March 6, 2008
March - a new beginning and the month that hosts Easter this
year! Here I am in the lovely St. Maarten again to cover the 2008 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and you will see my write up in next
week's newsletter. What a beautiful place to be and escape cold Toronto!
I've got another special CD giveaway from my friends at Universal Music Canada - Janet Jackson's latest offering. If you can tell me who the hit-making producer is that Janet worked with. Look under SCOOP below. Enter HERE and don't forget your full name and mailing address or you don't qualify!
So much news this week yet again so scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Janet Jackson To Release “Feedback”
Source: Universal Music Canada
(December 13, 2007 – New York, NY) International megastar Janet Jackson, who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide and is the newest signing to the Island Def Jam Music Group, has completed her first new single for the label with hit-making producer Rodney Jerkins.
DISCIPLINE, Janet Jackson’s new album – and the 10th studio album of her career – is scheduled to arrive in stores on February 26th. In addition to Rodney Jerkins, the new album brings together an A-list of guest producers, including Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo, Stargate, Tricky Stewart, and The-Dream. DISCIPLINE was executive produced by Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group.
In a class all by herself, 5-time Grammy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated Janet Jackson is currently starring in Why Did I Get Married?, the smash hit movie by Tyler Perry, which opened #1 at the box office in the US. This is the third motion picture of Janet’s career, and her third to open at #1, following the success of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), and her leading title role in John Singleton’s Poetic Justice (1993).
Jeff Healey, 41: Canadian Musician
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(March 03, 2008) Legendary Toronto blues guitarist and old-style jazz aficionado Jeff Healey died yesterday in Toronto's St. Joseph's Hospital after a lifelong battle with a rare form of cancer – retinoblastoma – that blinded him in his first year. He was 41.
"Discovered" in a Toronto club in 1982 by Texas blues guitarist, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, Healey astonished music fans with his outrageous technique. Self-taught by age 4, he laid the electric guitar across his lap and played it in much the same way as a pianist manipulates a keyboard.
Though he specialized in blues-based rock and sold more than a million copies of his Grammy-nominated 1988 debut album See the Light – released after a cameo performance in the Hollywood movie Road House with Patrick Swayze – Healey's real passion was vintage American jazz.
Healey hosted a long-running CBC Radio series, My Kinda Jazz, before moving the program to Toronto's Jazz-FM station, relying solely on his personal collection of 35,000 rare and obscure 78 rpm recordings and an encyclopedic knowledge of the music and personalities he featured in the show.
Healey also played trumpet and clarinet, and in the past decade recorded three albums of vintage jazz with Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards, including It's Tight Like That.
Healey was an internationally known star who shared stages with B.B. King and Vaughan, and recorded with George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and blues legend Jimmy Rogers.
At the time of his death Healey was planning to release his first rock/blues album in eight years, Mess of Blues, recorded in studios in Toronto, in concert in London, England, and at the popular Entertainment District club that bore his name, Jeff Healey's Roadhouse. It goes on sale in Europe March 20, and in Canada and the U.S. April 22.
"Jeff was an amazing colleague and as a musician and a personality, in a league of his own," the Jazz Wizards' drummer Gary Scriven said last night. "It was always game on for him. His generosity and sense of humour lasted till the end. He was brave without ever being dramatic. In a word, Jeff was inspirational."
In 2007 Healey underwent surgery to remove cancerous tissue from his legs and both lungs. Radiation and chemotherapy failed to halt the spread of the disease, as did alternative homeopathic treatment in the U.S. this year.
Despite his illness, Healey continued to perform across Canada with both his blues band and jazz ensemble, and had scheduled a tour of Germany and the U.K., including an appearance on BBC's Jools Holland Show, in April, his publicist said.
"I'm so sad to hear this news," award-winning Canadian guitarist and music producer Colin Linden said on the phone from New York. "There was a quality of genius in the way Jeff harnessed that distinctive technique. He was such a natural musician."
Veteran Toronto guitarist Danny Marks, who fronts the Jeff Healey Band at the Roadhouse on Tuesday nights, said "Jeff was a tremendous musician and always so kind. He always knew the odds were against him, but it never ruined his sense of humour. I used to love to watch him having fun – he'd throw his head back and laugh like a little child."
Healey leaves his wife, Christie, daughter Rachel, 13, and son Derek, 3, as well as his father and stepmother, Bud and Rose Healey, and sisters Laura and Linda.
Canada’s R&B Queen
Source: www.glow.ca - By Lija Kresowaty
Jully Black’s sophomore album, Revival hit stores in October 2007, and its first single, “Seven Day Fool” broke into the Canadian Top 10 two weeks later. This diva-in-training is as famous for her height (a proud 5’11”), sequined mini-dresses and Tina Turner legs as she is for her powerful alto – you can’t take your eyes off her.
In honour of our “songs” issue, glow sat down with one of Canada’s most stylish songstresses, to chat about her musical hero, favourite tunes and why she loves her job.
Q. When was the first time you sang in public?
A. At a church concert when I was six years old. They thought it was going to be cute, and then this big voice came out of me. Even I was surprised.
Q. Who’s your musical hero?
A. My high school music teacher, Mr. Greaves. He pushed me to learn about fancy foreign terms and classical history. He also taught people from Metric and Broken Social Scene, which shows how small the Toronto music scene is.
Q. “Seven Day Fool” is an Etta James cover. Are there any other songs you’d like to cover?
A. I’d love to do Tina’s “Proud Mary” – Definitely something fun to throw back to.
Q. What are your best power songs?
A. Kanye West’s “Stronger” is my workout tune, and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since you Been Gone” gets me into girl power mode.
Q. Any songs that remind you of important people?
A. I wrote “Catch Me When I Fall” for my sister Sharon, who passed away when I was 12.
Q. What’s the best thing about being a singer?
A. Getting to be a mouthpiece for other people, not just for myself. My songs are always personal, but I also realize how universal they are.
'Murder Music' Sparks Caribbean Tourism
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(March 03, 2008) Canadians should consider a tourism boycott to pressure Caribbean governments to protect the human rights of their gay citizenry, said participants in a University of Toronto forum Friday evening.
About 200 people attended the two-hour discussion, The Sound of Hate: Where Sexual Orientation, Race, Dancehall Music and Human Rights Collide.
The debate focused on a popular segment of reggae that gay rights activists have dubbed "murder music," because it contains threatening sentiments toward homosexuals and pejorative patois terms for them.
They also allege that the songs have motivated brutal attacks on Jamaican gays by mobs who often recite the hateful lyrics of songs such as "Boom Bye Bye" (Buju Banton) and "Log On" (Elephant Man).
"The sound of hate is also the rhythm of pain, because people are being kicked and chopped by people singing these songs; there is no way for me as a Jamaican to appreciate reggae right now," said panellist Gareth Henry.
Henry, 30, former co-chair of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, the island's leading gay rights organization, fled to Toronto last month seeking asylum as a survivor of homophobic violence.
Citing Jamaican authorities for a reluctance to investigate and prosecute incidents of gay bashing in a country where sodomy is a criminal offence, abortion is illegal and a condoms-in-schools proposal was recently shot down, Henry blamed the attacks on "state-sanctioned homophobia," supported by reggae artists and the church.
Although Jamaica is the primary exporter of that controversial style of reggae, other speakers urged a wider boycott on the basis that anti-gay attitudes are pervasive throughout the region.
A tourism blackout would "affect my family back home," said Henry, "but what is our long-term vision? How many people must die before we realize we are all one?"
Besides a tourism blackout, other suggested strategies included dialogue with Jamaican churches, pressing the federal government not to give certain artists entrance visas and exhorting concert promoters not to book them.
It's not enough that performers sign agreements with the Canadian High Commission, as musician Sizzla did in 2004, not to incite hatred on Canadian soil, said Henry.
Akim Larcher, founder of Stop Murder Music (Canada), said his group, which has successfully petitioned Toronto venues to cancel appearances by controversial stars, is now lobbying HMV and iTunes not to distribute their music.
U of T sociology professor Rinaldo Wallcott expressed disappointment at the "self-destructive" element that has invaded reggae since the revolutionary '70s and '80s reign of reggae singers such as Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and Jacob Miller.
"This music, which is also quite misogynistic, has become a way of defining Caribbean nationalism," he said "Would we accept someone singing 'Kill all blacks?' "
Rita Marley Wants Lauryn Hill For Biopic
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 5, 2008) *Rita Marley is teaming with the Weinstein Co. for the first-ever biopic of her late husband Bob Marley, and she's already pitching Lauryn Hill to portray her onscreen.
"Lauryn would be ideal. She sees my life as her life." Marley told Reuters of the troubled singer, who is married to Rohan Marley (Bob Marley's son with Janet Hunt).
Rita Marley is executive producing the as-yet-untitled adaptation of her 2004 autobiography "No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley," a chronicle of the musician's childhood and their tumultuous 15-year marriage through his death from cancer in 1981.
Producer Rudy Langlais ("The Hurricane") says the film will be an "epic romance," including the Marleys' life and the assassination attempt on the couple. "It's miraculous that Rita is still here after being shot in the head," he says.
Rita says her grandson Stefan is "the spitting image" of the singer and would be perfect for the starring role. However, no casting decisions will be made until later this year, says Langlais.
The Weinstein Co. will produce and distribute the work from a screenplay written by Lizzie Borden ("Working Girls"), who is currently in Jamaica completing the script.
Filming is tentatively scheduled to begin early next year with a projected release date of late 2009 – possibly before Martin Scorsese's authorized feature documentary on the performer, set for release on what would be Marley's 65th birthday, Feb. 6, 2010.
Michel Gendron from Vega Musique
Source: UMC Communications
(March 04, 2008) (MONTREAL, PQ) - It is with great sadness that we learn of the sudden passing of Michel Gendron, President and founder of Vega Musique of a heart attack on Saturday, March 01. Michel was a pillar of the Quebec music community for more than 20 years and helped guide the musical careers of Sylvain Cossette, Andrée Watters, Marie-Ève Janvier, Elsiane and El Motor.
In 1988, with his brother Pierre, Michel created Tox Records that housed such artists as Mitsou and the BB’s. For twenty years he and his brother watched over Tox Records which cumulated in successes with DJ Ram, Dubmatique, Marie-Chantal Toupin and Mentake. In 2006, Gendron handed over the label to his brother Pierre and with new partners, Universal Music Canada and acclaimed producer Bob Ezrin, Michel created Vega Musique.
"Michel Gendron was a guiding light and wonderful spirit and his sudden passing has left all of us at Universal Music Canada deeply saddened," commented Randy Lennox, President & CEO, Universal Music Canada. "Michel was a great partner, colleague and friend whose legacy will live on through Vega Musique. Our thoughts are with Michel's family."
"Michel was reshaping the Canadian music business with Vega Musique in Montréal. He was our partner and my dear friend," commented Bob Ezrin. "I cannot express how much I will miss him. We vow to keep his vision and Vega alive."
Through the years, Michel Gendron has sat as Vice-president of l’ADISQ and President of SOPROQ. Michel leaves behind his son Samuel, his parents Gordon Gendron and Denise Cayer, his brothers Pierre and Daniel, his life partner, host Geneviève Borne and many friends.
Punk Girl All Grown Up
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman
(February 28, 2008) VANCOUVER — If it wasn't such a cliché, one might call the Avril Lavigne riddle, well, complicated.
Her music, her videos, her fashion choices and her persona continue to speak to a young audience. And for her world tour, kicking off next week in British Columbia, she is promising a high-energy show with lots of “fast, fun songs” – songs like Sk8er Boi, which she wrote and recorded when she was in high school. Yet Lavigne today is very post-high school: She is 23, married (to fellow Canadian Sum 41 front man Deryck Whibley), a homeowner and extremely wealthy. She likes to cook (Italian is her specialty). And she is at a point in life where a pregnancy would not be out of the question.
But she is not, emphasis on not, pregnant.
“No! Of course not. It's a world tour,” she says by way of explanation, laughing at the ridiculousness of rumours that surfaced last week after the paparazzi shot pictures of her and Whibley hitting three chic baby stores in one day. They were shopping, Lavigne says, for someone else. A friend or a relative. She doesn't say who.
Besides, she would much rather talk about other stuff. Like the tour, getting under way on Wednesday night in Victoria.
The Canadian kickoff isn't a patriotic nod to Lavigne's home and native land, but an accident of scheduling, a convenient starting point plotted out by the people who make such decisions.
Still, the pop/punk music sensation who grew up in Napanee, Ont., says there is something special for her about Canadian audiences. They're a little warmer, a little more receptive. “The Canadian crowds are always really good to me,” she says from her home in Los Angeles. “So [Victoria] will be a good place for me to start.”
Home for Lavigne these days is an eight-bedroom, 101/2-bathroom 12,000-square-foot Tuscan-style mansion purchased last year for about $9.5-million (U.S.), according to The Los Angeles Times. The house reportedly has a pool, an elevator and a 10-car garage.
At a time when music sales are declining, Lavigne is a bankable commodity, selling more than 30 million albums worldwide since her 2002 smash debut Let Go (with hit singles that included Complicated, Sk8er Boi and I'm With You). A darker sophomore effort, Under My Skin, made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard, as did her third album, The Best Damn Thing, when it was released last year (and has since sold more than five million copies). Its first single, Girlfriend, released in eight languages, was named the top download of 2007 by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
The journey from Complicated to Girlfriend has been a pop fairy tale.
Lavigne went from small-town Ontario teen sensation to bona fide international superstar, complete with the Bel-Air mansion, the paparazzi (which she has famously spat upon on occasion) and the rock star husband. Now, she's even launching a clothing line.
Lavigne may be Napanee's most famous daughter (the website for the Napanee & District Chamber of Commerce boasts that it is the “Proud hometown of Avril Lavigne!” and features her photo wedged in between the town's important buildings), but since her success, her family has up and left town, living elsewhere in the province now.
And while she politely professes to miss Canada to a Canadian reporter (“I miss how nice the people are”), she is clearly very, very happy with her L.A. life.
“I like it because of the sunshine and because of the weather and the homes are really beautiful here,” she says, noting that it was “really cold” when she was back home in Ontario for a visit this month.
In L.A., Lavigne feels she can walk the streets, go shopping (a favourite activity, she says), go out for lunch with girlfriends or clubbing without intrusions. “People don't bother you in L.A.,” she says. “I feel like this is the place that, you know, I can kind of really be myself and walk around town.”
In conversation, Lavigne sounds a lot like her target audience: young, girlish, with a lot of “likes” thrown into the mix. She is polite. She doesn't utter the f-word once, although she is known to be a frequent user. She laughs and giggles. Sometimes she skips over words or just ends a thought, mid-sentence.
Like her speech patterns, Lavigne's music does not necessarily reflect her new, more mature stage in life. But there is the odd exception.
When You're Gone has a more serious tone than the other singles from The Best Damn Thing – and the video suggests an anti-war message. The video, with its three storylines, features a pregnant woman whose partner has been sent off to a CNN-covered war (there is also an elderly grieving widower and a young couple separated by parental disapproval).
While Lavigne insists that she is not moving toward more topicality in her songwriting over all (“I don't write about political issues”), she says the idea for the video was hers.
Lavigne has weathered a year of plagiarism charges and the loss of a high-profile songwriting partner/friend. After Girlfriend came out, the writers of the Rubinoos' 1979 song I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend launched a lawsuit, claiming the chorus of Girlfriend sounded suspiciously similar to their song. A settlement was reached in January, and the Boyfriend songwriters released a statement exonerating Lavigne and her co-writer.
And former songwriting partner Chantal Kreviazuk famously grumbled that she had sent Lavigne a song called Contagious and was later horrified to see an identically titled song on The Best Damn Thing, with no writing credit offered to her. Kreviazuk later recanted the allegation, but the damage to the friendship was apparently done.
Now, Lavigne is putting it all behind her and focusing on the tour ahead – with its elaborate staging, choreography and high-energy feel (she promises). She has spent the past few weeks in preproduction, rehearsing and working with her stylist and others involved in the operation.
She's also working out (something she doesn't do regularly). “When I go on tour, I get in, like, a really healthy place where I try to do cardio because onstage I get really out of breath.” So she is walking, running, riding the bike, doing some yoga and “intense stretching.”
She and her husband have already started the long-distance thing (again). Whibley is touring right now with Sum 41 in Britain, but he is expected to be in Victoria for Lavigne's first show before his group begins its Canadian tour in Moncton on March 7.
While other young couples might spend the early years of their marriage travelling together and while other young women Lavigne's age might be heading out on backpacking trips around Europe (as opposed to embarking on intense world stadium tours), there is no part of Lavigne that regrets her under-the-microscope celebrity life, no part of her, she says, that feels robbed of late-teens/early-marriage normalcy.
“I had a very normal childhood up until I was 16. I went to high school. I had to work and I had my little jobs and I [was] a normal kid [with] a brother and a sister. I don't feel like I missed out on anything,” she insists. “I was, like, so ready to go. I was ready to get out of town.”
Avril Lavigne's Best Damn Tour kicks off March 5 in Victoria with dates across Canada. Details at avrillavigne.com.
Cadence Weapon Makes Waves In Indie Rap
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Fish Griwkowsky, Special To The Star
(March 02, 2008) EDMONTON–Cadence Weapon says he has gotten used to the sentiment that being a rapper from Alberta is considered by some nothing short of bizarre, even "uppity." Given his quick rise in the indie rap world with distribution deals in both the U.S. and Europe, one of the main questions he wishes people would ditch is when he might switch hometown Edmonton for an urban jungle to really get lost in.
Yet he bears no grudges.
"I mean, I'm not surprised people feel that way," he said earlier this week, between a couple of shows in England, an MTV Live gig in Toronto and an extensive U.S. tour that won't find him home till spring. (He plays Toronto on April 25, at the Danforth Music Hall with Buck 65.)
"(From the outside), they don't really have anything else to base their opinion on. But dance music is something very strong in Edmonton," he noted, naming hometown electronic outfits Shout Out Out Out Out and Dietche V, both recipients of intercontinental attention. "But I'm not surprised that people think it's so weird."
Yet Cadence Weapon – alias Roland Pemberton – is digging his feet into home turf. Out Tuesday, his second album Afterparty Babies comes across as a biography-on-tape, in which a murky club setting is the main character, found in venue after venue. It's the eulogy for a sleepless summer, and it's named after a joke his dad used to rib him with regarding his conception. (His father is a Brooklyn native who ended up fanning the flames of early hip-hop locally with a radio show on the University of Alberta campus station. This was in 1980.)
The sexual nervousness and video-game references of Cadence Weapons' first album, Breaking Kayfabye has since been mostly replaced with the voice of a magnetic scenester. And one not always in control of things as his friends – cited by name – play with cocaine and local fame. The 22-year-old morphs a song about tattoo pain into a confessional about a failed love and ends it with a sample from La Science des Reves, a film about a man who struggles to keep his real world and dreams separate.
The beats of DJ Weez L, evoking the buzzing sounds of insects, play off Pemberton's personal politics throughout and, as Britain's Guardian put it in a review last week, Pemberton's "darting intelligence and racing imagination are evident in every line."
Another number, "Juliann Wilding," discusses Edmonton's active rumour mill: "Miss Wilding, Mr. Weapon, repartee on every other day. I know about dames and the games they play, just remember what we used to say," he sings. "Your friends and enemies both dislike me – if the rumours were true I'd hate me, too."
For his birthday party in Edmonton last month, Pemberton stuffed a local gallery and could be found DJing and bumping on the dance floor. He hugged friends as they entered, though he describes acquaintances in videogame terms as "NPCs. The only nameless people on the record are non-player characters. Basically an NPC in a game is someone whose sole purpose is to say, `Welcome to this town.' Edmonton is full of people like that, asking, `Did you see the game last night? Did you see the game last night?' I used them as tools."
Despite what Pemberton might think of the city's denizens, between nods to Ian Curtis and MegaMan IV he deliberately keeps his rhymes close to home. "My No. 1 goal is to maintain this as very Edmonton-centric. I don't want people to think this is just some party record that you're going to put in a Coca-Cola commercial ... The music is also the setting where these things happened. They happened at Halo (a downtown bar). They happened in the river valley. They happened to us.
"It's kind of like me as the Uatu the Watcher of Edmonton," he explained, citing the impassive giant observer of the Marvel Comics universe with a laugh. "But hopefully my head's not that big."
Lanois Embraces Digital
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(March 01, 2008) Despite his reputation as a sonic purist with eccentric retro peccadilloes, Daniel Lanois isn't a snob about digital downloading, provided artists get paid for their work.
In fact, just before Christmas, the music producer, guitarist, songwriter and – since the debut of his self-referential documentary, Here Is What Is, at the Toronto International Film Festival last September – filmmaker embraced the digital future wholeheartedly by releasing his latest CD, a generously embellished audio version of the music in the film, solely in a digital format.
Well, two formats, if you want to be picky. And when it comes to sound quality, Lanois, the much-lauded and abundantly rewarded producer of U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, the Neville Brothers, Peter Gabriel and Robbie Robertson, among others, is very picky.
His 18-song opus, available at redfloorecords.com, features primo American drummer Brian Blade, Canadian organ/piano virtuoso Garth Hudson (The Band), and an assortment of stellar sidemen working with him in studios as far apart as Morocco and Lanois's own recently acquired facility in Toronto.
It is the first album, to his knowledge, to be made available in full, high-fidelity WAV files as well as compressed, iPod-friendly standard MP3s.
"It's too early to tell if one format is more popular," says the Hull, Que.-born, Hamilton, Ont.-raised Lanois during a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. He admits he prefers listening to music in full audio resolution – on CD – rather than MP3.
"Listening to MP3s on earbuds is like watching Gone With the Wind on a cellphone. In time, compressed audio files may be a historical footnote, a technical aberration. But if that's what people want, I'm going to sell it to them.
"We're not operating on the Radiohead level," he adds, referring to the controversial experiment last year by the mega-hit British pop band who ditched their record label, EMI, and released their seventh album, In Rainbows, through their website as a digital download, asking buyers to pay the price they thought the music was worth.
"I am trying to do a similar thing, just more quietly. I'm operating a neighbourhood corner store, not a big-box outlet."
True to his chronicler's instincts, Lanois is also making album graphics and liner notes part of the $9.99 download packages (individual tracks cost 99 cents).
"I activated the site as a way of controlling my own music," he continues.
Here Is What Is was released without the benefit of a media blitz and the brouhaha expected to promote important work by an artist/auteur of Lanois's calibre and renown. Everything he does on his own behalf, including his performances in unusual and off-circuit venues (such as invitation-only guerrilla performances and a gig at the Apple Store in downtown Manhattan), has a deliberate, low-pitched ring to it, the better to emphasize the distance between his modus operandi and the hoopla of the commercial music business.
"There was campaign, no ramp-up," he says. "I wanted to set up an operation that allows me to act spontaneously, to record music and make it available immediately to anyone who might be interested."
In time, he hopes to do just that. He says he'd like to offer digital downloads from his unreleased back catalogue, as well as "hidden" tracks and musical sketches recorded in the middle of the night, then mixed and uploaded hot off the plate for breakfast-time buyers.
"The record industry doesn't do this. I like obscure and ambient music, and I figure there must be others who want to know they can get it on the Internet when the mood strikes.
"It keeps me enthusiastic about the future of music. It keeps that side of myself alive. Not everything can be a hit . . . not everything is a radio," Lanois says.
"A digital website is fantastic. You can choose what you want to play and record. You're not driven by demographics. Musicians get to make the decisions. When we go to a restaurant we don't ask a third party to select our food; we expect the chef to be in control, to offer a fine display.
"I've always wondered who owns the airwaves . . . they're public property that have been put in the hands of commercial broadcasters. With the Internet, we have an alternative. I've always been a pirate at heart."
Right now Lanois would like us to know that, like Radiohead, he's following through on the digital release with a hard-copy CD version of Here Is What Is, to hit record stores March 18.
"That was always my intention. I like record stores. It worries me that they're disappearing. They're part of a bohemian society that's slowly becoming invisible."
Five years ago, Lanois took a break from producing other artists in order to concentrate on his own career as a writer, multi-instrumentalist, performer and recording artist.
Now he's in L.A. preparing to begin work on U2's next recording with British producer and regular collaborator Brian Eno, who is featured in the movie and audio versions of Here Is What Is as a kind of mentor and guide.
"We're back where we started. But I keep up a balanced diet. I'm happy performing live – that's one thing that has never changed and never will. It's where music begins and ends."
Lanois is also planning to produce a solo album for Hudson – "just with piano, I think, and then I'll get him onstage with a Steinway at Massey Hall, in a nice Italian suit and a fedora, let him play whatever comes into his head and send him back home with a big wad of money."
And he wants to keep exploring the artistic ground between music and film, he adds.
"Wherever I go, I try to have a good cameraman around, and I take a bunch of hand-held digital recorders and place them in strategic positions. I try not to let anything slip away. And I'm always on the lookout for a good filmmaker who needs a good soundtrack.
"I'm always writing, just not fighting the way I used to. There's a song on my album called `I'm Not Fighting Anymore,' and it's about moving from one chapter of my life to the next. At a certain age, you look at the world in a different way.
"I'm not fighting anymore . . . but that doesn't mean I'm fighting any less."
In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates
U2 Released April 1
Source: Universal Music Canada
"The mind struggles to grasp the idea that tragedy and even horrific brutality can somehow give birth to life-affirming, uplifting music. But there is no better proof of that bittersweet truth than the joyful sounds of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars…" -Montreal Gazette
(February 27 2008) (Toronto, ON) - On April 1, Shout! Factory/Universal Music Canada (UMC) will release In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2, an album celebrating the music, culture and future of Africa, and an unprecedented musical homage to Bono and U2 for their ongoing humanitarian relief efforts aiding the beloved continent. A portion of the record’s proceeds will directly benefit The Global Fund.
Produced by Shawn Amos and Paul Heck, In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 features 2008 Grammy Award recipients, Angelique Kidjo and the Soweto Gospel Choir, as well as top up-and-coming talents including Les Nubians, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Vieux Farka Touré, and Vusi Mahlasela. Each artist offers their unique interpretation of 12, U2 hit songs and some of their more obscure material.
Initially inspired by his work in South Africa while running the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, Amos re-entered the music industry with a heartfelt initiative to cultivate greater awareness of the emerging socio-economic success stories happening within many of the country’s regions. Amos, a longtime fan of U2, witnessed Bono’s direct philanthropic impact via the launch of the ONE campaign and (RED), and his poignant outspoken public commentary on the immediate financial needs facing Africa.
Amos felt it was essential that African musicians unite and collectively share their voices of pride, accomplishment and appreciation for both their native country and icons like Bono who’ve substantially embraced the fight against the global AIDS crisis, extreme poverty and the spread of malaria. On December 1, 2006 at the World AIDS Day benefit concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Amos approached Red Hot producer Paul Heck about co-producing In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2. Several notable African artists were performing as part of Heck’s live production of Red Hot + Riot: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti including Les Nubians, Tony Allen, Cheikh Lô and Keziah Jones. Heck expressed support for the budding project, and quickly became an invaluable partner with his strong ties to various well-established African artists and knowledge of a handful of buzz-worthy upstarts. Together, they consulted with the artists appearing at the World AIDS Day event, bringing Amos’s personal dream a step closer to becoming a reality.
“Paul and I wanted to develop an easy entry point for the growing global community where they could get more involved and learn something deeper about Africa,” says Amos. “It’s really a focus on the key successes of several regions, and the African artists who originate from these areas. It’s our goal for the public to learn more about all the good that’s happening in Africa. We are trying to garner excitement about the culture, in addition to drawing people toward the struggles of Darfur, etc. This is a project which celebrates Africa!”
12 original interpretations of classic U2 hit songs and some of their more obscure material are featured on In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2. The collection kicks off with Angelique Kidjo’s powerful multilingual cover of the 1991 chart-topper, “Mysterious Ways.” Aerosmith’s Joe Perry joins Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars for an upbeat, guitar-driven take on “Seconds,” a track from U2’s third studio release, War (1983). Rising Malian star, Vieux Farka Touré offers a trancy, Sahara Desert blues-influenced rendition of “Bullet The Blue Sky,” an absolute standout performance of one of U2’s most-played live in concert tunes. Additional highlights include Les Nubians dubbed-out dancefloor ready version of “With Or Without You,” the Soweto Gospel Choir’s epic a cappella version of “Pride In The Name Of Love,” and Tony Allen’s Afrobeat translation of “Where The Streets Have No Name Paul Heck notes that, “I was amazed when we approached the artists of how quickly they chose the songs they wanted to do. Many of them grew up listening to U2, and knew the songs
In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 sets itself apart from an array of other tribute albums as Amos and Heck have captured a compassionate human element at its core. The liner notes include demographic information, e.g., each artist’s country of origin, date of independence, population size, main export, major issue facing the region, recent actions taken to improve its current state, and relevant websites with additional information. All of the songs were recorded exclusively for this album, and a portion of its proceeds will directly benefit The Global Fund, the world’s largest international financier of the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. A portion of the record’s proceeds will directly benefit The Global Fund.
Track Listing is as follows:
1. Angelique Kidjo “Mysterious Ways”
2. Vieux Farka Touré “Bullet The Blue Sky”
3. Ba Cissoko “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
4. Vusi Mahlasela “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”
5. Tony Allen “Where The Streets Have No Name”
6. Cheikh Lô “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
7. Keziah Jones “One”
8. Les Nubians “With Or Without You”
9. Soweto Gospel Choir “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”
10. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars “Seconds”
11. African Underground All-Stars Featuring Chosan (Sierra Leone), Optimus (Liberia) & Iyeoka (Nigeria) “Desire”
12. Waldemar Bastos “Love Is Blindness”
Jean Bashful As She Sings Creole Song
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw
(February 28, 2008) Governor-General Michaëlle Jean was all smiles and bashfulness yesterday as she stepped up to the microphone of Toronto's Remix Project recording studio to sing a Creole song about the mermaids of Haitian legend.
Joining her with a mix of harmony and beats was R & B artist Mohanza (Obie) Kelly, who currently sits atop FLOW 93.5 radio's weekly Top 10 list, and is one of the Remix program's success stories.
"It's amazing, the power of the arts as a tool to bring about changes," Ms. Jean said after Mr. Kelly explained how his involvement in the project has shaped his new life.
She spent two hours speaking with students and administrators from Remix, which is earning praise for its approach to getting at-risk youth re-engaged in education and passionate about employment.
Students aged 16 to 22 spend the first two weeks developing their own six-month curriculum with project leaders, and can earn up to four high-school credits. Gavin Sheppard, who heads Remix, thinks the city badly needs more programs that accommodate students with different needs.
"It's about alternative learning, because we recognize that the current education system isn't set up for success for everybody," he said. "The other types of learners are falling through the cracks in our system, and those are some of the most brilliant people in our society."
A staff of nine, all under the age of 30, teach students media arts, creative arts and the art of business. The offices are graced with sophisticated equipment, from a full recording studio to computers for graphic design, but participants also undertake larger projects, such as building a media arts facility in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they first encountered Ms. Jean.
Primarily funded by Canada's National Crime Prevention Strategy, Remix operates on a $360,000 annual budget, set to expire in 2009. Other supporters include the United Way, the Trillium Foundation and the City of Toronto.
A small minority of entrants drop out, with five of 60 abandoning the program thus far. Resource Co-ordinator Derek (Drex) Jancar acknowledged some students simply are not ready for the program. But successful graduates have produced albums, started clothing lines, and earned placements with MTV and full scholarships to Humber College.
Tyrone Edwards, who leads the business stream, said he hopes to instil a sense of accomplishment in his students.
"Part of it is reaching those short-term goals and feeling good about yourself," he said.
One of his new students, 20-year-old Jebril Jelloh, hopes to start a men's clothing line called Get Fresh, and said he already feels more focused.
"I've only been here for four weeks and I've gotten so much accomplished," he said. "I'm loving it. I'm here every day."
Is that song a hit? Ask the CRTC
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson
(February 28, 2008) Radio stations have been padding their profits for years by milking tried-and-true hits and doing whatever they can to avoid taking chances on up-and-coming Canadian artists, a new federal report on the industry alleges.
In a process that is expected to have a financial impact on radio broadcasters if new rules are instituted, regulators are now stepping in. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission plans to define for the first time what is – and specifically is not – a hit song.
Such changes would have big implications for the radio industry, record labels, artists and advertisers alike depending on how restrictive the rules become.
Since play lists are designed to attract mass audiences, stations have increasingly gravitated to hit-driven formats, often at the expense of new music, which poses more of a risk with advertisers. Meanwhile, FM radio has enjoyed a renaissance in profitability, recently surpassing $1-billion in revenue for the first time.
Concerned that too many radio stations are bending to their advantage the loosely written rules that say stations must encourage airplay of emerging artists, the regulator has decided to come up with a specific definition.
A CRTC official said Wednesday that the regulator has long required stations to devote 35 per cent of airtime to Canadian music, but has not asked for a specific amount for new, emerging musicians. This is a problem for recording artists, industry groups say.
“We've done research that shows, even with Canadian acts, that the average act played on radio is 15 to 20 years old,” said Duncan McKie, president of the Canadian Independent Record Production Association.
“They play the hell out of the established, recognizable acts. And then they'll turn around and say, well, the reason we don't play your acts is that they're not recognizable,” Mr. McKie said.
Broadcasters argue there are financial risks in deviating too much from the mainstream, should audiences go elsewhere. In the past, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) has asked the CRTC to consider incentives for radio stations to take chances with their play lists. Emerging artists for example, would count for more points towards Canadian content requirements. The CAB, which speaks on behalf of broadcasters, would not comment on the report yesterday.
Nine possible definitions of an “emerging artist,” or what could also be defined as a “non-hit,” were presented to the radio industry yesterday in documents accompanying the report, with the CRTC focusing on three main scenarios that could apply to the industry for years to come.
The definition the CRTC appears to favour describes an emerging artist as a musician who has never had a song on the charts, or whose first top-40 song occurred in the past year. However, other potential scenarios offered up to the industry would broaden that period out to as much as four years, or narrow it to as little as six months. The regulator may also consider expanding its definition of the charts, to the top 60 or top 100 songs.
How such matters are defined would have significant implications for Canadian artists who have had breakout hits in recent years, but took a while to attract mass appeal. Depending on which definition the CRTC chooses, Grammy-nominated musicians such as Feist and Arcade Fire could either be classified as Top-40 artists or as new and emerging musicians.
Mr. McKie notes that Feist was trying to get airplay long before Canadian radio stations added her to play lists. He argues that it mostly wasn't until she was featured in an Apple Inc. iPod commercial that she was added to heavy rotation.
The CRTC has become concerned in recent years that radio stations have been flouting promises to play new Canadian artists, opting instead for established Canadians acts like Bryan Adams and The Tragically Hip.
“Some [in the music industry] allege that commercial radio stations have adopted programming strategies that minimize the play-listing of such music in favour of broadcasting the work of well established artists,” says the CRTC report. “In their view, these practices hinder the development of a dynamic Canadian music industry.”
In the report, the CRTC examined how much airtime was devoted to new Canadian artists.
During the week of April 15 to 21, 2007, the regulator found that English stations were devoting less than 10 per cent of their airtime to emerging Canadian talent when the definition of a non-hit artist was defined by the broadest terms – someone who had only made it on to the charts for the first time in the previous four years.
When the most narrow definition – charting in the previous six months – was applied, English stations were making less than 2 per cent of their schedules available to newer artists.
Mr. McKie welcomed the plan to define hits and non-hits.
“Whatever they do, it's got to be better … because what we have today are [stations] that are playing less than 4- or 5-per-cent new acts. And in a week, that's 80 plays maybe out of 2,000,” Mr. McKie said.
Ruben Returns For 'Idol' Farewell Track
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Ann Donahue, L.A.
(February 29, 2008) To paraphrase "The Godfather" -- just when you think you're out on "American Idol," they keep pulling you back in. Indeed, season-two winner Ruben Studdard will perform the "farewell song" used to play off the losing contestants when they depart the top 12.
This year, the song will be a cover of Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home," in a new version produced by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. "It's very soulful, very heartfelt," Lewis says. "Ruben is singing his pants off."
It's a significant gig for Studdard, who was dropped by J Records at the end of 2007. He is, however, still managed by the show's 19 Entertainment and under contract to subsidiary 19 Recordings, a link that paved the way for him to return to the show as the song's performer.
"Ruben has never left our fold," "AI" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe says. "[With] the success that we've had with the play-off song, I wanted to keep it in-house."
The "American Idol" season-five farewell song, Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," went on to sell 1.9 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and was the top digital download of 2006.
As part of the show's new sponsorship this season with iTunes, "Celebrate Me Home" will be made available digitally starting March 12, the day the first of the top 12 will be eliminated. In addition, it is expected to be included on one of the compilation albums annually released by "American Idol," according to 19 Entertainment U.S. head Iain Pirie.
"[Lewis and Jam] were on my list of producers to work with, and to have the opportunity was a blessing," Studdard says. "If they tell you something is hot, you can probably rest assured that other people are going to like it."
"Celebrate Me Home" was selected after Lythgoe suggested the tune to Pirie and show creator Simon Fuller. "Each year we think about what's going to reflect that really special TV moment," Pirie says. "Musically and lyrically, it fits it perfectly."
Pirie says the idea to have Studdard record the track came after the warm reception he received following an appearance on last season's "American Idol" finale. In addition, Studdard is in negotiations to perform the song during "Idol Gives Back," the show's midseason charity effort.
Loggins' version of "Celebrate Me Home," originally released on an album of the same title in 1977, has sold 73,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
And while traditionally thought of as a Christmas tune, the first line of the song -- "Home for the holidays"-has been excised to make it less seasonal, Lythgoe says, and Studdard has give the track an updated feel.
For his part, Studdard -- who is getting TV exposure as the syndicated "American Idol Rewind" highlights season two -- is about to return to the studio to record an album for 19. "I need to get into the studio, go there and kind of trip out for a while," he says.
Featured Artist - Snoop Dogg
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gail Mitchell, L.A.
(February 26, 2008) When Snoop Dogg hit CNN's "Larry King Live" Feb. 1, the segment may have brought into focus all of what's working for the rapper-turned-singer these days.
For starters, there was his burgeoning hit, "Sensual Seduction," playing in the background as Snoop took the talk show host to the Los Angeles hangout Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. The electro-funk, '80s-influenced song oozed funk—and Snoop's heavily vocoded singing voice—while the rapper enlightened King to the ways of fried chicken and waffles.
The song is shaping into one of the fastest-climbing crossover hits of his career. After just 14 weeks on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart "Seduction" resides at No. 8, and No. 7 on the Hot 100. The song's clever, retro-themed video is reaping its share of buzz as well, getting played on the usual video channels, and perhaps more importantly, is a massive viral hit at YouTube. The heat the single has generated pushed the release date for Snoop's new Doggy Style/Geffen/Interscope album, "Ego Trippin'," up from May to March 11.
Snoop Dogg (born Calvin Broadus) has been full of surprises during his 15-year transition from gangsta rapper to lovable mainstream brand. That he's been able to tweak and have fun with rap's tough-guy image without losing street or mainstream credibility—despite well-publicized run-ins with the law over weapons and drugs—is a singular accomplishment.
Snoop attributes his career evolution to simply being a smart "PIMP": Player Into Making Progress.
"That is what that word has always meant to me," the Long Beach, Calif., native says in his signature drawl. "You may think it's a man sending a woman to a corner or someone taking something from someone else. That's the misconception. You've got to know how to pimp the game and not get pimped. Use situations to your advantage and flip the script like I did."
DOGGED PURSUIT OF HISTORY
Seated at a small table in a homey apartment above the legendary Hollywood corner of Sunset and Vine, Snoop Dogg exhibits the rigors of meeting the May-to-March push-up of "Ego Trippin'." With his hair flying loose in Gene Wilder-esque fashion, the visibly tired rapper confirms the album is indeed finally complete. "That's why I look like this, a mad scientist," he says with a short laugh.
But as the interview progresses, Snoop grows more animated when the discussion turns to artistic longevity and the creative impetus behind the album. Drawing inspiration from such musical mainstays as Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, Snoop says it was time for him to go outside the box.
"I'm the nicest rapper in the world," he quietly declares. "But at the same time I've got that bad boy persona and I didn't really want to approach it like that this time. I wanted to make a record that felt good the whole way through as opposed to trying to make a record that was so gangsta, so hard or so 'hood-appealing. I looked at people before me to see how they went through different decades with their music. Curtis and Marvin lasted, making their same kind of music even after disco came in and then played out. With my career lasting this long, I had to start looking at the changes in music and the changes in me, seeing what's needed to stay here."
Bumping into new jack swing guru and former Blackstreet frontman Teddy Riley while both were saluted during VH1's Hip-Hop Honors last year, Snoop says he felt God was telling him that he "needed to work with this guy." Joining forces with DJ Quik, Snoop and Riley executive-produced the album as the new production team QDT (Quik Dogg Teddy), with collaborative assists from Terrace Martin, Shawty Redd, the Neptunes, Khao and Whitey Ford (aka Everlast), among others.
The album comprises 21 tracks with just two featured rappers, according to Snoop: Too Short and Mr. Fab (on the track "Life of the Party"). Otherwise, it's a more musical Snoop this time out, aided by such guests as Raphael Saadiq, Charlie Wilson and his background singer Tone. Snoop also sings a cover of the Time's 1981 R&B top 10 hit "Cool," produced by Riley.
R&B isn't the only genre Snoop channels. He focuses on his love of country music on the Whitey Ford-written and produced "My Medicine," the guitar sound of which mirrors that of country pioneer Johnny Cash.
"When he goes against the grain, those are usually his biggest hits," Interscope/Geffen/A&M marketing executive Tim Reid says, citing the 2004 No. 1 crossover hit "Drop It Like It's Hot" featuring Pharrell. "That was a different departure for him and now he's setting the tone again with 'Seduction.' "
Snoop believes his foray into singing and working with other genres of music will resonate with consumers because the same Snoop essence that fans have come to love still remains. "I'm not trying to be a real R&B singer, holding notes and going for dramatic moments. It's just great songs with good melodies that I can hold but it's still within the world of Snoop Dogg," he says. "I always stay Snoop Dogg regardless of any change."
To take advantage of the lightning sparked by "Seduction," the label has booked Snoop on a promo tour. Kicking off in New Orleans during NBA All-Star weekend, Snoop hosted an album listening party for key tastemakers, programmers and retailers followed by a performance at the city's House of Blues.
A similar pattern will be followed during stopovers in New York (where he's booked to appear Feb. 22 at Winter Fest '08 with host DJ Khaled), Detroit, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta, before he returns to Los Angeles the first week of March.
Then it's back on the road during the week of release. Snoop will visit the David Letterman and Conan O'Brien shows, BET's "106 & Park" and "Rip the Runway," MTV's "TRL" and ABC's "The View." He'll also do an in-store at Best Buy, and an appearance on "Yahoo Live Sets" that will air the weekend after the album's release. The upcoming release is promoted on the E! Entertainment reality show "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood."
Meanwhile, second single "Life of the Party" is beginning to go to radio now. Its accompanying video was shot in Las Vegas. While in Vegas, he shot another video: a street-themed short for the autobiographical track "Neva Have 2 Worry." That video will be used as an Internet component to support the album.
A full-length domestic tour—possibly with a rock act—is in the talking stages. Snoop has finally regained his visa status for Europe (a declined visa led to the cancellation of a 2007 tour with Sean "Diddy" Combs) and the rapper has "big plans" for his welcome back there but declined to reveal details. "Ego Trippin' " is due for release in most international markets on March 11.
Other Snoop ventures include a new clothing line, Rich & Infamous, that will cater to specialty stores like Demo and Up Against the Wall. Due later this year, Snoop unveiled the line—between video shoots—during the recent fashion industry trade show Magic in Las Vegas. Unlike his earlier apparel venture, Snoop Dogg Clothing, the Snoop moniker will not be attached to this line. Also coming: Coco Ri, his wife's line named after their three children.
In the film and TV world, Snoop has the upcoming film "Golden Door" and another film in development at Fox based on his youth league experiences, "Coach Snoop." Through distributor Codeblack Entertainment, Snoopadelic Films will release "The Adventures of the Blue Carpet Treatment." Due later this year and done in Japanese style animation, the project is based on the rapper's 2006 album, "Tha Blue Carpet Treatment." Also in the works are more videogame ventures, two major league brand partnerships that are currently being negotiated for launch at year's end and more TV, including another animation project.
"TV is missing me right now," adds Snoop, who notes that he has been having meetings at NBC, Comedy Central and E! "Not just in front of the camera but behind the camera, behind the music, behind the everything: drama, comedy, late-night TV, Saturday cartoons, voice-overs, sports. I'm a creative force who's just trying to effectively put my paw prints all over the world."
Return Of A Jazz-Rock Supergroup
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(March 05, 2008) Not having played a solo show here since 1995, Chick Corea's just-him gig at Massey Hall tonight would normally be a big deal. But long-time fans of the jazz keyboardist will consider it a mere appetizer – in the hopes that this summer's reunion tour of his pioneering fusion supergroup Return to Forever includes a Toronto date.
"The amount of people still remembering the band was kind of overwhelming," said 66-year-old Corea on the phone from his Florida home about the decision to hit the road with guitarist Al Di Meola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White for the first time in 25 years.
"We all agreed that it would be fun to put the '70s repertoire back together and play."
Busy with solo careers, the quartet hasn't had time to record a new disc, but they're remixing four of their seminal jazz-rock records for a double anthology.
"We always would mention how we would like to make those recordings sound better; the technology is so advanced these days that it's possible to do that," explained Corea.
It's a wonder he's been able to squeeze the reunion in.
The bandleader/composer, who cut his teeth with Cab Calloway, Miles Davis and Stan Getz, has about 100 albums to his credit and works constantly, in various electric or acoustic configurations, from trio to symphony, and with collaborators as disparate as the Foo Fighters and Bobby McFerrin.
He's spent the last month alternating duo shows with banjoist Bela Fleck and vibraphonist Gary Burton.
Corea said his Massey Hall appearance will unfold for him as it does for the audience.
"The nice thing about solo concerts for me and the fact that I don't do that many is that they are a relaxing break for me from my other performances.
"I really don't do much, if any, preparation for a solo concert; it's more or less an improvisation. I like to think of the concert hall as a living room for me and the audience, and just hang out with them and play stuff that comes to mind; sometimes older tunes, sometimes something new I'm working on."
Despite his casual approach, Corea hopes to strike a lingering chord for attendees.
"I think music and art in general eases the stress of life for people. Survival is stressful and when you go into the creative aesthetic zone of an art form or a piece of music where the artist is creating this wonderful wavelength, it brings pleasure to the listeners and calms them and that helps them rehabilitate their own intentions to create.
"When I do workshops with musicians or talk to young students that's the point I make to them: if you really love to make music go ahead and do it, because the world really needs it."
And with long-time pal and peer Herbie Hancock (whom he replaced in Miles Davis's band in 1968) earning the Grammy for Album of the Year last month, the first for a jazz record since 1964's Getz/Gilberto, it seems the world, or at least the American music industry's gatekeepers, are reciprocating.
Hancock's win "is a big agreement on the beauty of a work of art at a very high level where the usual heavy agreement tends to be on rock and pop," said Corea. "The music that's a little bit more sophisticated, or finer sounding, or a little bit more intricate, usually does not become popular. The fact that Herbie's record (River: The Joni Letters), which is a real beautiful aesthetic work of art, got voted for that way is a great sign. We're all jumping up and down."
Solange Knowles Needs A Band
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(February 29, 2008) *Singer Solange Knowles will be holding auditions for singers, musicians and bands with a "great look, strong musicianship and stage presence” to become members of her band, Hadley Street Dreams. The 60s-inspired full band will perform all live shows with Solange in support of her upcoming album "Hadley Street Dreams," to be released in August via Geffen Records, Soul Angel and Hadley Street Dreams. Auditions will be held Thursday, March 6, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at SIR Studios in Los Angeles (6465 West Sunset Blvd.). Solange, Beyonce's little sis, is looking for two female background singers, one drummer, one guitar player, two keyboardists and one bass player (must be able to play upright as well). All members must be able to dance. To RSVP for auditions, send an e-mail to AuditionRSVP@musicworldent.com. If you are unable to make the audition, you may also upload your audition video to the official Hadley Street Dreams Audition Myspace: http://myspace.com/hadleystreetdreams.
Anything But Janet Jackson
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
Erykah Badu New Amerykah (Universal Motown)
Jill Scott Live in Paris + (Hidden Beach)
Lizz Wright The Orchard (Verve)
Better Than Anything (Concord)
(March 04, 2008) With Janet Jackson angling for the top of the album charts this week, it's easy to forget that no matter now many records are sold by her, or similar paint-by-numbers types Rihanna and Beyonce, they are not the standard bearers for black female vocalists. There are a new batch of discs from more engrossing contenders. A spare 10 songs (lead single "Honey" is a hidden track) comprise Erykah Badu's new album, but that's plenty given the sound effects, chants and erratic vocals that clutter the 37-year-old Texan's non-linear musings about war, music, religion, self-love, racism, addiction. She's traded the sweet and live R&B of her early career for hip hop production laced with funk and a touch of neo-soul from jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalist Bilal. There are a few compelling moments – "Soldier," "Telephone" – but mostly this record feels indulgent and unfinished. Fans know live performance is Jill Scott's strength and for the first time the goosebump-generating 35-year-old Philly native is showcased on her own concert DVD (with bonus live CD). Shows in Paris and L.A. give witness to the sassy singer's theatrical, impassioned brand of R&B on selections from her three studio albums. Who else could remain dignified while erotically stroking a mic stand, during "Whatever?" Lizz Wright's third disc, which includes Led Zeppelin ("Thank You") and Ike & Tina Turner ("I Idolize You") covers, finds her moving away from jazz to an impressionistic style that conjures Cassandra Wilson, Sinead O'Connor and Joni Mitchell. Anyone who likes their soul cut with blues and acoustic guitar will appreciate this 38-year-old Georgian. If you've never heard of Nnenna Freelon, this compilation, showcasing her ability to move between straight-ahead bop, soul and pop, is a good place to start. No matter what she sings, she always swings. And while her improvisational approach to Motown tunes such as "Tears of a Clown" and "Ooh Child" will have you humming those songs in a whole new way, her command of jazz gems "Body and Soul" and "Them There Eyes" should pique your interest in the 53-year-old Massachusetts native's nine-disc catalogue.
Away From Her Tops Genies
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand, Movie Critic
(March 04, 2008) Shut out by Hollywood's Oscars, Sarah Polley's Away From Her rebounded last night to dominate the major categories at Canada's 2008 Genie Awards.
Away From Her, based on a short story by Ontario fiction writer Alice Munro, took seven Genies, including Best Picture and three of the four acting awards. David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises also won seven, dominating the lower-profile categories.
Canada's film awards were handed out at a gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and co-hosted by comedian Debra DiGiovanni and Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh.
Polley won for Best Director, and Away From Her's lead actors, Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie, won Best Actor and Best Actress.
In addition, Polley received a Genie for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Kristen Thomson was honoured as Best Supporting Actress for her role as a no-nonsense nurse.
Christie had been nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress but lost to Marion Cotillard, star of La Vie En Rose. Polley had also been nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay but lost to Joel and Ethan Coen, co-writers of No Country For Old Men.
Last night's victory was especially sweet for the 77-year-old Pinsent, a long-time fixture on Canadian stage and screen, who has watched from the sidelines as his co-star Christie got international recognition for her turn as the Alzheimer's-stricken Fiona.
He received a standing ovation when his name was announced.
"Last night before I went to bed I was wondering when it would be decent to compare this performance to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It climbs up on you.
"Julie left me with a gift of some sort," he said. "We had this way too short canoodling love story and before she left the bed, she tapped me on the shoulder and said `Well done, Gordon.' Well, that's on the résumé."
In another case of delayed recognition, Madame Tutli-Putli by Maciek Szczerbowki, Chris Lavis and Mary Page, won the Genie for Animated Short – the same category it was nominated in at the Oscars.
But the night clearly belonged to Polley, who was anxious to share credit with others, particularly Munro for writing The Bear Came Over the Mountain. "Most of this belongs to Alice Munro for writing such a beautiful story," she said as she accepted the Screenplay award.
Polley also expressed dismay that she won Best Director over Cronenberg, Denys Arcand, Roger Spottiswoode and Bruce McDonald.
"The ridiculousness of me winning in this category is not lost on me ... this is totally absurd, but thanks," she said.
But it didn't seem that ridiculous to Christie, who was on hand via satellite for the nontelevised portion of the awards helmed by DiGiovanni, praising Polley as she was presented with the Claude Jutra Award for best first-time director.
"I would like to give an award to Canada for producing Sarah Polley," Christie said. "She is the most persistent person that I have ever met, and I'm so happy she persisted in convincing me to make Away From Her." Christie said that the experience of working with Polley was "one of the happiest, if not the happiest" in her film career.
Her co-stars were equally lavish in praise. "It would take me another lifetime to thank Sarah, just to tell her how I feel about this entire thing," Pinsent said.
Thomson, accepting her award, thanked Polley, "who is such a lady in every way – a little Jetson lady tonight." This was a reference to Polley's outfit, which did bear a striking resemblance to Jane Jetson's outfit on the 1960s animated series The Jetsons, complete with shiny, silver ankle-length boots.
"You look great," Thomson added. "Everything you do is golden."
Eastern Promises did very well in some categories: Cinematography, Editing, Supporting Actor Original Screenplay, Original Score, Sound Editing and Overall Sound.
Gary Burns, Jim Brown, Bonnie Thompson and Shirley Vercruysse won Best Documentary for Radiant City and Alexis Fortier Gauthier and Elaine Hebert won for Best Live Action Short Drama with Après Tout.
The broadcast on E!, airing after the awards were handed out, was at times jarringly edited, with Thomson's acceptance speech, in particular, cut off midstream.
With files from The Canadian Press
Egoyan Recognized For Armenian
Perspective In Ararat
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman
(February 28, 2008) Atom Egoyan has won Genies and prizes at Cannes, and has gone to the Oscars as a double nominee, but on May 19 he will be in Israel receiving an award that takes him into another realm and recognizes him as one of the great humanitarians of the cultural world.
The multi-talented Toronto director will be in the heady company of playwright Tom Stoppard and novelist Amos Oz, who will share the $1 million (U.S.) Dan David Prize for "creative rendering of the past" in literature, theatre or film.
In particular, the award to Egoyan is in recognition of his controversial 2002 near-epic Ararat, which concerned the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey and the attempt to deny it ever happened.
"One of the great things about it is that I get to meet two of my idols," Egoyan said yesterday when I caught up with him at the Regent Theatre, where he is editing his next movie, Adoration, which could have its world premiere at Cannes in May the same week Egoyan is honoured in Tel Aviv. The film, shot in Toronto, concerns a teenager who poses on the Internet as the son of a terrorist.
"When I made Ararat, something in my career shifted," Egoyan recalls, casually attired in black pants and T-shirt. He was greatly influenced by Arsinée Khanjian, his partner both personally and professionally, who had always felt a strong link with Armenian history. And he was prodded by producer Robert Lantos, who not only pressed him to tell this story but came up with a big budget to make it possible.
"This is a great honour," Lantos said yesterday, "and it is also a powerful illustration of the way Israel and the Jewish people embrace the plight of others who are persecuted."
Egoyan says he made Ararat when he realized he had reached a point when he needed to become a spokesperson. "The film was an expression of something I wanted to say," he explains, "and it became an object that was viciously attacked."
Protesters threatened to disrupt the world premiere of the film at Roy Thomson Hall on opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival.
And in Turkey – where artists and writers are still hounded if they dispute official claims that there was never a genocide – Ararat was withdrawn by its distributor after threats that cinemas would be blown up.
With characteristic understatement, Egoyan allows that he has had movies that were better received than Ararat. "Some people felt it was too strident," he says, "but there were others who complained it wasn't strident enough.
"Despite all that, this is the film of mine that will survive after others have been forgotten," he predicts.
What he may not have realized at the time he made the film was that it would not be over when the final credits rolled, that it would shape his life for years to come.
Case in point: Egoyan has become a continuing voice for the rights of oppressed people, whether or not they happen to be Armenian. That's why he will be the guest speaker tonight when the compelling Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens at the Isabel Bader Theatre with a screening of the eye-opening Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame, which presents Taliban oppression of Afghan civilians from the fresh perspective of children, especially a girl determined to attend school.
It was officials of the University of Toronto – where Egoyan has become a distinguished visiting lecturer for three years – who submitted his name for the Dan David Prize. And Egoyan is giving 10 per cent of the prize money to set up a U of T scholarship.
According to the prize citation, Egoyan is being honoured "for his superb modernist filmmaking, which explores Armenian history and culture and the human impact of a historical event while examining the nature of truth and its representation through art."
Play it again, Atom.
Movie Mirrors Gordon Pinsent's Pain
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter
(February 29, 2008) For Gordon Pinsent, the hardest part of making Away From Her wasn't filming it once, but living it again later.
Sarah Polley's directing debut about a man (Pinsent) watching his wife (Julie Christie) struggling with Alzheimer's disease is up for seven Genie Awards Monday night, including one for Pinsent as Best Actor in a Leading Role, as the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television honours its own.
Away From Her first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006. On opening night, Pinsent's wife of 44 years, Charmion King-Pinsent, was by his side.
Four months later, she was dead of emphysema.
"I tried to ignore the whole thing, deny its presence," says Pinsent, sitting in the downtown penthouse apartment he shared with his wife. "I never wanted to know anything about illness touching my loved ones. I wanted that feeling on screen. I wanted it with Charm."
"And I came to realize that I was just like the man I had played in the film. I don't believe I ever really prepared for Charm's death because I didn't want to spend any of the time we had left thinking about what it would be like without her."
The 77-year-old actor's eyes are shining, but with admiration, not tears
"We're talking about one courageous woman here," he begins, with the true relish a Newfoundlander has for a good story.
"She walked out of the hospital in her bathrobe, because she felt she wasn't being treated right. She went right around the corner, sir, if you please, and had a cigarette. Then I picked her up in the car and drove her here.
"Suddenly she realized she had those blue contacts still stuck in her arm from the IV tubes. `Take those things out, Gordon,' she ordered me.
"I tried and then she got impatient with me and growled, `Get the pliers. Get the pliers!' What did I do? I listened to her. I got a pair of pliers and pulled them out."
Pinsent is breathless with laughter, as happy as if his wife was just in the next room.
"We're Bonnie and Clyde, not just escaping from the hospital, but treating our own wounds!"
He stops as past and present come together for him.
"There was something about this woman that made living easier," he sighs. "She was my `yes' in life."
When asked if he's seen the movie again since his wife's death, he nods tightly.
"Julie and Sarah and I watched it together and I recognized myself onscreen for the first time ever. I knew myself....That was the closest I've ever been to having my life come straight into my head from a movie."
Pinsent had wanted to be a film actor from his childhood when "I practically lived at the movies. I became the people I saw. Every time I'd enter the house, I acted quite differently. The family used to say that they never knew who was coming in."
Back then there was no Canadian film industry, but Pinsent worked on stage (most formatively at the Manitoba Theatre Centre under John Hirsch) and later for CBC Television.
"And radio, don't forget CBC radio. That was the bread and butter," he says, pointing out the window up Jarvis St. where CBC used to have its studios.
"I've done it all," he smiles. "the small, deeply personal movies people were making in the late '60s and early '70s. And then the tax shelter years, with the rash of trash that flooded our screens for a while.
"Each decade we ask `When are we going to have a full-grown film industry?' Well, I think we do have it. If we count them all up, there's some tremendous work being done.
"It makes me feel good to be part of it, now that we're finally getting there."
But it isn't just emotional fulfillment that Pinsent gained by working on Away From Her. His reviews have been extraordinary, but he cherishes even more what he calls "praise from an actors' actor," in this case, Daniel Day-Lewis.
This year's Oscar winner as Best Actor went on record as saying to Polley that Pinsent's work was "one of the best performances I have seen and I am totally in awe of him."
"Good stuff, good stuff!" chortles Pinsent, reliving the compliment. "When he got his Oscar, I was sitting here at home, feeling cocky and I thought `Maybe he'll say something about me.'"
Wait a minute. Pinsent wasn't at the Oscars with Away From Her nominees Polley and Christie?
"I got an email from Julie and Sarah when they were on the red carpet saying `Why aren't you here?'"
His jaw sets as he explains why.
"They couldn't get me a seat, so I said `No, I'll stay home.' I couldn't see myself hanging outside the theatre waiting."
He looks out the window at the sun setting over Toronto, choosing his words carefully.
"That was the one moment in my life and career I would have liked to have been part of front and centre. But I wasn't and I took it to heart. It will pass. That's okay. The movie will last and that's what's important."
Tax Credit Changes Are Ominous For Local
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter
(February 29, 2008) An impending change to federal government guidelines on tax credits for movies and TV shows is a threat to artistic freedom and financial stability, critics say.
A tax bill amendment – now before the Senate and poised to become law – revises criteria to exclude tax breaks for shows that bureaucrats regard as offensive or not in the public interest.
Tax credits – approved by the heritage and justice departments after a film is completed – are a vital part of the production process. They're part of the budget plan producers take to lending institutions for up-front financing before filming begins.
Martin Gero, director of the provocatively titled Young People F------, which opens April 18, said virtually every film produced in the country relies on bridge financing from banks – and banks do not like uncertainty.
If Heritage Canada toughens the criteria for tax credits – as a senior official acknowledged yesterday is its intent – Gero said the film industry is in big trouble.
"If it starts to get to where the banks are like, `Well, that tax credit money isn't for sure,' then they're not going to lend you money. I don't know a production anywhere (in Canada) that would be able to go on without their tax credit money."
Entertainment lawyer Michael Levine, a founding director of the Canadian Film Centre, agreed that film financing is in jeopardy.
"Bankers like predictable and measurable risk. So there is obviously a financial angle," Levine said.
"But there's also the obvious question of who's making the decisions and who's defining the standards. It's quite clear to me that we are getting into the dangerous territory of freedom of expression," Levine said, calling the legislation "very dangerous ... very ill-advised."
Annette Gibbons, a senior official with Heritage Canada, insisted yesterday that "only slight modifications" are being made to existing guidelines to explicitly deny tax credits to films promoting hate, excessive violence and pornography. At present, only pornography is excluded.
Heritage Canada officials will make final decisions, but a "transition" period will be in place, during which filmmakers will be consulted, Gibbons said.
But NDP MP Bill Siksay, the party's heritage critic, said the bill could have "a huge chilling effect" on Canadian film production.
"There hasn't been a problem with the appropriateness of film and video production in Canada. There's been controversy, but controversy isn't necessarily bad when it comes to the cultural life of a country as diverse as ours," he said.
Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, the actors' union, said the bill will add "a layer of instability and uncertainty to financing, which this industry can ill afford at this time.
"We're concerned about the censorship that would be involved. Clearly, that offends us and offends – I would hope – the Canadian public."
The guild representing Canadian directors also issued a statement yesterday opposing the changes.
Oprah's Turning Kindness Into Cold, Hard
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan
(March 01, 2008) Oprah Winfrey lives to give, and now she's found a new way to pay it forward. The daytime talk diva moves into strange new TV territory tomorrow with Oprah's Big Give.
Besides creating her own charity, Oprah's Angel Network, Winfrey has handed out new cars to members of her studio audience and built a school for disadvantaged young South African women. Now, she has put out the call for America's most selfless person, who in turn will be made instantly rich. You could say Oprah is looking for the next Oprah.
Oprah's Big Give neatly lifts the format of American Idol, America's Next Top Model and every other elimination-round reality series currently clogging network television. The notable difference: This is Oprah, which means heightened viewer expectation, since Oprah is all about people.
An extra twist: This time, the selfless shall be rewarded. The well-intentioned contestants on Big Give are made aware they are taking part in Winfrey's version of a reality show in which they will be required to perform charitable deeds; none has been informed the last Good Samaritan standing will receive $1-million (U.S.).
"The fact people had no idea there was a prize at the end makes it very pure," says Big Give co-executive producer Ellen Rakieten, Winfrey's TV partner since 1986. Winfrey herself doesn't host the program - that task falls to designer Nate Berkus, a frequent guest on her talk show. Winfrey limits her regal presence to cameo appearances at key moments. "Oprah is on location, she is there," says Rakieten. "Sometimes she will pop up in surprising ways and places. ... It's not a hologram."
Big Give brings together 10 do-gooders from all strata of American life: the same sort of people you might see on an episode of Oprah. They include a former beauty queen, an Iraq war vet, a male model turned disaster-relief worker, a paraplegic TV producer and a dotcom millionaire. The contestants appear to be in the game for altruistic reasons, and each has high hopes of earning Winfrey's grace.
Each episode is filmed in a different U.S. city. In the first show, the group is flown en masse to Los Angeles, where the hopefuls are assembled into two-person teams, to be changed up each week. Winfrey appears for a quick pep talk and to hand out sealed envelopes with the name and snapshot of a complete stranger - with a big problem - residing in that city. "Those," says Winfrey, "are faces of people that desperately need you."
Each contestant also receives cash ($2,500 apiece in the first show), after which the five teams have five days to help their lost soul turn his or her life around. "Do not let them down," intones Winfrey.
At the same time, the players are introduced to the requisite three-member judging panel: Brit celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, NFL star Tony Gonzalez and Malaak Compton-Rock, wife of comedian Chris Rock. They'll gauge the efforts of each team (in consort with Winfrey, naturally) and decide which player is removed each week. And then, they're off. Pumped to a person, the angels of mercy wheel out in enormous black SUVs.
The cries for help, in the first show, come from different places: a young widow with two young daughters, still reeling from her husband's murder and barely able to make the mortgage payments; a homeless single mother of two teens, all surviving on the mean streets of South Central L.A.; a young surgeon from those same streets saddled with a huge student loan.
The message of Big Give appears to be that helping people is hard work. The short fix would be to hand them money; the Oprah method involves teaching someone to fish, or something like that, which is a little more complicated.
Two teams snap to action right away and canvas the surrounding community for assistance; the others struggle to find a starting point. Big Give devotes screen time to the inevitable friction that surfaces when people work together, whatever the cause. In the opener, people get lost on the freeway, and contestants are frustrated in their attempts to mount immediate charity events to raise money for their subject. Nerves fray and catfights break out. "We didn't cast it that way," insists Rakieten. "When you put 10 different people in a competitive situation, and give them intense deadlines, you are going to have some drama."
One would-be saviour is ejected each week, and the challenges apparently will escalate as the series progresses. And because this is Oprah, so does the star power: Upcoming episodes of Big Give will feature celebrity drop-ins by John Travolta, Jennifer Aniston and tennis couple Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf.
As with her daytime show, Winfrey goes straight for the heartstrings. Everyone on the series has a tale sad or inspirational. Even host Berkus nearly perished in the Asian tsunami two years ago. Somehow, Winfrey's insistent, cockeyed belief - that people who need people are the luckiest people in the world - overrides the reality trappings. The true-life stories of tragedy, heartbreak and sheer will may have many viewers getting out their handkerchiefs. "It's a snapshot of what's happening out there right now in America," says Oliver. "We filmed all over the States for eight weeks, and every week, I was in tears, which is pretty hard because I'm obviously a butch fellow, and we don't cry."
Oprah's Big Give airs tomorrow at 9 p.m. on ABC and CTV.
Shaun Majumder Stars In Bawdy Fox Sitcom
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Television Columnist
(March 01, 2008) James Brown now has an official successor as "the hardest working man in show business."
Some of you have no doubt been wondering where comic/actor Shaun Majumder has been for the last year or so, ever since he (fictionally) blew up Valencia, Calif., in the opening episodes of last season's 24.
Not to worry. The boy's been working. Working a lot. And now, as those labours begin to bear fruit, he's popping up all over the tube. Indeed, it's getting so you won't be able to turn on your TV without Majumder's grinning mug staring back out at you.
"Been a little bit busy here in the H-Wood," Majumder allows, checking in by phone. "Things have been good."
Not to mention bi-coastal – indeed, cross-continental. On the way back from Winnipeg, where he shot a potentially recurring role in the Mark McKinney-produced Maury Chaykin sitcom Less than Kind, he stopped in Vancouver for a guest shot on Robson Arms, and is currently back home in the Maritimes, where he has returned to the anchor desk of CBC's This Hour has 22 Minutes for the final five shows of the season.
"They decided to do something they've never done before," he says. "We now have five people on the desk. It's pretty awesome. It's more like an old-school sketch troupe."
But Los Angeles is now more-or-less the permanent base for the Newfoundland-born funnyman, settling into a new house with his long-time love, Vantage Point actor Shelby Fenner, and awaiting the response to his new Fox sitcom, Unhitched, the first of six trial mid-season episodes set to debut – in Majumder's words, "due to launch off the pier" – tomorrow night at 9:30.
The irreverent new series, in which Majumder plays one of four newly single friends looking for love in all the wrong places, is produced by the filmmaking Farrelly Brothers, best known for such balls-out funny feature fare as Dumb & Dumber (idiot buddy flick), Kingpin (a one-handed bowler), There's Something About Mary (semen hair-gel), Stuck on You (co-joined idiot buddy flick), Shallow Hal (Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit) and The Ringer (rigging the Special Olympics).
In what may be a first for prime-time television comedy, they have carried that scatological, sophomoric sensibility to the new medium with them.
You know pretty much what you're in for when, even before the opening credits of the pilot episode, series lead Craig Bierko is dry-humped by a horny monkey.
The bar is thus immediately set – whether high or low is for you to decide. Majumder, for one, is thrilled. "You can't help but think of all those screenwriting seminars. You know, 'Grab 'em in the first 10 pages . . .'
" 'Hmm. Okay then . . . monkey rape!'
"It does kind of set the tone for the whole series."
Later in the episode, Majumder's own character, the sweetly oblivious heart surgeon, Freddy, learns an expensive lesson when he falls for a hooker. He gets his own ribald opening moment a few episodes in, when the car he is in is pulled over by the cops and his date gleefully hops into the back seat of the soon wildly rocking squad car . . .
You get the idea. But that's not all that Majumder's been up to. Though he's had to put aside club comedy for now, he nonetheless has a half-hour stand-up special coming up on Comedy Central (the U.S. comedy cable channel).
"This is how busy I've been," he laughs. "I didn't actually do a special and yet, somehow, I've got one coming out. I don't know, it's like they extracted it from my brain and made a hologram of me. It's a virtual performance.
"I'm working hard, but at the same time I know it could all be gone in a heartbeat. So I'm working on the new house, putting in the stone deck, learning how to use a drill. If this showbiz thing doesn't work out for me, hell, I look Mexican . . . get me one of those leaf-blowers and those big-ass headphones, there's lots of work I can get in L.A."
So You Think You Can Dance Coming To
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(February 28, 2008) A Canadian version of the televised dance competition So You Think You Can Dance embarks on a five-city audition tour this spring. Dance hopefuls can break out their best moves in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, with a fifth city yet to be announced. Audition information, including dates, locations and eligibility requirements, have also not been revealed yet. So You Think You Can Dance Canada premieres this fall on CTV. Other countries with their own version of the series include the United States, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel. On the show, a panel of judges offers criticism and praise as competitors pair up to tackle a range of dance styles from hip-hop, krump and pop-and-lock to salsa, quickstep, ballroom and jive. Viewers decide who stays and who goes with a weekly vote.
Lally Cadeau - This Rose Still In Bloom
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(March 01, 2008) Lally Cadeau looks out the window of the room where she's rehearsing and asks a question that's been on her mind a lot lately.
"We all have our demons and goblins and profound griefs, but how do we deal with them?"
She's not necessarily thinking about her own life, but that of the woman she's playing in Martin Sherman's Rose, which opens Tuesday night at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts' Jane Mallett Theatre as the first production of the new Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company.
"Rose is 80 years old," explains Cadeau, "and her story maps out the whole story of 20th-century Judaism, encapsulated in one woman."
She starts in the pogrom-haunted world of the Ukrainian shtetl, survives the Nazi massacre of the Warsaw Ghetto and is trapped by the blockade of Israeli refugee ships before she winds up in Miami Beach.
No wonder Rose winds up sighing, "I stink of the past century."
Cadeau's journey hasn't been nearly as long – and certainly not as traumatic – but the 60-year-old actress has seen a substantial part of this nation's show business scene for the past 35 years.
Most people will remember her as the maternal Janet King from Road to Avonlea or the breezy Kate Brown on the '80s CBC sitcom Hangin' In.
But she also spent nearly a decade at the Stratford Festival playing a variety of roles, while in the '70s she was one of the bright young lights of this country's regional theatres.
It's been a fulfilling career for the girl from Hamilton – and she says she had a certain predisposition toward it in her DNA.
"My mother was a lovely, tiny beauty who had aspirations to be an actress," says Cadeau in that applewood-smoked voice of hers. "She went to New York with my great aunt, wearing a little pale blue suit with a fur collar.
"She met a few producers, figured it all out pretty fast and headed back home to Hamilton."
And her father was "the eldest of 10 French-Canadian children who grew up in Penetanguishene, a good-looking Franchot Tone kind of guy."
As Cadeau describes it, "They fell pretty madly in love and I recall my family as being pretty dreamlike for the first few years."
Lester Pearson had even taken a liking to Cadeau's father, who was an aspiring Liberal politician, and he was predicting great things for him.
But then, suddenly, horribly, it all ended.
Cadeau's father died of leukemia at the age of 42. "Just around the time of Hurricane Hazel," she recalls. "I was 6 years old.
"Everything changed. I had two brothers – one 13, one 17 – and no one to care for us. Mum had always just been the lovely Mum, you see, but now she had to make a living."
So Cadeau's mother worked as a head of house for Smith College for 14 years while her daughter went to various prep schools across the U.S. and Canada, including Havergal in Toronto, where she befriended writer Jane Urquhart.
Cadeau spent three bohemian years in Montreal "hanging around with poets" and then wound up in British Columbia, where she made an impressive debut as an actress in Michel Tremblay's En pièces détachées.
She recalls the following years warmly. "We'd all sit around a table, read tons of scripts, then we'd put them on and people would come out in droves.
"Take a risk. Put a play on. Go out there on the stage. It's amazing what happens and how quickly the maturity comes and all the pennies drop."
She loved the six years she spent on Hangin' In, too, for "the way you mixed it up with everyone in the business. Younger artists you'd never heard of before and old people who'd seen everything."
But one of the peaks of her career, she says now, was the seven seasons doing Road to Avonlea as the fussy, yet loveable, Janet King.
"They used to pick us up at 3:30 in the morning," she remembers, "drive you an hour-and-a-half to get there, (and we) worked until 11 at night. Then did it all again. We were like pioneers out there. It was really something."
The original run of the highly popular series ended 12 years ago, but Cadeau says she still "gets letters from all over the world: Sweden, Poland. Some people in Canada even phone up my home number and ask if they can come over and visit."
After that, Richard Monette invited her to Stratford, where she stayed for nine seasons with mixed feelings. "I was very grateful for the work, but it's like a boarding school there and it fills you full of the same insecurities. You walk into the lunch room and suddenly you feel paranoid."
But now, her major concern is Rose and how she feels as a gentile woman playing a Jewish character.
"I think it's presumptuous to say to Jewish people that I'm going to travel the journey they did, but you do a lot of research and immerse yourself in their story. And, in the end, people just have to believe that an actor can live a reality they've never known."
What Cadeau still loves best is what has always attracted her to performing.
"You never know what's going to happen until you open your mouth every night. You have a strong framework, but you allow yourself some emotional freedom and you never know where it's going to take you."
'Stuff Happens' Stirs Iraq Debate
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(March 02, 2008) Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Blair.
To some people, that reads like the roll-call of the damned; to others, it's simply the individuals who brought about the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
But to director Joel Greenberg's cast, currently in rehearsal for the Tuesday night opening of the controversial play, Stuff Happens, those are the roles they've got to portray.
The title, of course, comes from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's comment on the pillaging and destruction that followed the conquest of Baghdad.
"Stuff happens," he said with infamous aplomb, "and it's untidy and freedom's untidy and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."
Author David Hare sitting in the bar of the Royal Court Theatre in London, talking about his script which has been a flash-point for theatres around the world since it made its debut at the National Theatre of Great Britain in the fall of 2004 and is finally having its Canadian premiere in a Studio 180 production.
"At one level people think they know the story," says Hare, "but when they see Stuff Happens, they realize they didn't."
The brilliance of the play is that Hare – regardless of his own well-known feelings about the invasion – allows arguments from both sides to be made with equal force and lucidity.
Hare recalls a comment he made early in the creative process to the original director, Nicholas Hytner. "I said to Nick, `Wouldn't it be great if it wasn't actually like a play, but more like a town hall meeting...Maybe the doors to the theatre would be open and people would be coming in and expressing their opinions."
Usually theatre this topical has its moment and then turns dry and yellowed even before the newspapers that chronicled the events which inspired it.
But because of the strong sense of moral right and wrong – as well as his scrupulous research – Hare's play has not only endured, but has acquired a whole new perspective with the passing of time.
The fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq on March 18 will take place during the Toronto run of Stuff Happens and – in some ways – it now seems like a different play.
"The degree of insurgency was not foreseen by anybody," says Hare. "Even Colin Powell, who thought the arrangements were disastrous would not have predicted this degree of resistance this long.
"At the time I wrote it, which was a year after the invasion – what I was saying that 9/11 had been misappropriated by a group of neo-conservatives who wanted to use it for their own purposes. Back then, it was very, very controversial.
"Within two years, it had become orthodoxy."
Producer/director Greenberg is also impressed by the change that time has wrought.
"One of the most amazing things about this piece," he volunteers, "is that you hear people talk about things and they couldn't possibly have known what was going to happen as a result of their actions. The resonance this brings to the work is positively frightening."
Greenberg says that there's no need to try and make the play more topical. It has all the seeds of tomorrow's news growing inside it.
"John McCain is even referred to and they quote one of his speeches in the second act. It's just what you'd expect from a right-wing military guy.
"But then just last month, I heard McCain still vow that he would `follow (Osama bin Laden) to the gates of hell' to catch him. The language of blood is still what the crowds want to hear. Maybe even more than ever."
Ultimately, though, the fascination of the piece comes from those real people, ripped from the headlines, represented up there on the stage, warts and all, for us to gape at.
One of them is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – a popular figure for representation lately, with works like The Queen and The Deal using him as a character.
"But Tony Blair is a very problematic figure of drama," cautions Hare, "because he never comes out the way you intended him to. In every production of the play I've seen, he always emerges far weaker than you hoped he would."
There's an irony here that Hare struggles to comprehend.
"Whenever you meet Tony Blair in real life, he's devastatingly charming, incredibly impressive, a very charismatic figure. But whenever he's represented in fiction, he comes out as shallow, placatory, sort of phoney. It's a big puzzle to me."
A different kind of problem faces Barry Flatman, the actor playing George W. Bush.
"The man people love to hate," says Flatman on a break from rehearsals. "The joke of his family, the little guy who needs to make good. He's the frat boy who's got the keys to the family car and he's bombing around raising hell ... only now he's the president of the United States."
Flatman admits that's the easy side of the character to play, but as he wisely notes, "This isn't Saturday Night Live and I'm not doing a comic impersonation."
So he's had to dig deeper. "He's a complex, but not necessarily profoundly intelligent person. People think he's either a Machiavellian menace or a moron. I still don't know which I think he is."
Hare has a good grasp of Dubya's strengths and weaknesses.
"Intellectually, he knows he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer and so he's compensated for that by concentrating on the techniques of power. He loves power. Very keen on power. He's the president and he understands that – just as in Shakespeare – wearing the costume makes you the king."
With five years of hindsight, Hare sums up the situation in Iraq.
"As an exercise in nation building it's been a catastrophe. As an exercise in democracy it’s been a catastrophe. As an exercise in public relations it’s been a catastrophe.
"But if you wanted to establish an American presence in the Middle East, then it succeeded brilliantly."
And that stuff has happened.
SCTV Reuniting For A Good Cause
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter
(March 05, 2008) Citizens of Melonville, SCTV is back.
Or at least, most of the players who made the late 1970s, early '80s TV comedy series so memorable, with characters like Guy Caballero, Bobby Bittman, Edith Prickley, Lola Hetherington, Ed Grimley, and Bob and Doug McKenzie.
The Star has learned that Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Dave Thomas will reunite as performers for the first time in 24 years on May 5 at The Second City's Toronto home on Mercer St.
Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis are trying to extricate themselves from previous engagements so they can join their colleagues.
"I only know one thing: it's going to be fun," said Short, in an interview from his home in Los Angeles.
He recalls his time on SCTV as "a miracle. It was the first time that I was tapping into the kind of work I would do for the rest of my career."
SCTV first went on the air as a half-hour show on Global TV in 1976 and wound up as a 90-minute program on CBC and NBC. Its final original year was on pay TV service Superchannel in 1984.
Short joined the series in 1982, near the end of its run, and says he found it "a daunting experience. I was being asked to join a show that was an Emmy-winning hit, the hippest thing in comedy.
"I really developed Ed Grimley there," he laughed, referring to the twitchy, cowlicked character that also appeared on Saturday Night Live and in his own animated series. "Up until then, Grimley had only been a character who would appear naked coming out of the shower to my wife."
The appearance in May is a fundraiser for The Alumni Fund, which raises money to help veteran artistic and support personnel from SCTV and The Second City comedy troupe who are facing health or financial hardship.
Also appearing that night are Colin Mochrie and the comedy group Women Fully Clothed (Kathryn Greenwood, Robin Duke, Debra McGrath, Jayne Eastwood and Teresa Pavlinek).
"I am thrilled to have this wonderful collection of Second City alums come home and support their colleagues and friends who may be experiencing some difficulties in their lives," said executive producer Andrew Alexander.
Dancers Onstage Get `Full Workout' In
Heavy Backyardigans Outfits
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer
(February 29, 2008) We've heard of triple threats – performers who act, sing and dance – but to get a part in The Backyardigans, you have to be a quadruple threat.
The young performers who play the Humpty Dumpty-shaped characters in the stage show have to sing, dance, act like a penguin, a moose or a hippo, and do all this while encased in a huge costume with a head that has to be manipulated from inside.
"It is difficult and strenuous work," says the show's artistic director, Winnipeg-based Patti Caplette. "Some people get claustrophobic inside the full-body costume." The outfits are much heavier than anything dancers would normally wear. "It's a full workout," she says.
Caplette is the creative partner with her husband, who handles the management side of KOBA Family Entertainment. Along with The Backyardigans, their popular productions include Caillou, Franklin, Little Bear and The Big Comfy Couch. They work with a winning formula: find a kids' show that has a big audience; negotiate for the stage rights; shape a 60-minute storyline; compose songs and choreograph dance numbers; then sell tickets.
With The Backyardigans, it was a case of going back to live. The Nick Jr./Nelvana TV show, on air since 2004, features the five critters – Tasha the Hippo, Tyrone the Moose, Pablo the Penguin, Uniqua the Purple-Spotted Creature and Austin the Kangaroo – in song and dance mode. Evan Lurie of The Lounge Lizards and Douglas Wieselman write the music; Beth Bogush is the choreographer. Dancers perform the musical numbers on camera.
"It's an absolutely fabulous property to work with," says Caplette, a dancer who retired from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet many years ago. "There's a whole range of music. They do the rumba; they do the samba; they can waltz." The music is everything from polka to Motown to disco. (YouTubers have the cuddly little characters dancing to deep-voiced rap numbers).
Caplette learned her production skills on the job with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Dancing led to choreography – for TV, live shows, sports events and even the circus. Her instinct for creating children's entertainment goes back to her early years. "My mother ran a dance school and I grew up with her magical creations for family audiences."
The Backyardigans are little showmen themselves, turning their common backyard into a different world in each episode. Before she makes a live show, Caplette says, "I watch hundreds and hundreds of episodes and study the program's bible, so I know all the relationships." After she scripts it, she records it using the TV performers' voices, "because the kids know all the characters' voices."
The Backyardigans runs today and tomorrow at the Sony Centre, 1 Front St. E. Call 416-872-2262.
Douglas Dunn Premieres New Dance At
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer
(March 01, 2008) An art historian by education and a schoolteacher in his first employment, Douglas Dunn regards his entry into dance an accident. "I'd been a rambunctious kid, then I was an athlete, then I discovered dancing in ballet classes."
He danced with Yvonne Rainer & Group, and then he spent four years (1969-'73) with Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
And when it was time to go out on his own, the question was, "What am I doing on stage?"
"I found myself making very static things. It was as if I wanted to experience being on stage without being so busy doing movement that I couldn't feel or think or experience something else," Dunn says.
This was the early 1970s. In downtown New York, dance was in ascension. "Dance was really coming up as a form that even other artists were drawn to – poets, painters, sculptors."
Without realizing it, Dunn was making pieces that resembled the work of visual artists and performances artists. He did a dance in a corner, something that came to him when he was staying in a Paris hotel and had only the corner of the room to work in. He stands facing the corner, feet angled like the walls. He lowers himself slowly, lies on the floor. A fixed number of beats – a long time in dance – go by between positions.
"The first thing I ever made was a man lying on his front spread-eagled and a woman sitting on his back." They hold poses for a long time, never touching the floor, then change them: for 2 1/2minutes by a kitchen timer. Later, he made a duet with Sarah Rudner, a Twyla Tharp dancer. The piece involved hauling her upside down with her ankles in a block and tackle. It was very slow.
The daughter of a friend came up to him after the show. "She said, `Douglas, Douglas, the psychology of your work is just astounding.' I had no idea what she was talking about. I was thinking in terms of formal things: verticals, horizontals, upside down. My mind did not take in the implications of the imagery between the man and the woman."
A piece he called 101 (think One. Oh, One) could stand as an emblem for New York art in the '70s. He called it a performance exhibit. He'd stacked pallets in his SoHo loft and made a kind of labyrinth. He lay atop the pallets, eyes closed, without moving. Entrants came up the stairs to his loft and were invited to drop a dollar into a paper bag, then make their way along a pathway through the stacked pallets. "I set myself up there. Some people never even saw me."
The piece was animated by the viewers who came into the space. This was as close as Dunn came to becoming a gallery artist, which would have meant a greater chance for fame and fortune than a contemporary dancer ever gets.
Soon he found he wanted to dance again. And with the help of a would-be artist management team, he formed a company, Douglas Dunn and Dancers, in 1978. But the experimentation did not end there. One of Dunn's best known works is Lazy Madge, a choreographic project that grew with each rehearsal and extended over 18 months in which the dancers were free to re-arrange the steps he made for them or re-combine them with others' parts. Such work – inventive, provocative, playful, daredevil – earned him the sobriquet "magnificent maverick" from Village Voice dance critic Deborah Jowitt, who summed up his work in an essay last November.
Dunn has been talking over camomile tea on Queen St. W. He's in town preparing a solo for Older and Reckless, performed for the last time this evening in the Dancemakers Studio (8 p.m., The Distillery District, 55 Mill St.). His contribution to the program is a solo called Tithonus.
It is a piece that takes its name from a Greek myth about Eos asking Zeus to make her mortal lover Tithonus immortal. "After, she realized she'd forgotten to ask for his eternal youth," Dunn laughs. He created the piece in modular units, so that some parts could be taken out when he could no longer dance them.
"My image of dancing has to be lightness, which has to do with the legs being fully active, bending and straightening. As I'm getting older I'm not jumping so much." But he knows why he's on the stage.
Guillaume Côté Trades Ballet For
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic
(March 01, 2008) It's ironic that one of this country's most successful ballet dancers, a regular guest on the world's finest stages, is sitting in his dressing room at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts worrying about being uncool.
But National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Guillaume Côté, at 26 the very picture of self-assured youth, is referring to his almost secret other life as a composer.
A week from today, as part of the company's spring mixed programme (which runs to March 16), Côté will be dancing on the mainstage while his music is played pre-performance in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre by the string section of the National Ballet orchestra led by assistant conductor Judith Yan.
Côté has been composing since he was a teenage student at the National Ballet School. In the evenings, others would go watch television. He and some friends would head back to the studio and jam.
Having taken piano and cello lessons, as well as studying composition at the Royal Conservatory, Côté has long had a hands-on connection to music.
Now he's going public with his first orchestral composition, White Light. Next week's pre-dance concerts also include the music of New Yorker Mark Einhorn.
That's what's making Côté feel a bit insecure. In a culture where most new music is atonal, the dancer-composer is introducing something that is easy to listen to.
"Most of my music is rhythm-driven," says Côté. "But in this particular project, I made it more about melody. Unfortunately, it sounds uncool to say that my music is melodic, because everybody is writing music that isn't melodic these days. But this project spoke to me in a different way."
Côté's inspiration came from a painting by fellow principal dancer Zdenek Konvalina and the active encouragement of National Ballet music director David Briskin, a fan of Côté's passion for composing.
Konvalina and Côté were sitting working on their laptops one day, when Konvalina asked him to take a look at one of his paintings, which he was revealing movie-style, having slowly moved a camera lens along the surface of the artwork.
"He was showing me the painting little by little, so it felt like it had a lot of movement," recalls Côté. "The strokes were moving on the screen. It was really cool. I saw music to it. I could feel it. It flowed really beautifully. I wanted to do a soundtrack to it."
Having full orchestral strings at his disposal must have made Côté feel like a 6-year-old holding a packed cookie jar. "It got scary at a certain point, because you can do anything," Côté says.
Briskin was there to "help me narrow it down to what was my main point behind that painting."
The result? "Something that takes you somewhere and gets your heart beating a little faster," says Côté.
He won't hear White Light live for a few more days. This isn't easy for someone who describes himself "as a crazy rehearsal freak."
"As a dancer, one thing that kills me about musicians is that obsession with that piece of paper – the score. With classical ballet dancers, there are no notes. It's all word-of-mouth."
The dancer talks about how the choreographer of a new creation will change and adjust the moves on the fly. But it's more challenging for a composer, "because once it gets down on that piece of paper, it's there to stay."
Aside from the way in which it is transmitted to the interpreters, dance and music are virtually inseparable. "A lot of musicians listen to a lot of music, but a lot of dancers listen to even more music. It's all we do, from my first class to late at night," Côté explains.
As a guest at opera houses in Berlin, London and Paris, Côté is no stranger to the musical world. In a few weeks, he will perform in Swan Lake at La Scala in Milan – and absorb everything he can from the top-rank music around him.
"I'm in the building and my dressing room is next to some opera singer. They let me wander around because I'm a guest. I get to be around great musicians, great music and great productions," he says.
Although he is at the top of the dance profession, Côté says there is a benefit to his sideline as a composer: "With music, I have the luxury of only taking on the projects I really want to do."
Sexy Satire Deserves Tip Of The Hat
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer
An Italian Straw Hat
(out of 4)
Choreography by James Kudelka. Until March 2 at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W. 416-345-9595
(February 29, 2008) Hats must be doffed to James Kudelka for honouring the French farce in a ballet that replicates the speed, the sex and the satire of the theatrical form.
His adaptation of Eugene Labiche's hugely popular 1851 play An Italian Straw Hat, which opened Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Centre, omits no choreographic possibility for comic effect.
By the end of the two-hour National Ballet production, one is almost as breathless as the dancers with the strain of following their careening around the stage, not to mention the complex plot twists.
As for the sex, the endless positions and the relentless humping of Felix and Virginia set a new standard for stamina.
Wednesday night, Piotr Stancyzk and Rebekah Rimsay reprised their original roles as Felix, the valet, and Virginia, the maid, boffing away to the opening strains of Michael Torke's Rossini-esque score as the curtain came up on a room arranged for the wedding of Ferdinand (played by Guillaume Côté).
The young Parisian aristocrat – a role that fits Côté like a glove – decides to take his horse for a ride through the park.
The horse (the well-muscled, equine Noah Long) snatches up and destroys a straw hat belonging to Anaïs, who has been preoccupied in the bushes with her lover Emil.
She cannot return to her husband, old Beaujolais, without her hat. The adulterous lovebirds (Sonia Rodriguez and Patrick Lavoie) send Ferdinand to replace the hat.
With the wedding party trailing at high speed behind him, Ferdinand goes to see Clara the milliner, who happens to be the mistress he jilted for his bride-to-be, Hélène. Jennifer Fournier's vampy Clara demands a sexual favour for information about where to find an identical straw hat.
Clara extends a central theme of this ballet, which is the voracious sexual appetites of its women, culminating in the part of the Baroness. As performed by the towering Joseph Welbes channelling Mae West, she knocks over her harem of handsome males like pins in a bowling alley.
Ferdinand impersonates a violinist to gain entry to the salon of the Baroness, who is Anaïs' aunt.
The hat he was hoping to find was in fact the one the Baroness gave to Anaïs. This revelation comes very early in Act II and, for the lengthy resolution of An Italian Straw Hat, the storyline peters out in a round of dancing, from cancan to tango, involving a kick line of gendarmes, prostitutes, showgirls and the ever-present wedding guests.
It's a choreographic car crash.
After all the pratfalls and the comically clumsy pas de deux it's a relief to watch Chan Hon Goh as the bride in a sexy duet, gliding into the arms of her Ferdinand.
Would that it all ended there, but Virginia and Felix outlast them all.
Supermodel Found Dead In Seine River
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Leicester, The Associated Press
(February 29, 2008) PARIS–The body of Katoucha Niane, one of the first African women to attain international stardom as a model and a vocal opponent of female genital mutilation, was found in the Seine River, police said Friday.
Known simply as Katoucha, the former top model for Yves Saint Laurent and other top designers was found Thursday near the Garigliano bridge in Paris, judicial police in Paris said.
An autopsy showed no signs of foul play, pointing to the possibility that the 47-year-old may have fallen accidentally into the river, they said.
She had been missing since January and was last seen returning home from a party. She lived in a houseboat near Paris's Alexandre III bridge, and her handbag was later found on the boat.
The Guinean-born model told The Associated Press in 1994 that she ran away to Europe at 17 aiming to be a model. Her big break came when Jules-Francois Crahay, then the designer at Lanvin, spotted her in a line-up. The label hired her as a fitting model. Her first catwalk modelling was for Thierry Mugler at the start of the 1980s.
After quitting the runway, she turned to speaking out actively against female circumcision, describing her own experience at age nine in a book, "Katoucha, in My Flesh," which was published last year.
"I will never get the incomparable pain out of my head," she wrote in the book, which she dedicated to her three children.
Vanity Fair's fashion and style director, Michael Roberts, said Katoucha was "one those girls who used her fame to spotlight the misfortunes of others."
"She always seemed so gracious and very lovely," he said. "She was sunny and she was bright, and I liked her a lot."
Katoucha set up her own label in 1994 after years of modelling for the likes of Christian Lacroix and Saint Laurent. Singers Cher and France's Johnny Hallyday were among the stars who turned out for her show.
"I don't pretend to be like Lacroix, Saint Laurent or the others," she said at the time. "But I was certainly in a great school by wearing their clothes and going to the fittings. I learned several basic lessons, including: Don't cut the fabric until you've got the 'toile,' or heavy linen prototype, just right."
Katoucha was the daughter of Djibril Tamsir Niane, an archaeologist and writer. She said that her father was initially disappointed that she didn't become "a professional intellectual, with a university degree," but later reconciled to her other successes.
Check Out These Great Reads For March Break
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Pippa Wysong
(March 02, 2008) March Break is almost here, and luckily there is a bumper crop of amazing unusual, picture books for young readers.
At the top of the list is Gallop! by Rufus Butler Seder ($15.95, Workman Press). The pictures in this book actually look like they are moving. There is a galloping horse, a flying bird, a monkey swinging across vines and much more. The pictures move as you open a page.
Young readers will want to turn the pages again and again. The animation is created by a thin sheet of plastic that has a series of black and clear bars that move over an image. The motion of the plastic (triggered by moving the page) makes the image appear to be moving. Gallop! will be a hit for preschool readers.
Also for young readers is the picture book Canada in Colours by Per-Henrik Gurth ($14.95, Kids Can Press). The brightly coloured pictures on each page show different parts of Canada. They are fun and lively, and the text describes something about a key colour on each page. For kids 3 to 6.
Clancy with the Puck by Chris Mizzoni ($21.95, Raincoast) is an entertaining story aimed mostly at boys. It's about a hockey player, Clancy, who is a little overconfident. The story is written in a rhyming style. A fun read for kids 3 to 8.
Titanic, by Jim Pipe ($19.95, Firefly) is the ultimate book for kids into the Titanic story. This book tells the true tale about this huge passenger ship that wasn't supposed to sink – but did. For readers 8 and up.
If you like history, check out the Horrible Histories series ($6.99 each, Scholastic). Two of the latest are Awesome Egyptians by Terry Deary and Peter Hepplewhite and Groovy Greeks (Terry Deary). Both are illustrated by Martin Brown. These are an easy way to start reading about world history.
The chapters are short, there are stories about people in history, and lots of cartoons and jokes. For readers 8 to 12.
With a photograph of dirty feet on the cover, you can't miss The Dirt on Dirt ($15.95, Kids Can Press). This book is by Paulette Bourgeois with illustrations by Martha Newbigging.
Get all the grimy details: what dirt is, why it sticks to your skin, animals that live in dirt, and even things that are buried in dirt. For readers 8 to 12.
Five Views On Us And Them
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Olivia Ward, Foreign Affairs Reporter
(March 02, 2008) Since the Earth-changing attack on New York's twin towers in September 2001, the war in Iraq, and the excesses of the U.S.-led "war on terror," the world has been increasingly divided into Us and Them.
This year's finalists for the 2008 Lionel Gelber Prize for the best books on international affairs supply some far-reaching glimpses into the roots of our current conflicts, with hints on closing the gaps that have opened up between countries and peoples in the 21st century.
The prize is awarded annually by the Lionel Gelber Foundation with University of Toronto's Munk Centre and Foreign Policy magazine. The winner will be announced Tuesday.
Today's confrontation between the Muslim world and the West has sparked widespread debate that goes far beyond religion. The West has begun to examine the role it has played in the evolution of countries it used to rule and now sees as a threat.
Things were different in 1919, when the hopes of nations emerging from colonialism were galvanized by the Paris Peace Conference ending the carnage of World War I. It was an era when the weak stood on the sidelines and waited for the strong to decide their fate. And the "great powers" disposed of empires according to their own grand schemes.
Into this cauldron stepped President Woodrow Wilson, one of America's most revered thinkers and politicians, an academic of conscience as well as cogitation.
In his book The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, Harvard University historian Erez Manela deconstructs Wilson's call for "a free, open-minded and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims" through the eyes of the subjects and their then masters.
"Wilson would truly make principles into politics," Manela said in an interview. "He was a visionary, but he knew the limits of practical politics."
Many hopeful countries did not. The disillusionment that set in when their seemingly unlimited horizons of freedom proved a mirage continues to rankle today.
"In 1919, America was not the sole superpower but one of the great powers," says Manela. "But in the perception of many who were weak around the world, it was the `good' power that would support the kinds of movements that the old imperial powers would not.
"Now, America's image is much more ambivalent, and it is not the pure and unsullied country that many people saw it as in 1919."
How that change occurred comes into sharp focus in Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Tim Weiner.
Although the CIA was born after World War II, its involvement in catastrophic wars as well as disastrous subversions, assassination attempts, and the backing of thugs and killers, made enemies all over the globe.
In countries as disparate as Laos and Peru, it blazed a trail of mayhem, training Latin American murderers and helping Saddam Hussein's fascistic Baath Party to power in Iraq – before aiding in its removal in 2003 with faulty facts on Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction. The CIA's role in the 1953 coup against nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran still poisons Tehran's relations with the U.S.
Weiner's book shows an agency divided, its covert action arm often out muscling its intelligence-gathering operation. As the quality of intelligence declined, the main events of post-war history went by, undetected, with shocking regularity.
"Time after time in the last 60 years we've gotten into a situation where presidents need to know what's going on and the CIA can't reliably tell them," Weiner said in an interview.
Now, when America is a target of widespread and dangerous resentment, the human intelligence it needs to fend off threats is missing: "Very few (CIA recruits) have language training or in-country experience to work in difficult, dirty, dangerous places."
What's needed, Weiner says, is a new breed of sneakers on the ground, "a new generation of people who are fluent in Arabic, Urdu, Chinese and other languages. The only way for espionage to succeed is to know the enemy."
Paying attention to foreign cultures has been a difficult lesson for the West. And minorities have had the shortest shrift.
Will Kymlicka, a world-ranking expert on multiculturalism, tackled its complex problems Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity.
While the colonialist attitudes of Wilson's time have shifted dramatically, there is confusion about how to proceed. In an age of anxiety about the unknown, some governments fear that emerging identities can splash into civil or sectarian conflicts, while others watch with alarm as minorities are ethnically cleansed.
To establish a firm ground for international minority rights, says Kymlicka, a political philosopher at Queen's University, Europe focused on its own minority problems, and the United Nations on developing a global framework for the rights of indigenous peoples: "The problem in both cases is which groups we are trying to protect. A lot of work needs to be done."
Multiculturalism and fair treatment of minorities have become international norms, and countries must meet ever higher standards of fair treatment. But practice often falls far short of theory when minority demands clash with security or economics.
A practical international framework for protecting minority rights may not be created for some time, Kymlicka believes: "We've inherited the infrastructure, but we're spinning our wheels. A lot of factors have to fall into place to push (countries) past their reluctance to act."
Unprotected minorities are often swept into bloody civil wars, especially in the poorest countries.
In an unblinking analysis of the factors underlying the world's worst poverty, Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It, has some practical, if radical, solutions, including armed intervention to end ruinous civil wars.
But Collier, an Oxford economist and advisor to the British government on Africa, is far from believing that the wealthy West's failures are mainly to blame for the plight of the world's poorest. Or that sending more money will solve the problem.
"The blame issue is independent of what would be effective," he said in an interview. "If we come at it from compassion and enlightened self interest, it's much more helpful."
The "bottom billion," who are virtually unaffected by the benefits of globalization are caught in four deadly traps, he argues costly conflicts, poorly used natural resources, landlocked geography and hostile neighbourhoods, and bad governance. Instead of raising more aid money, Collier says, the wealthy should lend a hand through improved trade and support for reform-minded politicians.
And they should urge the states to sign up to international conventions on distributing natural resources, creating democracy, and cleaning up corruption. "The core struggle is internal," Collier says. "It will be won by the people within those countries. Our role is a modest one."
While the poorest adapt to the rough 21st century landscape, Japan's problems have been largely overlooked. But, Richard Samuels explains in Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, it is a mistake to see the technologically advanced country as secure and confident of its position in the world.
"China is sucking the oxygen out of most rooms these days," says Samuels, a political scientist who heads Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies. "But Japan is in a state of transition, with a great debate about what its future direction will be."
While Japan was an East Asian anchor of stability after World War II, it is now nervously watching its old enemy, China, on the rise, even as its old ally, the U.S., declines. And, Samuels says, Washington's new friendship with China and its deals with a belligerent North Korea also set Tokyo's teeth on edge.
Unsettling economic and demographic changes add to an atmosphere of anxiety. "Insecurity is the core factor of life for Japan," says Samuels.
In a world where nothing is certain but change, neither the rich nor the remote is immune.
Val Ross - A Smile For The Ages, A Legacy In Words
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com
(February 22, 2008) Whether she was interviewing Alice Munro, hanging out at the computer with her son, or pondering the perfect lawn, Val Ross found a way to capture the moment and preserve it in print.
Val Ross had one of the world's great smiles. Its luminosity stands as a metaphor for the illumination she shared through the elegance and intelligence of her writing.
She died, at 57, early last Sunday morning of complications from a brain tumour.
Part of the legacy she leaves behind is her journalism, much of it written for this newspaper, and for which
Journalism, for the most part, is not for the ages; daily newspaper journalism, in particular, is a deadline-driven thing, of the moment and for the moment. But sometimes its practitioners capture (or elicit) a mood, a physical detail, a quote that resonates to become something more enduring. Val Ross's best writing could do just that.
On author Alice Munro and the scene at the Blyth Festival in Huron County, Ont., in October, 1994.
Goderich, Ont. – “Excuse me, but I hear there's a famous lady writer who lives near here,” said the man in the Blyth Hall, summoning an alert-looking, sixtyish waitress to his table. “I hear she sometimes comes to this festival.”
The waitress nodded her silver curls.
“Would that by any chance be her?” The man indicated a nearby table. A woman sat alone, artistic and dramatic. Wrapped in patterned shawls, the woman held high a fine head of auburn hair.
“I'm not sure,” admitted the waitress. She sized up the woman and then, encouragingly, whispered back, “Yes, I think that might be her.”
Alice Munro, who was the silver-haired waitress, gives a guilty laugh when she tells this story. … “I wanted that man to have this vision of a writer with beautiful red hair. I did it because she was so beautiful.”
With Munro again, as she runs into Peter C. Newman at Bailey's Fine Dining, in 2006.
Goderich, Ont. – As the remnants of Bailey's crab cakes are cleared away, Munro's tall geographer husband arrives. They flirt; she actually bats her eyes at him. She really enjoys her femininity. Amused, he says he'll wait outside in the car for her.
As he leaves, a second tall man comes over to Munro's table. “Alice! Is this your restaurant too?” It's Peter C. Newman, who has just put his sailboat into Goderich's dry dock for the winter. They chat for a moment, these two Canadian bestselling authors, these people of the book, who just happen to meet on a Tuesday afternoon in, of all places, downtown Goderich.
“Come outside and meet my husband,” Munro tells Newman. “That way he can say I've introduced him to a real writer.”
Writing an obituary of gallery chatelaine Signe McMichael, in 2007.
Toronto – About 35,000 schoolchildren a year troop through the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont.
Until recently, a white-haired woman with a taste for artistic scarves would often greet them. Sometimes, she'd stoop down to pick up after them – whisking away stray candy wrappers as scrupulously as if the gallery were her own house.
Once, it was. Signe McMichael was one half of the couple who created the collection of works by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, David Milne and the Group of Seven, and Inuit and Woodland art and sculpture.
She and her husband, Robert, donated 200 paintings to the public in 1965, along with the house that contained them – known as Tapawingo (Place of Joy) – and the forest in which it sits, about 40 kilometres northwest of Toronto.
“The sense of home that pervades the place today is due to her,” said Tom Smart, director of the McMichael. “That kind of feel is her legacy.”
On Hobbes and squirt guns, in 1998.
Toronto – Children can be nasty, brutish and short. Their culture palaces, however idealistically designed, often become demolition derbies, with random collisions, blank screens, and broken buttons banged by sticky little fists. Parents must be forgiven if, when they hear the word culture in connection with kids, they reach for their squirt guns.
On Ken Danby's populist charms, in 1998.
Toronto – Ronald Reagan once professed to be a fan. Alan Eagleson has been portrayed admiringly by him. The Franklin Mint published one of his works. For art snobs, these are all fine reasons to dismiss Canada's best-known master of High Realist painting, Ken Danby. So is the fact that Danby, 58, is ruggedly handsome in a narrow-eyed, Robert Mitchum way, genially self-confident, and commercially successful compared to most Canadian paint-daubers. Whatever the serious artsies think, he's doing just fine, as any one of the hundreds of people with an exclusive invitation to attend the opening today of his new show at Toronto's Joseph D. Carrier Gallery will attest.
Discussing lawns and order, in July, 1998.
Montreal – Lawns are like human breath: ambiguous areas where the outside flows into intimate space, where interiors greet the external world. A mangy lawn is like some poor fool who opens his mouth to smile hello and reveals missing teeth or parsley stuck in the dentures. Front yards that sport thistles and crushed tin cans, like bad breath, send the world a message of negligence or insulting indifference. Green velvety perfection may impress some people, but others will interpret such lawns as banal assertions from anal retentives, the sort of people who overfloss. Then there are people who attempt to change the subject, replacing grass with stones or multicoloured gravel. They don't get it. They don't understand that the lawn is a declaration of solidarity with North American ideals.
Doubting the advantages of CD-ROM books, in 1997.
Toronto – I'm crouched amid the wrinkled clothes and loose homework of my favourite 14-year-old nerd, peering at his computer. He inserts a CD-ROM ( Beethoven Lives Upstairs, a popular year-old product from The Children's Entertainment Group of Toronto) into the drive. “It's neat,” he promises. After bee-like digestive noises, the computer screen coughs up an image of a book.
And what a book! The illustrations move! They're really scenes, the size of a credit card, from the Beethoven Lives Upstairs video. (Still, I grumble, the image is fuzzy; I prefer the video.)
My nerd guide clicks expertly through “book” pages – an abbreviated version of Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol (I'd rather read the book's full text) until we reach the game he likes best. Click! A tiny piano keyboard appears, with baby versions of some of Ludwig van's greatest hits – Ode to Joy, the theme from the Pastoral. Clicking on each key, he “plays” the “piano” and provokes the computer to react, with rude noises and graphics, by deliberately hitting wrong notes. This is great for kids who don't have a piano. Me, I want to hear a real piano.
Paying a call on Joan Chalmers and Barbra Amesbury, in 1996.
Toronto – A dog turd lies on the floor of Joan Chalmers and Barbra Amesbury's newly renovated midtown Toronto living room. It was deposited by one of the couple's two excitable Jack Russell terriers, in front of several large canvases stacked against the wall, near a hand-crafted dining-room table Chalmers commissioned from Canadian artisan Michael Fortune.
Both women – the stately, aquiline-faced Chalmers and Amesbury, who looks like a leggy tennis star and talks a mile a minute – notice the small object. But for now, hospitably intent on welcoming a journalist to their home, they let doggy turds lie.
Talking pop psychology with Avie Bennett, in 1991.
Toronto – “Ideas for these books come up in [McClelland & Stewart] editorial meetings,” says publisher Avie Bennett. “I guess it's a function of age; I say, ‘You gotta be a moron to read a book like that,' but the younger staff all say, ‘Great idea.' ” Bennett is talking about a publishing phenomenon known as recovery books. Part pop psychology, part spiritual thought-for-the-day, they range from simple-minded to scholarly and deal with such traumas as drug addiction, being the child of a dysfunctional family, workaholism, sexual addiction, “negaholism” and just plain feeling like an inadequate human being.
And perhaps, this once, the wise elder should listen to the younger generation: Recovery lit is booming. Since the late 1980s, American authors such as Melody Beattie ( Codependent No More), John Bradshaw ( Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child) and Scott Peck ( People of the Lie) have moved into penthouse positions on The New York Times bestseller list for months at a time.
Sharing a meal with Margaret Atwood, in 1991.
Toronto – “I've always been funny. I think I'm becoming more cantankerous. I'm finally getting full licence for it. Apparently eccentrics are happier people. It says so in today's Globe.”
Everyone in the restaurant knows who the speaker is. A small pale woman with a big hat, wicked, sibylline smile, preposterous earrings. Margaret Eleanor Atwood, 51, poet, novelist, nationalist, icon.
Some of the diners may know that she is the author of 25 books published in 25 countries in 20 languages, with a new collection of short stories, Wilderness Tips, coming out next month. Or that she was cited in a recent Economist magazine survey of Canada as one of the few exportable products about which the country can boast. One or two might have heard that earlier this year she delivered the Clarendon Lectures at Oxford, explaining Canadian literature to the English. Or that eight months ago, the Modern Languages Association, North America's most influential congress of literary academics, gave affiliate status to the University of Tampa-based Margaret Atwood Society, which ensures that four scholarly papers devoted to her work will be presented at its annual general meeting.
But none of the patrons pesters her for an autograph or even rubbernecks to see what she is eating (a grilled eggplant sandwich). Perhaps they are appropriately Canadian in their reticence; perhaps, because she is famous for being aloof and withering and caustic, we are all a little intimidated.
Today, however, she is very human. Concerned about the state of the country and the disappearance of a child on the Toronto streets (horror is never far from Atwood's mind). Looking forward to spending a year in the south of France with her family, writer Graeme Gibson and their daughter Jess, 16. Amiable, full of dumb jokes (“How many Canadians does it take to change a lightbulb? One. Of course”) and bits of chatty advice (to writers: “Never throw anything away”). She reminds you of someone you met years ago, someone you'll remember in a moment.
On the scene at one of then-Heritage Minister Bev Oda's staged events, 2007:
Ottawa – There were smiles all around when the hero of Canada's most recent cultural catastrophe stood beside Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda at the Canadian Museums Association's annual conference in Ottawa on Thursday. Cameras captured Oda congratulating Robert Steven, the quick-thinking curator of the Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie, Alta., for saving art and, more importantly, human life when the gallery roof sagged under melting snow and collapsed on March 19.
When Steven arrived at the building (a heritage brick school rebuilt in 1984 as a public art gallery) at 8 a.m. that morning, he noticed a puddle on the floor of the exhibition hall, and a bulge in the ceiling tiles. While hauling paintings out of the gallery, he called to alert the preschool daycare that used part of the building's space; he also called the city to shut off the gas. Thanks to Steven, who had attended a conference on emergency preparedness at the previous year's CMA conference, barricades were up before the roof came crashing down.
The images of the twisted wreckage – screened to gasps in the convention hall at the Chateau Laurier – reminded many of the 650 museum delegates of their own buildings' dire need of repairs. “Each one of you I know faces the same challenges,” Oda told them.
Oda reminded her audience that her government had come forward recently with money to help restore five national institutions, and staked a $10-million program over two years to enable museums to hire students as workers. However, there has been no move to restore the $2.5-million Ottawa previously trimmed from the Museums Assistance Program.
More troubling for the country's 2,500 museums is the fact that Ottawa has yet to produce a long-promised national museum policy. Instead, it all seems ad hoc. Last year, Oda and Prime Minister Stephen Harper handed over $30-million to a hitherto unknown institution, the Global Centre for Pluralism, still in the planning stage, while failing to deliver the $49-million that's needed to complete six major projects in Toronto. There's still no news on federal support for the proposed Ottawa home of the Portrait Gallery of Canada, or for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
After the minister's speech, CMA president Cal White presented Oda with a blue rubber boomerang inscribed with the words “museums policy” in both official languages. “You threw this boomerang out, but it will keep coming back until the promise is fulfilled,” White told her. The minister looked surprised and tried to smile. But she left the boomerang behind.
On a Saturday Night piece about Canadian icon Farley Mowat, 1996:
Toronto –Kenneth Whyte, the editor of Saturday Night magazine, is in a generous mood. Freelance writer John Goddard's cover story for the May Saturday Night, What a Whopper, which debunks the reliability of bestselling non-fiction author Farley Mowat, has been grinding through the media mill all week. After a Monday morning article in this newspaper, the story appeared in numerous Canadian newspapers, on CBC Radio's Morningside and CBC-TV's Midday; The Times of London also contacted Goddard.
“It was a great story and good for the magazine,” grins Whyte. He feels kindly toward Anna Porter, Mowat's publisher at Key Porter Books –“a charming woman” – even though he says Porter jokingly warned him before publication that if he said “anything nasty about Farley” she would call in her husband, libel lawyer Julian Porter. Even Mowat, 75 this weekend, rates an affectionate cuff from Whyte: “He's the Clown Prince of Canadian literature.”
The Clown Prince is also one of Canada's best-known, most prolific and best-loved authors, whose 34 books have sold around 14 million copies in 52 languages. For years critics and historians have carped that Mowat's chronicles of Inuit, wolves, whales and western Viking settlements rate accuracy below storytelling. Mowat has not dispelled this; he cultivates his antic image as a kilted elf. Still, millions of readers have understood him to be deeply serious about his causes.
But Goddard marshals evidence from the National Archives and from Mowat's papers at McMaster University archives in Hamilton (those papers that were not embargoed by Mowat) to expose inconsistencies in Mowat's earliest and perhaps most famous works, People of the Deer (1952), The Desperate People (1959) and Never Cry Wolf (1963).
Goddard's most damning charge is that Mowat twice misrepresented the federal government's role: when he blamed Ottawa's neglect for the famine among Keewatin Caribou Inuit in the late 1940s; and when he accused Ottawa of “waging war” on wolves. Goddard found archival evidence that Ottawa officials sent famine relief and that some bureaucrats opposed a wolf bounty and well understood wolves' role in the ecological balance of the North. “Mowat appropriated the government position as his own rallying cry,” Goddard writes. Later in the article, he says: “By selling fiction as non-fiction, [Mowat] has broken a trust with his public.”
Someone is going to have to spend weeks, as Goddard did, comparing the archival record with first editions of Mowat's books to convict or acquit the author. What's clear is that old-guard Toronto media moguls have rallied round Mowat, but have been unable to fully exonerate him. It looks as though Mowat, more passionate polemicist than rigorous reporter, painted federal bureaucrats in darker colours than many deserved.
It also seems that, in their zeal to reveal, Goddard and Saturday Night have erred in the same direction.
On the toll that covering the Bernardo/Homolka murders took on veteran Toronto crime reporters, 1996:
Toronto – In a book-lined room at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishers in midtown Toronto, Nick Pron is getting coached on facing the media. This is odd, because at 46, Pron is a seasoned reporter at the Toronto Star, and a veteran author too: With fellow reporter Kevin Donovan, he co-wrote Crime Story, a 1992 account of the grisly murder of Selina Shen. But working alone on his new book Lethal Marriage, about the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka murders, has been far more onerous than Crime Story.
Along with so many others, the details of this case have made Pron weep, have left him nauseous and reeling. And the journalistic competition has been fierce. By his count, 65 print and broadcast reporters were filing daily stories for more than four months, including the Toronto Sun's Scott Burnside and Alan Cairns. Team Sun, as it was called, was Pron's chief rival in producing the first quickie true-crime mass-market paperback on the case.
And rivals they were: At one point, a Star article said that the Attorney-General's office was eyeing the Sun's coverage for possibly breaking the court-ordered publication ban. At another, Cairns contacted Pron's publisher to complain of his allegedly unethical conduct. As the murder trials dragged on, the pressure took its toll. Cairns's marriage broke up. Last summer, Pron was smitten with massive chest pains. His editor pulled him from the case for six weeks to recover. “But please don't portray any of us as victims,” Cairns said. “We were paid to be there.”
This week, just days ahead of Team Sun's Deadly Innocence (Warner Books), Pron's book has hit the bookstores. And he has flown straight into a blitz. Callers at open-line radio programs have accused Pron of callous exploitation because Lethal Marriage reprints transcriptions of the pornographic videotapes Bernardo and Homolka made of teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy before they murdered them.
“Just take it easy,” Dara Rowland, Doubleday's director of publicity, advised. Pron, who is a solid 6-foot-7 but looks gentle and somewhat worried, said, “Half the people who call in want to string me up.”
On a small Ontario town's attempt to recapture its literary legacy, 1994:
Meaford, Ont. – For Meaford, Ont., it was a question of civic pride. Meaford is a pretty, quiet town of 4,400 on the south shore of Georgian Bay, dependent on light manufacturing, tourism and fruit farming. A giant apple (Meaford's answer to Sudbury's giant nickel) dominates the main street, beside the old Meaford Opera House. Each June, Meaford raises money for the opera house with a big public garden party on the banks of the Big Head River. But recently, the town lost 500 jobs with the closure of a carpet company and a light-switch plant. “So this year we had to do something really special,” says garden party co-chair Michael Biggins. But what?
Around April, Janine Nesbitt – she runs the local bookstore, Stuff to Read – reminded Biggins that 1994 was the centenary of Beautiful Joe. The first Canadian book to sell more than a million copies, Joe was the fictionalized story of a Meaford-area dog rescued from a brutal owner who had chopped off his tail and ears. In the 1960s, old Meafordians still remembered Joe and his adoption by a local family. The dog lived to be 14 in a house overlooking the Big Head River and achieved international fame when a Nova Scotia lady wrote up his story. Joe's grave, under the riverbank's meadow grass and Queen Anne's lace, is marked with a cairn and historical plaque.
Other towns claim a share of Joe. On July 1, 1993, the town of Milton, N.S., where author Margaret Marshall Saunders was born, threw a Canada Day party to celebrate the centenary of the first (U.S.) publication of Saunders's most famous book. There was cake, children read aloud from Joe and an old plaque was given a new place of prominence in the town park.
But for Meaford, Joe is the hometown dog who made good. So he became the theme of the 1994 garden party. “I told the tourism people, ‘We've got an Anne of Green Gables thing right here, what can we do?'” says Biggins.
They decided to commission a new play, Beautiful Joe: A Dog's Life, for the opera house. Anticipating audience demand for the book, the committee tried to order copies from its Canadian publisher, McClelland & Stewart. They were informed that, after 95-plus years plus in print, it had gone “O.S.I.” – out of stock indefinitely.
The Meaford bookseller wrote to M&S, urging them to reprint. So did another local bookseller, Maryann Hogbin of the Ginger Press Bookshop in Owen Sound, Ont., who was annoyed that she couldn't satisfy customers' requests for the book.
But M&S remained unmoved. “Weeks went by, we weren't getting anywhere,” says Biggins. “In early June, we got a very nice letter from M&S all about the ‘collapse of the mass-market paperback market in Canada.' It basically said we were welcome to try to interest another publisher or printer in the project.”
But who would be mad enough – given the “collapsing” economics of publishing – to take a chance on Joe? And at the last minute? For Maryann Hogbin, bringing Beautiful Joe back to life was a question of mission. Her tiny Ginger Press had published 11 local books from Bicycling the Bruce to Flax Culture: From Flower to Fabric. In Joe, she says, “I saw a book that wasn't going to make its 100th birthday party. We were being told that because of publishing economics, part of our local heritage wasn't important any more.”
An 1895 edition of Joe was tracked down with a preface from Ishbel, Countess Aberdeen (“A book like Beautiful Joe – a worthy companion to the well-known Black Beauty – must do vast good in leading the young . . .”). The old book's owner agreed to let his edition be taken apart and reproduced.
On Monday, June 20, Hogbin found a printer, Ampersand Printing of Guelph, Ont., to do the job. Could the committee commit to buying 1,000 copies? Yup. On Tuesday, the committee wrote a preface to the new edition. On Wednesday, Biggins and Hogbin met at the premiere of Beautiful Joe: A Dog's Life, and signed the necessary papers. On Thursday, people bit nails. On Friday, cartons arrived from Ampersand. On Saturday, garden-party tents went up. And on Sunday, June 26, hundreds of people came to Meaford's Beautiful Joe Park, where under sun-drenched banners proclaiming Joe's centenary, they sampled strawberry teas, pony rides, and two cartons of freshly minted copies of the Ginger Press's 13th book – Meaford's contribution to Canadian letters. After CBC Radio's Morningside ran a story, the Ginger Press phone rang with book orders from as far way as Vancouver. Joe was reborn. The Ginger Press's edition of Beautiful Joe won't make national bestseller lists nor will it be available in most bookstores. But it's a handsome thing, with an old-fashioned typeface and a glossy cover sporting two blurry photos. One shows an earless, earnest-looking dog couchant; the other is of a staunch woman, who could be the twin of Miss Jane Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies. That's author Margaret Marshall Saunders, the Nova Scotia Baptist minister's daughter.
On contrasting West Coast publishing moguls, 1992:
Vancouver – Scott McIntyre is the president of and major shareholder in Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., the country's fourth-largest Canadian-owned general-interest publishing firm and the most prominent publishing house in the West. To have lunch with him is to have a satisfied sense of experiencing precisely what you expected the B.C. publishing scene to be.
Picture a gorgeous tiled courtyard in an Italian restaurant in downtown Vancouver. The air is redolent of the almost tropical rot smell of rain-coast plants released by the heat of the sun. Attractive serving persons make gentle inquiries of “Your usual table, Mr. McIntyre?” Over glasses of California wine, McIntyre tells anecdotes about the mad old days working for Jack McClelland, flying McClelland & Stewart author Farley Mowat into small towns along the Pacific coast. Then the salads arrive: plates of flowers, the perfect Lotusland lunch.
If, however, you grab a sandwich with a more typical Western publisher – say, Bob Tyrrell, of Orca Book Publishers Ltd. – you must seek out a two-storey house on the fringe of a shabby-genteel district in Victoria, and go around to the stairs at the back. At the top, Tyrrell, a 44-year-old in shirt sleeves, introduces you to his staff of two employees and one part-timer. Then he shows you round his three-room premises, which you can pretty much scan by pivoting on one heel. Each year Orca produces a modest 15 or so books, in comparison with D&M's 100 titles, and earns no more than $400,000 in revenues. Yet in July, 1992, the 1,300-member Canadian Booksellers Association voted Orca Publisher of the Year.
“The reason,” Tyrrell grins, “is that logger up in Sechelt who tried to ban my book.” Tyrrell is referring to Maxine's Tree, a children's book about a child who saves her favourite Sitka spruce from clear-cutters. “It was right before Freedom to Read Week,” he adds, “and our faxes went out across the country. The press wanted an issue. The logger's timing was wonderful.”