We'll throw in a joke about how she's Canadian.' And then we just couldn't stop ourselves."

"We approached Cobie," adds his partner Craig Thomas, "and we said, 'We're going to make Robin Canadian. We're going to do some comedy about that, but it's going to be really smart. It's going to be our smart way of, like, showing the absurdity of American culture.

"We didn't do that even one time."

"By the end of the season," chimes in co-star Neil Patrick Harris, "Cobie was like, `All right, dudes, enough with the Canada jokes . . .' "

"We just sold her out completely," acknowledges Thomas.

9 p.m. Two and a Half Men: Five years in, and not a single fight, firing or huffy walk-out – clearly there's still a lot of good will among Men.

But there is a problem, and it amazingly isn't the faux fraternity of opposite-end sitcom siblings Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer.

It's the kid, the half-a-man, Angus T. Jones. He's growing up. Reaching puberty. In short, no longer short. Soon they'll have to start calling the show Three Men.

But the writers see that as more of an opportunity than an obstacle.

"It is amazing to have a kid growing up on a show," allows co-star Holland Taylor. "I don't think that happens too often . . . on most shows, I think, kids just sort of stay the same. They don't really change. He's changed tremendously, and the writing has shown that."

::THEATRE NEWS::

Ambitious Season On Tarragon Bill

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

(March 18, 2008) While other Toronto theatres are tightening their belts and cutting back on their activities, Tarragon announced one of its most ambitious seasons in years yesterday, with seven new productions and remounts of three recent hits.

SCORCHED: Wajdi Mouawad's devastating script combined with Richard Rose's astute direction and the work of a superb cast to create one of Taragon's best shows of 2007. The remount plays Sept. 2-Sept. 28.

THE BLACK RIDER: This internationally acclaimed show from Edmonton's November Theatre brings to life the mad combined visions of Tom Waits, Robert Wilson and William S. Burroughs; playing Oct. 8-Nov. 16.

BASHIR LAZHAR: A Grade 6 substitute teacher helps his new charges deal with the death of his predecessor in this work by Quebec playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière (Oct. 28-Dec. 7).

MOLIÈRE: One of Mexico's most renowned playwrights, Sabina Berman, tackles the story of how Racine, author of tragedies, tried to discredit and destroy Molière, the man who made Paris laugh (Nov. 26-Dec. 28).

EAST OF BERLIN: This riveting show by Hannah Moscovitch was one of the highlights of Tarragon's last season, but it sold out rapidly. Now theatregoers have a second chance to experience it (Jan. 6-Feb. 1).

UBUNTU (THE CAPE TOWN PROJECT): Drama, music and dance unite in this unique presentation, created by a company from both Canada and South Africa (Jan. 21-March 1).

THE PATIENT HOUR: Kristen Thomson, the author of one of Tarragon's biggest hits, I, Claudia, returns with this story of a woman approaching death and the young son who stays by her side (Feb. 17-March 29).

ANOTHER HOME INVASION: The immensely talented Joan MacLeod offers the world premiere of her latest work: a one-woman show dealing with the desperate need for security in this uncertain world (March 12-April 19).

A BEAUTIFUL VIEW: This bittersweet gem by Daniel MacIvor played a limited engagement of less than two weeks in 2006 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Here is a new opportunity to sample its riches (April 28-May 24).

THE HOUSE OF MANY TONGUES: An Israeli general, a Palestinian author and their children share a house in Jerusalem in Jonathan Garfinkel's unique look at the problems of the Middle East (April 29-June 7).

THEATRE TIDBITS

Terrence Howard Signs A Record Deal?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 14, 2008) *Entertainment Weekly's Web site is reporting that Oscar nominated actor
Terrence Howard, currently starring in an all-black revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, has signed a record deal with Columbia Records to release an album.  “The full name [of his outfit] is 'Terrence Howard Presents Me and the Band of Kings,'” a label rep tells EW.com, adding that their as-yet-untitled debut CD “is slated for a fall release.”     Meanwhile, the "Hustle & Flow" star spoke briefly to the New York Daily News about his Broadway turn as Brick in the Debbie Allen-directed "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."      "It's my first play, so I'm nervous every night," Howard told the Rush & Malloy column. "[I get over it] because Jeremy Piven told me to just stomp your feet, yell your own name and take control of yourself before you go out there."

 

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canadian Champion Chan Is Just Getting Started

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rosie Dimanno, Sports Columnist

(March 16, 2008) When Patrick Chan looks in the mirror, he sees . . .

"Uh, maybe a pretty good-looking guy?"

And then the 17-year-old Canadian figure skating champion cracks up.

Let's just say a national title hasn't brought the Grade 12 student a flock of groupie chicks – "no, unfortunately" – although some male classmates at École secondaire Étienne-Brûlé in Toronto have jokingly offered to act as his "bodyguards" whilst promising not to aim at Chan's legs when playing other varsity sports.

The thing is, Chan is proud but not overly impressed with himself at having knocked Jeff Buttle off the top podium step because his eye is on a greater prize than Canadian laurels. He has a global vision, heading into his first world championships this week, and the core target of the Vancouver Olympics two years hence.

"Maybe the day I win the Olympics, I'll look at myself differently in the mirror. But right now it's just nationals and there's so much more ahead. Really, until I get that world medal or Olympic medal, not much has changed in my life or how I view myself.

"National titles are like the roots of a big tree that's growing. I'm still working my way up from the bottom."

There is something a bit freakish about Chan, who can be astonishingly poised and self-aware one moment, preternaturally mature, then goofy and teen-y the next, admitting that he's a spaz on the dance floor, can't shake it worth a lick despite the lyricism and artistry of his skating, and the ballet classes that contribute to that on-ice form.

But this child of ethnic Chinese parents – father a lawyer, mother a lab technician before settling in to full-time mommy-hood, having her only child at age 40 – has been an over-achiever since toddling onto skis at age 2, switching to figure skating at age 6, when his family moved to Toronto from the Ottawa area, instantly clambering up the competitive ranks.

It was mom, Karen, who urged figure skating, at first only to lay down a foundation for basic hockey skills, like moving backwards. And, to be honest, because she secretly hoped Patrick would become entranced with the sport and forget about hockey – didn't want her precious boy getting his nose broken.

A confluence of elements came together seamlessly, creating the alchemy of a future figure skating champion: The right body for it, athleticism, physical expression, mental fortitude and the rapid rewards that kept boredom at bay.

There was also a wise coach in the late Osborne Colson, who astutely nurtured his emerging gem. An odd pairing – Patrick the embryonic talent; Colson a wizened eccentric who died in the summer of 2006 at age 90.

Don Laws, an urbane gentleman and rink veteran best known for guiding American Scott Hamilton to four world titles and Olympic gold, has since taken over the coaching reins from his base in Florida. They make the long-distance tutorship work because Chan is still a full-time student here, recent exams preventing him from participating in the Four Continents event.

"He has wonderful upper body language, moves lyrically and has a constant flow," Laws observed last week, after putting Chan through his training paces at the Granite Club. "It's like speaking instead of making a statement. It's like a dialogue that goes on with the music. Patrick is never without a statement on the ice. Every move he makes is a statement."

But the essential form is there to start, gifts of genes and innate qualities. "He is incredibly balanced," continues Laws. "He's got a muscular balance to die for. He skates like a strong, strong athlete but performs like an athletic artist."

Asked how far can this young man go, Laws smiles: "To the moon."

Not via a quadruple jump, however, at least not yet. Although Chan landed a couple during a summer skating camp in Barrie with jump guru Doug Leigh, that was fluky. Four-rotation jumps – which separate the men from the boys in international competition – are not in his arsenal yet. He doesn't train them although vows to have mastered the element by Vancouver 2010.

The jumping emphasis has been on executing a polished and reliable triple Axel, which now has about a 50 per cent success rate when performed in front of judges. He's just added a second triple Axel to the long Vivaldi program, done in combination with a double toe, for worlds.

Whether that extra juice, assuming clean performances, will bring Chan up to the combined 240 score he's set for himself in Sweden – a new personal best, established as an objective in conjunction with Skate Canada – remains to be seen. But at least Chan will be seen, and will be afforded the cachet of a reigning domestic champion.

On the international Grand Prix circuit this past season, Chan – only a year removed from global silver at world juniors – turned heads, wowing judges by winning in Paris after placing a buzz-inducing third at Skate America. He's now in the enviable position of being an upstart challenger, with judges intrigued, while not yet shouldering the burden of great expectations. This is a transient stage and a wonderful opportunity to blossom, if his nerves hold.

"I don't see any barriers," says Laws. "He's patient and persistent. He's got the body type and the right mindset."

Critically, Chan is still the quasi-rookie among far more experienced competitors. There's a tremendous ease in that.

"I'm not being chased yet," Chan observes. "Evan (Lysacek) and Daisuke (Takahashi) are the ones looking behind them at who's catching up and worrying about it. So, I'm not shaking in my boots yet.

"Even though I won nationals, I haven't even been to a worlds so I'm still kind of an unknown skater. Slowly, I won't be the new kid on the block any more. Right now, I'm okay. But when next season starts, then I'm going to have to start looking behind me."

A top-five finish in these worlds would be the ideal result, he says, only reluctantly revealing his goal. And it's there to be had.

"Judges are pretty interested because I'm so young, I guess. They're interested to see what's new and what I'm going to come up with next. But they still don't really know who I am. I haven't been on the scene enough to be known or even to have judges who favour me. We're not there yet."

Chan is still, indeed, looking for a style, a quality that conveys his distinctiveness as a skater. The wholly revised scoring system makes it more difficult to be idiosyncratic, with such meticulously adjudged technical elements. Skaters are consumed with squeezing out every potential point in a manoeuvre, to reach high levels of reward, and that often detracts from the creative motif of a program.

His short program is more contemporary, the long classical, or "old style" – though with modern flourishes, such as angular arm placements. Judges as yet tend to favour classical compositions and fluidity. Although: "If you want to do classical, you have to do it just right or else the judges are going to kill you on the marks, because they've seen it all."

Chan shrugs, big deal. He likes both. "The key is to show the difference and the fact that you can do both, jump from one to the other, modern to artistic and back to modern."

There is a precocious quality to Chan, in the skating and the personality. It's as if he can see best the possibilities that lie directly ahead. So he comes willingly to the rink, six days a week and does not begrudge the commitment that sets him apart from other youths his age.

"I want to be different from others. What does a regular 17-year-old do on the weekend? Probably, like, party or go to the mall, something useless. In my opinion, that's time not well spent. I'd rather spend time doing something athletic and healthy that keeps me in shape, instead of just hanging out, whether it's tennis or golf or my skating.

"Skating, being competitive in any sport, teaches you how to work hard at something and how to manage your time properly."

There are times, though, he admits, when all that training becomes a grind. "It's just so difficult, mentally and physically. You drain yourself every year and then you have to start over, work back up to where you were before you took the break. At some point, you hit the wall."

That's happened on a few occasions, but never to the extent that Chan has doubted his choices. "Becoming champion and having such a great season so far definitely revives you and pushes you to continue on. That showed me why I should be in this sport.

"There are days when I come to the rink where I really don't feel like skating at all. But I push myself because that's what makes the difference between being a champion and being a regular person.

"Being on that podium is quite the feeling. You want to work hard to get back up there."

Rosie DiManno will be in Goteborg, Sweden, to cover the world figure skating championships.

Raptors Suit Against Spanish Federation Could Top $14 Million

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(March 17, 2008) The Toronto Raptors are suing the Spanish basketball federation for what could amount to more than $14 million (Canadian) the team says it is owed on an insurance claim involving injured forward Jorge Garbajosa.

The Raptors' parent company, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., filed a statement of claim against the Federacion Espanola de Baloncesto in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last Friday.

In the 19-page document, MLSE seeks 6 million Euros ($9,440,000 Canadian) in damages for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and negligence if Garbajosa has suffered permanent disability or 1.5 million Euros ($2,517,000 Canadian) for temporary disability.

Garbajosa, who earned $3,416,667 (U.S.) last season, is to earn $3,666,667 for the current NBA season and $3,916,666 for 2008-09.

"He was a hard-working player and a solid defender and his absence from the starting line-up is a significant loss to the team," the Raptors stated in their claim.

MLSE is also asking for $5 million (Canadian) in punitive damages.

Garbajosa injured his left leg last March that caused him to miss the final 12 games of the season as well as the playoffs. The Raptors wanted him to concentrate on rehabilitation rather than playing for Spain in last summer's European championships.

But when the Spanish Federation persisted in its request that the Raptors allow him to play, the team agreed only after the Spaniards took out a $1 million (U.S.) insurance policy against further injury to Garbajosa's leg, the claim states.

The suit states that the Federation advised the Raptors it had obtained permanent disability coverage in the amount of 6 million Euros and 1.6 million Euros for temporary disability. While the policy was written in Spanish, the Federation agreed to provide an accurate and certified translation, according to the Raptors' allegations that have yet to be proven in a court of law.

While Garbajosa did not seem to re-injure his leg in the tournament, it was apparent he was having difficulty with it as the current NBA season began in November. In December, tests showed the fracture had not completely healed and he was also suffering from avascular necrosis of the left tibia, a potentially career-ending injury, according to doctors.

He underwent further surgery and has not returned to the Raptors' line-up, although he has started to work out with the team in practice.

The Raptors made a claim under the terms of the insurance policy, but it was denied by the insurance company.

In their suit, the Raptors say the translation of the Spanish insurance policy was inaccurate and incomplete and are now without coverage for the disability of Garbajosa.

"The Federation knew or ought to have known that it was of crucial importance that the translation be complete and accurate and that the Raptors would rely on the Federation's representation with respect to the certification exclusively," according to the claim.

"The Raptors have suffered significant damages as a result of the Federation's actions," the document goes on to state. The team is contractually bound to pay Garbajosa's salary, even if he never plays again, which is a distinct possibility.

"The defendant's action ... amounted to wanton and intentional disregard for the interests of the Raptors for its own benefit."

Raptors' general manager Bryan Colangelo is on a European scouting trip and he was expected to meet with Spanish Federation officials to discuss the lawsuit.

::OTHER NEWS::

Super Smash Bros. Brawl One Of Best Games Of The Year

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bret Dawson, Special To The Star

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Platform: Wii
Rating: Teen
Price: $49.99 

(March 15, 2008) Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a game about a superpowered space bounty hunter who gets into a fist fight with a small, pink marshmallow.

Also, it is about a tough, angry anti-terrorist mercenary who gets into a fist fight with a crinolined, beparasoled princess.

Further to that, it is about Mario beating the stuffing out of Sonic the Hedgehog.

It is faintly ridiculous, and then it is overwhelmingly ridiculous, and then it is stoopid with two Os.

It is also one of the best games of the year.

Brawl is the third game in the Super Smash Bros. series (the previous two were big hits on Nintendo 64 and GameCube).

The idea here, as in the previous editions, is that all of Nintendo's characters are angry with each other and are eager for fisticuffs.

Captain Olimar is wild-eyed and raging, as is Pikachu, as are Mario and Samus Aran.

If you know these names, you understand already. If you don't, here is a quick primer: Nintendo makes lots of video games.

Many of them are sweet and cheerful and rendered in primary colours. Some are a little dark or bleak, but those are exceptions. Most of the company's catalogue tilts toward the happy-fun, happy-sugar end of the continuum, and most of the rest toward happy-corn syrup, happy-glucose. The very idea of a fighting game staffed by Nintendo characters is jarring.

It is bizarre to imagine what Princess Peach could possibly have against Princess Zelda, and more bizarre to think about Wario nursing a hate-on for a preteen Pokémon trainer.

Link from the Zelda series makes sense as an angry combatant, but he's an exception.

In general, the matches are the purest, weirdest sort of nonsense. After a little while the nonsense turns into high comedy and then, quickly and satisfyingly, the comedy gives way to highly tuned, polished play.

For all its deliberate silliness, Brawl is a deep, and deeply traditional, fighting game. All the fights are 2D, in that all of the action is confined to a single plane. The fighters can move forward and back, and they can jump up and fall down, but there is no stepping to the side or circling. To attack successfully is to get close to the other fighter, and to land a fist or a foot (or something else improbable or hilarious), then back off or jump out of the way before the payback blow catches you in the jaw.

Learning the process is quick and easy, in a way that is unusual for a fighting game.

There are only a couple of buttons to push, and just a single stick or D-pad for moving and aiming. This means total newcomers can jump in and begin pummelling straight away.

It is possible, and even likely, that on your first play you will lay a horrific beat down on somebody who has spent weeks practising.

You will feel good about that for a moment. Realistically, though, the veteran will then say bad words at you, then challenge you to a rematch, then demolish you. Button mashing occasionally works in Brawl. The qualifier is that it only works sometimes and never in the aggregate. Practice is the key to success in the long run. The beauty and charm of the game is that while it rewards effort, it is not only for the initiated. It is fun on the first play.

Extras abound. The basic multiplayer game is perfect for two, three or four people on a couch. It is the sort of thing that would get you and your friends through a long, snowy housebound winter.

The solo mode offers a long, satisfying adventure about "subspace," which makes very little sense but which does, to its credit, last for hours. The unlockable characters include the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog, plus, most notably, the scowly guy from Metal Gear Solid. He is tough and angry. Watch him fight Kirby, the pink marshmallow. It is one of the highlights of the year.
 

Sepia City

Excerpt from www.nationalpost.com - Shinan Govani

(March 15, 2008) Having wielded my own dangerous brown power for at least half a decade now -- my own surreptitiously cocoa-hued whoop-di-do of influence--it came to me in a vision not long ago that much of the whole town had turned a nice, lovely chestnut. - Actually, to be entirely frank, it came in a vision to one of my editors, who having noticed the cacophony of khaki rising out of the scene, announced to me one day, "Brown is the new white." - A loaded declaration? Sure. Which is precisely why we went for it. And thus, here in the pages that follow, we seek to present, in the most empirically unscientific way possible, a catalogue of human mahogany. - From boardrooms to anchor desks, from do-good galas to Raptors bleachers, there seems to be a certain brown buzz at play --and by brown, we mean, Indo-Canadian, but also beyond. We're pretty inclusive that way. - We're a place that has long run on a motor of multi-culti, of course, but even the man stuck in 1982 could see what we mean by the scene that rolled the other night. That's when lustrous MP Ruby Dhalla was seen socializing with It restaurateur Hanif Harji at Harji's new, hot, hot place on Queen, Nyood. As brown parliamentary power rubbed elbows with brown downtown-hip power, the cinnamon-ness of it was all too crisp. It's the brown leading the brown:

THE COOL KIDS: ALIA & JAMIL JUMA

Designers, Juma

This dreamy brother-sister team are ready-to-wearing both men's and women's clothing and have a definite downtown following. Jamil, who has an engineering degree from McGill, once said, "I found engineering too technical--I’m a creative person at heart."

THE POET: DAVID DAVIDAR

President and publisher, Penguin Canada; Author, The House of Blue Mangoes, The Solitude of Emperors

On why he left the magazine business to take up book publishing: "I was bored with my job. That's been a driving force in my life: boredom with my present situation."

THE JOKER: RUSSELL PETERS

Comedian

"I was watching the gay pride parade with my father and these three gay Indians came on the screen--I don't mean ... Well, they were like, 'We represent the gay South Asian community!' And my dad looks at me and goes, 'That is disgusting! Do you know them?' "

THE SUPER FAN: NAV BHATIA

President, Hyundai of Mississauga

The guy in the turban who's better known as the biggest Raptors booster in town. As he once put it: "My wife tells me, 'If you weren't a basketball junkie, we'd have our home paid off.' "

THE WIZARD: NADIR MOHAMED

President and Chief Operating Officer, Communications Group, Rogers Communications Inc.

As president and COO of Rogers' wireless division, Nadir is responsible for a group that represents approximately $8-billion in revenue and has a $2.5-billion operating income. How good a job does this squash-playing, jazz nut really do? Rumours abound that when Mr. Rogers himself finally disconnects from his empire, Nadir will run the whole show.

THE MAGNATE: BOB DHILLON

Founder, Mainstreet Equity Corp.

According to Peter C. Newman, the richest Sikh in Canada is "a master scuba diver, expert spear fisherman and professional-level salsa dancer." Plus, he runs and controls a $308-million publicly traded real estate company! And, oh yeah, he owns an island in Belize, and is definitely not a "suit."

THE ROCK GUY: JIAN GHOMESHI

Host, Q, national CBC Radio arts program

"I am an anti-war Canadian musician of Iranian background with a big mouth, bracing myself to match my stature with my convictions," explains the National Post's newest columnist.

THE ICE KING: EMANUEL SANDHU

Two-time Olympian, three-time Canadian national figure skating champion.

Alanis Morissette, Alicia Keys, The All American Rejects, Aqualung, Ashlee Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Basement Jaxx, Bic Runga, Black Eyed Peas, Billy Talent, Bob Sinclair, Boy George/CultureClub -- just some of the groups listed on his MySpace page.

THE NIGHT OWLS: CHARLES KHABOUTH

Club king

Already behind such nightlife mega-brands as Ultra Supper Club and Dragonfly, his newly opened Tattoo Rock Parlour has brought AC/DC T-shirts to Queen Street West, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. After opening the Spice Route, his next move is a boutique hotel. He's long been Toronto's club king, but does he have the chops to compete with the States? "Compete?" asks Jerry Sprackman, head honcho of the Sound Academy. "I think he could kick the sh--out of them."

TOUFIK SARWA

Owner, Amber

One of the can't-live-withouts of the young society/fun fashionista galaxy. Fun fact: Recently had his iPhone kidnapped in Havana. "They're asking for $300," he recently said. "And $100 for 'The Driver.' " New reports reveal the phone has, indeed, been returned home.

THE TYCOON: HUSSAIN AMARSHI

President, Mongrel Media

They call him the "modest mogul," but his flick vision is triumphant. As Atom Egoyan puts it, "But for Hussain, a lot of these films would never have found a Canadian market. He's great at getting everyone fired up about a film."

THE TRIPLET-TOTING NEWSCASTER: ANNE-MARIE MEDIWAKE

Co-anchor, Global Television

This Sri Lanka native really loves journos. Her husband is Global reporter Darryl Konynenbelt.

THE OTTAWA POWER: RUBY DHALLA

MP, Brampton-Springdale

The country's youngest member of parliament -- with the best hair, to boot -- she's a chiropractor turned Question Period attendee who also once dabbled in Bollywood movies. She says, "I look at all the advances we're making in the arts, politics and culture and think, 'We're just getting started!' It's the people we're influencing who are going to do the really great things."

THE FLAMBOYANT: SALAH BACHIR

President, CineplexMedia

Where joie de vivre meets society-rich. This pearls-donning owner of 50 Warhols is a renowned art collector and an even more renowned philanthropist. Has raised "eye-popping" figures to help build the 519 Church St. Community Centre.

THE AXE MEN: IAN D'SA

Guitarist, Billy Talent

A producer, director and activist, D'Sa has been involved with Song for Africa, which connects teens across Canada to the AIDS pandemic.

DAVE NIZAAM BAKSH

Guitarist, vocalist, The Brown

Brigade. Ex-guitarist, Sum 41

Nickname: Brownsound Fun fact:Quit Sum 41 to make music closer to his heart. How strong were those vibes? Sum 41 has sold more than 10 million records.

THE POWERHOUSE: NOBLE C. CHUMMAR

Law Partner

A young, in-the-scene guy who has the ears of a lot of the right people, Noble --great name, ain't it? -- was Dalton McGuinty's tour leader during the most recent Ontario campaign. Recently, he was just made partner in the business-law and government-relations group of Cassels Brock Lawyers.

THE HAUTE RESTAURATEUR: HEMANT BHAGWANI

Co-owner, Amaya the Indian Room

"The sitars were perfectly aligned for Amaya's opening on the Bayview gourmet strip," is the way James Chatto put it. He just included this new-epoch, buzz-getting Indian restaurant on his all-important list of Toronto's Top 10 Best New Restaurants for 2008.

THE PLAYER: HANIF HARJI

Co-founder, Colborne Lane, Blowfish. Currently, co-owner, Kultura and the red-hot Nyood

"We add spice to Toronto."

THE HEARTTHROBS: ZAIB SHAIKH & SITARA HEWITT

Stars, Little Mosque on the Prairie While jPod and The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives were recently dropped by the CBC, this comedy soap opera -- created by brown power broker Zarqa Nawaz -- was just picked up for an anxiously awaited Season 2. Fun fact: The season premiere attracted 2.1 million viewers.

THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER DOUBLE TEAM: DEEPA MEHTA & DEVYANI SALTZMAN

Mom: Filmmaker, Fire (1996), Earth (1998), Water (2005) and more Daughter: Photographer, author, Shooting Water. See her cover photograph of women in Mumbai at roommagazine.com

Deepa Mehta on success: "It is like my father used to say: The two things you could never predict were the day of your death and the success of a movie."

THE OTHERS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

Rohinton Mistry, The Bard of Brampton

Arriz Hassam, The Designing Hot-Shot

Maryam Sanati, The Chatelaine

Raj Girn, The Glossy

Hussein Madhavji, The Star Watcher

Irshad Manji, The Polemicist

M.G. Vassanji, The Tale Teller

Zark Fatah, The Man-About-Town

Steve Gupta, The Hotelier

Suresh Bhalla, The Philanthropist

Celebs Show They've Got Heart

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press

(March 19, 2008) TORONTO — They were no ordinary ladies in red that stepped out onto
L'Oreal Fashion Week's hardwood runway on Tuesday evening.

The worlds of film, television, media, music and sports converged on the unlikely platform of a fashion catwalk as notable Canadian women slipped out of their comfort zones and into customized designer creations to promote heart health awareness.

Fashion Television's Jeanne Beker, “Canadian Idol” winner Eva Avila, five-time Olympian Charmaine Crooks and CTV News anchor Sandie Rinaldo were among the 20 celebrity models who walked the runway in red dresses crafted by notable design talents from across the country.

The Heart Truth fashion show is the marquee event of the Heart and Stroke foundation's recently launched campaign aimed at bolstering awareness of heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death for women in Canada.

The red dress is also the symbol on the Heart Truth lapel pin sold by the foundation at The Bay and online to raise money for the campaign.

“It is a colour of power, it is a colour of passion, and we want women to feel both passionate and powerful about their heart health,” said Bobbe Wood, president and CEO of Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and Yukon.

The event takes a page out of New York Fashion Week's playbook, which features a similar event as part of the Red Dress project spearheaded by U.S. First Lady Laura Bush.

In the past, the U.S. show has featured the likes of supermodel Heidi Klum, talk show host Kelly Ripa and “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee in designer crimson-coloured dresses.

Beker kicked things off in a dazzling fire-engine red strapless number by Joeffer Coc, followed by ”Entertainment Tonight Canada” host Cheryl Hickey in a lush Pat McDonagh creation featuring a sparkly heart cut-out on the back and a sweeping train.

“Corner Gas” star Nancy Robertson hammed it up in her Paul Hardy dress, carrying her shoes as she cavorted down the runway.

The high-fives exchanged between some models and audience members embodied the party atmosphere that washed over the capacity crowd who applauded as the celebrities-turned-catwalkers strutted their stuff in dresses boasting all different shades and materials incorporating the fiery hue.

Closing out the show was actress-writer Catherine O'Hara in a sweeping Thien Le gown, who recovered with aplomb after taking an unfortunate fall at the end of the runway.

Actress, writer, director and comedian Mary Walsh has a deeply personal connection to the cause. Her father died of a stroke, her mother of a heart attack, ailments that have claimed the lives of other family members, something she attributes to a combination of “salt meat, hard liquor and red rage.”

“It's the leading cause of women's death in North America and it isn't recognized as that, and I don't think we're as aware that heart (disease) and stroke is so profoundly threatening, and we tend to disparage the signs and things,” she said backstage following the show. “We have to be made more aware and so that's what the Heart and Stroke foundation is trying to do.”

Crooks and Heather Hiscox, anchor of “CBC News: Morning,” stood alongside one another backstage in their dramatic and seemingly complementary ruffled creations individually crafted by New York-based Canadian designers Romona Keveza and Jay Godfrey, respectively.

Both women are used to being under the camera's glare but admit it's a very different feel walking the runway.

“People think, ‘Oh, you do something on television every day and you're in front of the public eye,”' Hiscox said. “We sit in a little studio with three or four people that we know really well and robo cameras, so the fact of the matter is, those first few steps in front of that audience on a slippery floor in very high heels...”

“Oh, I know, it's very nerve-racking,” Crooks added, laughing.

And any advice in advance of their runway debut?

“My mom did tell me to throw my shoulders back,” Hiscox said.

AGO Hires New Director

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(March 19, 2008) The
Art Gallery of Ontario, slouching toward its reopening next fall, has hired a new director of exhibitions and publications. Catherine de Zegher, former executive director of the Drawing Center in New York, has already taken up her new post.

De Zegher, who was co-founder of the Kanaal Art Foundation in Belgium before finding work in the U.S., is known for emphasizing ideas and emerging artists.

She replaces Bruce Ferguson, who divided his time between Toronto and New York over the past few years.

De Zegher, who did some work previously for the AGO on installation of the new European galleries, faces huge challenges, which she discussed in a phone interview the other day.

"I'm a bit of a globe trotter, but a relative newcomer to this city," she says. "I have a lot to learn about Toronto, but that can be an advantage; it can be helpful to get the view of an outsider."

She is, of course, aware that Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and says the AGO needs to address that diversity through its exhibitions. "We want to present things so they have a special meaning for this community."

Frank Gehry's reinvention and expansion of the gallery means the AGO will have much more space for exhibitions. But according to de Zegher, the new riches in the collection will also provide a chance to focus on the gallery's own works. She also wants to take advantage of the ability of AGO curators to do scholarly research.

Her first big project is likely to be a show in 2009 about surrealist art, which originates in the United Kingdom but will be supplemented in Toronto by works from the AGO's own collection.