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May 15, 2008

I'm on vacation in sunny California so I'm just going to let you get right to the news except to say please check out the great event on May 25th with Louise Piitre and Jackie Richardson.  What a night!  See details below. 

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and get your latest entertainment news!



Louise Pitre Stars In Heart And Soul With Special Guest Star Jackie Richardson – May 25, 2008

Source: Diesel Playhouse

(Toronto, ON)  Two of Canada’s National Treasures will take the stage together for one night only on May 25th in the heart of the entertainment district at the Diesel Playhouse main stage, for an evening of unforgettable cabaret.  From Piaf and Brel to Broadway, Jazz and Gospel this will be an amazing evening of love, laughter and song for all ages.  Award-winning singer and actress Louise Pitre starred in Mamma Mia! in Toronto, across North America and on Broadway.  Louise also starred in Piaf, Jacque Brel, Annie Get Your Gun, Blood Brothers, Sweeney Todd with the Calgary Symphony, Song and Dance and many others. While living in New York, Louise was nominated for a Tony Award as well as winning the National Broadway Touring Award, a New York Theatre World Award, and the San Francisco Theatre Critics Circle. In Canada Louise has won 3 Dora Awards.

Jackie Richardson has thrilled audiences in Cookin' at the Cookery in Toronto across Canada and the USA.  Jackie has enjoyed much success on stage, in film and on TV.  She has also received great acclaim for her highly popular concert performances.  With Gemini, Juno and Jessie award nominations under her belt Jackie’s talent knows no limit.  Jackie is also a DORA winner.

This “Dynamic Duo” will be supported by Diane Leah at the piano, George Koller on bass and Tom Jestadt on drums.

SUNDAY, MAY 25, 2008
Diesel Playhouse
56 Blue Jays Way (south of King – East of Spadina)
8:00 PM
Tickets are priced at $49.50 and $59.50
Tickets are available by phone and in person
Diesel Playhouse - 56 Blue Jays Way, Toronto
Phone tickets - 416-971-5656 OR get tickets online at


Making Music For The Cool Kids

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
J.D. Considine

(May 14, 2008) 'Oh, the cat will have to do with eight lives now/ And the Chinese will be out of luck," Ed Robertson sings on the new Barenaked Ladies album. And why will these terrible things happen, you ask? "Cause 7 ate 9!"

Okay, so it's a childish joke, but this time it's wholly justifiable, because the song in question, 789, is the first track on the Ladies' new children's album, Snacktime. Available both as a standard CD and as a picture book plus CD, Snacktime is an album aimed at third graders of all ages - but mainly the eight-year-old variety.

Nor are the Ladies the only alt-rock outfit shifting their aim from black-clad cool kids to blackboard school kids. They Might Be Giants, whose pop smarts and off-beat humour presaged the BNL sound, have released three albums of children's music, including the recent Here Come the 123s. Dan Zanes, who first made a splash singing with the Del Fuegos, now makes his living singing kids songs.

Peter Himmelman, who was once considered Minnesota's answer to Elvis Costello, was nominated for a Best Children's Album Grammy this year for his fourth children's release, My Green Kite. Jason Ringenberg, who in the 1980s led the cow-punk outfit Jason and the Scorchers, now makes kids records as Farmer Jason (as well as fronting concert dates this spring and fall with his former band). And Devo front man Mark Mothersbaugh has not only scored such classics as Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, but also hosts a segment on the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba!

"Maybe it's one of those milestones, where after a band puts out so many records they do their 'symphony record.' Or their 'children's record.' Or their 'acoustic record.' You know?" Robertson muses. "For us, there are a lot of reasons, not the least of which that there are 11 children between the five band members now."

There's nothing new about rock musicians having children, of course, but the first generations of rock stars kept their family life from spilling over into their recordings. Elvis Presley never cut a special version of Teddy Bear for little Lisa Marie, nor did doting papa Paul McCartney cut an album for his or other people's kids. And who among us wouldn't shudder at the thought of a Jimmy Page or Ozzy Osbourne children's album?

It's hard to say what made this younger generation of rockers interested in tunes for toddlers. John Flansburg of They Might Be Giants recalls the children's music of his youth the way some people remember the taste of cod liver oil. "The children's records I had as a kid were some of the most horrible musical documents I have ever experienced," he says via e-mail. "It made the arrival of the Beatles just that much more amazing."

Another factor may be that kids these days tend to have sound systems of their own and are able to listen to what they want, when they want. "Kids are dedicated fans of whatever they're into at the time, whether that's the Beatles or Hannah Montana," Robertson says. "So you know you're going to hear [their favourites] a lot.

"When my son says, 'Can you download that Crazy Frog song for me?' I'm like, 'Oh, god, please no!' And I know I'm going to hear it blaring out of his room for 10 days straight. But, in general, my kids are into really cool music. They listen to the Weakerthans and Fountains of Wayne and They Might Be Giants and Green Day and stuff."

It's not too surprising that children who grow up listening to their parents' albums would come to like the same kind of music (at least until they become teens). Likewise, tykes raised on rock would naturally be drawn to music that's a little more lively than the earnest, folk-based sound propagated by artists such as Raffi or Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer.

At the same time, it helps if the artists themselves are blessed with a sense of childlike whimsy. That's certainly the case with Barenaked Ladies, whose hit Pinch Me famously includes the couplet: "I could hide out under there/ I just made you say 'underwear.' "

"Plus we had a record called Born on a Pirate Ship," Robertson adds.

"I think that's what made the transition relatively easy for us," he continues. "We've always incorporated humour and irony and a sense of tongue-in-cheek in our music. So it wasn't an alien place to be. I mean, a U2 kids record would be weirder." (Although who wouldn't want to hear Bono belting "In the Name of Mud"?)

In fact, writing songs for Snacktime was strangely liberating. "We're so used to being scrutinized by the label and management, and worrying what the fans are going to think, and worrying what our peers would think," Robertson says. "For once, all that mattered to us was that kids would find it entertaining."

Still, the project did show up an unexpected shortcoming in the band. "There's an alphabet song on the record, Crazy ABCs, where I look at words that start with letters they don't sound like they start with, like 'aisle,' and 'bdellium' and 'czar,' " Robertson says. "We recorded the whole song, and when I was telling my daughter the story of recording it, and she said, 'What did you do for I?' And I was like, 'What did we do for I'?

"Then I realized we didn't do I. Between the five band members, the producer, the engineer and the band techs, nobody noticed that we skipped a letter of the alphabet." He quickly found an I word - irk - and wrote a line for it that fit the rhyme scheme, which the band edited into the track the next day. "Everyone was happy, and it wasn't until I was listening to it on the way home that I realized we put it in the wrong order. We did G-I-H.

"So we determined to leave it. At that point, it was so screwed up that we had to leave it. Plus the rhyme wouldn't work if it was in the right order."

The Barenaked Ladies will be performing songs from Snacktime on Kids Canada on Monday, May 19, on CBC-TV.

Canada Overpowers Norway

Source: www.thestar.com - Paul Hunter,
Sports Reporter

(May 14, 2008) HALIFAX–Team Canada, too powerful to allow any Cinderella stories here, has a date with Sweden Friday afternoon at Quebec City in the semi-final of the world hockey championship.

Canada advanced here this afternoon, with an a 8-2 victory over Norway in a game that had a few nervous early moments but, ultimately, unfolded essentially as expected. Derek Roy, who would finish with a hattrick, scored back-to-back goals late in the second period to stake the Canadians to a 5-2 lead and remove any suspense from proceedings.

Sweden had a tougher challenge in its quarterfinal contest against the Czech Republic at Quebec. That game went into overtime before Mattias Weinhandl potted the winner in a 3-2 victory.

While no teams are pushovers here at the worlds, as Norway showed for about 30 minutes here yesterday, this will not the same powerful Swedish squad that won gold at the Turin Olympics. None of Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Nik Lidstrom, Daniel Alfredsson or the Sedins are in the lineup.

Instead, Team Sweden is mostly made of club team player with just 10 NHLers on the roster, including Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman Anton Stralman. The Leafs initially wanted the 21-year-old Stralman to join the Marlies but were convinced that he would be allowed to play a regular role with Sweden. He's done well in the tournament with two goals and three assists in six games and he is a plus five.

A couple of Leafs draft picks are also on the Swedish squad. Mikael Tellqvist, now with Phoenix, backs up Rangers' goaltender Henrik Lundqvist while Kenny Jonsson, a terrific defenceman, has opted to play out his career with hometown team in Angelholm.

The top scorer on the Swedish team is Weinhandl, who played 182 NHL games, mostly with the Islanders, before returning to Sweden and the Linkopings hockey club. He has five goals and six assists in the tournament.

Canada scored quickly today, just 37 second in, when Dany Heatley rifled home a shot from a bad angle. It was his tournament leading 10th.

It took awhile, however, for the game to turn into a romp. Pal Grotnes, the carpenter in the Norway net, made some excellent saves while the Norwegians were determined to have a decent showing in their first ever appearance in a quarterfinal at the world championship.

Morten Ask, on a 5-on-3, tied the game before Canada's Ryan Getzlaf restored the one-goal lead before the first period was over. Norway, again on a 5-on-3, tied the game at 2-2 on an excellent shot from Mathis Olimb but that's the last time the game would be close.

Norway started to look fatigued and it began passing up shots on scoring chances. But, more than that, the tremendous power of this Canadian squad started to show.

Jonathan Toews made it 3-2 before Roy potted his first two. Rick Nash then scored a pair before Roy completed his hat trick.

Canada should have second-line centre Eric Staal back for Friday's game. He missed yesterday's contest because he was in Thunder Bay for the funeral of his grandfather.

Queen Ifrica's Single Has Substance

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

May 8, 2008) Sure, incest and sexual abuse are unlikely subjects for a hit single, but when Queen Ifrica's "Daddy" took Jamaican radio by storm last fall, she was surprised by demands to ban the tune.

"They were trying to say that I was making it difficult for fathers who had good relationships with their daughters and sons, like I was trying to bring down men," said the 33-year-old author of the controversial track that includes the plaintive cry, "Daddy, don't touch me there."

"The song has nothing to do with men in general.... It speaks to the specific individual who is involved. I wanted a father driving home from work in his (flashy) vehicle to have like a heart attack or something when he heard it."

Raised in rural Jamaica, Ventrice Morgan started off singing in the church she attended with her grandparents. The daughter of ska legend Derrick Morgan was nicknamed Ifrica by her mother who maintained that her face was shaped like a map of Africa. (Queen is a common honorific for Rastafarian women.)

The entertainer, who describes her profession as a calling, said there were few female role models – she names Sister Carol, Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley – for her brand of socially uplifting reggae, called culture music.

"From a young teenager I saw that this side of the music was dying," Ifrica said in a recent phone interview from Jamaica.

"Judy Mowatt, Chevelle and a lot of the other sisters were just going into the church (and singing gospel). I'm not knocking them for that; it's just the pressure of what the industry gives. If you're not willing to hold on, then you might find yourself going to other places."

Dubbed the Fyah Muma (Fire Mother) for her incendiary approach, the singer-rapper finds inspiration for songs like "Daddy" and "Below the Waist" (about domestic violence) among the people she encounters while doing ad hoc social work with manager Tony Rebel's Flames Production.

"When we go and we talk in poorer high schools, you find that the behaviour patterns of a lot of the young women are from low self-esteem. And when you dig deep, you get to find that it comes from not just low self-esteem because of where they live, but because of what they experience on an everyday basis in their homes from parents.

"From time to time women come to our office to ask for food or money to help them out, and they tell you these stories: `You hear the news the other day? That's my son' or `That's my boyfriend.' I just put myself in the position of one of those women when I write."

Sometimes, the mother of two draws on personal experience. "Natty Fi Grow" speaks to religious discrimination she has experienced.

"Certain aspects of society still see Rasta as a cult; we've always had this stigma on us," said Ifrica, who was introduced to the faith at age 10 by her mother and stepfather.

"And a lot of our Rastafarian artists don't make it any easier with their behaviour; some of them have been doing some things under (dread)locks that are making people discriminate more against Rasta.

``So we have to help young people understand the difference between an authentic Rasta man and just a reggae Rasta."

Just the facts
Who: Queen Ifrica with Luciano & Jah Messenjah Band, Mikey General and Etana
When: Sunday, 8 p.m.
Where: Sound Academy, 11 Polson St.
Tickets: $40-$55 @ Ticketmaster

Young Lantos Follows In Father's Footsteps

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(May 13, 2008) As his father is preparing to step off a plane and onto the white pebbled beaches of the south of France, young
Ari Lantos is watching a wizened pig roast on a spit in the heart of Canada's malodorous steel town.

Trying to make it as a producer with his first full-length feature film, 27-year-old Lantos is living anything but the limo-driven lifestyle of his father, Robert Lantos, who has roughly 70 film and TV producing titles under his belt, including Atom Egoyan's feature film Adoration, in competition at the Cannes Festival, which starts tomorrow.

The junior Lantos is in Hamilton filming a dark, low-budget, outrageous comedy called You Might As Well Live, about a loser and alleged child pornographer who is actually a misunderstood, really swell guy named Robert R. Mutt.

Sound odd? That's just the tip of a very warped iceberg.

With their script, which sounds something like Borat meets Trailer Park Boys, Lantos says he and his equally youthful partners "will either be lauded for our bravery, or tarred and feathered for this movie."

Adds his co-producer, the 28-year-old Jonas Bell Pasht, "Our strategy is simple. Shock 'em all. We wanted to make a movie that was hard to ignore, full of stuff that totally catches you off guard. We have a nice, tame title, but it's no indication of what audiences will be letting themselves in for."

Case in point: If the Telefilm Canada-backed film makes it into the Toronto International Film Festival this fall, as the duo hopes, they are considering plastering the downtown core with leaflets proclaiming, "Child Pornographer on the Loose!"

"That definitely would be hard to ignore," quips Bell Pasht, who met Lantos in Grade 10 at Toronto's Northern Secondary School.

"Yep, we'll get some feedback on that," agrees the film's geeky star, Josh Peace (Lars and the Real Girl), who co-wrote the film with writer/director Simon Ennis.

During a recent set visit - the final day of a 20-day shoot - Lantos et al. have staged the West Locus Drive 1st Annual Pig Roast (hence the spit) and are filming a scene in which Peace has been booted out of his home (before trying to take a shower) to find himself naked in the middle of a street party in a rough neighbourhood where all the residents are hell-bent on his castration.

Asked if he was nervous about running around with no clothes on, Peace responds without batting an eye. "No. I have a wonderful physique. And I'm covered by a prosthetic penis because Mutt has to get circumcised later. We made a tiny, little prosthetic with a huge mat of pubic hair. It's only about this long," Peace adds, holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart. "I said to these guys, 'I've got at least half an inch on this loser!' "

The movie is being filmed in a truly scuzzy part of town, with driveways overflowing with rusted-out vehicles spray-painted with nasty epithets.

Lantos says they didn't have to prop a single thing. "You couldn't plan it this good," he says, adding that the day before, six police cars descended, arresting two alleged drug dealers who live a few doors down.

Besides Peace's sad-sack character Mutt, the movie also features cameos from Hollywood bad boy Michael Madsen (who plays a disgraced former minor-league baseball star and Mutt's spiritual guide) and Stratford Festival veteran Martha Burns (who plays the head of a mental asylum who ends up the centre of attention at an S&M orgy).

"It's hard to believe we're actually doing this in the context of a feature film," says Bell Pasht, who now lives in Los Angeles. "I think it's going to be exciting because it's so insane."

You Might As Well Live is not the first collaboration of Lantos, Bell Pasht, Peace and Ennis, who previously teamed up on a couple of shorts, The Canadian Shield and The Waldo Cumberbund Story, which received positive responses at TIFF in 2005 and 2007 respectively.

On the face of it, it's highly debatable whether You Might As Well Live could ever have got off the ground without the backing of the senior Lantos's company, Serendipity Point Films. Young Lantos concedes that his last name gives him a leg-up in an industry where it's almost impossible to raise - or make - money.

But he insists that they would have found the funds, just not as fast. "It would have been a longer process, and it would have been a smaller film. We wouldn't have been able to raise as much as we did, as quickly as we did."

After dozens of rewrites, Serendipity green-lit the script about a year ago. At the start, Lantos said his dad didn't like it.

"He read the script very early on and felt that there was some potential there - but hated it," the son says. "The first version was bad. It was just a series of really funny scenes that had very little to do with each other.

"So when he said it was a mess, that's when we really cracked down. We brought in a story editor and basically wrote a new script a week, for a couple of months."

Does Lantos Sr. like it now? "I think he recognized that we succeeded in giving the film some structure. But he still totally doesn't get the comedy. I don't think he ever got the comedy," he says, adding that his dad has basically given up trying to talk him out of the film industry. "I think he just sort of said, 'Okay, you guys are the audience that this film is intended for, and if you think it's funny, I'll trust your instincts.' "

Whether it flies is anyone's guess. But then the success of most films - big or small - usually is.

Ari Lantos has no remorse "about sodomizing social conventions for the sake of laughter." Their strategy, Bell Pasht adds, is shamelessly to go after the college-age market. "We plan to spend roughly $10-million to $15-million marketing the film - and that's just Stateside, once we get the big deal."

Peace promises that audiences won't be disappointed. "It's a heartfelt story. A heartfelt performance. Watch out, world. There will not be a dry eye in the house. Mark our words."


Canadians May Alter Travel Patterns Over Fuel Surcharges

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(May 12, 2008) MONTREAL–Canadians may vacation closer to home this summer as soaring gas prices for their cars and new airline fuel surcharges prompt a change in travel patterns, industry experts said Monday.

"It's going to increase the cost of travel and will eat away at discretionary income of Canadian households, which will have an effect on leisure travel," says Randy Williams, head of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

Fuel surcharges may not the decisive factor, but the addition of an average of 10 to 15 per cent to cost of North American flights could have an impact, experts say.

Calgary-based WestJet (TSX: WJA) followed the lead of rival Air Canada (TSX:AC.A, TSX:AC.B) Monday by imposing one-way surcharges of
$20, $30 and $45 depending on the length of the flight, effective Tuesday.

On Friday, Air Canada began to charge
$20, $40 and $60. A round-trip transcontinental trip now costs an additional $120.

The airlines said the speed with which fuel costs have risen forced them to re-introduce domestic fuel surcharges for the first time in four years.

"This is about just trying to get the right number that allows us to recover and to continue to offer low fares," WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem said.

Canada's No. 2 airline said it is imposing lower surcharges than Air Canada because they are appropriate to its cost model, and not to give it a competitive marketing advantage.

"We are trying to strike that right balance between what makes sense for us and continues to allow us to fill the planes," he said, adding the airline hopes not to destimulate demand.

Analyst David Newman of National Bank Financial said the airlines run the risk of losing customers by raising travel costs.

"Although the surcharge appears substantial, the ultimate impact will be determined in how the increase is absorbed into the market, with potentially weaker loads as the most price-sensitive travellers exit the market," he wrote in a report.

The surcharge could give airlines additional room to lower base fares in the highly competitive Canadian market, he added.

Rising costs related to fuel are just the latest hit being borne by the tourism industry. A slowing U.S. economy and weaker American dollar, along with new passport requirements, have caused U.S. visitors to Canada to decrease by 48 per cent in five years.

Higher prices won't extinguish to desire Canadians hold to see the world, but it may contribute to altering their travel patterns, Williams said.

"They may go shorter distances, take less day trips, go way less on weekends, but certainly they'll continue to travel just maybe less distance."

Some may in fact decide to pay air surcharges and fly long distances rather than haul their RV or boat across country.

Chris White of the Canadian Automobile Association said the travel membership club has received more requests for TripTiks customized driving maps this year as consumers watching the gas price rise have considered alternative vacation plans.

Anecdotal evidence suggests families that considered overseas trips are looking at more modest trips within Canada or renting a cottage, he added.

"It's getting very expensive to fly. People have less discretionary income so you could imagine that there's a strong possibility that will continue to be the trend."

Via Rail plans to hike its fares by two per cent effective June 3 because of rising fuel costs.

But spokesman Malcolm Andrews said it's difficult to say whether the rail service will benefit because it doesn't charge fuel surcharges.

"People are price sensitive and at a certain point people are going to reach their limit of tolerance and say: 'I'm going to look for an alternative or I'm going to change my habits."'

Michael Pepper, CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, said he believes the number of money spent on travelling will slow this year after robust annual growth. That includes corporations, which will look at alternatives to communicate in the face of rising travel costs.

"It's bound to have an effect on where people draw the line on how much money do they have of disposable income to spend on a vacation or travel."

The council, which regulates 3,000 travel retailers and wholesalers registered in Ontario, has lobbied the federal government to force airlines to include the total cost of air travel in their advertised prices.

Pepper said the airlines are misleading the public by not fully including up front extra charges, even though they have noted that international fares include additional costs for fuel and other charges.


Elizabeth Shepherd Releases New Jazz CD

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

May 10, 2008) Toronto jazz artist Elizabeth Shepherd's debut album was third most popular in a BBC Radio 1 poll by Gilles Peterson two years ago. She opens for Jamie Cullum at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. She has performed at Tokyo's Cotton Club.

"But I still live in a basement apartment in Parkdale and teach part-time," says the multi-talented 31-year-old.

It's a typically contradictory, rags-and-riches mix of a young artist on the rise. She is being showered with accolades and requests for concert dates, but is nowhere near ready to give up the simple life.

Her home neighbourhood since returning to Toronto four years ago inspired her second full-length album, Parkdale (Do Right! Music), which had its launch party at the Gladstone Hotel late last night.

Its 10 tracks are all original creations by Shepherd, her trio mates Scott Kemp (bass) and Colin Kingsmore (drums), as well as trumpeter William Sperandei and percussionist Roman Tome. (There's even a simple, soulful classical music-inspired acoustic-guitar cameo by Reg Schwager.)

The sound transcends standard jazz genres. "I like to get away from the standard chord progressions," Shepherd says. "The songs also have some complicated metres, not just the four-four or six-eight you usually hear."

The constants are Shepherd's creamy vocals and sure hands on the ivories – and her creative touch. She usually writes the lyrics and lays out the charts.

"The music is improvised, of course, but I work best when I can be creative within a defined framework," she explains.

Perhaps it's an eclectic background that helps Shepherd transcend any one particular style.

Born in Winnipeg, the artist moved around a lot while growing up, thanks to her parents, who are Salvation Army ministers. The family even spent time in France.

Shepherd had her first piano lesson at age 6. "Because that was the age my older brother started at, and it was only fair that I start at the same age." She picked up the E-flat tenor horn two years later.

She waffled between classical piano performance and doing something else right up to her first years at university. But then she dated a jazz guitar player, who opened her ears to a genre she had never considered before.

Shepherd was studying piano at McGill University in Montreal when she realized she needed to change direction. She credits the openness of her teacher, Kenneth Woodman, who had no connection to jazz.

"I confessed to him that my heart's not into it, that I want to explore something other than classical," Shepherd relates. "He said, `Go for it.' I loved his approach, full gusto. `What do we need to do? Let's get you started.'"

The piano student immersed herself in the masters – "I devoured the recordings of McCoy Tyner, Red Garland, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson" – and found a jazz teacher.

"It's a misconception about jazz that that you just play," Shepherd says. "It's incredibly structured. There is all this technique that needs to be learned – it's like learning another language."

But as her final exam approached, Shepherd was still waffling.

It took a family tragedy to focus her resolve. In 2004, her brother, who is five years older, was in a car crash that broke his neck and left him a quadriplegic.

"Seeing my brother adapt and deal with his situation was an incredible inspiration. It forced me to take stock and investigate what I really wanted to do," Shepherd recalls.

"I came to the conclusion that I do want to perform and that, if it's fear that's holding me back, then that's not good enough."

She found courage to get up on stage at a jam night at Gate 403 on Roncesvalles Ave., making a fan of host Ron Davis, a jazz pianist. "He was incredibly supportive from that moment on and kept spreading the word," Shepherd says. "As long as you have someone like that, who is a spokesperson from within the community, it passes like word of mouth from one person to the next."

She had another lucky break during her second shift as a waitress at Le Saint Tropez on King St. W. when the place found itself in need of a last-minute replacement at the piano.

It was before the rush and there were only two or three tables of customers. Shepherd recalls: "I had plates in my hands, I put them down and sang a tune – "Bye Bye Blackbird" – they liked it and said, `You're hired.' That was the last time I waitressed. It was fantastic to just hone my skills."

It didn't take long for the pianist to hook up with bass player Kemp and drummer Kingsmore. "We've played together so much since that I feel like we're this amoeba, we move in one direction – one person will pull and the other will follow. It's this beautiful connection," Shepherd says.

The trio's first album, Start to Move, was nominated for a Juno, as well as being recognized by the BBC.

Audiences at jazz festivals in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, B.C. and in Holland will get a chance to hear how well this musical connection works in the coming months. Locally, the Elizabeth Shepherd Trio will be guests at the Elora Festival on July 24.

And then there's that golden gig, opening for Jamie Cullum at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 20.

It's all good for Shepherd, who is comfortable with her professional progress: "The way each phase has happened, I feel like I've been ready as it's come and there's something beautiful about that – about timing being beyond my control but being just perfect."

Teens In Training To Be Real-World Guitar Heroes

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

May 8, 2008) Kevin Reid has become a real-life guitar hero to scores of aspiring young rock 'n' roll stars across the GTA.

And like the best teachers, Reid takes his young charges on field trips, which includes jamming on stage before live audiences every Wednesday night at the Artful Dodger, a bar/restaurant on Isabella St. near Yonge and Bloor Sts.

"I'm not some old guy with a cane and a suit, wagging my finger at them. I've got long hair, tattoos and earrings. When (students) first meet me, they don't know what to make of me. But after half an hour, you win them over," Reid said, whose students range in age from 7 to their mid-50s.

After more than a decade of dead-end jobs and trying to make it as a rocker, the 33-year-old stumbled upon a teaching gig through Strings Attached, a music store in the Streetsville area of Mississauga.

The popularity of the
Guitar Hero video game – now in its third incarnation – has since reinvigorated the love of rock 'n' roll music to a whole new generation of young and old, and sent demand for lessons soaring.

So much so that, to keep up with demand, Strings Attached has built new studio space across from the family-owned store.

With appropriate parental supervision, both Sean Sanberg, 14, and Corey Manahan, who just turned 15, joined Reid on stage during a recent Wednesday-night jam session at the Dodger.

"I've learned everything from him (Reid), pretty much. I learned how to play my first solo from him, I learned to improvise," said Sean, who wants to pursue a career as a rock musician.

His parents support his late-night outings as long as he keeps his grades up, he says.

Corey, who met Reid on the jam-night circuit, said his mentoring has given him the confidence to play – including a recent gig at Southside Johnny's in Etobicoke – as well as write his own music and start his own band, complete with the requisite MySpace page.

"He (Reid) has taught me how to interact with the crowd and how to ... play the songs but to add something to the songs. He helps me with my own shows, how to organize them," Corey said.

What drew these teens to classic rock? Sean said he prefers the style of 1960s and '70s rock to the music of his generation.

"It (rock music) is energetic, it's fun, it's loud at times. I just find that I hear more heart in it than most other styles. There was just something that told me that ... that I needed to play," said Sean, who counts Deep Purple among his favourites.

He also appreciates the opportunity to test his skill before a live crowd.

"The second you walk into a room and you don't know anybody, it's really fun just to get up and play a few tunes. It helps you build stage presence."

One former student, Garrett Blake, called Reid recently to say he's signed a deal to cut a CD at 17.

Christian Kennerney, owner of Strings Attached, said he began offering guitar lessons 13 years ago – where past instructors include Billy Talent's Ian D'Sa and Megadeth's Glen Drover – and found a steady demand for good old rock 'n' roll from the outset.

But Guitar Hero, the video game, has become "a calling card for the instrument" and it's been hard to keep up with the demand for lessons, with more than 400 students enrolled, Kennerney said.

The game "brought the guitar into the living rooms of 4 or 5 million people and tons of kids are taking lessons as a result," Kennerney said.

"With guys like Kevin on board, you're able to build up a healthy program because they're so good at what they do, they make it fun for the kids."

In addition to teaching five days a week, Reid also jams four nights a week at venues across the GTA.

Despite a promising start – cutting a record at 18, a CD at 19, performing on Q107 Ultimate Jams and once opening for Downchild Blues Band – Kevin never made it big as a rock musician. But the love of playing and the ability to teach has been a lifesaver.

"I play a lot, dude. I play a lot. The only time it leaves my hands is when I'm sleeping or I'm eating," Reid said.

"All the time growing up, I always had people helping me. I'm not travelling the world, I'm not doing the big rock-star thing but here I am, I've got an ability to do something so I might as well pass it on."

Feist Keeps It Subdued

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

(May 14, 2008) Onetime punk rocker Leslie Feist, I suspect, still has a rock album in her somewhere, and it might come in handy not too far down the road.

The white-hot Canadian songstress filled the cavernous Sony Centre last night to such a degree that some employees of her own Arts and Crafts label were left at the back of the venue, but there's already a Nov. 7 date at the notably less performer-friendly Air Canada Centre looming.

If Feist – who recently added a Grammy performance and an armload of Junos to the long list of achievements notched by her lovely 2008 album, The Reminder – keeps getting bigger, theatre dates like this will soon be but a fond memory for local admirers.

You can't really blame the gal, then, for playing it "subdued" and making the most of her voice and the delicate instrumental interplay of her massively talented backing quartet.

Dressed in a teeny white fringed dress and carrying an oil lamp across the darkened stage, Feist began in silhouette against a screen to sample and layer her own effortless harmonies before cooing the spiritualized lament "When I Was a Young Girl" to boisterous cries of "I love you!" from males, females and even a few children in the crowd.

Similar, spacious atmospheres dominated the poised set that followed, all illustrated in appropriately moody tones by shadow projections on a huge screen suspended behind the band. The early hit "Mushaboom" was delivered at a rustic tiptoe, "The Park" dappled in whistled birdsong, the eerie "Honey Honey" enrapturing with naught but a tick-tocking keyboard loop and Feist's own minimal guitar accompaniment to dress up its whispered vocal. The soulfully smouldering "Limit to Your Love" and graceful "Gatekeeper" were models of restraint, as Feist indulged in none of the vocal showboating that many of her less talented peers can't resist.

She wasn't above throwing the room the odd jolt – "My Moon My Man" maintained its tasty Memphis-soul bounce, while opening act the Great Lake Swimmers helped close the night with a raucous "Sea Lion Woman" – and the signature smash "1 2 3 4" got a few brave souls out of their seats, even if the singer seemed a little too embarrassed by its success to really let loose in front of a crowd heavy on friends and, as she put it, at least three people who'd "broken my heart." No sense wasting the acoustics of a proper theatre, after all, when there are arenas in her future.

Daughter Of Nina Simone Embraces Mom's Shadow

Source:  www.thestar.com - Elio Iannacci,
Special To The Star

May 10, 2008) Having a legendary diva for a mother sure has its moments. Just ask Lisa Celeste Kelly, the daughter of the late soul virtuoso and acclaimed civil rights singer, Nina Simone.

The former Broadway actor, who will turn 46 next Sept. 12, is remarkably open when speaking about the rocky relationship she had with her mom. Upfront, direct and filled with the same intensity that first made Simone's early fans crown her the High Priestess of Soul in the '60s, Kelly is a prime example of how the apple does not fall far from the branch, let alone the tree, in a brazenly honest phone interview from her Pennsylvania home.

"So many people think they know about how my mom and I got along, but they haven't got a clue," Kelly says, referring to her mother's controversial 1992 autobiography I Put A Spell On You. "When I look back on it now, she was an entertainer, a wife, an activist and a mother. Let's face it, with that many plates in the air, some are bound to come crashing down. She wanted it all and I realized it's not possible."

The result of Simone's desire to "have it all" is explained in detail in her book, along with a page devoted to the regret she had for not having spent enough time with Kelly (who was sent to a series of schools abroad while mom toured). Also of note in I Put A Spell On You, is the way Simone defined her relationship with her daughter as an adult, specifically one that was "difficult and complicated."

"We did have our fights and we had periods of time – sometimes years – where we just did not talk or see each other," Kelly admits. "After all, I am my mother's daughter through and through, so you can just imagine how stressful it could be when we were butting heads. At the end of the day, all mothers and daughters fight. We were no different and we both knew that, in the end, we loved each other. That's part of the reason why I do think it's high time for me to give her the tribute she deserves. I feel the need to set the record straight on this."

Part of the record that Kelly – who has recently changed her stage name to simply "Simone" – is referring to, is a disc recorded in honour of her mother's legacy. The 12-track album, appropriately titled Simone on Simone (out in stores Tuesday) has Simone Jr. lovingly interpreting a handful of Simone Sr.'s most evocative songs, including "Feeling Good" and "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair."

The project is an emotional Mother's Day gift that also includes revising classics such as "Keeper Of The Flame" as well as a live version of "Music For Lovers" (which features her mother playing the piano and contributing vocals). The only Kelly-penned track on the disc is the down-tempo "Child In Me" which, she says, was created as "a love song for my mother."

As a child in the '60s and early '70s, Kelly grew up while witnessing significant social change due to her mother's ongoing – and very public – battle against racial discrimination. She was privy to discussions and debates that her mother would have with close friends, men and women who would change history, including such key players in the black protest movement as writer Langston Hughes, Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan and civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael.

"I was in the studio when my mom was writing and recording the song `To Be Young, Gifted and Black.' I remember she looked at me and said, `You need to know who you are and where you come from' before she approached the mike," Kelly recalls. "She wanted that song to replace what is now considered the black American national anthem (James Weldon Johnson's `Lift Every Voice and Sing'). My mom always talked to me about all of the anger that was directed at her from racists and white supremacists as a kid."

Kelly continues, "She told me what she had to deal with in the South. Coming up as a big-lipped, chocolate-skinned, wide-nosed black prodigy sister, living in North Carolina was hell for her. I was informed of all of the sacrifices she made for her race, her beliefs, her fans and her career."

Kelly's own career didn't come without hardship, either. Fearing she would be unfairly compared to her mother, she distanced herself from her roots during her twenties. She initially planned to join the U.S. army in 1981 but switched paths to study law in 1982.

She soon found she was just as drawn to the stage. Roles with musical productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent and Aida followed, as well as a brief stint with a Grammy-nominated acid-jazz troupe called Liquid Soul.

Then, after her mother's death in 2003, Kelly started taking stock of her heritage and began privately exploring her mother's powerful body of work. "There were a few songs I couldn't sing – and I still have a hard time hearing her sing – such as `Single Woman.'"

Hollywood is mulling a Nina Simone biopic, and Kelly wholeheartedly disapproves of the rumoured casting of R&B singer Mary J. Blige as her mom. "You don't need a big name to play a big name. So many great actresses would be a better choice."

She blurts, "I would love to play the part" before realizing what she's said. "But no, that would cut too close to the core."

Cherish Tells 'The Truth'

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

(May 14, 2008) *The R&B girl group Cherish told us all to “Do It to It” the summer of ’06 and as it turns out, they’ve been “doing it to it” themselves.

With a hit notch in their belt, the group just released their second studio album on Capitol Records called “The Truth” and is running up the R&B charts and crossing over to pop in one fail swoop.

The group consists of sisters Farrah, Neosha, and twins Felisha and Fallon King. Farrah and Neosha took some time out of their schedule to talk with EUR’s Gerald Radford about the new disc and what they think will give them longevity in the industry.

“Everything’s been working out perfectly,” Neosha said of the group’s current career path. “We just pretty much studied other groups like En Vogue and the Supremes; sisterly groups. We just learned from them, took what they did, and enhanced it.”

Though their big hit came in 2006, Cherish is no record rookie. Not only have they been singing together since they were just 7,9, and 11 years old, but the group was signed to another major label in 2003 when they helped out on Da Brat’s song “In Luv Wit Chu,” and then their debut disc on that label was shelved. Three years and another label later, the group offered up the aptly titled “Underappreciated,” which gave music fans the “Do It to It” track.

Persistence is clearly a character of the Cherish sisters who are extremely excited about their new album, “The Truth” that Neosha explained that they named the album “The Truth” because through the songs, the ladies are basically airing out their dirty laundry, with stories and experiences of their own.

 “We’re telling all of our business and really letting everybody know what Cherish is all about,” she said. “And everybody can relate to at least one song.”

The first single from the disc is called “Killer” released a few months ago as part of the “Step Up 2: The Streets” soundtrack.

“When we went into the studio, we decided to do a record that most of the ladies can relate to,” Neosha explained. “So then we started having this random conversation about how when you see a guy in the club and he may not necessarily be any good for you, but you can’t resist him at the same time, so we just decided to call him a killer.”

After they made the record, the label shopped it and it got picked up for the movie. But the group has taken it all in stride. After all, they’ve been here before. Before becoming a gold-selling group, they had three songs on the “Powerpuff Girls: Power Pop” soundtrack. And speaking of pop, the King sisters are heading in that direction with their latest.

“With this album, we definitely want to grow,” Farrah said about their single crossing over to pop radio. “It’s not about genres for us, it’s about creating great music and whoever wants to listen to it and whoever wants to play it we’re definitely open to it.”

The second single is called “Amnesia” and it was written by the group, like most of the disc.

 “We wrote the whole ‘Unappreciated’ album and we wrote all of the songs on ‘The Truth’ album, except for [two songs],” Neosha said.

“If you know us personally, you know we’re all definitely born leaders,” Farrah said of how the group compiles songs for an album. “It’s always a compromise and we always take a vote. It’s never one person; it’s always at every time a group effort.”

Neosha and Farrah said that although they and their sisters work on the albums, the support of thier parents are part of the inspiration. Their Parents always encouraged their pursuit of a music career, and their father, a former music group member, trained the girls on vocals.

“All siblings are going to have their rivalries,” Farrah qualified, “but at the end of the day it’s all about getting the job done, about respecting one another, and making sure you care about one another. These are my sisters, so naturally we’re going to have that different kind of bond than most other groups.”

And if there’s ever a split in the decisions, they go to their parents.

“Naturally we argue – be it over clothes, or shoes – but at then end, we always do it in a sisterly manner,” Farrah said, as she explained how the group works together so well.

“The fact that we are sisters made people realize that we were going to stick together,” she said, “but I always think it was the sound. At the time when we released ‘Do It To It,’ the snap movement was being done by guys, so the four of us went into the studio and the next thing you know, we were doing ‘Do it To it.’ So it was about the edge, it was about our relationship to one another, and it was about the timing.”

The timing seems to be right this time around, too. Check out Cherish and “The Truth” at www.myspace.com/cherishsisters

Meet Lex: A Uniquely Gifted Artist Who Calls His Genre Of Music 'D-Licious Soul'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 14, 2008) *Honouring his native city of Detroit and its rich contributionto the history and evolution of Soul and R&B music, LEX originates a fresh new sound that resonates his experiences of having roots in the church, living the realities of life in the ghettos, and agonies stemming from the loss of his parents, all while traveling various roads through the music industry.

Born Joseph Alexander Morris to parents engulf in Christian ministry, his many stages of musical life have re-birthed LEX, beginning with the gospel group Peace, a five-member group that also featured LEX as well as one of the most adventurous and forward-thinking U.S. gospel artists today, Deitrick Haddon (currently signed to Verity/Zomba, formerly with Tyscot

From here, LEX worked with Keith Crouch's Human Rhythm Productions (Brandy, Toni Braxton, CeCe Winans) doing background vocal work on countless
projects, while honing his studio vocal production skills.

LEX also happens to be the cousin of the Grammy winning, multi-platinum, singer-songwriter-pianist-performer John Legend, whose debut album sold 3 million copies, earned eight Grammy nominations and won three of those eight Grammy nominations.

LEX then teamed up with production partner Ollie Harris to form The Collab Unit and immediately signed with management company Reality Entertainment Group, who in turn secured a production deal for the duo with L.L. Cool J's Rock The Bells Entertainment (RTB).

Creating the signature sound for each RTB artist, ranging from Hip-Hop to R&B, LEX stretched and expanded his creative abilities to incredible levels. All of this set the stage for the metamorphosis that transformed the studio guru into the spectacular artist, LEX.

A master at the art of storytelling and capturing emotion on recordings, LEX presents songs that are vivid expressions from his soul that are fuelled by his creative energy.

LEX also interprets songs written and/or produced by others, using his uncanny ability to discern and transform them with his own passion that in an instant become pure LEX. Staying true to his charismatic nature and the nostalgia from fans, LEX is a dynamic entertainer.

With a strong capacity to connect with all audiences, LEX continues to mesmerize listeners and place them into a zone.

Not another neosoul artist, LEX is an artistic kaleidoscope, a fusion of musical dimensions that create a sound making LEX a true renaissance artist. Without question, LEX is a rare commodity whose music is timeless.

When asked about moving into this new realm of creativity, LEX responded "I have always been in the background, like a puppeteer, sculpting the sound for other phenomenal artists. Now I have an opportunity to be the actual artist, which is an exciting new experience. I intend to be more than just another male singer. I want to really make people feel the music, live the music and be moved by the music. I want the music to be timeless. In 20 years, I want to be doing Vegas, hopefully having fans tell me how my music helped them through tough times or how it made them want to dance or how it set the mood when it was time for them to get their groove on. The music must speak and that is my focus."

Having been a regular performer in clubs throughout Detroit, LEX has relocated to Los Angeles to intensify his artistic push. Speaking in tongues of poetry, church, the streets and music, LEX will articulate messages that his audience can always relate to, organically pulling them into a musical experience that will captivate them forever. That's just how LEX gets down!

Anthony David Plays The 'Acey'


May 12, 2008) *Singer/songwriter Anthony David has been known to many in the neo-soul circuit as India Arie's artist, but the guitarist is beginning to really make a name for himself.

While it's true that he's come up under the wings of Grammy-winning songbird Arie - David wrote a number of songs for the singer, and he will now be the first artist released on her Soulbird Music label - David is prepping his third album, "Acey Deucy," hitting stores this summer.

"I'm excited about being a part of this venture with a bigger label, bigger staff, bigger team because I'm able to expose [my music] to the world," David said of being the debut artist on the Universal Music boutique label.

The disc will include tracks from David's previous indie releases - a move the artist hopes will be cheered by his fans and help acclimate new ones.

"Even from the first record, released in 2004, being an independent artist I would always say that my music came out everyday," David said of deciding to include older material on the new disc. "New people would listen to it everyday. It really didn't matter when it was recorded. I didn't make it to where it would just be hot in 2004. I made it to where it would be good. I want people to hear this. I want more people to hear this."

David is already armed with a following and the introduction of being a songwriter for India Arie - something that he's certainly thankful for.

"It's a blessing at the end of the day," he said. "We're a big part of each other's story and I don't have a problem with that because it's a good story. Over time, you are seen as your own artist so this is just a jump off, and that's how introductions go."

As the story goes, India.Arie was actually the first person he met in Atlanta. The two became fast friends as they shared an interest in good music and began writing songs together. Arie's career launched and David stayed close, writing a few songs for her albums; most recently the hit "There's Hope" from her latest album "Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship."

Arie has said that he is a master "of writing from a man's emotional perspective in relationships" and he himself has admitted that it's a rare forte.

"I think sometimes it's hard for dudes to convey their feelings in songs and still remain men," he said. "I think I do that in a way that not many people do."

His talent of lyricism, coupled with his developing singing skills is much more unique, in his opinion, than his creative process. He told EUR's Gerald Radford that he gets inspired to write via a number of different avenues.

"I listen to people, I read books, I get on the net I listen to other songs, I listen to myself, I listen to talk radio, and I just try to come up with something that's really honest and unique to me," he said. "It can happen a bunch of different ways."

Whatever the process, the singer has compiled songs in a style he has described as "millennium blues" a term he's coined based on the idea that the blues is the basis of all genres.

"Blues is the foundation of everything," he said. "I found that out when I started playing guitar. From gospel, to R&B, to rock-n-roll, to hip-hop, to Bossa nova to reggae, blues is in it. So I find the blues in whatever music I'm dealing with and bring it forward."

To find out more about Anthony David, hit up his MySpace page at www.myspace.com/anthonydavid or go to www.anthonydavidmusic.com.

D'Angelo's 'Greatest So Far' Due In Stores


May 9, 2008) *D'Angelo's top hits, music videos and collaborative tracks to date, including rare recordings for soundtracks and other compilations, have been gathered for the first time for "The Best So Far ... ," a CD/DVD due June 24 on Virgin/EMI.  The package includes 17 audio tracks – including his biggest hits "Brown Sugar," "Lady" and "Cruisin'" – as well as seven previously unreleased music videos. A 15-track digital album and four video downloads will also debut June 24, as well as four "ringtunes." The tracklist for the CD/DVD and digital versions of "The Best So Far…" is as follows:


1. Lady
2. Brown Sugar
3. Cruisin'
4. Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine
5. Smooth
6. I Found My Smile Again
7. Girl, You Need A Change Of Mind
8. She's Always In My Hair
9. Can't Hide Love [live]
10. Heaven Must Be Like This
11. Your Precious Love [Erykah Badu with D'Angelo]
12. Devil's Pie (A Cappella Interlude)
13. Left And Right [with Method Man and Redman]
14. Untitled (How Does It Feel)
15. Send It On
16. Feel Like Makin' Love
17. Be Here [Raphael Saadiq with D'Angelo]

1. Lady
2. Brown Sugar
3. Cruisin'
4. Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine
5. Left And Right [with Method Man and Redman]
6. Untitled (How Does It Feel)
7. Send It On

Digital Album
1. Lady
2. Brown Sugar
3. Cruisin'
4. Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine
5. Smooth
6. I Found My Smile Again
7. Girl, You Need A Change Of Mind
8. She's Always In My Hair
9. Can't Hide Love [live]
10. Heaven Must Be Like This
11. Devil's Pie (A Cappella Interlude)
12. Left And Right [with Method Man and Redman]
13. Untitled (How Does It Feel)
14. Send It On
15. Feel Like Makin' Love

Video Downloads
Brown Sugar
Left And Right [with Method Man and Redman]
Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes of Mine
Send It On

Left And Right
Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine
Send It On
Untitled (How Does It Feel)

Muyiwa Declares His Love

Source:  www.eurweb.comBy Fiona McKinson

(May 13, 2008) *
Muyiwa Olarewaju is one of the UK’s most recognised church singers. His arresting single, the  Native American Indian inspired Hey Ya,  recorded with his group Riversongz, permeated the airwaves in February and sales in record stores proved that the public liked what they heard.

But with the release of his third full-length album Declaring His Love in March (He has notched up combined sales of over 80,000 units to date), and as host of two radio shows (Gospel Tonight on Premier Radio - the UK's leading Christian Radio station and Sounds of Africa for Lufthansa as part of the German airline's in-flight entertainment network), Muyiwa has become familiar with delivering satisfaction.

Nigerian Muyiwa who has a degree in commercial music and worked at Sony records, says,

"For those who know, there is a rich American Indian or First Nation People Christian Music Culture. I stumbled across it a couple of years ago whilst broadcasting Gospel Tonight live in Los Angeles to London. I had the opportunity to be a part of the worship and it's great to watch how another culture uses its own language to express their Christian faith. One of the things that stuck with me was a 15-minute song / chant about Yaweh and at intervals the singers and congregation would sing Hey Ya which actually are just vocals that affirm what's already being said. It was the type of call-and-response that I am familiar with from my culture."

Muyiwa wrote the song with producer Eddie Martin whose writing/production expertise has seen him work with the likes of Whitney Houston, Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez, and Chris Brown to name a few.

A behind the scenes DVD including concert footage of Muyiwa recording the album has also been released. Muyiwa says,

“The film was directed and produced by the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) award wining Patrick Campbell. My old boss from my Sony music days came to the recording with her 16-year-old skateboard-loving son who was experiencing our type of music for the first time. When I saw him a week later, the first thing he said to me was 'Your show was nuts!!!!'  That said it all for me!!”

The album fuses contemporary sounds with worship ballads and West African rhythms. Muyiwa signed a mainstream distribution deal with established independent Proper, so the album will be available across many of the UK's store giants and key online sites like iTunes. Pre-order sales for the album topped music retailer HMV’s gospel Chart outselling the likes of Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond and Hillsong United. It also peaked at number one on HMV's Jazz & Blues Chart. Muyiwa said,

"We were truly excited to be number one on HMV's various charts. I don't care if it's 10, 100 or even 2000 copies; number one is what it is!"

Muyiwa & Riversongz recently toured Nigeria, America, the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Further dates are to follow in May/June as part of an eight-city tour with charity Christian Aid, and Muyiwa will be returning to America in September and West Africa in November/December.

Muiywa says, “With the birth of Riversongz foundation, it was important for us to work with an organisation that not only worried about people’s souls but also their social needs and Christian Aid have been a champion in this area for such a long time. The choice was easy.”

For those keen to work in music Muyiwa offers this advice: “Be Steadfast unmovable always abounding in the work as the writer of 1 Corinthians 15 put it. Simply put, keep doing what you’re doing so long as you’re sure it not just for you or fame, be sure it’s for 'HIM' and you will come through.” (www.myspace.com/riversongz - www.riversongz.com

The UK Corner covers the UK/British urban entertainment scene and is written by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at info@thetalentshow.co.uk.

Elephant Man’s Lets Get Physical Album Tops Billboard’s Reggae Album Chart

www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

May 8, 2008) *Elephant Man’s Let’s Get Physical (VP/Bad Boy) album which was released commercially on April 8, has debuted at number one on Billboard’s Reggae Album chart.  The album experienced first week sales of 2,764 units.  By comparison, Elephant Man’s previous set, Good 2 Go for VP/Atlantic sold more than 31,000 units in its first week of release in 2004.

Elephant Man was overjoyed when he learnt that Let’s Get Physical had topped the publication’s reggae album tally. ‘We just give God thanks because this means a lot to me.  I worked very hard to do this album and the fans have been waiting about three years now for it. We put in so much work that we had to ensure that the fans were satisfied with the finished product’, Elephant Man commented.

Let’s Get Physical which according to Elephant Man had gotten four star ratings in publications such as Vibe and XXL magazines, says he wants fans to appreciate the album.  ‘The release of the album was put off many times and now we have something that the fans can listen to. This is the album where its going to be either or either. I know what I can do, and getting a number one album on Billboard is very motivating for me’, Elephant Man confided.

Let’s Get Physical is a joint venture between independent reggae label VP Records and Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs’ Bad Boy imprint.  ‘I did the Hot 97 show in New York a few years ago and Diddy came there with Chris Tucker and he told me he came to watch me perform. He said his staff had been telling him about me and he wanted to see what I can do. That’s how the link with Diddy came about’, said Elephant Man.

Asked whether he came under any form of pressure while working on the album, Elephant Man said ‘None at all. Diddy said he wanted me to keep the album as dancehall as possible. The best moment for me while working on the album was when Diddy gave me a studio to work on the album.  The studio is at his house and I took Baby G, Richie Feelings, and Assassin there with me and Diddy came out and met all of them. That was a good vibe’, said Elephant Man.

Boasting production work from the likes of Trevor ‘Baby G’ James, Swizz Beats, Mario Winans and Diddy, Let’s Get Physical isn’t short on collaborations. Among the guest shots are Demarco (who teams up on Our World); Rihanna (Throw Your Hands Up); Kat Deluna (Body Talk), Wyclef Jean (Five O); Shaggy and Busta Rhymes (The Way We Roll) and Chris Brown (Feel the Steam); 

Let’s Get Physical is Elephant Man’s second number one album on the Billboard Reggae Album chart. His previous chart topper was 2004’s Good 2 Go. His 2001 effort Log On peaked at number two on the chart, while 2002’s Higher Level stalled at number 12.

R City Bringing The Caribbean Flavour To The R&B World

www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

May 8, 2008) *They are originally from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and today they are one of the most in demand songwriters in the hip hop and R&B world. The duo R City which is signed to KonLive/Geffen Records is set to release its debut album Wake The Neighbours. 

Among the acts that R City has written and produced tracks for are Akon, Usher, Mario, Sean Kingston, Rodney Jerkins, Nicole Scherzinger and the Pussycat Dolls, Jesse McCartney, Macy Gray, Ashlee Simpson and Enrique Iglesias.

In between producing music for international acts, the duo has been able to produce an inferno of anticipation amongst the industry and the streets for the release of its album Wake the Neighbors.

R. City (comprised of brothers Theron a/k/a Da Spokesman and Timothy a/k/a Don’t Talk Much) have created a sound that blends Caribbean twangs of consciousness and struggles of street and island life coupled with hip-hop/pop appeal.  They realized their immense talent and started honing their craft at an early age.  By the time they reached 10 and 11 they were winning local talent shows and used their prize money to pay the family’s household bills.  “We definitely are first and foremost artists more than anything else,” states Timothy.  “We were getting a lot of love from the people in the streets from us performing.”   

By the time they graduated from high school; they had a big choice to make.  Their parents challenged them to “continue in school and we will find a way to help you, continue music and you will need to fend for yourselves and become men.”  They obviously chose the latter and came to the U.S. to test the musical waters. “We’ve always been writers for ourselves.  Then me and my brother were like, let’s try to write for other people”, said Timothy. Landing in Atlanta after a short stint in Miami, they began writing songs for other artists and placed their first song The Rain for Akon via his DJ, Benny D. 

In a short time, R City has penned a number of tunes for well known artists.  “We built a lot of relationships, got cool with a lot of people, networked and found ourselves in a lot of doors we never thought we were going to enter.  When we started doing the writing thing, everybody started messing with us,” says Timothy. 

The fact that their music is a genre bender isn’t lost on the siblings. “Give us the opportunity to be ourselves because what we’re doing, nobody has ever done.”  It’s never been about money with us, to be honest.  We don’t drink or smoke, or go to clubs.  So when people are in the club partying, we work, when they sleep, we work, when they work, we work. So at the end of the day, we are going to get more work done than anybody”, says Timothy

The duo’s album Wake The Neighbors is anything but a work in progress.  They are clearly masters of lyric, melody, harmony, hooks, and performance. Their St. Thomas, Virgin Island upbringing is also evident on the Madd Scientist produced, Calypso influenced party anthem Wave.  ‘As soon as we did the song we called Akon.  When he heard it, he went crazy and set up a meeting with Jimmy Iovine and Ron Fair at Interscope Records to hear the song’, explain Theron. 

How The Tablas Have Turned For Hussain

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

May 8, 2008) There's a reason why the word "diva" is from 19th-century Europe. In most other musical traditions, collaboration trumps solo credits.

"I'm just a very small part of the concert, you know," says Indian tabla master
Zakir Hussain, whose name headlines a program billed as "Masters of Percussion" at Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow night.

The eclectic tabla player has assembled a large cast of "incredible musicians in their own right," including the dancing drummers of Manipur and Dilshad Khan, master of the sarangi, a bowed, lutelike instrument.

The sarangi and the tabla are common accompaniments to the form of Indian dance known as Kathak.

"The Masters of Percussion showcases people and traditions not seen in this part of the world," says Hussain on the phone from the latest stop on the group's tour, in Columbus, Ohio.

"It's the only place in the world where I have ever been given a ticket for speeding," he recalls. That was three decades ago, when he would drive himself across the continent to preach the gospel of tabla.

Now in his late 50s and comfortably settled in prosperous Marin County, Calif., near San Francisco, Hussain and people like sitar master Ravi Shankar are considered to be among the vanguard that introduced the world to the beauties of Indian classical music.

What few people in the West may realize is that musicians with international careers, like Hussain, also helped open up Indian musicians to other influences.

"Today's Indian musician is a well-rounded species," Hussain replies to a question about how accepted his musical innovations are in the country of his birth.

Hussain's father, Ustad Alla Rakha, also a tabla master, frequently toured with Shankar. "He would return home with all these discs," Hussain recalls. "I listened to the Doors and the Grateful Dead. My favourite album was Blind Faith," by Eric Clapton's supergroup of the same name.

Hussain says he heard many Western musicians on tour in India. "I saw Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong when I was very young."

By age 12 he was touring with his father and playing in Bollywood soundtrack recording sessions, where Western and Indian instrumentalists would work side-by-side.

"It was all under the baton on one conductor," Hussain says. "So you got used to a way for all of these instrumentalists to interact and coexist."

Hussein also credits studies in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington for helping him to forge cross-cultural musical alliances.

"But 60 per cent of the shows I do throughout the year are traditional," he cautions. "Often they are with the musicians I have established relationships with over the last three decades."

Masters of Percussion is but one manifestation of these creative collaborations.

Just the facts
WHAT: Zakir Hussain's Masters of Percussion
WHERE: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.
WHEN: Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
TICKETS: $49.50-$69.50 at 416-872-4255


Madonna Tour Includes Toronto On Oct. 18

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

May 8, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Madonna's "Sticky & Sweet" tour will make three Canadian stops, beginning in Toronto on Oct. 18. It moves to Montreal Oct. 22 and Vancouver Oct. 30. The tour begins Aug. 23 in Cardiff, Wales, with stops in major European markets through September before hitting North America Oct. 3 in East Rutherford, N.J. The tour also will visit Mexico and South America later this year. It's being directed by Madonna's longtime creative collaborator Jamie King and the musical director will be Kevin Antunes. The Material Girl's new album, Hard Candy, debuted at No. 1 in Canada and 26 other countries.

Feist, Avril And Furtado Up For Much People's Choice Awards

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

May 12, 2008) Avril Lavigne, Feist and Nelly Furtado are among the stars up for Muchmusic's People's Choice Awards. The music channel revealed just some of the acts up for trophies at the upcoming MuchMusic Video Awards. Lavigne, Belly, City and Colour, Feist and Nelly Furtado are in the running for favourite Canadian artist while Billy Talent, finger eleven, Hedley, illScarlett and Simple Plan are up for favourite Canadian group. Nominees for favourite international video include Fall Out Boy, Flo Rida, Kanye West, Rihanna and OneRepublic. A full list of categories and nominees is expected to be announced next week. The show is set to air live on MuchMusic on June 15.

A Canadian Artist Being The Free Weekly Selection On iTunes USA

Single of the Week

Already a star in his native Canada, we think it's about time for America to take a good listen to the hip-hop sounds of
Kardinal Offishall. Akon serves as the executive producer for his upcoming album Not 4 Sale and, not surprisingly, he appears on the set's lead single "Dangerous." This track has "summer jam" written all over it, which makes now a great time for "Dangerous" to be our free Single of the Week.

Check It Out

Stevie Wonder To Tour Again This Summer

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 14, 2008) *
Stevie Wonder returns to the road this summer with a string of North American shows to begin June 18 in Wantagh, NY. The Motown icon will travel around the eastern U.S. through the end of the month. In July, he'll head west for shows in Colorado, Nevada, California, Washington and British Columbia.  Wonder's return to the touring circuit after 12 years was inspired in part by his mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, who passed away in 2006. Tour details are listed below:  

June 2008
18 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
19 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
21 - Atlantic City, NJ - Trump Taj Mahal
22 - Mansfield, MA - Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts
24 - Clarkston, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre
26 - Milwaukee, WI - Marcus Amphitheater/Summerfest
28 - Chicago, IL - Grant Park

July 2008
1 - Englewood, CO - Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre
4 - Reno, NV - Reno Events Center
5 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre
8 - Concord, CA - Sleep Train Pavilion
11 - Auburn, WA - White River Amphitheatre
12 - Vancouver, British Columbia - General Motors Place


Canadian Producer Nervous Before Cannes Opening

Source:  www.thestar.com - Lee-Anne Goodman,
The Canadian Press

May 12, 2008) Canadian film producer Niv Fichman is surprisingly calm as he prepares to jet to Cannes to watch his movie, Blindness, kick off the world's most glamorous film festival.

The movie, a Canadian-Japanese-Brazilian co-production starring Hollywood A-listers Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore, is opening Cannes on Wednesday night. It's only the second movie with a solid Canadian pedigree to earn that distinction; the Quebec dud Fantastica opened the festival 28 years ago to widespread jeers.

Fichman doesn't deny he's nervous about how the apocalyptic film about a blindness epidemic that strikes an unnamed city might go over in a place where audiences aren't shy about expressing their disdain.

"The film is definitely going to raise eyebrows because the book did and it's very faithful to the book, and this is the country, after all, where they threw tomatoes at the premiere of The Rite of Spring, so it's going to be really interesting," Fichman said with a laugh, referring to riots that erupted when Igor Stravinsky's famous pagan ballet came to Paris in 1913.

Fichman says he's not too concerned that Blindness, directed by Brazil's Fernando Meirelles, will have a premiere as disastrous as that of Fantastico, or spark civil unrest among audience members – but he fears the tale's bleakness might leave people glum.

"It's a very strong film, but it is about the disintegration of humanity, and it goes to places where a lot of films don't go ... it takes you to a place where it's maybe uncomfortable to go in a way that I think that is pretty unusual in cinema."

Fichman co-founded Toronto's Rhombus Media in 1979 with two friends, and is now one of Canada's most respected and celebrated producers.

He's been behind award-winning movies like Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, Silk and Snowcake as well as TV shows including Slings and Arrows, which Meirelles is going to adapt and broadcast in Brazil after Fichman sent him the first season on DVD.

Among all the other films at Cannes, Blindness, based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same name by Portuguese author Jose Saramago, is competing against another Canadian movie, Atom Egoyan's Adoration, for the Palme d'Or.

Fichman, Egoyan and Blindness screenwriter Don McKellar have been friends for years and are cheering for each other at Cannes.

"Atom and I had lunch the other day," Fichman said. "We had two glasses of champagne together and toasted one another's success at the festival. Atom goes way back with that festival; I know every story of his through all the years he's been associated with it."

That's why he was prepared, Fichman says, for the endless hours of logistical planning that ensued as soon as Blindness was selected for Cannes's opening night.

"It's only been 10 days or so since it was chosen, but ever since then, it's been tens of thousands of phone calls about prints being ready and French subtitles and who's going to which screening and what company gets how many tickets to what party and who gets invited to which dinner. That's my job at this point, unfortunately – it's kind of hilarious."

Mother And Daughter Actors Megan Follows And Dawn Greenhalgh Explore The Complexities Of Their Own Relationship

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

May 11, 2008) "Sons are mysteries and daughters are mirrors," says Megan Follows as she sips a cappuccino and looks at her mother, Dawn Greenhalgh.

But the play they're currently starring in together, 'Night, Mother, which starts previews in a Soulpepper production at the Young Centre this Tuesday night, proves that daughters can be every bit as mysterious ... and deadly as well.

Jessie Cates and her mother, Thelma, live at the end of a long lonely road in what could be safely called trailer-trash country. For years, all they've had is each other, since Jessie's marriage dissolved and her son wants nothing to do with her.

On what starts out like a typical Saturday night, Jessie suddenly changes things forever by announcing to her mother than she's going to kill herself in exactly 90 minutes.

The rest of the play is how mother and daughter sort through the wreckage of their life together and try to come to some sort of resolution before Jessie makes her tragic choice.

In some ways it's a lot like the dynamic that Follows and Greenhalgh have shared for the past 40 years, but in many other ways, it's very different.

Follows was the youngest of four children born to the Canadian husband and wife acting team of Ted Follows and Greenhalgh in 1968.

At the time of her birth, her mother was playing Charmian opposite Zoe Caldwell's Cleopatra at the Stratford Festival.

"I was on the birth control pill at the time, but I had missed a couple, I guess. I was fine with it, because I loved kids, but Ted thought enough was enough already.

"I love all my children the same," says Greenhalgh, "but your individual feelings about them are very different."

Follows was closer to her mother, fondly recalling "snuggling with Mom in one of her beautiful '70s caftans, putting my ear against her belly and hearing gurgles."

On the other hand, her major memory of her father was his saying to her, "Don't be a smartass," and her replying, "Better than being a dumb ass," and running rapidly in the other direction.

Greenhalgh and her husband split up when Follows was 11 and the mother recalls her daughter holding her hand and saying, "It's okay Mom, it's going to be okay."

The same scenario played out in reverse many years later, when Follows fled the ruins of a destructive marriage and came home to her mother.

"That was the toughest thing I ever had to go through," Follows sighs. "But there was so little judgment from Mom when the s--t hit the fan and finally exploded. She was totally there for me and understood everything."

"Of course I understood," Greenhalgh agrees. "Promiscuous men with self-destructive behaviour. We'd both been through it."

Mother and daughter share a sage, sad look. "There's some lessons you've got to learn for yourself," Follows observes, "the hard way."

So they've had their points of congruence with the women they're playing in Marsha Norman's drama, but the differences are even more fascinating.

The mother character, Thelma, is a bit of a crone, living on junk food and trash TV. Greenhalgh, on the other hand, has a decidedly patrician air and admits that when she was unhappy with Follows' choice of a husband, "I went out and bought $3,000 worth of shoes."

It's also hard to think of Follows, Canada's sweetheart, the woman most people adore as Anne of Green Gables, as a loser driven by the emptiness of her life to suicide.

"I've never consciously thought of suicide," Follows makes perfectly clear, but at the same time she admits, "There has been destructive enough behaviour in my past that has had that look to it. Oh yes, I've danced with that...."

It's also surprising to hear the successful Follows equate her relationship with her mother to that of Jessie and Thelma.

"Jessie's mother is a very dynamic, strong-willed force," says Follows, "so I can identify with that. Yes, I can relate with being the child in the shadow of the parent."

That revelation brings a reaction of total surprise from Greenhalgh as she looks at her daughter in a new light.

"My mother's always been a performer," continues Follows, "So it's been a slightly different relationship with her from the get-go. Yes, she was my mother but, first and foremost, she was an actress."

After a moment of silence, Greenhalgh reaches for the words.

"I think of my own mother and I wish she was here right now. Now that we're the same age, I would appreciate so much more about her, I would have so much more to tell her."

Follows has been brooding inwardly. Now she speaks.

"This play is a lot about secrets, how secrets can make you sick. Some feelings never go through the front door."

And she smiles. "But we were the anti-secret family, we talked about everything."

Then Greenhalgh undercuts her softly. "But there are vital parts of my life I've never shared with Megan and yet I don't know why."

The two women look up at each other and exchange a look of such complexity that you wonder what they're trying to communicate.

To break the thick, uncomfortable silence, one asks Greenhalgh, "What would you do if Megan told you she was going to kill herself?"

The answer is immediate, mother tiger at the ready, "I'd grab her, sit on her, then I'd call the cops immediately."

The ferocity of her answer overwhelms Follows, who has to think for quite a while when asked why her character bothers to tell her mother she's planning to kill herself, instead of just doing it.

"I'm asking for permission to go," is her clear-eyed response. "I'm not trying to be saved."

Greenhalgh admits the toll that working on this play has taken on her. "When I'm playing opposite my own daughter, I seem so vulnerable. There are moments when I look across the stage and see Megan, and it takes everything I can do to stop from breaking down."

The younger woman reaches out and touches her mother's hand.

"Things go on in life," says Greenhalgh, "and you don't always expect them to wind up the way they do."

'Night, Mother runs from May 13-June 21 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St., 416-866-8666.

Sidekicks Taking Over Big Screen

Source:  www.thestar.com - Mary McNamara,
Special To The Star

May 8, 2008) LOS ANGELES–It's not often that box-office numbers send such a clear message to the electorate. But last week's top movies – Baby Mama and Harold & Kumar 2: Escape From Guantanamo Bay – make two things perfectly clear: Americans are desperate for a good laugh, and they'd better be careful about who's running for U.S. vice-president this year because sidekicks now officially rule the world.

Certainly they rule Hollywood, which has been lamenting the death of the traditional leading lady, romantic comedy and old-fashioned megastar for years. Harold & Kumar and Baby Mama both follow the exploits of characters who five years ago would have been the scene-stealing best friends of the swoony, traditional lead. When the first Harold & Kumar came out, it was considered a fluke – how could two bumbling characters played by unknowns carry a successful movie?

But fluke or even quirky new genre is no longer an accurate description because the girls have gotten in the game. What was Juno if not the story of a snarky sidekick? She even had a pretty best friend. And you can't buy a pack of gum without being informed by some media platform of Tina Fey and her white-hot career.

What no one seems to mention is that she is just the final piece of a nefarious plot begun years ago by folks such as Vince Vaughn, Steve Carell and Owen Wilson.

Fey is by her own admission a far cry from the traditional leading lady. She has a lovely smile, but it does not split her face into equal beaming quadrants. People have compared her role as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock to Mary Richards, but really it's much closer to Rhoda Morgenstern. Which is great. Rhoda always had the best lines.

Now, of course, Fey is a movie star. But in Baby Mama she remains the wacky best friend, although now she has an even wackier best friend herself, played by Amy Poehler.

Still, it's as if the Carrie Fisher character from When Harry Met Sally got to be in her own movie – and isn't that a relief? Sidekicks are everyone's favourite characters, with their less than perfect hair and snappy rejoinders. In Baby Mama, there is transformation, but Fey's character remains neurotic. No one will confuse her with Julia Roberts.

Which is only fair since the guys have been dispensing with traditional A-list roles for years. What was Wedding Crashers but two sidekicks divvying up the lead? Ten years ago, Carell's 40-year-old virgin would have been a side plot while the lead pursued Meg Ryan.

Judd Apatow has built a career on bypassing the meat and vegetables of the traditional romantic comedy and going straight to the carbs, in his case, the slacker dude with the wacky vocabulary and skewed world view. Knocked Up was nothing less than a declaration of war, with the sidekick flag planted firmly in traditional lead territory. A traditional leading man is not only unnecessary in an Apatow film, it's against the rules.

It's as if the narrative proletariat, funny guys and gals who have often provided the best scenes in a film without getting the awards or big paycheques, have risen as one and demanded above-the-line treatment.


Television is a safer haven for traditional leads, but the sidekick mentality is making inroads, whether through the geek humour of The Big Bang Theory or Miss Guided or the fractured leads of Saving Grace and Ugly Betty.

What does it mean that we seem to be rejecting the broad strokes of traditional narratives and going for the messier, more cross-hatched background, stories and characters that are, rather than larger than life, almost smaller?

The role of sidekick is to keep the lead grounded, provide comic relief and, if they're lucky, find a little happiness.

Most of us identify more with the sidekicks anyway; that's what makes them so vital. We need to feel part of the action, and most of us don't look that good in black pants.

With media becoming more porous, how surprising is it that the second banana is having its day?

The personal is replacing the archetype on almost every level; in the blogosphere, everyone's a critic, a screenwriter and now an above-the-title lead. We are the sidekicks, and this is Sidekick Nation.

Los Angeles Times

Vivica A Fox: The Cover/Three Can Play That Game Interview With Kam Williams

Source:  www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams

(May 13, 2008) *Born in South Bend, Indiana on July 30, 1964, Vivica Anjanetta Fox is of both Native and African-American heritage. After graduating from Arlington High School in Indianapolis, she moved to California to attend Golden West College just south of Los Angeles. Since earning an associate's degree in Social Sciences, she's embarked on an enviable showbiz career which began with bit roles on such daytime soap operas as Days of Our Lives, the Young and the Restless and Generations. The 5'7" fashion plate parlayed that success into appearances on sitcoms like The Fresh Prince, Family Matters, Who's the Boss and Martin. Next, she made the jump to the big screen, landing her big break opposite Will Smith in Independence Day in 1996. She subsequently co-starred in Booty Call, Batman & Robin, Soul Food, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Two Can Play That Game, Kill Bill 1, and Kickin' It Old Skool. The beguiling vixen has been picked as one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World (1997), one of the 10 Sexiest Women by Black Men Magazine (2001), and one of the 40 Hottest Hotties over 40 by VH1 (2005). Here, she talks about her two latest pictures, The Cover, a drama about brothers on the down-low, coming to DVD on 5/13, and Three Can Play That Game, a sequel to her hit battle-of-the-sexes comedy which was released on DVD earlier this year.

Kam Williams: What interested you in making Cover, a movie about brothers on the down-low?

Vivica A. Fox: I think it's something that's been a little taboo in the African-American community. And also, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to work with [director] Bill Duke and some of the other actors who got involved with the project.

KW: Do you think you'd be as supportive of your best friend in real-life as your character was of Aunjanue Ellis' in this picture?

VF: I try to be a supportive and real friend who would look out for her and tell her the truth.

KW: What do you think a young black woman should learn to do from this film to prevent this from happening to her?

VF: I definitely hope that she would always be inquisitive. If your womanly instinct tells you something ain't right, girl, check it out. Sometimes, we have a tendency to trust, especially if you've been with a man a long time.
But you might just want to follow your instincts to make sure that everything is alright.

KW: Especially given the high HIV+ rate among married African-American females.

VF: Yeah, Bill gave me that incredible stat. So, I say, practice safe sex, and look out for yourself first at all times.

KW: Well, Mr. Duke deserves some praise for tackling a taboo subject in making a movie that was long overdue.

VF: It was enlightening and eye opening, wasn't it?

KW: Yep.

VF: And scary, but it made you think. That's why we're hoping that the word of mouth will spread on this and that people will want to check it out. It has really good acting as well as being very informative.

KW: Have you become aware of anyone being on the down-low in your personal circles?

VF: I have a lot of friends who are in the fashion and entertainment industries, in general. One of the reasons why I like having what I call my gay boyfriends is because they can warn you and keep you in the loop.

KW: Why did Three Can Play That Game go straight to video?

VF: I was disappointed because it was totally funny and really good, and had a built-in audience. But as one of the film's producers, I was glad that I got the sequel done, and got to employ some African-American actors that I hadn't had a chance to work with.

KW: What would say are the elements of success?

VF: Dedication, persistence and professionalism.

KW: The Columbus Short question. Are you happy?

VF: Yeah, I'm in a good space in my life right now.

KW: The "Realtor to the Stars" Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. do you live?

VF: I live in The Valley.

KW: Thanks for the time, Vivica.

VF: You are so welcome, and spread the word.

Indy Fever Cracks Whip At Film Fest

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

(May 14, 2008) CANNES, France–Clint Eastwood will be here, and so will his fellow directors Atom Egoyan, Wim Wenders, Woody Allen, Wong Kar Wai and les deux Steves – Spielberg and Soderbergh.

Actors Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Cate Blanchett, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Deneuve and Julianne Moore are also amongst the talented and glittering multitudes expected beneath the swaying palms over the next 12 days.

But it's an entirely imaginary figure who commands the most attention, as the 61st edition of the
Cannes Film Festival begins today.

That would be Indiana Jones, the whip-cracking archeologist (played by Harrison Ford), who has not been seen in a fresh screen adventure since 1989.

The world premiere Sunday of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, four days in advance of its theatrical release, cuts through the pretensions of Cannes, the most exalted of film festivals.

Cannes is eager for art, but it is jonesing for Indy, as witness the large images from the movie that were going up yesterday at the front of the chi-chi Carlton Hotel on the Croisette beachfront promenade. The Carlton facade is always a reliable barometer of the cinema of the moment at Cannes, and the long-awaited fourth instalment of the Indiana Jones saga dominates this year's view.

The afternoon press conference following Sunday's premiere, at which director Spielberg will preside along with actors Ford, Blanchett, Shia Labeouf, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone and John Hurt, is expected to be a mob scene. Paramount Pictures has been besieged by interview requests from journalists around the world for the limited availability of the talent.

It may seem incongruous that a festival as storied as Cannes would be losing its cool over a blockbuster adventure sequel. But Cannes has always been open to art from across the spectrum, from high to low, even more so now in its sixth decade.

Cannes is no longer the only film festival that matters, as it was for many years.

Over the past 20 years, it has seen upstart fests in Toronto, Sundance, Venice and Berlin challenge its authority both with quality and quantity of films on offer.

New challengers arrive all the time.

My email in-basket yesterday was full of pitches from festivals in Locarno (in Switzerland), Dubai and something called Jaman.com in California, seeking coverage of their aggressive expansion plans.

The profusion of festivals has led to a shortage of quality films, which explains why Cannes was so late this year in announcing its official slate. This includes tonight's show opener Blindness, a Canada-Brazil-Japan co-production directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God) that is one of two Canuck competitors for the Palme d'Or, the top prize at Cannes.

The other Canadian contender is Adoration by Toronto's Egoyan, a Cannes regular.

Perhaps mindful that 61 is an age close to retirement for many, this year's festival is being billed as the start of "a new cycle" for Cannes, according to Thierry Frémaux, the fest's delegate general and chief programmer.

"Because cinema itself is constantly changing the boundaries, because the world it reflects is more indiscernible than ever, the festival will not simply coast along on the prestige of its name, however strong that may be," Frémaux says in his introductory notes in the program book.

"Although solidly rooted in its own history, Cannes is always open to newness. That which is dissimilar to it enriches it; and this is why this festival is our festival."

True to its word, Cannes has scheduled some challenging cinema this year, including films about icons not viewed with the universal esteem accorded Indiana Jones.

Soderbergh's Che, actually two films with a combined running time of 4 hours and 28 minutes, is an epic biopic of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, starring Benicio Del Toro in the title role of a man viewed as a saint by many, a sinner by others.

The documentary Tyson, by James Toback, puts the camera in the ring with Mike Tyson, the most controversial of boxers.

The last days of IRA militant Bobby Sands are the focus of Hunger, directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen.

Waltz With Bashir, by Israel's Ari Folman, is sure to spark debate both for its content and form.

It's about the Israeli army mission in the first Lebanon war of the early 1980s, and if the topic isn't touchy enough, the fact that it is presented as an animation is sure to bother some.

And how's this for scrappy selecting? The president of this year's Cannes jury is actor-director Sean Penn, who has been known to throw a punch or two and to blow smoke in the face of authority.

His presence on the nine-member panel is guaranteed to light up the proceedings.

But for the moment, Cannes 2008 is the kingdom of a true hero, Indiana Jones.

Penn Not Your Ordinary Cannes Jury President

Source: www.thestar.com - Angela Doland,
The Associated Press

(May 14, 2008) CANNES, FRANCE–Sean Penn may be president of the Cannes Film Festival jury – but don't expect any buttoned-up presidential behaviour from the Hollywood rebel.

During a news conference on opening day Wednesday, the actor-director lit up two cigarettes in defiance of French laws against smoking in public buildings. He used the F-word. And he poked fun at his reputation.

Asked by a reporter if he could confirm that he had hesitated before taking the jury presidency because it means being "wise and sober" for 12 days, the Into the Wild director quipped, "How many days have I got left?''

Penn, a regular at Cannes, won the best actor award here for She's So Lovely, and he showed his own movies The Pledge and The Indian Runner here. When Clint Eastwood's Mystic River played at Cannes, it generated early buzz for Penn's performance, which went on to win an Academy Award.

Penn wasn't all jokes and antics at Cannes – he also let his serious, thoughtful side shine through, urging reporters to see a documentary that the festival included at his special request. The Third Wave is Alison Thompson's look at volunteers who joined relief efforts in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami.

"I thought that it was the closest thing that I had ever seen on film to giving any kind of answer to 'what's the purpose of life?' – at least for those who might be lucky enough to have two good legs and a dollar in their pocket," he said.

Penn also talked politics, saying that he's not supporting any particular candidate in the U.S. presidential election, though he is "encouraged by the kind of exciting support that Barack Obama has."

As he often does, Penn railed against President Bush. Asked about Bush's politics, he said the choice of the word "politics" was unfortunate. "It's just a shame that we have to bastardize the term 'politics' in attributing it to people like that, because politics, again, should really be an organization of helping each other," he said.

Over the next 12 days, Penn will lead a jury made up of director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men), actress Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta), comic book artist-filmmaker Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), actor-director Sergio Castellitto (My Mother's Smile), actress Jeanne Balibar (Clean), director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady), director Rachid Bouchareb (Days of Glory) and actress Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall).

The winners will be announced May 25.


Sarah Polley Wins Inaugural Minghella Memorial Award

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

May 9, 2008) Toronto — Academy Award-nominee Sarah Polley is receiving the first Anthony Minghella Memorial Award, which recognizes an outstanding contribution to Canada's film industry. The Canadian Screen Training Centre (CSTC) will present the award to Polley – Oscar-nominated for best adapted screenplay for Away from Her – at the 28th-annual Summer Institute of Film and Television in Ottawa later this month. “Anthony Minghella was an exceptional director, and to be presented with an award in his name is a special experience for me,” said Polley, who has been acting since the age of nine, and writing and directing since 1999.  British filmmaker Minghella – a long-time supporter of the CSTC – died in a London hospital in March following surgery. He was 54.

Page Set To Don The Bodice For Jane Eyre

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -

May 8, 2008) New York — Jane Eyre could be taking another swoon on the big screen - with Canadian actress Ellen Page playing the iconic British character. BBC Films has signed on to develop an adaptation of the 1847 Charlotte Bronte novel and has attached Page to play Jane.  The role would mark the first period piece for the Haligonian Page, who has signed on to a number of contemporary films since her Oscar-nominated turn in Juno, including the roller-derby comedy Whip It! and the dramatic thriller Peacock.

Samuel L. Jackson Does The 'Unthinkable'


May 12, 2008) *Actor Samuel L. Jackson has been cast in the upcoming suspense thriller "Unthinkable," according to the Hollywood Reporter. In the story, the U.S. faces a major threat from three nuclear devices, whose locations are known to one suspect. With only two days before they are deployed, a black-ops interrogator (Jackson) and a female FBI agent have to decide how far they will go to find the weapons.  Gregor Jordon is slated to direct the production for Senator Entertainment.   Next up for Jackson will be Frank Miller's comic-book adaptation "The Spirit."


NBC Installing Fallon on Late Night: Report

www.globeandmail.com - David Bauder, Associated Press

May 11, 2008) NEW YORK — Jimmy Fallon will officially be given the keys to NBC's “Late Night” franchise following Conan O'Brien's exit.

A person close to the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hadn't been made confirmed the widely rumoured change Sunday and said a news conference was planned for Monday.

All that's left is an official date for NBC's transition: O'Brien moving out West to take over for Jay Leno on the “Tonight” show and Fallon following in the next time slot.

Fallon was a “Saturday Night Live” cast member before leaving for a movie career in 2004. He has had mixed success, with his most notable role as a childlike Boston Red Sox fan and Drew Barrymore's paramour in “Fever Pitch.”

He signed a deal with NBC in 2007 that was widely seen as a way to keep him in the fold until the time came for Monday's announcement.

It would be hard for him to have a rockier transition than O'Brien had when he took over from David Letterman in the mid-1990s. O'Brien was a writer with a quick sense of humour but a mystery to the television audience, and he was savaged in early reviews. NBC nearly fired him but persevered, and O'Brien grew into the role.

It was in large part to keep O'Brien happy that NBC announced four years ago that he would replace Leno next year.

While Leno went along with the plan, there are reports that the workaholic comic is not eager to leave. NBC Universal is trying to find a job that would satisfy him and avoid having Leno move to ABC or Fox to compete directly against O'Brien.

NBC could decide to back out of the plan and keep Leno on “Tonight,” but O'Brien's contract calls for a penalty fee reportedly close to $40-million.

It all amounts to a roll of the dice in late-night, where NBC has stayed on top despite the network's prime-time problems.

NBC's announcement opens network television's “upfront” week, when fall schedules are set and presented to advertisers. NBC took the unusual step of announcing its schedule a month ago, and it has invited advertisers for a Monday sales presentation emphasizing all of NBC Universal's properties.


Timber! Men In Trees Gets The Axe

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -

May 8, 2008) Vancouver — The American television series Men in Trees, which is shot in British Columbia, has been cancelled by ABC. The series - about a relationship expert who stays in a small Alaskan town after finding out that her fiancé is cheating on her - has been shooting at North Shore Studios in North Vancouver and on location in Squamish, about an hour north of Vancouver, for two seasons. The show returns to the airwaves May 28 for three episodes, with the series finale scheduled to air on June 11.

Terrell Owens Hoping For Clear Reception On TV

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(May 13, 2008) IRVING, Tex.–Get your popcorn ready. Terrell Owens is coming to prime time tomorrow night, as an actor. T.O. will make his sitcom acting debut on the MyNetworkTV show Under One Roof as the long-lost brother of the show's star, Flavor Flav. Owens tries convincing Flav and sitcom sibling Kelly Perine that they're all brothers in hopes of getting them to invest in his website. "I see dollar signs," Owens said in an interview. "I'm trying to kind of smooth my way into the family but Flav is not buying it. It's a lot of funny dialogue. It was a good time." It might also be a first step toward a second career. "If I'm going to really consider doing acting after football, this a great start to let me get my feet wet," Owens said. "For an actor trying to become an A-lister, I think I'm on the bottom of the pile. I'm a D-lister." Television viewers can see for themselves tomorrow night. Owens will be tuned in, too, because that'll be the first time he sees the finished product. "I think I've got everyone I know tuned in to watch this show. I even sent an email out," he said. "I guarantee you, once people see the show, I'll be getting emails and text messages out the wazoo. ... Believe me, it's some funny stuff. It's going to be great."

CW Greenlights Tyra's New Show 'Stylista'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 13, 2008) *The CW announced yesterday that it has given a series order to "
Stylista," a new reality series from former supermodel Tyra Banks and Ken Mok, and renewed "Girlfriends" spinoff "The Game" for another season. Tyra's "Stylista" follows fashion fans as they compete for a job at Elle magazine, according to Variety. Banks and Mok are executive producing the series along with Eli Holzman, Desiree Gruber and Jane Cha. Mok’s 10 by 10 Ent., Banks’ Bankable shingle and Magic Molehill will produce with Warner Horizon.  Meanwhile, The Game has survived the axe that brought down its launching pad "Girlfriends." The CW has renewed the sitcom for a third season and will likely pair it with “Everybody Hates Chris” on its new Friday schedule, Variety reports.


Enough Hits To Keep House Rocking

Source:  www.thestar.com - Robert Crew,
Toronto Star

Canadian Explosion
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Directed by Timothy French. Until July 6 at Stage West, 5400 Dixie Rd., Mississauga. 905-238-0042

(May 12, 2008) Having chalked up considerable success with musical revues such as The British Invasion and California Dreaming, the Stage West franchise has now taken aim closer to home.

Canadian Explosion sets itself a daunting task: to chart the history of Canadian pop/rock from its first stirrings – The Crew Cuts, The Four Lads – to today's superstars such as Bryan Adams, Céline Dion and Shania Twain.

It's a bit like trying to cram an XL guy into a pair of medium-size pants; you may manage to get them closed, but there are bits left over you wish you could have got in.

There's no question, for example, that Gordon Lightfoot has to be there (and ensemble member Adam Stevenson offers a particularly pleasing version of "If You Could Read My Mind.") But once you've opened the folkie door an inch, what about Ian and Sylvia, Murray McLaughlin, Stan Rogers, Buffy Sainte-Marie, even Great Big Sea?

For the most part, however, the team of four – Howard Pechet, Timothy French, Nevin Grant and Bob Foster – that compiled Canadian Explosion have taken a straight-ahead approach that will leave few people disappointed.

The first half includes a Paul Anka medley, a touch of country with Hank Snow and Stompin' Tom Connors, into Lightfoot, Anne Murray (Paula MacNeill's "Snowbird" is exceptional) and Dan Hill, then on to the mini Golden Age that was The Band, Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Young, the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Part Two has audience members under 40 in full voice and the women really come into their own. The Soft Rock Women's Medley includes Sarah McLachlan and Nelly Furtado while the Hard Rock A-list Women shake the house with Alanna, Avril and Alanis.

The 11-strong ensemble is just that: strong. They throw off enough energy to put the green police on high alert. These are not particularly well-known names – the one exception being Aaron Walpole, who came in third in the third series of Canadian Idol – but there's talent aplenty onstage.

Walpole has both personality and power. Whether giving full raucous voice to Trooper's "Raise a Little Hell" or clowning around in a Barenaked Ladies medley, he is one of the major engines driving the show, ably abetted by Stevenson, who has an engaging stage presence and full, resonant pipes.

Among the women, Diana Planche has a lovely voice and good stage chemistry – witness the highly charged Dan Hill-Vonda Sheppard duet "Can't We Try" that she performs with Andrew McGillivray. But for me, MacNeill joined Walpole as one of the show's key performers. Her kd lang offerings – "Constant Craving" and "Hallelujah" – were utterly compelling.

The linking dialogue has some clunky moments and although director French keeps things light and lively, the show feels a touch too long. But then, as one cast member remarked, it would take all night to pay full tribute to this country's remarkable contribution to the world of pop/rock.

Art Facilitates Life In Dance Of The Red Skirts

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

Dance of the Red Skirts
(out of 4)
By Theatre Columbus. Until May 25 at Tarragon Extra Space, 30 Bridgman St. 416-531-1827

(May 8, 2008) One of the most seminal artists of the 20th century, Paul Klee gave the world some 9,000 paintings and drawings, and a body of art writing that articulates modern aesthetics and the role of the artist. "Art does not reproduce what we see," he wrote, "rather, it makes us see."

That statement and a famous semi-abstract, semi-figurative 1924 painting of Klee's called
Dance of the Red Skirts has inspired the Theatre Columbus play of the same name.

Little scarlet-skirted creatures scamper about a fantastical old town. Klee's figures seem to be drawn toward a vortex at the centre of the picture. People viewing it get sucked in, searching for an interpretation. It is a painting to delight a Jungian art critic, capable of reflecting the viewer's own experience. Theatre Columbus creators Martha Ross and Leah Cherniak, along with performers Maev Beaty, Greg Gale and Erin Shields, allowed themselves to be spellbound by this painting.

Klee's words about taking "a journey into the land of greater insight" launch an extended reverie in which three characters at an impasse in their lives find a way to a better place.

Shields is a young woman who has just lost her grandmother after caring for her for seven long years; she literally doesn't know what to do with herself. She's a songwriter who likes to set T.S. Eliot and Keats to music. She meets Celia (Beaty), an elementary schoolteacher in a deadened marriage who has just found out she's pregnant. Roger is trapped in a terrible office job with a patronizing boss.

One of them thinks the painting is about erasure (of the past?). Another sees a black hole in the centre sucking all life into it. For a third, the artist has evoked a dream about a back staircase that led down to another world. Klee's picture confronts all of them with the necessity for, and their fears of, change.

A tension is set up between the quotidian and the spiritual. These skilful players morph into different characters before our eyes: a smarmy boss; a know-it-all academic; a Russian lecturer or an Irish peasant woman. The characters are on a quest and it is art – painting and opera and poetry – that is the guide to their subconscious selves.

All three performers have a deeply ingrained habit of revealing their inner states through physical quirks and dancey movements that convey much more than their spoken words. Repeated words and images, particularly being drawn into an unseen sphere of mystery and uncertainty, make the connecting tissue between seemingly unrelated scenes. Dance of the Red Skirts engages all our sensibilities with humour and grace.


Buddies Unveils Plans For Its 30th Season

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

May 9, 2008) Toronto — Buddies in Bad Times Theatre unveiled its 30th-anniversary season yesterday, headlined by a pair of world premieres starring artists emerging from the company's youth initiatives. The season kicks off Sept. 23 with Agokwe, a tale of unrequited love between two young men from neighbouring reserves, written and performed by 23-year-old Ojibwa artist Waawaate Fobister. In March, Mark Shyzer, described as "Daniel MacIvor with an extra dash of standup," will team with director Evalyn Parry to premiere Fishbowl: A Concise, Expansive Theory of Everything. Other highlights include the Dora Award-winning show [boxhead], an off-site run of Neon Nightz at Baby Dolls Strip Club, and Gay4Pay, a collaboration between artistic director David Oiye and associate artist Edward Roy that delves into a "virtual playground" of cyber-sex and chat-room liaisons.

In The Heights Heads List Of Tony Nominees

Source:  www.thestar.com - Michael Kuchwara,
The Associated Press

(May 13, 2008) NEW YORK–In the Heights, a lively snapshot of Latino life in Upper Manhattan, received 13 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, more than any other show. A lush, lavish revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" took 11 nominations, followed by "Sunday in the Park With George" with nine. Three shows received seven nominations: ``August: Osage County," "Passing Strange" and the revival of ``Gypsy." "Heights" was nominated for best musical along with "Passing Strange," the story of one man's journey through sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll; "Cry-Baby," a raunchy '50s teenage romance based on the John Waters film; and "Xanadu," a spoof of the '80s disco movie musical. "August: Osage County," already the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, was nominated for best play along with Conor McPherson's "The Seafarer," Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll" and ``The 39 Steps" by Patrick Barlow.

Saskatoon Boy Makes Good On Stage

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Associated Press

(May 13, 2008)
Kyle Riabko, a young Canadian musician and actor from Saskatoon, is rehearsing in New York to take over the pivotal role of Melchior, the thoughtful student heartthrob of Spring Awakening, last season's Tony-winning best musical. "A lot of making out, a lot of sex today - I am exhausted, as you can imagine," Riabko jokes about the show, which is set among the hormonally active yet sexually inexperienced youth of late 19th-century Germany. Riabko, 20, says he is eager to join the cast on stage at the Eugene O'Neill Theater, where Spring Awakening opened in 2006. He starts May 23, replacing Jonathan Groff, who originated the role in the show, which is based on Frank Wedekind's classic drama.


Facebook To Add New Safeguards For Young Users

Source:  www.thestar.com - Stephanie Reitz,
The Associated Press

May 8, 2008) HARTFORD, CONN.–Facebook, the world's second-largest social networking website, will add more than 40 new safeguards to protect young users from sexual predators and cyberbullies, attorneys general from several states said Thursday.

The changes include banning convicted sex offenders from the site, limiting older users' ability to search online for subscribers under 18 and building a task force seeking ways to better verify users' ages and identities.

"The agreement marks another watershed step toward social networking safety, protecting kids from online predators and inappropriate content," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who announced the agreement Thursday with his counterparts in several other states.

Officials from Washington, D.C., and 49 states have signed on.

"Building a safe and trusted online experience has been part of Facebook from its outset," said Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer. "The attorneys general have shown great leadership in helping to address the critical issue of Internet safety, and we commend them for continuing to set high standards for all players in the online arena."

Texas has not endorsed this agreement or a similar one reached in January among the other states, the District of Columbia and MySpace. Texas officials have said they want quicker action on verifying users' ages and identities than the pacts guarantee.

The attorneys general have been negotiating for months with Facebook and MySpace, the world's largest online social network with 200 million users around the world, for tighter controls.

"Social networks that encourage kids to come to their sites have a responsibility to keep those kids safe," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "We've now gotten the two largest social networking sites to agree to take significant steps to protect children from predators and pornography."

Facebook has more than 70 million active users worldwide. Messages seeking comment were left Thursday at its headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

MySpace, Facebook and other online networks have created a new venue for sexual predators, who often lie about their age to lure young victims to chat, share images and sometimes meet in person. It also has spawned cyberbullies, who have sent threatening and anonymous messages to other users, sometimes classmates and others they know.

Among other changes, Facebook has agreed to:

– Ensure companies offering services on its site comply with its safety and privacy guidelines.

– Keep tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products.

– Remove groups whose comments or images suggest they involve incest, pedophilia, bullying or other inappropriate content.

– Send warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an adult.

– Review users' profiles when they ask to change their age, ensuring the update is legitimate and not intended to let adults masquerade as children.

The protections included in the MySpace and Facebook pacts could be expanded to smaller services such as Friendster and Bebo, Blumenthal said.

"We're entering a new era in social networking safety,'' Blumenthal said. "This agreement is open-ended in envisioning advances in technology that will permit even stronger steps in the future toward protecting kids' safety.''

Gaming Goes Indie With New WiiWare

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

(May 13, 2008) Think of them as the indies of the gaming world.

The video games being released on Nintendo's new
WiiWare service – which went live in North America yesterday – provide consumers with a new way to buy games online and help game makers get product to market faster.

If you think of traditional retail games as Hollywood blockbusters, then WiiWare games are like independent movies, according to Nintendo's Canadian spokesperson, Matt Ryan.

The games are meant to be quick and fun, allowing developers to try new ideas without the investment in time and money required to create a full-scale game, which can take years to develop.

"We've been trying to expand the gaming audience, but we're also trying to get developers to expand creative risk," Ryan said.

"There are a lot of ideas out there that don't come to life because of all the red tape developers have to go through to create a game. What WiiWare does is help make those barriers non-existent. It also means there are a bigger crew of developers out there, and allows them to improve their skill sets with quick responses to how their games are doing, directly from the mouths of consumers."

While the hard-core gaming world has been captivated by Grand Theft Auto IV for the past two weeks, the Wii has been a phenomenal success since its launch, outselling the Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3, mainly due to its focus on casual or new gamers.

New releases for WiiWare are expected every Monday and Ryan said there are already 100 games in the works for the service.

"We think it's the perfect platform for our games," said Damir Slogar, CEO of Big Blue Bubble, a developer located in London, Ont.

"(Wii users) are not mainly hard-core gamers, and casual games is one of the areas where WiiWare is going to be very strong. I think a lot of independent developers and publishers will be coming with their titles, because it's a perfect avenue to reach that audience."

WiiWare is an addition to the Wii Shop Channel, where gamers can download versions of Nintendo games created for other systems. It now allows games publishers to create original content.

Slogar's company is expecting its game, Home Sweet Home, to launch sometime in the next month. It was already a successful PC game and Slogar said the company jumped at the WiiWare opportunity, especially considering Nintendo's focus on non-traditional games. The game requires the player to design and then build a room, based on an in-game client's wishes.

"The main concept of the game is that every game will be different because every person will design the room differently. The second part of the game is you playing a level that you designed in the previous part of the game," said Slogar.

Slogar said moving the game from PC to the Wii was a bit difficult, but part of that had to do with creating actions specific to the Wii's motion control system, incorporating moves like using a hammer or painting a wall.


 Barbara Walters The Face That Launched A Thousand Tears

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Simon Houpt

May 9, 2008) New York — Is Barbara Walters about to cry?

A crumpled, sodden tissue in hand, she dabs at her runny nose and gazes out the floor-to-ceiling window of her corner office, 10 storeys above the street. It is a drizzly New York afternoon out there, a melancholy moment in the life of the city, and here is Walters discussing her memoir Audition, which arrived in bookstores this week crammed full of lump-in-the-throat stories about her tough childhood, the people she's loved and lost, and the price of her own success. “This is going to be a very difficult two months,” allows Walters, as she considers the imminent publicity encounters.

 “There will be memories that are very painful, when I talk about my sister, when I talk about my parents – my father, especially – my daughter, some of the difficult times. They are going to be hard to talk about. They were hard to write about.”

But Walters isn't a victim of her emotions; it is the environment that has her grabbing for Kleenex.

“I have such an allergy,” she explains. Oh. That. I should have known: Walters is like the King Midas of weeping, not just infamously reducing many of her interview subjects to tears but also on occasion making her own interviewers cry. She's not the type to open her own waterworks that easily. Nobody makes Barbara Walters cry except Barbara Walters.

Audition arrived with a staggering print run of 675,000, supported by an excerpt in Vanity Fair, as well as multiple conversations on her morning kaffeeklatch The View, a prime-time special with her ABC-TV colleague Charles Gibson and an hour-long afternoon chat with Oprah Winfrey. The Oprah appearance was promoted heavily through news stories that promised Walters would discuss her mid-1970s affair with the married African-American U.S. senator Edward Brooke.

At the moment, Walters is sitting behind a sleek glass desk in an ergonomic chair that, combined with her taupe suit and thick studio makeup from a guest co-hosting spot on Good Morning America that had her out of bed at 4:30 this morning, makes her look a little like the commander of the Starship Enterprise. Her collection of Emmys sits on a low window ledge to her left. (How many are there? “You won't believe it, but I've never counted them,” she says, before proceeding to count them: 10.) Outside, her two assistants sit at desks that flank the door, wordlessly supporting their captain. Walters is certainly in control of all that happens in this room. For the last 20 minutes, she has sat with her arms crossed in front of her on the desk, her head titled at a constant 15-degree angle to her right. Her physical control is impressive; over time, it grows quietly intimidating.

In contrast to the more dispassionate farewell memoirs of other (read: male) news people, Walters's book is like much of her television work, aimed as much at readers' hearts as at their heads. Sure, there are reminiscences of interviews with all the major heads of state over the last four decades, and the book provides an entertaining behind-the-scenes history of the U.S. news business. But Walters was not just another interviewer snagging face time with cultural icons. She became a cultural icon herself by breaking through barriers as the first female co-host of a network news show, being sent up on Saturday Night Live and becoming good friends with American royalty such as Beverly Sills, Oprah Winfrey, Annette and Oscar de la Renta and Alan Greenspan.

In Audition – the title nods to the notion that Walters felt she was always trying to prove herself – she shares the struggles that went into her unique success. “What I tried to do is show that almost everybody has problems, and clay feet, and there's the good and the bad,” she says. “Whatever you think of me, good or bad, there's a lot to the story you don't know, there's a lot of heartache, there was a lot of struggle. There was survival. I hope that that helps [readers with their own struggles]. But it isn't just, ‘Let me tell you how wonderful and how glamorous and how great my life was.' There was a lot that wasn't wonderful and that wasn't glamorous and that wasn't great.”

Perhaps Walters's greatest challenge was navigating the industry's pervasive sexism. But she portrays herself as an accidental feminist: a woman who happened to be in the right place at the right time. “I think if I opened doors or paved the way – and I say this in the book – then I'm proud and grateful, but I don't think I started out waving the flag and saying, ‘I'm going to show women how to do it.' I wouldn't have known how to do that. I think if it happened I did it with my own struggles, personally and professionally. But I was not a piiioneer trying to paaave the way,” – she elongates the vowels to throw some ironic topspin on the words. “A lot of things I was able to do or did do were firsts. But I didn't start out thinking, this is what I'm going to do.”

Audition begins with Walters promising that she wants to give the world a complete picture of her life: of her rags-to-riches-to-rags childhood as the daughter of an entertainment impresario who triumphed and then stumbled so badly he attempted suicide; of the difficulties of growing up with an older sister who was mentally retarded; of adopting her daughter, Jacqueline; of smashing glass ceilings; of her three marriages and her other love affairs.

Still, she doesn't want to give away everything: In the book, she refuses to confirm the year of her birth. “I'm being coy,” she says now, looking as if she'd rather discuss the Edward Brooke affair than this matter. “I mean, everybody seems to know my age. That's perhaps the most difficult thing to put in [the book], but it's not hard to figure out.”

I note that Wikipedia says she was born in 1929. “Do they really?” she shoots back. “And other people say I'm born in 1931.” (This means, of course, that if the later date were the real one, she'd just say so, but no matter.)

“Is this very important to you, to know exactly how old I am?” she asks, now becoming annoyed. I tell her that, no, it's not that important except insofar as it's interesting that she doesn't want to 'fess up. “Joy [Behar, co-host of The View] and I have had this discussion. She never ever, ever gives her age, but I do. But I'm not going to with you because you're pressing it so much.” A moment passes, and she adds, “It's not that big a deal. Use whatever date you want.”

Later, I ask about a nasty spat between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell, who was a co-host of The View for a season. Walters was an accidental casualty of the fight when, after she supported O'Donnell, Trump told the New York tabloids that she had bad-mouthed her co-host in a private conversation with the egotist developer.

“Oh, that's so long ago,” says Walters, with the derision of a journalistic elder suddenly disappointed with the behaviour of the younger generation. “I mean that's – what? – that's more than a year ago.” Never mind that Walters's affair with Brooke, which she and her publisher's publicists thrust into the spotlight to promote the book, was more than 30 years ago. Walters's expression makes it clear the issue is closed.

In Audition, Walters describes the birth of her eponymous Specials, long-form interviews with celebrities and newsmakers that ran in prime time. The four-times-a-year programs were dreamed up when Walters moved to ABC in 1976, as a way of having the news division pay only half of her then-extraordinary $1-million (U.S.) annual salary. If she spent the bulk of her days as a serious and uncompromising newswoman, the Specials, produced under the aegis of the network's entertainment division, allowed for softer standards: Many subjects were given approval over the final edits of their segments. Worse, the first program included a four-minute segment of Walters giving viewers a tour of her own apartment, helping to cement her status as a celebrity in her own right.

Walters is unapologetic about the Specials. “They saved my professional life,” she explains. As they scored high ratings, Walters's own star continued to ascend. The first one, in December, 1976, featured a sit-down with Barbra Streisand and her then-boyfriend Jon Peters, as well as an interview with U.S. president-elect Jimmy Carter.

The second Special included an interview with Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband John Warner, who happened to be one of Walters's ex-boyfriends, as well as the Shah of Iran and his wife. When ratings indicated that audiences were tuning in for the stars and tuning out for the politicians, Walters and her producers realized they had to chase more celebrities. “When we started to do the Specials, I said it was like – you know, you say to people, what do you listen to? And they say Brahms and then they go out and buy hip hop or rock.”

At the time, there were far fewer TV outlets for such interviews; since then, celebrity coverage has become the beast that ate the culture. And Walters (to follow the analogy) was one of the beast's best friends, a woman who fed and cared for it when everyone else was ridiculing it for its beastliness. But one morning, she woke to see that the beast no longer recognized her as its long-time friend; it had gotten so large and so hungry that it couldn't help but eat her, too.

She explains in Audition that she left her co-host position at the TV newsmagazine 20/20 in 2004 because she was tiring of the competition for the celebrity interview. (And if even Walters has had trouble landing stars, you know things are bad; after all, she shares a publicist with Jessica Simpson, Mariah Carey and Rosie O'Donnell.) “Today, the way television is, with the exception of cable, all they want, pretty much, is the celebrity – and not just the celebrity but the celebrity with the so-called ‘back story,' the celebrity who came out of rehab. And that's one of the reasons I left 20/20, not that it's not a wonderful program, but I really was tired of that.

“If I'm remembered for celebrity interviews – so what?” she says. “I just hope people remember me with respect, and in some cases affection.”

Illustrating The Problem

Source:  www.thestar.com - Garnet Fraser,
Toronto Star

May 11, 2008) "My father was anti-Semitic. Both my grandfathers were. I think both my grandmothers were," Dave Sim says from Kitchener. Canada's most acclaimed – and controversial – comics creator, who has won just about every award open to him and lost many friends along the way, is explaining the roots of his latest project, laying bare the intellectual roots of the Holocaust.

His relatives would tell stories, he says, identifying certain characters as Jewish, always making the point that "they were under suspicion, they were sneaky. And I don't think that was unusual" for English Canadians of their time, says Sim, 51. "It's a British thing."

Judenhass (Jew hatred), out this month, is his attempt to examine that strain of not just British and Canadian society but Western thought in general. The single-issue 49-page comic, issued to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel, arrays anti-Jewish quotes from giants of the West's history and philosophy, from Voltaire to T.S. Eliot, against a backdrop of images taken from concentration camps.

The Holocaust is one serious topic that has already been well explored in comics: Art Spiegelman's Maus won a Pulitzer Prize, and more recently Toronto's Bernice Eisenstein explored similar ground in her illustrated memoir I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors.

What's new about Sim's approach is his perspective as a non-Jew: The crimes of the Nazis were, it suggests, the culmination of attitudes both widely held and deeply rooted, and the gentile reader needs to be implicated.

The lessons, he says over the phone, need to go beyond "`Let's all resolve not to do unpleasant things.' It's necessary to rub people's noses in it (and say), `Your people did this. If you're a non-Jew, your people made this possible.'"

If it seems light on plot, it may be because Sim has been there and done that. His most famous creation Cerebus – a monthly comic telling one epic tale in 300 issues in 25 years, completed in 2004 – told the life story of the title character, who plays the role of medieval armed liberator, brutal tyrant and religious leader in the course of its run. (He's also a bipedal aardvark.) At the same time Cerebus's literary reach expanded, growing from sword-wielding Conan parody to political and religious satire to, many felt, an anti-feminist screed or worse.

It was before that final turn – one that has seen several fellow creators cut ties with Sim – he won most of his honours, receiving awards named after many of the medium's giants: Marvel Comics icon Jack Kirby, Mad magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman, industry legend Will Eisner and Canada's own Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman. Those creators had something in common besides talent, and Sim suggests that discovering that fact led him to confront his family's prejudices.

"There was absolutely no way you could convince me that there was anything bad about (those Jewish creators). It wasn't gradual, it was immediate – it was, 'my family's crazy.' "

45 Years Later, Dylan's Lover Tells Us What It Was Like

Source:  www.thestar.com - Josh Getlin,
Special To The Star

(May 13, 2008) NEW YORK–It was one of the most iconic record album covers ever released, and Suze Rotolo was part of it: on a snowy day in 1963, she snuggled with Bob Dylan as the two walked down a Greenwich Village street. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan went on to become one of his best-known records, but the long-haired girl on his arm was always a mystery.

Now, Rotolo has broken years of silence to tell the story of what it was like to fall in love with Bob Dylan at 17, to introduce him to civil rights politics and modern poetry, and to finally break up with him when the pressures of his stardom became too great. Her new book,
A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, which hits bookstores today, offers a revealing glimpse of the young artist, whom she calls with understatement "an elephant in the room of my life."

During their turbulent, four-year relationship, Rotolo deeply loved Dylan, who was 20 when they met. She was there when classic songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" were new. She looked on with pride, then fear, as celebrity transformed him and other women pursued him. The author finally decided it was time for her to leave and become her own person. But not before an abortion and emotional breakdown shattered her.

"We loved each other very much and when it ended it was mutual heartbreak," she writes in her memoir. "He avoided responsibility. I didn't make it easy for him, either. ... I knew I was not suited for his life."

"What I really like is that she doesn't go off on an ego trip or point fingers," said Izzy Young, a paterfamilias of the early Greenwich Village folk scene. "Most of the accounts of this time are by guys talking about their career. Suze's book talks about feelings and emotions."

Among the hundreds of books about Dylan and his career, Rotolo's memoir ranks as big news. But if devotees are expecting yet another portrait of genius, they'll be disappointed. A Freewheelin' Time is one of the first histories of the folk music years written from a woman's perspective, and it goes beyond gossip to ask a pointed question: How did it feel? Rotolo writes that the era mattered because "we all had something to say, not something to sell."

Their love affair blossomed in the hothouse of Greenwich Village, where a folk music revival spurred on the civil rights movement and led to the birth of modern rock culture. Rotolo recalls this era with dazzling anecdotes. But unlike most of the artists who traipse through her pages, she hasn't abandoned the neighbourhood. The author, now a 64-year-old artist, still lives there with her husband, a film editor, only a few blocks from the grungy walk-up she once shared with Dylan and the street where the Freewheelin' cover was shot.

Given her history and long silence, few would have been surprised if she wrote a tart, tell-all memoir. Yet Rotolo is generous: "He was funny, engaging, intense, and he was persistent," she writes, describing her initial impressions of Dylan, whom she ran into at a folk music festival in 1961. "These words completely describe who he was throughout the time we were together; only the order of the words would shift depending on the mood or circumstance."

The Dylan she knew could withdraw emotionally on a moment's notice or crack up friends with outrageous humour. He'd scribble lyrics to new songs on napkins in cheesy diners. Like a sponge, he absorbed new influences, sometimes not sure if he'd written a song or borrowed it from someone else. Without warning he could be cruel, affectionate or deeply enigmatic.

He also became a hugely influential figure in the Village, and Rotolo was along for the ride.

Dylan had blown into town from the Midwest, telling tall tales of how he'd run away from home to join a carnival. But Rotolo's past didn't need embellishment. She was a red diaper baby whose parents were communists. A culturally sophisticated person, she read modern poetry, studied art and drawing, and immersed herself in Bertolt Brecht and other avant-garde playwrights.

When they became a couple, Rotolo introduced Dylan to these worlds. Close friends noticed the change: "You could see the influence she had on him," said Sylvia Tyson of Ian & Sylvia. "This is a girl who was marching to integrate local schools when she was 15."

She was unwilling, however, to be the seventh string on Dylan's guitar.

Although some have idealized the folk era, Rotolo was rebelling against pervasive male chauvinism in the Village before she even had the words to describe it: "I am private by nature, and my instinct was to protect my privacy, and consequently his," she writes.

Yet this proved impossible, as Dylan's star soared. "We got on really well, though neither one of us had any skin growing over our nerve endings. We were both over-sensitive and needed shelter from the storm."

Her reference to one of Dylan's most famous songs is no accident. Some rock historians believe Rotolo inspired such Dylan tunes as "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Tomorrow Is a Long Time."

Los Angeles Times

Where Ontario's Schools Fall Down

Source: www.thestar.com -
Martin Knelman

(May 14, 2008) Ontario at the moment happens to be blessed with a provincial government that recognizes the value of the arts and understands how crucial culture is to both quality of life and future economic health.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if you could find evidence of that when you examine what your kids are getting in public schools?

We know this government appreciates the arts not only because
Premier Dalton McGuinty keeps saying so in public, but also because Queen's Park has been writing cheques at a rate that's astonishing and encouraging.

First there was that sudden budget-surplus shower of $75 million, with big investments in the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Luminato, our shiny new annual arts festival (returning in June for its sophomore year). And then Culture Minister Aileen Carroll announced a much-needed injection of millions into the Ontario Arts Council, which will help creative people all over the province.

But according to Annie Kidder, that ever-vigilant watchdog of Ontario public schools curricula, the picture is a lot less rosy when you turn to the crucial matter of what kind of arts education Ontario children receive in the classroom (leaving aside private schools).

"This government has made a number of improvements in the school system since assuming office five years ago," says Kidder, executive director of People for Education, "but in the arts, progress has been very slow in coming."

In fact, according to the soon to be issued annual report of People for Education, there are significant differences in arts program budgets between one school and another. Many schools have to rely on parents to supply the funding; in fact 47 per cent of secondary schools and 53 per cent of elementary schools report fundraising for arts enrichment in their schools.

The result: lots of enrichment in school districts with prosperous families; not much enrichment in school districts with families struggling on the poverty line.

Those who care about this issue may want to attend Telling Tales, People for Education's fifth annual benefit, set for May 25 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District. Among those in the show are writers Anne Michaels, Claudia Day and Terry Fallis; actors Graham Abbey, Nicholas Campbell, Paul Gross and Albert Schultz; and singer Molly Johnson.

Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath will be the emcees for what strikes me as the most engaging, least stuffy fundraiser of the year. The number to call for tickets – ranging in price from $125 to $200 – is 416-534-0100. And if you go, you can make your views known to Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, who plans to attend.

Certainly the situation in Ontario schools has improved since the dark days of the Mike Harris regime, with significant improvements in physical education, math and literacy.

But unfortunately, Ontario has signed on to a global craze known as "the two-tier curriculum," which places a huge emphasis on test scores. Given that obsession, arts education winds up on the bottom of the to-do list, with decreasing time and funds.

Case in point: only 14 per cent of schools with grades 7 and 8 have a visual arts teacher, and only 8 per cent of them have a drama teacher.

"The neglect of arts education is truly alarming," says Kidder, "because in this century, creativity may well be the most important quality people can have. The arts help you understand other cultures. They enable you to adapt to change and they foster empathy."

And no one should go through Ontario's school system without discovering how the arts make life a whole lot better.


GTA Golf Course Makes Play For Canadian Open

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers,
Golf 2008 Editor

(May 14, 2008) In a move that could lure a stronger field to the Canadian Open in 2010, the board of directors of St. George's Golf and Country Club have endorsed the idea of hosting the Open two years from now.

Royal Canadian Golf Association chief operating officer Rick Desrochers told the Star that there are still hurdles to leap, but that it was "a very important step" when St. George's agreed to the concept.

Desrochers said all parties, including the golf course, the city of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission, are working hard to make the plan work and that a decision could be made by the end of June.

"Frankly, it's very impressive in terms of the support we have," he said. "I'm very optimistic."

Details have to be hammered out and residents of Etobicoke will have to be consulted next month, but Toronto councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby yesterday said city officials like the concept.

"I think you could say it's moving along," she said. "Staff feel it's feasible. But I have a lot of serious questions that have to be answered."

Golf officials say St. George's — which opened in 1929 and was designed by legendary Canadian Stanley Thompson - is an ideal course but that it would be hard to put tents for corporate customers on a property that wasn't designed for modern tournaments. Some of the tents would have to go directly on Islington Ave., which could necessitate a partial or full closing of the street between Eglinton Ave. and the Kingsway for days or even a couple of weeks.

That has area politicians worried.

"I want to hear from the public; often they come up with good ideas we haven't thought of," said Lindsay Luby.

Some TTC buses would have to be re-routed, and accommodation would have to be made for people who live near Ridgevalley Cres., which empties onto Islington Ave. north of the Kingsway. But Lindsay Luby said it's worth considering.

"It would be a good thing for the city," she said. "It would have a ripple effect on the economy. I think a lot of people are away at cottages in July so that helps. But if doesn't work, it doesn't work."

Lindsay Luby is hoping to have a community hearing on June 9, possibly at Richview Collegiate Institute.

City officials have said they wouldn't be able to contribute money to the cause but would be able to help St. George's with logistics.

The last time the Canadian Open was held in what is now the city of Toronto was in 1968 at St. George's, which has hosted the tournament many times and is consistently ranked as one of the top courses in Canada and one of the best in the world.

Having the tournament close to downtown Toronto on a classic course would surely attract top names to the Open, which has slipped in prestige over the years. Tiger Woods likely wouldn't come as the Canadian Open is slated to be played the week after the British Open for the next few years, but having great golf courses would still boost Canada's profile in the golf world.

"Part of the RCGA's master plan is to play on the best possible courses," Desrochers said. "If we can tell PGA Tour players they'll have an opportunity to play on one of the finest courses maybe in all North America, that should help; especially for those who say the quality of the golf course and the ease of travel are key considerations when they decide their schedule for the year.

"Having the tournament right in the city of Toronto would be very convenient, no question."

Desrochers said that while the St. George's board likes the idea, details would have to be presented to the full club membership before the plan would be final.

The Canadian Open, sponsored by RBC, will be played this year and next at Glen Abbey in Oakville. This year's tournament runs July 24-27.

St. George's doesn't have a driving range suitable for today's PGA Tour stars, so plans call for bussing players to Eglinton Flats and erecting a temporary practice facility. It's not ideal, but RCGA officials hope the lure of playing an historic course such as St. George's will make up for the inconvenience.

Henin Retires From Tennis At 25

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(May 14, 2008) LIMELETTE, Belgium–Justine Henin retired from tennis Wednesday, an abrupt ending to a short and successful career in which she won seven Grand Slam singles titles and leaves while ranked No. 1.

The 25-year-old Belgian made the surprising announcement at a news conference, less than two weeks before the start of the French Open. She has won that clay-court major championship four times, including each of the past three years.

"This is the end of a child's dream," said Henin, the first woman to retire from tennis while atop the WTA rankings. "This is a definitive decision. Those who know me know it is serious."

Her announcement came a day after one of the greatest female golfers in history said she's walking away: Annika Sorenstam, owner of 10 major titles and one of six women to complete a career Grand Slam in her sport, is retiring at the end of the season.

Henin, though, won't have any sort of farewell tour. She is quitting immediately.

"It is a new beginning for me. I feel like I already lived three lives. I gave the sport all I could and took everything it could give me," she said. "I take this decision without the least bit of regrets. It is my life as a woman that starts now."

Henin won 10 tournaments last year, but has been in one of the worst slumps of her career this season. She lost last week in the third round of the German Open and pulled out of this week's Italian Open, citing fatigue.

"I thought long about this," Henin said, her voice cracking and eyes watering. "I started thinking about it late last year. I was at the end of the road. I leave with my head held high."

Last year, Kim Clijsters – another Belgian who reached No. 1 and won a Grand Slam title – retired from tennis at 23. She has since married and become a mother.

The 5-foot-5, 126-pound Henin overcame her slender build and a litany of injuries to dominate tennis for long stretches, thanks to a superb one-handed backhand, impressive court coverage and grit.

"She was a great opponent. She always challenged herself to play her best tennis no matter what the circumstances," Venus Williams, a six-time major champion, said Wednesday at the Italian Open. "She was just a real fighter, so I think that was really what made her best."

Henin was 12 when her mother died of cancer, and became estranged from her father and siblings for nearly a decade before reconciling last year.

In 2006, she reached the finals of every Grand Slam tournament. In 2007, she sat out the Australian Open in January while going through a divorce from Pierre-Yves Hardenne, then returned to the tour and won the French Open and U.S. Open, eight other tournaments and more than $5 million (all figures U.S.).

However, after winning her home tournament in Antwerp in February, she has failed to go beyond the quarter-finals at any other event this season.

Henin's year began with a 6-4, 6-0 loss to Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, followed by a 6-2, 6-0 drubbing by Serena Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open in April, the worst loss for a top-ranked player in nine years.

At last week's German Open, Henin lost 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 to Dinara Safina.

"At the end of the match in Berlin, (retirement) all of a sudden was there as something evident," Henin said. "I decided to stop fooling myself and accept it."

Dressed in a simple white T-shirt and jeans, her brown hair in a ponytail, Henin spoke in French for nine minutes before taking questions Wednesday. She never lost her composure and held the microphone firmly.

But her coach, Carlos Rodriguez, broke down in tears.

"Because of her," Rodriguez said, "I am somebody."

In addition to her French Open titles, Henin won the Australian Open in 2004, and the U.S. Open in 2003 and 2007. The only Grand Slam title to elude her was Wimbledon, where she was the runner-up in 2001 and 2006.

"Winning Wimbledon would not make me happier than I am," she said. "I could never dream of Wimbledon. It was destiny. I didn't feel myself capable. It was too much for me."

Henin, who earned nearly $20 million in career prize money, has been ranked No. 1 since Nov. 13, 2006, except for a seven-week period last year when Sharapova held the top spot.

"Justine Henin will be remembered as one of the all-time great champions in women's tennis, and a woman who made up for her lack of size with a will to win and fighting spirit that was second to none," WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said. "It is rare that an athlete leaves at the very top of her game in this day and age, but Justine has always played by her own rules, in the very best sense of those words."


WNBA Star Driven To Succeed By Her Mother

Source:  www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey

May 11, 2008) How often we hear successful athletes pay tribute to their moms, or dads, or both. There's a tendency to say, "Ho-hum," but then along comes Lisa Leslie, the 6-foot-5 American basketball star with a truly unusual mother-daughter story. Fitting that this is appearing on Mother's Day. Leslie is a three-time Olympic gold medallist with the U.S. team and also a three-time MVP in the WNBA. She was the first woman ever to dunk in a pro basketball game, has been a fashion model and has become a mother herself. How she got to such status is in large part thanks to the influence of her mom, partly in spite of that influence. Lisa never knew her father and her mother spent much of her childhood out on the road – literally, working as a long-haul trucker. Lisa grew up bouncing about in relatives' households, treasuring those times when she could be with her vagabond mother. "She got to drive cross-country through all forty-eight states and into Canada and Mexico," she writes. "Her CB radio moniker was Sugar Chris and her driving motto was, `I don't go fast, but I do go steady.' She hauled all kinds of cargo in that truck, from baby diapers to washing machines to tomato sauce and, when school was out, Mom would haul (sister) Tiffany and me in the cab, too. We would spend the summer driving across America, talking, laughing and, along the way, doing our shopping for the coming school year." Preparing for fame, too.

Golfer Sorenstam To Retire This Year

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Ferguson,
AP Golf Writer

(May 13, 2008) Annika Sorenstam will retire after the season, ending an LPGA Tour career in which she has won 72 tournaments to date and produced a defining moment when she teed it up against the men on the PGA Tour. She plans to announce her decision at a news conference today at the Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J., a person familiar with her plans told The Associated Press. The 37-year-old Sorenstam has hinted at retirement the past several seasons, saying she wanted to devote more time to her growing business and to start a family.  She is engaged to Mike McGee, son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.


Dance Legend Is Celebrated Worldwide

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

May 12, 2008) NEW YORK–His head is god-like tall on the billboard-sized banner over the entrance of Lincoln Center's New York State Theater announcing the Jerome Robbins Celebration.

If ever there was a choreographer to celebrate in his home city, where his work, not to mention his life, is the pur laine of showbiz legend, it is Robbins. Such is the reverence for him among contemporary ballet companies that they apparently couldn't wait for his centenary to stage worldwide festivities.

This year is the 90th anniversary of the birth of Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz, son of Polish immigrants, and also the 10th anniversary of Robbins' death of a stroke on July 29, 1998.

New York City Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Leipziger Ballett, Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet have all scheduled dancing tributes for the 2007-2008 season.

The National Ballet of Canada led the way last November with an evening that included the ever-popular West Side Story Suite (1995); the stunning Glass Pieces (1983), set to Philip Glass music; and In the Night (1970) a romantically inclined ballet to Chopin nocturnes.

New York City Ballet's spring season counts 33 Robbins ballets on 10 programs.

The general population knows Robbins as the director and choreographer of the enduring 1961 musical West Side Story.

Robbins is also revered as heir to the legacy of choreographer George Balanchine, although Robbins took American ballet a step farther than his Russian-born colleague and mentor. Robbins established a new school of American ballet, one that incorporated the rhythms of jazz, the classicism of Russian ballet, the modernity of the barefoot Graham school and the exuberance of jitterbug and be-bop.

Among the highlights of the New York City Ballet All Robbins programs, running until June 29, are his version of The Four Seasons, The Goldberg Variations, The Cage, West Side Story Suite, some rarely performed works such as Watermill and his 1944 ballet, Fancy Free, about sailors on a New York fling before going to war, with music by a then-unknown Leonard Bernstein.

Robbins seemed as alive as any of us Friday night at the opening of Russian Roots, a program of four dances revealing his slavic heritage and Russian artistic genealogy.

Friday night's performance was a thrilling occasion to see some of the finest dancers in the ranks of the New York company, especially Wendy Whalen, Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns and the newly acquired (from San Francisco Ballet) principal dancer Gonzalo Garcia.

The curtain went up on a screen showing video of Robbins in the studio, late in his career, taking some dancers through the steps of Opus 19/The Dreamer. Setting the dance to Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, an achingly romantic and simultaneously modern piece of music from 1923, Robbins originally cast Patricia McBride and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Only 20 minutes long, it seems like a full-evening ballet narrative. Garcia partnered Whelan. The dance is spare, like the music, and Garcia played an ancient Greek god, a riveting hero perhaps inspired by Robbins' recollections of his clash with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953.

Fairchild and De Luz danced Andantino, in which Robbins matched the steps to the notes the pianist (Alan Moverman) plays in the second movement from Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. Perfectly, if coolly, executed by two of the strongest dancers in the company, the piece contrasts the elevation and needlepoint delicacy of the woman's part with the male's role.

Robbins made Piano Pieces for the 1981 Tchaikovsky Festival, choosing 15 of the composer's works for piano and applying them to a folky dance for a stylized group of Russian peasants. Les Noces, Robbins' creation for Igor Stravinsky's ritualized music derived from Russian peasant weddings, is quite a naturalistic drama in contrast with the composer's abstract music. Done originally by American Ballet Theatre in 1965, it was not restaged until New York City Ballet performed it in 1998, at the end of Robbins' life. There are always reasons, good and bad, why works languish unproduced and in this case it might be that a full choir and many dancers are required. The singing, against a ceiling-high backdrop made to look like the inside of a rural wooden sanctuary – one of the Eastern Orthodox saints has a face like Robbins' – makes Les Noces something more than an archival exercise, but not a lot.

Across the Lincoln Center plaza, in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, curator and dance professor Lynn Garafola has mounted an excellent exhibition, New York Story: Jerome Robbins and His World (until June 28), culled from Robbins' extensive archives.