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November 20, 2008

Gotta love Toronto for it's flipswitch change of seasons ... it feels like mid-February out there today!!

Whoa!  Told you that I had a slew of events happening, starting TONIGHT at the Rose Theatre with Julie Crochietiere and Andrew CraigWhat a fun night this will be! Then, next on the calendar is Aubrey Dayle and Vernon Reid, together on two dates in December.  Then, there's the annual AroniMAGE awards in honour of Aron Y. Haile on December 7th.  Soweto Gospel Choir on December 17 and 18, 2008 at Massey Hall.

Another week chock full of entertainment news ... take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



Julie Crochetiere & Andrew Craig - Thursday, November 20

Source:  www.myrosetheatre.ca  

Julie Crochietiere and Andrew Craig will light up your night, as they share a double-bill on the mainstage of Brampton's breathtaking Rose Theatre. Performing all original material that is already receiving airplay, Julie and Andrew are sure to create an unforgettable evening of music. Catch them now, while their stars are just beginning to rise - and be able to say "I saw them way back when"!

They are two dynamic up-and-coming artists. One is a 2008 Nominee for Female Vocalist of the Year, the other is a two-time Nominee for Pianist of the Year - both from the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. Both are known for their passionate and engaging performances. Both are becoming known for their craft and innovation as singer-songwriters. And now, you can see them both on the same stage - on the same night!

 - Like many of her contemporaries, Julie Crochetiere [pronounced crow-shet-_-air] began writing songs as a heartbroken teenager in need of catharsis. Little did she know that someday the first single/video from her first full length album would be one of her own compositions, entitled "Precious Love". In fact, Julie wrote or co-wrote ten of the fourteen tracks on A Better Place, which includes collaborations with Jacksoul's Haydain Neale and Xandy Barry, among others.

ANDREW CRAIG - He has musical-directed tributes to Quincy Jones and Oscar Peterson, and arranged music for 50,000 children singing for Nelson Mandela. He’s shared the stage with some of the biggest names in music: Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, and Molly Johnson, to name just a few. Andrew Craig is a true Renaissance man in the arts: singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, director, broadcaster and impresario. He is one of the most sought-after musicians in the Canadian scene today.

Rose Main Stage
1 Theatre Lane
Brampton, ON

8:00 PM
Tickets: $26.25 - $50.00



Listening to A Better Place, Julie's eclectic taste in music and broad range of influences is immediately apparent. From the sensual vocal performance on "Footsteps", which is reminiscent of early Roberta Flack, to the soulful interpretation of Sir Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (on which she was joined by all ten members of The Sharon Riley Faith Chorale), her unique approach is unmistakable. For many artists, taking on classics like Paul Simon's "Slip Sliding Away", or Lionel Richie's "Stuck On You", might have been a daunting feat, but Julie rises to the occasion and breathes new life into each of them.

No stranger to the challenges of overseeing every aspect of a recording project, in 2003, Julie wrote and independently released her first EP, Cafe, which was co-produced with Haig V (Bran Van 3000). This release led to performances at some of the most highly esteemed live music venues in Toronto, Montreal and New York, including the Toronto and Ottawa Jazz Festivals, Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast, and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The experience of taking an independent project every step from its inception to delivering it to live audiences put Julie in good stead for this, her first full-length album, which was recorded in Toronto and Montreal in early 07. "The recording of this project was very intense and focused. I wanted to record this album in an old school way to capture the magic of the 'live' sound: put the band in a room, press the red button, and let’s play". The recording process was completed in a matter of weeks and was produced by Julie, with Tony Albino. This approach obviously worked, as the album is as intimate and warm in production as it is in lyrics and melody. Julie says "I’ve been very fortunate to collaborate with some great writers, musicians and producers during the entire development of this project. I hand picked everyone on my team. I chose people that I admire and respect and musicians who I love listening to."

Reflecting on all the decisions that have led her down the creative path she's taken to A Better Place, Julie says, "I feel extremely proud of this record. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably do the same thing. In fact, I would live my life the same way too. The road up until now has been full of passion, tears, sweat, laughs, doubts, pressure, headaches, love, magic, minefields and unanswered questions. It's been filled with tons of 'no's and a few meaningful 'yes’s, but mostly, it’s been full of excitement. And that's what I signed up for."

For more information about this artist please visit: www.juliec.com


Andrew Craig is a Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, director, composer, broadcaster and impresario, working in multiple musical genres, and collaborating with artists in other disciplines. He has worked with a diverse range of musical artists, including Molly Johnson, Measha Bruggergosman, Jackie Richardson, Ashley MacIsaac and Wynton Marsalis. He has Musical Directed for Canstage and Soulpepper Theatre productions, and composed music for OMNI Television, as well as numerous choreographers.

Andrew has a considerable reputation as a Musical Director. He Musical Directed Harbourfront's tribute to Quincy Jones, and has twice performed for Nelson Mandela, one of those times at Toronto's Skydome (now the Rogers Centre), for which he arranged music sung by 50,000 schoolchildren. Andrew was nominated in the category of "Pianist/Keyboardist of the Year" in both the 2006 and 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards.

Andrew created, Musical Directed and co-produced "A Gospel Christmas Celebration" for CBC Radio and Television in December 2006. The show received a Gemini nomination, and won a Bronze World Medal at the prestigious New York Festivals. Andrew also produced the CD version of the special, called "The Gospel Christmas Project", for CBC Records, released in October 2007.

In December 2007, Andrew made his orchestral conducting debut, performing "The Gospel Christmas Project - LIVE!" with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. The show minus orchestra had its premiere performance at Massey Hall in December 2007. Both performances received considerable critical acclaim. The Gospel Christmas Project moves to Toronto's Young Centre for the Performing Arts in December 2008.

Andrew also works as a host and producer with CBC. For 2 ½ years, Andrew hosted CBC Radio Two's  "In Performance", the network's flagship Classical concerts program. He is now the Toronto Region Host and Associate Producer for the successor to "In Performance", called "Canada Live".

In the area of television, Andrew hosted both the 2006 and 2007 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame galas, which aired on CBC Television and Radio, and which honoured Canadian greats Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Jean-Pierre Ferland and Gilles Vigneault, among others. Andrew also hosted Season One of the reality show "Triple Sensation".

As an impresario, Andrew has twice presented a full-scale tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire. He also created and produced a highly successful Valentine's show in 2004 and 2008, called "Celebrate Love".

Andrew Craig is the former Co-Chair of the Music Committee of the Toronto Arts Council, and is currently a member of the Advisory Council for the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University, and the Programming Committee of Toronto's Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

For more information about this artist please visit: www.andrewcraig.me

Aubrey Dayle and My id with Vernon Reid – December 4 and 6, 2008

Aubrey Dayle and My id collaborate with Grammy Award winning guitarist Vernon Reid for shows in Toronto on December 4th at Toronto's Lula Lounge.  On December 6th, Hamilton’s The Pepper Jack Cafe is the venue.  


My id for Dayle is the conscious musical illustration of his instinctual needs and drives; and the Toronto based drummer who formed this group harnessed some of the city’s finest eclectic musicians. Pooling their strengths in jazz, rock, world beat, R&B and hip hop My id projects outstanding musicianship; and this musical brilliance will be further boosted for the upcoming concerts with virtuoso Vernon Reid collaborating.


Vernon Reid and his exceptional Black rock band, Living Colour made tremendous strides throughout several decades; and their first-rate platform back in the 80s and 90s ushered them into the realm of a ‘Black Coalition’ of conscious and ground-breaking, top instrumentalism and selling 4 million recordings world wide. Fusing philosophies of social justice, Reid and My id will together bring a sound of equality and freedom to the Ontario concert halls this December.


Living Colour continues to impress audiences today and are enjoying a current major resurgence because of ‘The Guitar Hero 3’ video game that features their massive hit, “Cult of Personality.”


Featured on Dayle’s debut CD along with, Allman Brothers bassist, Oteil Burbridge and singer Hassan Hakmoun, Reid has worked with some stellar talents like: Mick Jagger, Bill Frisell, Carlos Santana, Public Enemy, Garland Jefferies and James Blood Ulmer.


Described by James Blood Ulmer as “He was born in Jamaica, grew up in Canada and plays like he's from Georgia!”, Dayle has toured and recorded with Reid on the James Blood Ulmer Grammy nominated CD project 'Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions' and 'No Escape from the Blues:  The Electric Lady Sessions'. The contemporary ‘jazzist’ recently returned to live in Canada after being based in New York City for 14 years. He has also toured and recorded with Garland Jeffries, Sonny Rollins, Peter Gabriel, Hassan Hakmoun and John Popper Band.


The December 4th show at Lula Lounge will serve as My id’s second CD release party. Recorded live in another Reid/My id joint effort last year, the CD is titled “Aubrey Dayle's My id & Vernon Reid Live Revival.”

Lula Lounge
1585 Dundas Street West (one an a half blocks west of Dufferin)

8:00 pm
TICKET PRICES:  $18.00 in advance via Ticketweb.com $22.00 at the door and $27.00 with CD.

BOX OFFICE number: www.ticketweb.ca 888-222-6608


The Pepper Jack Café
38 King William Street - Hamilton, Ontario

8:30 pm

TICKET PRICES:  $12.00 in advance $15.00 at the door and $2O.00 with CD.

BOX OFFICE number: (905)525-6666 and www.pepperjackcafe.com
www.myspace.com/myidmusic, www.myidmusic.org, or www.myspace.com/vernonreid

Get Ready To Inspire – December 7, 2008

Following the successful 2006, 2007, INSPIRE events, the Aroni Awards returns on Sunday December 7th, 2008 for yet another captivating event, with the presentation of five AroniMAGE awards to the unsung heroes of our community. The AroniAwards Education Grants will be presented to three students who show strong dedication to community service, a positive outlook and continue to persevere despite socioeconomic hardships and other obstacles.  The Aroni Awards Gala was created in honour of Aron Y. Haile, an African Canadian and accomplished student, entrepreneur, software developer, who died in a vehicular accident in 2003, at the young age of 30. 


Canadian Idol’s favourite judge Farley Flex returns as Master of Ceremony, with some of Canada’s premier entertainers  as they presenter, participate or performer in support of our Youth. The evening features a VIP Reception, Silent Auction,  Awards Presentations, 3 Course Dinner (Dynamic Catering),  Live performances, and After Show reception and more. This year’s Aroni Awards Gala will once again be held at the newly renovated Atlantis Pavilions (Main Ballroom).  The magnificent complex with its 30-foot floor to ceiling windows, panoramic views of the Toronto skyline and waterfront, offers a unique venue to create the perfect setting for the Aroni Awards Gala. 

4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
$60 (Includes 3 Course Dinner Catered by Dynamic, Silent Auction, Cocktail VIP Reception, Live Performances, After Awards Reception) 

Soweto Gospel Choir Returns to Toronto For Two Performances Only! - December 17 & 18

Source:  Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

The exciting and dynamic Soweto Gospel Choir will return to Toronto for two performances only on December 17 and 18, 2008 at Massey Hall. The performances are presented by The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

Two-time Grammy® Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir thrilled capacity audiences on each of their previous visits in 2005 and 2007. These return performances will include their newest holiday offerings as well as traditional favourites.

Expect earthy rhythms, rich harmonies, a cappella numbers as well as accompaniment by an exciting four-piece band and percussion section. Add energetic dancing and vibrant, colourful costumes, and the mix is awesome. The Choir performs in six of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

The popular Choir has made its mark on the international stage performing with such luminaries as Bono, The Eurythmics, Jimmy Cliff and many others. They have also performed for Nelson Mandela. Often referred to as the “Voices from Heaven”, the Choir reaches across cultural boundaries and each performance is uplifting, exhilarating and thrilling.

Massey Hall, South side of Shuter Street, between Yonge & Victoria Streets
8:00 pm
Tickets: $18-$78 plus applicable service charges
Tickets can be purchased through the Roy Thomson Hall Box Office (60 Simcoe St., Toronto), by telephone 416-872-4255, online at masseyhall.com or ticketmaster.ca.
GROUPS of 10 or more call Roy Thomson Hall 416-593-4822 ext. 225

Visit www.masseyhall.com for more details.


Stand-up Comedian Russell Peters To Host Juno Awards Again

Source: Canadian Press

(November 19, 2008) VANCOUVER, B.C. - Stand-up comedian Russell Peters is returning to the Junos.

The edgy comic, known for skewering a wide range of racial groups in his routines, will helm next spring's awards bash in Vancouver.

Peters says in a release that he enjoyed hosting the show last April and was up for another bout with Canada's music elite.

At the most recent Junos bash, the comic took swipes at Alberta superband Nickelback, punky pop star Avril Lavigne and an absent Celine Dion.

Before that gig, Peters joked about never having seen the awards show and not being that familiar with Canadian music.

But his turn as MC was well received, and he won a Gemini Award last month for his hosting duties. The 2009 Junos air March 29 on CTV.

"I had a great time hosting the 2008 show," Peters said in the release. "Let this love affair continue."

Canadian Indie Band Heads To Wisteria Lane

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(November 14, 2008) TORONTO — It helps to know people in high places — and for Canadian indie band Tokyo Police Club, having a friend in Hollywood has meant being name-dropped on one of TV's biggest prime-time shows and getting to play a song for an audience of millions.

The band's name was slipped into dialogue in a recent episode of
Desperate Housewives (ABC, CTV), and they're now set to appear and perform on Sunday's episode of the Emmy-winning show.

The series has typically drawn audiences of around 15 million viewers in the U.S. this season, but the band is under no illusions that this could be their big break, keyboard player Graham Wright said in a recent interview.

“Whether or not the target demographic of Desperate Housewives is going to be interested in Tokyo Police Club is not something I could answer. I would guess we're probably not going to win over a whole bunch of new fans — but that was never the point,” Wright said.

“It's just something that's really cool and really awesome and exciting for us to do. We've already got what we wanted out of it.”

Wright can't reveal too much about their roles on the show, but he will say that they compete in a battle of the bands contest against a group started by the men of Wisteria Lane.

Tokyo Police Club is “the young hotshot band that's there to make them feel old and inadequate,” Wright said.

Two of the band's members also have lines in the episode.

Sadly, Wright said, only the men were on set when the band did its shoot, so they didn't get to mingle with the female stars of the show.

“I walked past Eva Longoria at one point but I didn't say hi. You know how it is, they probably had better things to do than talk to us,” he said.

The prime-time TV appearance will mark the end of the biggest year in the Newmarket, Ont., band's short career thus far.

Tokyo Police Club built up major buzz on the strength of two EPs released in 2007, and last April released their first full-length album, Elephant Shell.

This fall the band toured across North America as openers for Weezer.

“This Weezer tour was sort of the last big thing we're doing this year, and it's definitely the biggest thing we've done,” Wright said.

“And then for the Desperate Housewives thing to sort of randomly happen in the middle of that as well just adds to the whole craziness of this month, which is the craziest part of a crazy year,” said Wright, noting a writer on the show is a friend of the band.

He said the band now intends to take it easy for a while and has no immediate plans to start working on a follow-up album.

But they are playing a few shows next month with Metric, the Dears, Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains, and DJ Mike Relm for the Jingle Bell Rock tour that has dates scheduled in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

SOCAN Awards Homegrown Musical Talent

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

(November 18, 2008) Avril Lavigne and Nelly Furtado were among the big winners at last night's 19th annual SOCAN Awards Gala at the Carlu theatre in Toronto, taking five awards between them for having had a part in composing the Canadian pop songs that achieved the greatest number of plays on Canadian radio during 2007.

Lavigne won three awards, for "Keep Holding On," "When You're Gone" and "Girlfriend." Furtado won two for "Say It Right" and "All Good Things Come to an End."

Other SOCAN pop song award recipients at the music industry gala, which featured a live performance by Winnipeg roots-rock band The Weakerthans, were the composers of "Everything" (Michael Bublé), "Wonderful" (Chantal Kreviazuk), "Love You Lately" (Daniel Powter) and "The Music" (David Usher).

Finger Eleven took the rock award for "Paralyzer" and k-os's "Sunday Morning" won in the urban music category.

Songs that earned SOCAN Awards in the country music category were "Life Is a Highway" (Tom Cochrane), covered last year by American country act Rascal Flatts; "Cheaper To Keep Her" (Aaron Lines) and "Pickup Truck" (Shane Yellowbird).

Elphin, Ont., songwriter David Francey won in the folk/roots category.

Among Canadian songs that received SOCAN Classic Awards for achieving 100,000 plays on Canadian radio were: "It's All Been Done," "Falling For The First Time," "Pinch Me," "One Week" and "If I Had A Million Dollars" (Barenaked Ladies); "Believe In You," "Everybody's Got A Story," "Love Lift Me" and "Sitting On Top Of The World" (Amanda Marshall); "Ain't No Cure," "Suzanne" and "First We Take Manhattan" (performed by Leonard Cohen); "Safety Dance" and "Pop Goes The World" (Men Without Hats); "Carmelia" and "Never Thought" (Dan Hill); "Constant Craving" (k.d. lang); "Dream Come True" (Frozen Ghost); "When I'm With You" (Sheriff) and "She's So High" (Tal Bachman).

The late Oscar Peterson was honoured with a Special Achievement Award for contributions to Canada's music industry and/or musical heritage.

Nickelback won the International Achievement Award, for bringing international recognition to Canada through their music.

Newfoundland troubadour Ron Hynes was given the National Achievement Award, for outstanding success in the Canadian music industry throughout his career.

Ray Griff won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

For a full list of winners, go to socan.ca.

Montell Jordan Is Grown & Sexy

www.eurweb.com - By Ricki Morris

(November 13, 2008) *Remember that song that said everything you wanted to say to your high school crush? Or the one that lifted you up from a horrible heartbreak. Music has always been a sort of therapy that helps us with all situations in our lives.

 “I believe that people’s lives have a soundtrack,” R&B star
Montell Jordan professed to RadioScope’s LaRita Shelby, during an over the phone interview.

Many may remember Montell Jordan when he first hit the music scene in 1995. His career immediately sky rocketed with the drop of his debut hit “This Is How We Do It” which was the first Def Jam R&B record to reach number one on the pop charts, where it stayed for seven weeks. Since then, he has released four other gold singles, and toured with veteran artists such as Boyz II Men, TLC, and Mary J. Blige. Now, a few years later, Montell’s back with his new album “Let It Rain.” Jordan says his new project is a reflection of his growth as an artist.

“Those people that understand that the time frame that my music was originally created are now a more grown and sexy group of people,” says a confident Jordan. “We went from the college era, and the party style to becoming adults, and so that’s where my music is now.”

Even though the Georgia resident has been around for a while, he still feels like a “new player in a old game.”  He admits that he has been blessed with the gift to create relevant music, which is the key to his longevity.  He also says that as an artist, the only way to survive the game is not be afraid to take chances.

“Being out of the box is kind of important,” admitted Jordan.  His mission is not to just make popular dance music; he’s trying to create a body of music that will be therapy for his listener’s everyday lives. “Music is the soundtrack for everybody’s (life),” he reminds.

Jordan may have been away from the music scene for a while, but there are still expectations of his “This Is How We Do It” days.  But he plans to break away from expectations and create something with a little more stimulation.

“I like for people to expect good things from me. (I want) to create something to take their minds to another place.” 

 And as far as the "This Is How We Do It" phenomenon, Jordan says the only way to break away from that expectation is to not create another “This Is How We Do It.”

 Montell Jordan, who is now signed with an independent label, has the freedom to determine the direction of his music. Jordan’s says they are currently working on the proper way to introduce the new “Grown & Sexy” Montell Jordan.

 For MORE info on Montell Jordan and HEAR cuts from his new CD, visit his MySpace page: www.myspace.com/montelljordan.


When Brothers Speak, Listen ‘Cause They Have Something to Say that’s Worth Hearing

By ItaL rOOts RaDio™ host, Sweet T

It began in darkness. The crowd grew silent and a spotlight shone upon a tall, dark, and handsome man. His afro and striking features made it easy to gawk, but as he began to speak, his command of words and delivery were far more attractive than his looks.

Al St. Louis began with a brilliant piece ‘Now that We Have a Blackman in the White House” which spoke of the joy and pride of the President Elect. There was pride, but there was also a reality check and talk of responsibility. The simple fact that a black man has been elected does not mean he is going to feed or raise our children. The spotlight faded and the room grew dark again until the spotlight reappeared to his right, where Eddy the Original One stood and began to play his lips like a trumpet.

His playful poem, “Touch Yourself 3 Times in My Name” had the crowd giggling like teenagers when they first hear the word masturbation in a group setting. It was playful and creative. The two men recited another piece each before exiting, and the spotlight was on L.E.V.I.A.T.H.A.N.

His introductory poem walked us through history and the plight of the Blacks, Chinese and Native Indians, bringing us to the present day with a witty play on automotive, corporation names in a plan that was designed to keep people oppressed.  His impersonation of Buju Banton received accolades from the audience in his next piece. However it is in the humble opinion of this writer that his most profound performance was alongside the host and founder of When Brothers Speak, Mr. Dwayne Morgan.

It was during Morgan’s opening poem that the two men were in sync and hypnotic. The visualization created by their words was at times horrifying as one could see and smell the lynchings about which they spoke.  Dwayne went on to perform a personal favourite, ‘The Sum of Her Parts’-  that is highly recommended to every male and female; then proceeded to do a piece for his 9 month old daughter before concluding with the courageous and erotic, “The Way To A Man’s Heart Is Through His Stomach”.

Living in Toronto, one would have to live under a rock to have never heard the name Dwayne Morgan. It was years ago, in a small, dark club on Bridgeland that I first saw Dwayne open for a reggae show. It was there that I began to pay closer attention to his work and yet, here I was, on the 10th anniversary of  When Brothers Speak, embarrassed as I applauded with the others when Dwayne asked, who had never been to a When Brothers Speak event.  Thankfully, I left elated and knowing that it will not be the last! Feeling high, having had my brain fed with food for thought, I left feeling refreshed with a new appreciation for the opposite gender.

The prodigal son, a now retired poet, Black Katt returned to Toronto and to the stage to pay tribute to Morgan who is currently celebrating 15 years in the business. Screaming from the top section of the balcony, the now head-shaven, Black Katt (the last time I saw him he had locks to his shoulders), made his way down the stairs where he then climbed the few steps , walking across the stage as he continued reciting an angry yet poignant poem about the plague of a “nigga”.  The seasoned and distinguished Black Katt revisited his earlier repertoire, paying tribute also to Tony Young, a.k.a. Master T who sat alongside his wife and partner, Paula, before delivering a heart wrenching poem to his mother who was in the audience.

These men were stimulating, reinforcing the truth that intelligent, sensitive men, still exist. They were beautiful in every sense of the word, yet it was the words spewing from their mouths that were so attractive.

Kind, considerate, brutally honest, funny and sometimes naughty, these men had the 500 seat capacity crowd in the St. Lawrence Centre feeding from the palm of their hands. From the young, extremely talented and passionate, BOONAA to the grandfather of talent, Taalam Acey, along with another of our southern brothers, the spiritually awake - 13 of Nazareth paid homage to their grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and lovers. They recounted horrifying tales of history, hilarious encounters that made you laugh from your belly; they recited titillating and delectable erotic poems that had most women in the audience cheering for more, as they melted hearts with a sensitivity that could heal a sceptic.

It began with 13 of Nazareth’s poem to his grandmother, then Black Katt’s to his mother and finally when Dwayne Morgan recited his poem to his daughter the damn that had been holding my tears for the night broke. The gates opened and the floods poured. Until then, I was able to discreetly wipe my eyes, now I was searching my purse for tissue.

The tears were happy ones, filled with pride, love and admiration for the people in my own life who had touched me just as the words coming from strange mouths felt like pages in my own journal. The brothers made one laugh, they made one cry, but mostly they made one feel.

The entire cast of Saturday night’s 10 year anniversary of When Brothers Speak received a well deserved standing ovation from the audience. My parting thoughts are to Dwayne Morgan whom I thank open-heartedly for the opportunity to witness and take part in such a positive event. Many thanks to the entire Up From the Roots Family, with blessings of continued success for the whole cast and crew. I look forward to When Sisters Speak , another UFR annual presentation taking place in January 2009.


Festive Spirit Runs High On Caribbean Cruises

Source: www.thestar.com - Diane Tierney, Special To The Star

(November 15, 2008) Cruise the Caribbean during the holiday season and you will probably see snow flurries on the ship. During Christmas and Hanukkah, cruise lines go overboard decking the halls and will create fake snow in the lobby just to make you feel at home. They also have special shows, events and menus to honour the season.

Atriums, lobbies and lounges are filled with gigantic Christmas trees – some soaring three decks high. Staircase banisters are draped with garlands dripping with holly. Lavish wreaths hang on doors. Faux fireplaces with stockings magically appear in the libraries.

Family-oriented cruise lines such as Carnival, Princess and Holland America are extra sweet at keeping holiday spirits high.

"We traditionally see very strong demand for Christmas cruises," says Terry Thornton, senior vice president of marketing for Carnival.

"The pricing is affordable and we have ships departing from about 10 different U.S. ports to make it even easier and less expensive. Our Christmas cruise rates are not significantly different than prior years."

Prices for a seven-day Caribbean cruise on their newest ship, the Splendor, leaving Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 20, start at $599 U.S. per person without airfare.

The growing trend for holiday cruises is to make it a family reunion.

To accommodate the large groups, cruise lines have created more inter-connecting cabins, as well as condo-sized staterooms that can sleep more than 10 people.

"In recent years, we've hosted many more multi-generational families, from kids and grandparents to their extended family members," says Thornton.

"A cruise allows guests of all ages and interests to spend the holidays together. We have something for everyone with opportunities for either individual or family pursuits."

He also points out that parents enjoy escaping the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and the stress of meal and party preparations.

Carnival features special holiday-themed entertainment, children's programs and traditional meals – turkey, mincemeat pies, eggnog – on their 22 ships.

On Princess Cruises, young passengers participate in gingerbread house contests, decorate Christmas cookies, make ornaments to decorate the trees and prepare for a holiday pageant to show parents.

Santa Claus, with his sack full of toys, visits all the children, and a holiday fair in the atrium offers youngsters games, contests, balloon animals and face painting.

The sophisticated stage shows in the main theatres focus their musicals on the holiday season.

Or, for those passengers who like entertainment that's more subdued, there are usually readings of `Twas the Night Before Christmas by the captain or holiday movies such as Polar Express and Miracle on 34th Street playing on cabin televisions.

Prices on their newest ship, the Ruby Princess, start at $962 U.S. per person, without airfare, leaving Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 20.

Holland America passengers enjoy gala feasts, holiday shows, tree lighting in the lobby, late-night milk and cookie snacks with Santa and turndown gifts. Bring a stocking and it will be stuffed.

"This year's cruises prices are up a bit and holiday sailings are usually priced a bit higher than other sailings," says Erik Elvejord, director of public relations.

"Space is filling up but there are a few dates that still have good values on them and we have a new ship, the Eurodam, with holiday sailings."

Prices for a seven-day Caribbean cruise on the new Eurodam start at $861 Cdn., without airfare, leaving Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 20.

No matter which ship you choose, there's no need to worry that Santa Claus won't find you at sea.

"Santa usually arrives by parasail on our ships in the Caribbean but it depends on the weather and location," Elvejord explains.

There are new shows every year and they always celebrate the season.

"We also have the crew do a show that features their special traditions. It's a themed show that has a really nice feel to it," he says. "The crew also goes around the ship singing Christmas carols."

Religious services are held and passengers enjoy attending midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy.

Passengers celebrating Hanukkah can participate in services conducted by a rabbi. Ships also display menorahs and fresh flower arrangements decorated in Hanukkah colours. Kosher meals are available when requested in advance and menus feature specialty items such as potato latkes, matzo ball soup and gefilte fish.

For New Year's Eve there are parties ranging from black-tie affairs for adults and casual-dress celebrations for teens, to pyjama parties for youngsters. Everyone counts down the New Year with music, confetti, streamers and noisemakers.

"We get more families over the holidays because they have more time available to travel. So most itineraries are booked for seven to 14 days," says Elvejord.

It's both wonderful and weird to be on a sunny, warm cruise at Christmas time.

But everyone soon appreciates that the trip itself, with all the fun family memories, is better than gifts under the tree.

For more information contact 888-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com; 800-PRINCESS or visit princess.com; 877-932-4259 or visit hollandamerica.com. Prices subject to change.

Diane Tierney is an Oakville-based freelance writer.


Impresario Raises The Bar On Jazz

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

(November 13, 2008) VANCOUVER–At first glance it seems like a typical Saturday night at this city's premier jazz club – packed house, killing band – but a closer look reveals musicians with an average age of 16 and an overly enthusiastic audience rife with their moms and dads.

The Cellar Restaurant/Jazz Club's proprietor, Cory Weeds, doesn't short-change them: He announces the student big band's annual showcase with the same fanfare accorded the marquee acts that pass through his eight-year-old venue.

It's one of his key roles at the cozy west side venue, accented with mulberry walls and big, vivid paintings of jazz greats.

"I can't cook; I'm a terrible bartender; I'm not good at handling conflict," he later claimed in a front office interview.

"I'm good at introducing the band, talking to customers and making the musicians feel comfortable."

Burnaby, B.C., native Weeds, 34, is a musician himself: a saxophonist trained at Capilano College and the University of North Texas who is making his headlining debut at the Rex tonight.

His desire to open a jazz venue was borne of his experiences touring with pop and funk bands in his 20s.

"Club owners and musicians never seemed to work together; but if we're not working to the same goal, we're going to go out of business," he said.

"I looked around at clubs and I thought, `I could do this.'"

In 2000, Weeds stumbled upon a newspaper ad for the three-year-old Jazz Cellar, which he had coveted when promoting a show there six months earlier.

He found a partner, talked his father into co-signing a loan and re-mortgaging the family home and set about transforming the 2,400-square-foot destination from "an after-hours where there was more chatter than jazz" into a music-forward supper club.

It was a tough haul, but instead of giving up when they hit bottom in 2004, Weeds and his investors dug in, remodelling the following year to increase the room's capacity to 85 seats.

He cites the following combination for helping The Cellar turn the corner: finding a great chef, becoming a more confident owner, meeting his schoolteacher wife Alana (through a set-up by his school-secretary mom), a good economy, competent staff, patient investors and perseverance.

He also attributes his decision to "to take a lesser role operationally," which doesn't sound flattering until you realize that his other activities – touring as sideman to the likes of Paul Anka, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Red Holloway, and running Cellar Live, the record label he founded in 2001 – give him a pivotal role as the club's ambassador.

"I go to New York and Toronto a lot and it all comes back to this place one way or another," he explains.

"Without the club, the label don't exist; without the club, I don't play as much."

This was a banner year for Weeds: Cellar Live, which has released nearly 50 albums, the majority recorded live at the club, beat out perennial winner Justin Time Records to win the National Jazz Awards Label of the Year and received its first Juno nominations. The club also marked its first profitable year despite the economic downturn.

With all the distractions – Weeds hosts a weekly jazz radio show, and he and his wife are expecting their first baby in May – it's a wonder he finds time to play his horn.

"I have so much respect for musicians who do nothing but that, but I don't have that kind of concentration; I need to do other things," said the impresario who released his first jazz disc as a leader, the well-received Big Weeds, this summer.

"I'm not coming to turn Toronto on its ear; I'm just coming to have fun and entertain people. We're not saving lives, we're making music."

Just the facts:
WHO: Cory Weeds Quartet with Pat Collins, Joel Haynes and Mark Eisenman

WHERE: The Rex, 194 Queen St. W.

WHEN: Tonight ($7) and tomorrow ($8) at 9:30 p.m. Tickets at the door.

Chesney Snags Top Country Music Honour

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
John Gerome, The Associated Press

(November 13, 2008) NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kenny Chesney won only one of the seven awards he was nominated for at the CMA Awards, but he sure made it count.

Chesney took home his fourth entertainer of the year trophy Wednesday, tying Garth Brooks for the most wins in the category, considered the night's top honour. He has now won the award three years in a row.

“Winning entertainer of year for the fourth time in five years is more than this kid ever dreamed of,” Chesney said backstage.

While Chesney knows his reign will eventually end, he said, “I'm not going to lay down. I love the heart, commitment and sacrifice it takes to do this.”

And to his competitors, he issued a challenge: “Come and get me.”

Chesney wasn't the night's only big winner. George Strait won single and album of the year, making him the act with the most awards in the history of the Country Music Association Awards, with 22 total.

Strait thanked the songwriters for “letting me sing such a beautiful song” after the poignant I Saw God Today won single of the year. He later won album of the year for Troubadour.

“Everybody says they've got the greatest fans. Well, I've really got the greatest fans,” Strait said in accepting the album award.

Also winning two awards was Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Sugarland won the award for duo of the year, and earlier, Nettles won song of the year for Sugarland's hit Stay.

“We have so much to prove – songs to write, people to win” over, Nettles said backstage.

The show, which was co-hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, was highlighted by a touching tribute to U.S. troops, a surprise appearance by rapper Lil Wayne and the return of one of country's biggest stars, Shania Twain.

Underwood won her third consecutive female vocalist award and told her mom in her acceptance speech, “It's real hard to sing when you're in the second row crying.” It came after her performance of her No. 1 hit Just a Dream, about a woman who lost her loved one in war. The song was introduced by Leslie Ponder who lost her husband in Afghanistan.

The former American Idol champ also thanked country fans. “I got here in an unconventional way, and you guys didn't have to accept me at all.”

Paisley, who won video of the year earlier, hugged Keith Urban and kissed the stomach of his pregnant wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, as he went up to collect his award.

Rascal Flatts won their sixth consecutive vocal group of the year award, beating out the Eagles, Emerson Drive, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town for the honour.

Lady Antebellum, a trio that is one of country music's most promising acts, won best new artist. As they picked up their award, their awe-struck guitarist, Dave Haywood, said: “It's not supposed to happen like this.”

While the awards may have been the main point of the evening, it was the performances that dominated the show.

Kid Rock performed his hit All Summer Long, and, perhaps in a nod to his hip-hop roots, brought out top-seller Lil Wayne on stage, though the rapper didn't utter a word – he just mimicked playing a guitar onstage. He may have been the first true rap act to perform at the CMAs.

Taylor Swift brought her hit Love Story, which features characters named Romeo and Juliet, to life with an elaborate set which featured her wearing a medieval-looking purple gown with a castle backdrop: She later shed the gown to reveal a sweeping white dress.

Brooks & Dunn have said that Cowgirls Don't Cry was inspired by country great Reba McEntire, and she joined them on the song, an ode to a tough woman.

Chesney performed his reggae-flavoured hit Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven with the reggae band the Wailers backing him up. They also performed the Bob Marley classic Three Little Birds.

“You look really good,” Chesney remarked to Twain as he accepted his entertainer award. She wore a sexy, low-cut dress as she presented Chesney with his award. Twain is one of country's best-selling artists, but has spent the last several years out of the spotlight. She hadn't been on the show in four years.

The Eagles, whose return to the top of the charts has a lot to do with their recent country leanings, performed Busy Being Fabulous.

Paisley and Urban opened the show with duelling guitars as they performed their duet, Start a Band. The song is the first single from Paisley's new, mostly instrumental, album, Play. The two incorporated elements of classic rock anthems such as Layla and Smoke on the Water as they played.

Paisley also performed a musical tribute to singer and guitarist Jerry Reed, who died this year.

John Legend Evolves With New CD Release

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley / freeassocinc3@aol.com

(November 13, 2008) **“When I was a kid I played the piano. (People) got excited when I’d get up and sing,” said platinum singer/songwriter John Legend (John Stephens) said about his musical beginnings.

A Kanye West artist, John said singing is his first love. In fact, he was given the name “Legend” by his neighbourhood friends because of his voice.

“Legend is a nickname my friends call me. They thought I was old school…because of the way I sing,” John said. “So they called me Legend, then they went from Legend to John Legend… and I have been trying to live up to that ever since.”

With John’s new album, “Evolver,” on GOOD Music/Columbia Records you will hear “a little” of the old John Legend you’ve come to know, but you will heard more of a new John Legend, focused mainly on his vocals, with the piano secondary (even in his performances).

The first single, “Green Light,” is already a hit. It features Andre 3000 (OutKast) and is truly a party number that makes you move, it made Andre moved to want to contribute to it. He raps in a familiar Andre 3000 style that reminds me why he is one of my favourite Hip-Hop artists.

“I was honoured that he wanted to do it,” Legend said about doing the impossible, getting Andre on his album. “I am a fan and was excited ….towards the end he was having fun.”

John also has Estelle on “No Other Love.” Pharrell penned John’s “It’s Over.” He also partners with BuJu Banton on “Can’t Be My Lover,” a reggae flavoured dance hall number. Will.i.am produced “I Love, You Love” and “Satisfaction,” and another surprise on the “Evolver” album is Brandy who is sounding real good and very mature on “Quickly.” 

“Brandy is one of my favourite (female) singers,” John said when asked why he featured Brandy, one of “my” favourite female vocalist, of all the female singers out there now that he could have asked. “People (need to be) reminded of it (that she has an awesome voice).”

I agree with John when he told me this album has a lot of energy and I will add that it also has a lot of new sounds. Aside from the songs mentioned, which are all my favourites, I am also impressed with “Good Morning,” which is currently playing on smooth jazz radio stations; “If You’re Out There,” which he sang at the Democratic National Convention, and “This Time.”

John Legend started out as a song writer and musician for artists such as Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and his label’s president Kanye West. John signed to West’s indie label G.O.O.D. Music in 2004. By December 2004 he was releasing his debut, “Get Lifted,” that garnered the hit “Ordinary People” and eight Grammy Award nominations.

Legends’ sophomore album “Once Again” was released in October, 2006 resulting in an RIAA platinum certification, two Grammy Award nominations and two hits, “Save Room” and “Heaven.” John went on to win a Grammy for the song, “Family Affair,” on the Sly & the Family Stone tribute album on Epic/Legacy Records.

Kierra Sheard's 'Bold Right Life'

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(November 14, 2008) *The daughter of one of the founding members of legendary gospel group the Clark Sisters, Kierra Sheard, has grown up in powerhouse gospel.

At a very young age, "little Kiki" was joining her mother, Karen Clark-Sheard, on stage to belt out verses.

But that young "Kiki" is now a woman on her own. Adding even more rhythm to her gospel tunes, and subtracting her childhood nickname, Kierra Sheard has released her fourth album, "Bold Right Life."

"It's the name of my youth organization, which is a non-profit organization in Detroit," Sheard said of the album's title. She explained to EUR's Lee Bailey that a recent Bold Right Life Youth Conference in Detroit this past summer, she was inspired by the young people attending.

"A lot of young people were blessed and I'm just really aiming for Bold Right Life to be a movement," she said. So she decided to share the moniker on her latest disc. "With me wanting it to be a movement, I decided to attach it to my album. The record company thought it was a powerful movement. [It] stands for boldly living right."

The title "Boldly Living Right" refers to the bible verse Colossians 3: 1-6 "We are dead to the things of this world … boldly living right, getting ready for life." Sheard said that in her travels she's noticed that young people tend to back down when it comes to representing Christ in their everyday lives.

"A lot of young people would represent their favourite R&B singer, favourite rapper, favourite basketball people, or whatever hero they have - we would represent them boldly, but when it came to Christ, they would back down. You can represent Jesus Christ real bold," she declared. "If you don't want to go somewhere that your friends are going to, be bold and stand strong and don't underestimate your decision."

The young singer is definitely leading by example. She is living boldly spreading the word and in living right in more ways than one. Professing her maturity, Sheard has dropped her youthful moniker of "Kiki," hoping to portray an older, wiser, more serious artist.

"A lot of people would attach that t 'Aw, that's little Kiki, Karen's daughter' and just brush it off. God's doing a new thing in me and I am now a woman," she proclaimed. "I'm not just thanking God and wanting to spread the gospel and just going off of mom's relationship with God. I have my own relationship with God and my own experience. I would minister and it would be hard for [people] to receive what God has given me. I just want people to be able to hear what I have to say and not just think that I'm a little kid. God has given me more to say now. I don't want people to think that I'm just a little baby."

Listening to her powerful voice, there may be little chance of that. In addition to a name change, Sheard has also been changing physically. Once a dangerous 293-lb teenager, she has since lost 86+ pounds.

"I'm still on my weight loss agenda," she said, noting that the work is not over. "I took out my carbs and sugars. It's changed me in other areas of my life, just in taking that stance and being disciplined in that area. I'm exercising; I'm doing it the healthy way."

     Sheard and her family were jolted into buckling down in their eating habits after the daughter of a family friend - who was just about the same age as Sheard - died due to complications of obesity. Furthermore, diabetes runs in her family.

"There were a lot of things that I could run into or could cause me to face death's door," Sheard said. "Plus, I was young and I had a real big problem with my weight. It wasn't healthy. It caused a lot of strain on me emotionally and physically. I had to make the decision for myself to be healthy and change my way of life. It really helped me. My esteem isn't low anymore. Now, I'm not doubting myself. I made the decision that there are a lot of things I can improve about me. Plus, my parents being concerned made me concerned."

"Bold Right Life" to Kierra Sheard is more than the name of her non-profit and her attitude about living. It is, as mentioned, a very powerful, up-tempo, new disc. Leading with the single "Praise Him Now," the album also features vocals and production and her brother J Drew Sheard.

"I would say it is the gospel and I would attach 'hip' to it," she described. "It's for everybody. Anybody can listen to this record. I've prayed over it and asked God to allow listeners to hear his glory and that he's doing a great thing. It is contemporary sounding, but I do have my Sunday morning church song on there. I respect where I came from and I'm not ashamed. I came from a foot-stomping, hand-clapping church."

"Bold Right Life" is available in stores now. To check out some of the tracks, hit up Sheard's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/kierrakikisheard.

At 68, Turner Is Still Simply The Best

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

(November 14, 2008) Unlike her last concert here eight years ago, Tina Turner didn't have an agenda last night: no new songs to plug, no threat that this was her last tour of big stadiums.

The two-hour show before a sold-out crowd of more than 16,000 at the Air Canada Centre was simply a celebration of her 50-year, eight Grammy-winning, 180 million album-selling self; or, as the most successful female rock artist of all time humbly promised the audience – "a recap of my work done in the past."

Backed by a potent seven-piece band, she opened the show some 20 feet in the air on a pedestal that slowly descended to the stage and launched that gravely voice in full throttle with "Steamy Window."

She was very loud – even in her "Hi everybody!" hello –and there were times when it seemed like you could've heard her from the rafters without the mic. That meant slight distortions depending on your seat. She laid back for a three-song acoustic set after the intermission, singing from a stool, then bounded up before the last note had quelled and delivered a spirited version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" as if being still had been penance.

Turner changed outfits several times, favouring sequined capri sets and micro minidresses. At 68, the Nutbush, Tenn., farmer's daughter is a well-proportioned size 10-12 with legs that seem to start just under her bosom. With just a shimmy here, and a shuffle there, she left most of the choreography to the nubile young dancers, but never seemed lacking in energy in the eye-popping show, which featured pyrotechnics and elaborate technical staging.

She embodies triumph over expectations, aging, the music business, her rural origins, and especially over that famously abusive ex-husband, Ike Turner, who died of a cocaine overdose at 76 last year.

But Turner holds no mean grudge. Ike figured prominently in the memory lane footage that opened the second half.

Even though she stoked the Mars-Venus division for a "What's Love Got To Do With It" singalong – "Fellas, are you going to let us girls beat you at your own game?" – she had the genders united by the end of the song.

Turner is a nonpareil blend of strength and grace. I heard 27-year-old Beyoncé, with whom Turner kicked off this year's comeback in a Grammy Awards duet in February, say that she's over being known as a hot girl and desires to become an icon.

Tina Turner is proof that you can be both.

Take 6 Gives Take on Europe’s Reaction to Obama

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(November 18, 2008)  *Ellen Banks, a 96 year old African American woman, waited impatiently for her homecare worker to wheel her to the voting booth. No longer able to walk as well as she once did, Ellen swore there was no way she was going to miss her opportunity to pull the lever for her candidate.  After all, she had lived long enough to see 7 wars.   And, now, there was the chance of having an African American president, something she never expected she would live to see.  Could life be any sweeter!  Oh yes, Ellen was getting to the polls this day no matter what. It was with pride that Ellen, (also fondly known as Gracie), had her attendant wheel her into the voting booth where Gracie pulled the lever with all her might so that she could make certain her vote earned her a place in history.  Inside the lobby of her building, 94 year old Sylvia Fishbein, a Jewish American woman, was thinking what a great day it was for America.  Many things had brought her to that voting booth, memories of a time in 1949 when she and her husband traveled to Biloxi, Ms., and were sickened by the separate treatment of African Americans.  She thought back then it was a terrible way to treat human beings and now 59 years later she was thrilled and determined to strike her blow for humanity.  Her daughter Eleanor Newirth, moved by her mother’s determination to vote, stated that her mother saw this as a victory for America.  “This has opened up the floodgates,” remarked Eleanor. “How little we have had to accept from this country.  As Americans we have accepted the pitting of people against one another and lost sight of the fundamentals by which this country was established.  Through the election of Barack Obama, I see an America being restored to its potential.”

 Overseas, the Acapella group “Take 6,” had the unique advantage of touring Europe while the election in America was underway.  They witnessed first hand the reaction of the peoples of France, Spain, and Italy.  They saw the jubilation that coursed through Europe as a Black man won the highest office within America.  A man they hoped could heal America and turn around the mean spirit of the Bush years.  While Americans speculated whether Obama’s mixed heritage would be the catalyst that healed the rift that torn asunder a country divided by racial tension, Alvin Chea, of Take 6, gave his take on race in America.  “I think that Obama’s rich heritage is key in helping him to appreciate different races, cultures and ethnicities and their particular gifts and challenges.  The melting pot which is found within Obama’s bloodstream makes him sympathetic to a broader spectrum of the community, “said Chea whose group has won 10 Grammy Awards and recently released their latest CD, entitled The Standard. “I think people in general, tire of conflict and the many different walls which have divided us.  I believe that people of color are proud of their fellow Americans for having the courage to pick the best candidate regardless of his pigmentation.  We as a society have come a long way.”

 While on tour “Take 6” has noticed an outpouring of love from Europeans, especially when they tell them they are bringing the greetings of Obama to them.  Americans abroad occasionally commented they felt the George Bush era strained relations between America and Europe.  “Personally, I never felt embarrassed to travel as an American. I did however feel that Americans were seen as complicit with George Bush’s international hubris.  I saw that all change the night of the elections.  Literally, people from Spain, to Germany and France were congratulating us in the streets as we walked.  They have a glimmer of hope, too!” remarked Chea of the prevailing European attitude since the election.  “The French were jubilant…they applauded and stomped their feet when we announced: “We bring you greetings on behalf of President-elect Barack Obama.”  They whooped and cheered.”

 Chea went on to say what he would like to see addressed in America. “In my opinion, the most important issue in this year's election is the economy. The failures of George Bush's unregulated trickle-down voodoo economic system has manifested at the gas pump, check-out line, and on Wall St. What's amazing to me is this whole notion that if no one in the current administration refers to our current financial mess as a "recession," then it ceases to be so. Ronald Reagan's Voodoo Economics has been replaced by W's "Ostrich" economics.” Chea talked about the new change of guard.  “I would like to see folks like Colin Powell, Warren Buffett or perhaps even enlisting Bill Gates or Steve Jobs to create a safe error proof system modernizing our Air Traffic Control system.  Let’s do the same thing for the electronic voting infrastructure now that we have finally shaken off voter apathy …let’s make it easy for people to stay engaged in the process,” said Alvin who shares the spotlight with Mark Kibble, Claude V. McKnight III, Dr. Cedric Dent, Joey Kibble, and David Thomas, the other members of the Take 6 sextet whose careers were launched via their mastery of vocal harmonies and singing of traditional spirituals and gospel. Although, Take 6 has spent the last two decades crafting records that embrace a cross-section of styles that include soul, gospel, R&B, pop, jazz, etc.

 America’s present issues are serious.  There is a long road ahead.  No man can travel it alone.  It will take all of us to lend support and get involved in our own governance.  To survive, we most throw away the archaic values of yesteryear and understand this is a nation of differences that can make a difference if we overturn our unbridled greed and open our hearts to our neighbours and an ever shrinking world, recognizing together we can heal our world and ourselves not via competition but through cooperation that insures no one is left behind.

Exist by The Tony Rich Project

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Fiona McKinson

(November 17, 2008) *The album starts with an unexpected lift on the aptly titled Part The Waves.  Rich’s voice is smooth and silky and rides the rhythm well.

Though this is his 5th album, Tony Rich is not that big in the UK today despite his UK number 1 in 1996 Nobody Knows.

However, his work with the likes of Elton John, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, TLC, Ce Ce Winans and Johnny Gill mean that people internationally are perhaps more familiar with him than they realise.

His melodic song writing talents are evidenced on this album with engaging lyrics and vivid stories told. The production is instantly captivating with Tony playing all instruments. As he is so engaged in the process, it is almost impossible not to be drawn to his energy.

Stand out tracks include It would be a sin, Sweet Addiction and the moody and insisting Walk You Through It. Simply titled Exist, the album possesses a laid-back mix of soul, jazz and funk making it perfect for chilling.

What sets Tony Rich apart is his creativity. He not only sings and writes, he also photographed himself naked for the album cover and designed the packaging. Yet for one so talented, he is refreshingly humble.

At it’s most basic this material is worthy of being associated with the type of quality music that his record label Hidden Beach, represents. This Grammy Award winning musician is eclectic and deep. He offers a complex spiritual response to any analysis of his tracks. But, to understand and feel his music, one must simply have a pulse.

For more visit: http://www.hiddenbeach.com/tonyrich/

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

Ledisi Delivers Christmas Cheer On New CD

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Mona Austin / mediamindedpro@yahoo.com

(November 17, 2008) *Oakland native Ledisi brings her own brand of all-ages Christmas music this holiday season.

"It's Christmas" is a multi-textured musicfest, set oceans apart by gutsy re-inventions of seasonal jazz and pop standards (and a few well-written originals).
If this is your introduction to Ledisi, it's probably because only one major label album from the neo-soul singer precedes this one (2 time 2007 Grammy-nominated "Lost and Found"), but by comparison "It's Christmas" is every bit as ambitious as the first project from the brazen belter.

What began as 4 holiday songs to be released online, turned into a12-song undertaking that was recorded in 3 days between LA and Nashville. Ledisi said she wanted the album to be unpredictable. It is.

"It's Christmas" lavishly re-defines Christmas music with the attitude imbued by the energy that music innovators radiate. All-star producers Rex Rideout, George Duke, Lorenzo Johnson and Luther "Mano" Hanes were all able to shape the siren's daring instrument into an impressive presentation that offers Smooth Jazz, R&B, Blues and Gospel.

The strength of this project is its diversity. It would be the perfect accompaniment to many social gathering ... an office party, tree-trimming, holiday ball, or to spice up a church Christmas play.

The ethereal opening, "I'll Go" was arranged and produced by gospel veteran Richard Smallwood and what sounds like Smallwood's group Vision is Ledisi unbelievably navigating the song alone, pulling tones from the lowest and highest regions of her vocal range.

From there "It's Christmas" is a tailspin of twinkling interpretations. She dives into "Children Go Where I Send Thee" with sassy scat licks accompanied by heavy drum and guitar beats suitable for a juke joint. Get ready to spin again on the retro-flavoured, danceable "Be There For Christmas" reminiscent of The Supremes.

"This Christmas Could Be The One" is a jazz-infused mediation on being apart at Christmas, co-written by Lorenzo Johnson with military couples in mind. Her treatment of "Silent Night" (driven by the pizzacotto of an upright bass and drum) and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (backed by a mellow jazz groove perfect for stepping) are refreshing. Ledisi sings the blues the way you feel them ("Please Come Home for Christmas") and exuberantly expresses feel good songs that capture the spirit of Christmas ("Give Love on Christmas Day" and Louis Armstong's "What A Wonderful World.") Ledisi releases all her grit on the last song a funky, vintage Roland Organ driven, gutter-bucket gospel track called "Thank you" that could easily find its way to the top of gospel charts as a single.

This album lacks nothing and is drenched with every bit of passion the songstress displays on "Lost and Found."

"It's Christmas" is as emotionally convincing as it is musically superb and is not diminished by the occasional imbalance of singer/accompaniment authority.

Ledisi's "It's Christmas" Tour Dates:

December 4 - Carolina Theater - Durham, NC
December 5 - Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA
December 7 - Dillard University - New Orleans, LA
December 10 - El Rey - Los Angeles, CA
December 11-14 - Yoshi's - San Francisco, CA
December 16 - Dedry Experience - Chicago, IL
December 18 - Fillmore - Detroit, MI
December 19 - BB King's - New York, NY
December 20 - Keswick Theatre - Philadelphia, PA
December 22-23 - Rams Head - Annapolis, MD

Beyoncé Backfires

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

Sony BMG

(November 18, 2008) If I were a girl, I'd be disappointed in Beyoncé. She seems so strong onstage, and now she's telling us that she's not the powerful being she seems to be. It's an act, people! The real Beyoncé is a mush-ball, who wants to be completely devoted to her man and will be destroyed if he ever leaves.

This seems to be the point of her new double album. Disc two is devoted to her tough stage persona, "Sasha," and disc one is about "who I am underneath all the makeup."

If I Were A Boy, the slow-burning single from disc one, is the best thing the "real" Beyoncé has to offer. If she were a boy, she tells us, she would do all the careless things that boys do, except trample on the soul of the girl. She's like a child resolving to be a perfect sensitive parent, because she knows how a kid feels.

But the child doesn't yet question the parents' authority, just as Beyoncé won't challenge the boy's. By the next song (Halo), he's back on his pedestal.

It's almost all downhill from there on disc one, musically as well as conceptually. Smash Into You, one of five dreary "bonus songs" on the deluxe edition, plummets into easy-listening territory, as Beyoncé burbles about being "soaked in your love." Only Disappear, with its ennobling luminous keys and laconic beats, is really worth hearing, as Beyoncé reaches down to the lowest part of her register.

Disc two (the "fun" disc, Beyoncé says) is harder, friskier and just better. Single Ladies, the brassy first single, cribs some of its atmosphere from M.I.A.'s mongrel hip-hop sound. Diva and Videophone (both produced by Ludacris cohorts Shondrae (Bangladesh) Crawford and Sean Garrett) make the British connection even stronger, dipping into the grime tool kit for some bone-dry beats, intermittent static bass drones and Middle Eastern inflections. Radio is as playful as Beyoncé ever gets, as she twists the words in her mouth, rides a shiny wave of synthesizers and celebrates her love for a box full of music.

The regular edition of this package is 42 minutes long, or about the same as many single discs. Beyoncé could have done a virtual side one/side two on one CD. But two discs leaves room for bonus tracks, which you get in the deluxe edition for two bucks more. In this case, however, more is definitely less. If you want this record, save your toonie and dodge the con.

Essential Tracks

100 Yard Dash, Raphael Saadiq, from The Way I See It (Sony BMG, streaming at myspace.com/raphaelsaadiq) An unstoppable groove built on a tumbling guitar line makes this one of the most habit-forming tracks from Saadiq's album-long tribute to old-school R&B. There's no chorus or bridge, but that's apt for a captive-love song about trying to run but being rooted to the spot.

Scattered and Small, Amelia Curran, from War Brides (Six Shooter Records, streaming at youtube.com) There's hope in the skipping lilt of this tune, though the words are all about taking chances that don't pay off. Amelia Curran is a singer from St. John's whose voice has the sound of faith and experience, in this bittersweet tune from her fifth album.

Winnipeg, Mike Ford, Canada Needs You, Volume Two (independent) Canada had its most revolutionary moment during the Winnipeg General Strike, an event little-documented by our artists and musicians. This summary in song by Toronto musician Mike Ford (whose voice sounds a bit like Morrissey's) celebrates the strikers with a danceable beat, a catchy tune, and a surprising amount of detail.

I Am ... Sasha Fierce: Beyonce

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(out of 4)

(November 18, 2008) Beyoncé's third solo effort is a double album that purports to separate her shy, vulnerable authentic self from a swaggering stage persona. Disc one is filled with subdued pop-rock ballads whose heavy contemplations may turn off some younger fans, but pushes her agenda toward the iconic status of role models such as Barbra Streisand. Its highlights include the synth-laden Rihannaesque "Halo," and an acoustic "Ave Maria" which samples the aria and showcases the purity of the 27-year-old singer's angelic voice. The second disc is what we've come to expect from Beyoncé, by way of her ballsy alter ego: catchy melodies, club jams and repetitive choruses on songs like "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and the Lil' Wayne inspired "Diva" which declares "A diva is a female version of a hustla." The album's good material is unfortunately weighed down by its overwhelming deliberateness. Beyoncé/Sasha would have been better served to drop some of mediocre material – "Video Phone," "Smash Into Me" – and release one cohesive, legacy-building disc. Top Track: Standout lead single "If I Were a Boy," which sings cleverly of seeing eyes through the life of a man.

Nickelback Tampers With The Formula On New Disc

Source:  www.thestar.com - Prithi Yelaja, Special To The Star

Dark Horse (EMI)
(out of 4)

(November 18, 2008) It's surprising, really, that Nickelback didn't hook up with super-producer "Mutt" Lange sooner.

For one thing, the Alberta-born quartet has always been quite up front with its unapologetic careerism, and Lange has been the go-to guy for unapologetic careerists – Def Leppard, Foreigner, Bryan Adams and his own former sweetheart, Shania Twain, among them – looking for a lock on the top of the pop charts for 30-odd years now.

At the same time, though, Nickelback front man Chad Kroeger is a serious fan and student of classic rock. I had a conversation with him a few years ago about Lange's peerless production work on AC/DC's Back in Black, and he got all but misty-eyed as he told me reverently: "You know, you can turn that record all the way up and it'll never distort. Never." When Kroeger says Lange is his "hero," he's not kidding.

Dark Horse is the sound of Nickelback's worst tendencies respectfully subsumed into Lange's, which isn't nearly as offensive as it might sound to non-fans. It's nice to hear the band messing with its formula a bit, at least – especially since Nickelback's last disc, All the Right Reasons, was still spewing singles (seven in all) a few months ago and only recently dropped off the Billboard album chart after a heroic 156-week run. The formula worked smashingly for the first five Nickelback albums; they could easily have done the same for the sixth.

Instead, the band has tempered the predictable, Lange-led glossing up of arena ballads like the Leppard-esque single "Gotta Be Somebody," the damnably catchy "Never Gonna Be Alone" and "I'd Come For You" – a cowrite with Lange that egregiously echoes a certain '90s Adams mega-hit – by baring its oft-suppressed heavy-metal jones more explicitly on the rougher tunes. Opener "Something In Your Mouth" is a gruff, low-end barrage propelled by Lange's usual, industrial-strength drum sound, and stoner-rock buzz makes "Burn It to the Ground" the best of Dark Horse's two anthems-in-waiting about drinking "everything in sight," although Kroeger kind of kills the buzz later by tearing with gusto into a drug-addict friend on "Just To Get High," missing the hypocrisy in his lyric sheet.

There's a fair bit of casual misogyny in there, too, as the only women who seem to make it into Kroeger's songs are strippers, gold-digging prostitutes or the objects of desire so strong that, as he puts it on "S.E.X.," "`No' is just the thought / That never crosses my mind." The target audience for this stuff won't think on it too deeply, though, and that's exactly the way it should be treated.

Top track: "Burn It to the Ground." The rollicking soundtrack to several thousand future D.U.I. charges. 

Meet The Jazzy Cynthia Holiday: She's Going 'All The Way'

Source: Sandra  Trim da Costa - smtdc2002@yahoo.com

(November 19, 2008) *One of the most exciting aspects of jazz is discovering a new performer who appears on the scene with a singular presence.

A jazz vocalist can   connect with an audience in a unique and emotional way, and with style, delivery, phrasing and natural appeal.

'This is between you and me,' a vocalist may say, 'let me tell you what's on my mind.'

Communication. Style. Personality.  And, of course, talent. All a part of the package that
Ms. Cynthia Holiday brings to her live performances and to her brand new CD, CYNTHIA HOLIDAY: ALL THE WAY.

Her journey has been one of determination and perseverance, fuelled by a love of music and a desire to perform. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Cynthia Holiday has been involved with the arts since childhood. Her first experience on stage came through modern dance. She studied as a young girl, and dance was a part of her life throughout her college days. Through this early experience, Cynthia felt the allure of performing and connecting with an audience.

Music, however, was the foundation of her household. Cynthia's stepfather, Calvin Hughes, a trumpet player of considerable renown, was one of the most popular and talented musicians in New Jersey and the Tri-State area. Hughes had a magnetic personality and a tireless work ethic. He played or toured with jazz greats such as Clark Terry and Count Basie and blues woman Big Maybelle. He led his own band, Calvin Hughes and the Swingin' Jets, and young Cynthia was immersed in his jazz world. Musicians were always coming by the house to play, and she was particularly impressed with her father's work ethic, daily practice schedule how it all came together when he performed on stage.

Holiday's mother helped provide the vocal inspiration in her life. "My mother and aunt were singers; they were members of The Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark. I grew up listening to Dakota Staton, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, all the greats. Her musical exposure also included listening to blues singers like B.B. King, Bobby Bluebland and Etta James. "My grandfather used to play blues records and teach me songs." My style is heavily influenced by the blues, because I love it so much."

Cynthia goes from the board room during the day, to jazz gigs after five. She graduated from Montclair State University in New Jersey, and became a successful marketing executive, a position she holds today. But one day it hit her: she had not fulfilled her goal, her passion. She wanted to sing. She HAD to sing.

So she approached the one person who would understand this passion - her stepfather and presented him with a tape she'd recorded a cappella. Calvin Hughes offered his full support, and Cynthia began the next phase in her journey in earnest - jazz vocal studies with Rita DaCosta Turrentine; classical training with Jim Carson in New York; sitting in on gigs with her stepfather; performing with the New York-based Swing band, The Bob Harris Orchestra; singing at Trudi Mann's open mic sessions at Cleopatra's Needle in uptown Manhattan. She was working hard, determined to hone her craft.

Eventually Hughes introduced her to jazz educator and pianist Radam Schwartz, with whom she began to study intensively to cultivate her sound and approach as a jazz singer. And, it has all come together - her lifelong immersion in jazz, and blues, her training and her performing experience have resulted in a seasoned entertainer who sings well and knows how to captivate her audience.

There is no better example of that style than her new recording CYNTHIA HOLIDAY: ALL THE WAY. It's bluesy, sassy, yet tender and introspective, with a healthy dose of swing. Cynthia showcases her versatility and confidence with a program that includes familiar standards, contemporary classics and entertaining originals. "Never Make Your Move Too Soon," written by Stix Hooper of Crusaders fame, opens the recording, and tells the listener they're in for a lively good time. Ms. Holiday covers a wide spectrum of selections with ease. There's a wonderful brisk interpretation of "I Thought about You," the groove of "More Today than Yesterday," and a warm emotional reading of the title track, "All the Way."

Cynthia surrounds herself with talented musicians on this cd. Radam Schwartz has been Cynthia's musical director for five years and their comfort level and artistic communication is evident here. Together they wrote two of the recordings most playful selections, "I Like What I See," and "You've Got a Job to Do."  The great pianist Cedar Walton and his trio (bassist David Williams and drummer Joe Farnsworth) are predictably tasteful and swinging ("I Like What I See"), and soulfully supportive ("My Little Rainbow"). Bassist Bob Cunningham's melodic, propulsive "Samba De Amor" and the Eddie Floyd classic "Knock On Wood" add to the eclectic nature of this cd, highlighting Ms. Holiday's unique abilities.

The journey continues for Cynthia Holiday; it becomes more exciting day by day.  If you have a sense of discovery, a desire to experience a talent that's fresh and new, a talent who honours tradition, join Cynthia Holiday as she goes ... ALL THE WAY.

For MORE on Cynthia Holiday and to HEAR her music, visit here website: www.cynthiaholidaymusic.com/

Idol Winner David Cook Teams Up With Our Lady Peace Singer On Album

Source: www.thestar.com - Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times

(November 19, 2008)  LOS ANGELES–At one point on the road he's still on, leading from American Idol to the iPod promotions and summer tours of actual rock stardom, David Cook recently stopped for a bite to eat. In the car with him was Raine Maida, the Canadian singer and songwriter who fronts Our Lady Peace.

The 25-year-old newbie had seen the 38-year-old veteran perform numerous times back when Our Lady Peace was on the rise and Cook was just a Midwestern kid making demos on the weekends. Now here they were, on a break from writing songs for Cook's major-label debut.

"I had one moment with Raine when I asked him about the first time I saw him live," said Cook. "It was at this music festival in Kansas City ... he didn't look at the audience the whole time he was performing. Watching him that day, I would have been so apprehensive about meeting him.

"Raine goes, `Oh, yeah ... I had a 104-degree temperature. I was so dizzy, I couldn't look up,'" he recalled.

And so the eyes of the most charmingly ambitious Idol since Kelly Clarkson were opened just a bit wider. For Cook, whose eponymous album was released yesterday on RCA Records, the biggest prize so far has been the friendships he's forged with mentors such as Maida.

The album's first single, "Light On," was co-written by Seattle rock titan Chris Cornell and flyover rock mastermind Brian Howes. Cook's already nabbed the authenticating spot of musical guest on Saturday Night Live, becoming the first Idol to do so before his first album was released.

Making his dream album, Cook's also refocusing attention on the literate but accessible strain of rock that arose after the alternative rock explosion of the mid-1990s, fitting midway between the underground and the mainstream.

Cook's co-writers for his album include Maida and his wife, Chantal Kreviazuk; Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls; Better Than Ezra's Kevin Griffin; Nixons founder Zac Maloy and Atlanta hard rockers Injected.

"His favourite bands are not necessarily mainstream artists that sell millions and millions," said Rob Cavallo, who produced Cook's debut.

As for Maida, he's just happy to have made Cook's acquaintance.

"On a personal level, I have a new friend," he said. "In terms of Our Lady Peace and my own music ... every time I get to co-write with someone I learn from them."


Jimi Hendrix Drummer Found Dead


(November 14, 2008)  *Drummer Mitch Mitchell, the last surviving member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was found dead early Wednesday in his hotel room in Oregon, the AFP reported. He was 62. No cause of death was immediately available, but a statement on the official Jimi Hendrix Web site run by the late guitarist's estate said Mitchell died from natural causes.  "We're all devastated to hear of Mitch's passing," Janie Hendrix, chief executive of Experience Hendrix said. "He was a wonderful man, a brilliant musician and a true friend. His role in shaping the sound of the Jimi Hendrix Experience cannot be underestimated."  Mitchell, whose unique drumming style was regarded as a crucial component of the Hendrix-led group's success, had just completed an 18-city tour of the United States with Experience Hendrix, a concert series featuring guest performers playing tributes to the 1960s group's music.   "Over the course of the recent tour (Mitch) seemed delighted with the interchange with the other musicians and the audiences. There is no question that he was doing what he loved," Janie Hendrix added.

Lucky: Molly Johnson

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(out of 4)

(November 18, 2008) This Toronto singer's first full album of what she has called the "old dead guys songbook" – esteemed American jazz composers, such as Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – is a gem completing the one-time avant-garde rocker's evolution into a jazz singer. She's accompanied by top local players given to scene-stealing solos on winsome arrangements that include a breezy, Latin-inflected "Whatever Lola Wants" and a hip R&B backbeat on "It Ain't Necessarily So." The title track, penned with long-time collaborator Steve MacKinnon, fits neatly with the quirky poetry of classics like "Ode To Billie Joe." Imbued with a sultry rasp that sounds like she's just risen from a century-long slumber, Johnson's joie de vivre means unusually optimistic interpretations of gloomy fare like "Solitude" and "Willow Weep for Me." She's subdued on "I Loves You, Porgy" and "I'll Never Smile Again," but it's not her natural gait. Top Track: A vivid and well-paced "Lush Life."

This Christmas: Aretha Franklin

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(out of 4)

(November 18, 2008)  Here's a can't-miss selection for fans of Christmas music and Aretha. The
Queen of Soul serves up the traditional ("The Lord Will Make A Way," "Silent Night") and the contemporary (David Foster's "My Grown-Up Christmas List") on her first holiday album. Backed by strings, an 11-piece choir, a duet with son Edward and her own occasional piano accompaniment, the original preacher's daughter focuses on the spiritual aspect of the holidays. The 66-year-old is in fine voice, though her tendency toward embellishment does get weary. The gospel/R&B-steeped disc's light-hearted moments include a sassy adaptation of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and interludes that find Franklin cooking and talking to a beau; cheesy, but appreciable efforts to bring her home to ours. Top Track: A grooving version of "Christmas Ain't Christmas (Without the One You Love)."

Fearless: Taylor Swift

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(Big Machine Records/Open Road)
(out of 4)

(November 18, 2008) The quality of the follow-up to Swift's big surprise debut – it popped up on an unknown indie label in 2006, sold three million copies and earned its then-16-year-old creator a Grammy nomination – should convince sceptics that two years on, the young singer and songwriter is not an industrial fantasy or a one-hit aberration. Her voice gives away her age, as does the preoccupation with adolescent love in the songs on Fearless – seven of the 13 tracks are Swift originals, and most of the rest are co-writes – but she proves second time out to be an impressively consistent lyricist who strikes a convincing tone and displays a genuinely affecting penchant for self-revelation, for laying her heart on the line. The only thing that's fake about her is the country tag, but then, there's not too much that isn't phony in country music these days. Make no mistake – some mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel licks notwithstanding, this is classic melodic guitar-pop aimed at the same audience that made Shania Twain a "country" sensation. Top track: "Fifteen," built around diary extracts recalling her first year in high school. The song is pungent, painful and as convincing in its way as Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" was to another generation.

Outkast To Triple Up On 2009 Output

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(November 18, 2008) *Rap duo Outkast, whose last album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" was released to critical acclaim in September 2003, will have a new full-length album on the streets sometime before the end of 2009.   Speaking to MTV News, group member Big Boi said he's planning on releasing his second solo record, "Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son Of Chico Dusty," either in January or February, with Andre 3000 releasing his solo effort soon after. The pair will then begin recording the Outkast project for release later in the year.  Big Boi said: "Me and 'Dre were on the conference call [recently]. He's working on his album; my album is done. We're gonna wait until the top of the year--January or February--to put it out. Then Dre is gonna come hit y'all, and [then] we're gonna do the Outkast album."  He added: "So y'all gonna get three records from the 'Kast next year."

k-os Invites His Fans To Mix

Source: www.thestar.com 

(November 19, 2008)  Canadian hip-hop artist k-os is the latest musical act to release fragments of new music online to be remixed by fans. So-called "stems" from his new album, Yes!, can be downloaded as part of a contest at indabamusic.com, in which k-os picks his favourite remixes. Eleven winners are up for $1,000 each, with the remixes released as a companion to the album next spring.

Elements Flow Together Harmoniously

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

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
(out of 4)
With violinist Christian Tetzlaff. Peter Oundjian, conductor. Repeats Saturday. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. 416-593-4828

(November 13, 2008) It isn't too much to ask for the sea, the sky and the earth from your hometown orchestra. Although not described as such, this week's Toronto Symphony Orchestra program of English works from this century encompasses our fragile planet in its musical moods. Under the baton of music director Peter Oundjian, each of the three atmospheres glowed vividly from the elegant, balanced touch of a conductor and orchestra in perfect understanding of each other. The biggest treat is the Symphony No. 5 by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This richly tonal work was hopelessly out of date by modernist European standards when it was composed at the start of the Second World War. Each of its four movements is a masterful depiction of alternating clouds and sunlight. The orchestra needs to whisper as well as shout in gradual transitions, as when a cloud's shadow passes over a hillside. The TSO's finesse was breathtaking at Roy Thomson Hall last night. Also from Second World War are the instrumental passages from the opera Peter Grimes, which Benjamin Britten rearranged into the Four Sea Interludes. Each efficiently sets up the changing moods in the opera, as seen from the water. Here also, Oundjian deftly led the way. Less satisfying is the North American premiere – with German violin superstar Christian Tetzlaff – of the commissioned Mambo, Blues and Tarantella by Mark-Anthony Turnage. Although Tetzlaff tossed off the piece's many technical challenges with gusto, the score itself, rooted in earthy tradition, offers neither melodic development nor sustained rhythmic motive to hold our attention for 20 minutes. The TSO performs this program tonight at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Last night's concert was recorded for future broadcast on CBC Radio Two.


South Asian Director Not Shy About Lesbian Love

Source:  www.thestar.com - Prithi Yelaja, Special To The Star

(November 18, 2008) Typically, South Asian filmmakers have been loath to tackle the issue of homosexuality, but not novice director Shamim Sarif.

Both of her new feature films – The World Unseen, which opened Nov. 7, and I Can't Think Straight, which opens Friday – tackle the subject, which is still largely taboo in the South Asian community.

In an interview at the Sutton Place hotel, however, Sarif stresses the lesbian theme is not central to either film.

"I wanted to make it not important in a sense and that's key for both these movies. With I Can't Think Straight, it's more obviously a romantic comedy that must end with the two women together to have that satisfying arc. I wanted it to be just a love story, the way I would enjoy going to My Best Friend's Wedding or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"Because I happen to be gay doesn't mean I can't root for people to be together. It's great to have a love story between two women ... but it's not the raison d'être of these two movies. It could just as easily be a man and a woman," says the U.K.-based Sarif.

"The message is that you can make change in your life. You can look at the way you're brought up, your family, your society, your traditions and keep what's good and take away what's bad, what stops your questioning, because I think when human beings stop questioning, they die."

Lisa Ray, whose last big onscreen splash was in Deepa Mehta's Water, plays the lead in both films. Sarif had auditioned other actors who were concerned about playing a gay woman.

"So that wasn't going to work, but with Lisa and Sheetal (Seth, the other lead actor in both films) that's just not a conversation we ever had.... They just saw it as a great role. To be honest this is the first time we've ever discussed it," says Sarif.

Adds the bubbly Ray, "I'm very cool with people's sexuality either way. It's not an issue for me. When I assess a project it's purely on a gut level. It has to be a challenge for me as an actor. I look for strong female roles that are both entertaining and provoke discussion.

"It has to also be a great story. The director is very, very important to me. Creatively, Shamim and I just immediately got each other. She gave me a lot of freedom."

Through her roles, Ray strives to push boundaries and defy conventions.

"If it has a chance of opening a crack in myself or someone who watches it I want to be part of it. Look, I'm an actor not an activist, but if through my work I can help support views that coincide with my own in terms of personal expression, personal freedom, personal growth, I'm blessed to be able to do this. Cinema is a powerful tool."

These movies have made Sarif something of a hero for gay South Asians struggling with their identity.

"I already get a lot of emails from people who are feeling emboldened by the films. What can you do except be humbled by it because that's why you make movies? If it can help people look at things more compassionately, that's great," she says.

Based on Sarif's critically acclaimed novel with the same title, The World Unseen is set in the 1950s when apartheid was just beginning in South Africa. The story revolves around two South Asian women, one married, one single, who discover their unexpected attraction for each other.

I Can't Think Straight is a modern love story about the cultural and familial complications for a British Indian woman and a London-based Palestinian woman who fall in love. Coming out to their families is a five-minute scene in the movie but rarely is it that simple in real life, says Sarif, reflecting on her own experience.

"My dad was quite practical about it. He said you're old enough to know what you want to do. My mom had a harder time because she was more concerned with what people's perceptions would be. Since then she's come around and she's absolutely fine, but it was a process of years."

Both of the movies are all-female projects; even the financiers are female.

"The first day I walked onto the set I was completely green. I had never been on a set before. I had no idea. It was really a baptism by fire. But I was lucky to be working with consummate professional actors. It was the most fun, traumatic fun, I've ever had," says Sarif.

Sarif is so impressed with Ray that she is casting her in her next movie, a heterosexual love story, as well as developing a superhero character for her in another film project.

"We have a lifelong picture deal," chuckles Ray, who divides her time between Mumbai, London and Toronto, where her family lives.

"It's going to get cold soon so I have to leave Toronto. Love the city, don't love the weather."

Jada Pinkett-Smith – Hollywood’s Golden Girl Speaks Out!

www.eurweb.com - Gil Robertson IV

(November 13, 2008) *After nearly 20-years in entertainment, Jada Pinkett-Smith has created an enviable position for herself in Hollywood.  She is married to the number one box office star in the world, (Will Smith), the mother of budding actors (Jaden and Willow), and a star in her own right with key roles in a growing list of A-list films like “Ali,” “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolution.”

Along with her husband, she’s also a principal partner of Overbrook Entertainment, one of Hollywood’s leading management and production companies. The Baltimore native has traveled a long way since her first starring role in “Menace to Society,” but thankfully, she still knows how to keep it real.

The Robertson Treatment recently had the opportunity to talk with this beautiful sister about her life and career as the new Queen of Hollywood. 

How do you balance being a wife, mother, in-demand actress and producer?

Well, one of things is that I have a lot of help. I have a great husband and my mother is very helpful with my children. But what I really feel that keeps me going is joy. What I’ve learned in my life is that I really can do as much as I want to do and have as much as I want to have. As long as I’m happy, I’m really motivated. So I’m not willing to compromise. I want to be a great mother; I want to be a great wife and I want to have a great career; and I feel like I can have all those things and not compromise one area of my life. This is my life and I am determined to have all the things that I want in my life.

What  have you been up to over the past year?

I just directed my first feature and I’m now working on a new TV show called “Time Heals” for TNT. Our production company released two films this year that I’m really passionate about, the “Secret Life of Bees” and “Lakeview Terrace”. I’m very pleased that Will and I were able to get them both made. We are very lucky to be at a point where we can go to go to the studios and they can trust us enough to green light our projects and get it done. For me “Secret Life of Bees” was a project that I am very happy to see out there. I hope to continue to help bring projects like that for African Americans and other audiences. I’m just trying to be creative and expansive across the board.

What are your thoughts about the election?

I have hopes and very big and grand expectations. Everybody knows that I am a big Barack and Michelle fan.  I am just inspired by the idea that change is very possible and in my opinion Obama inspires that idea.

What exciting places have you and Will traveled to recently?

Will and I just got back from Africa, where we went to Tanzania and spent some time literally in the bush. Every time I go to Africa, it’s an epiphany and a very spiritual experience. When I step foot on African soil I feel like I’ve returned home. Africa and African people are one of the most spiritual places that I had the pleasure of visiting. Will and I try to make it there at least once a year. 

What was it like to play a “big girl” in your new film “Madagascar 2”?

I’ve always been that girl who wanted more body so this was a great opportunity for me. I’ve got a character who has “body”, so it was my dream came true. I think that my character sends a really wonderful message for a lot of adults and children that your body is what you have and that you have to be happy in your own skin. Happiness comes from within, self-love comes from within, and if you can truly authentically love yourself that will exude and permeate through the physical universe and allow you to attract people that will love you. That’s who Gloria is—she’s a loveable, hefty momma. 

The Novice Directing The Veteran

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Jennie Punter

(November 14, 2008) Like many red-blooded young men around the world, Mabrouk El Mechri grew up watching Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks like Bloodsport (1988), Hard Target (1993) and Street Fighter (1994). So the 30-year-old French director understandably had some trepidation about telling the Belgian action star that his celebrated karate chops, high kicks and famous leg split would not be required for JCVD, a smart, often funny postmodern hostage drama in which Van Damme plays Van Damme.

An unlikely hit at the Cannes Festival market earlier this year and at Toronto's festival too, JCVD, which opens today, is nothing less than a career jolt for the Muscles from Brussels. The movie packs an unexpected emotional wallop as Van Damme - that is, JCVD's washed-up version of him - faces a custody battle, loses a much-desired film role and tangles with an unco-operative ATM before landing in the middle of a botched post-office heist in Belgium. Cops, fans, gawkers and even his parents gather outside, believing he's gone postal, and the camera moves between past and present, outside and inside, building suspense.

The tabloid fodder of the real Van Damme's personal life - cocaine troubles, angry outbursts, bipolar disorder, five marriages etc. - were not off limits when it came to creating the JCVD character and surrounding story. When El Mechri joined the project, there was a Die Hard-esque first draft, with no reference to the rise and fall of a European star in Hollywood. "I told the producer I was interested in the concept but not the script and wanted to do my own," El Mechri says between bites of a sandwich during the Toronto festival. "And I didn't want to spend six months writing without meeting Jean-Claude."

So El Mechri and Van Damme met over dinner and talked about films, friendship and a myriad of subjects. "We had a lot of drinks," the director says, laughing. "The next day I showed him my first film [2005's Virgil] and he told me, 'You can do whatever you want with me, I trust you.' So I've got to thank him for that because I've got one movie behind me and he's got this whole career. He gave me wings to be creative and, you know, he's the one who could pull the plug at any time."

While it contains inside jokes aplenty, JCVD is more homage to than parody of the hostage flick. "I don't have the vanity to think I'm going to invent something new," El Mechri says. "Everything has been done before, so I'm telling the story with the knowledge that I'm working in a tradition of hostage-situation films." Key Largo and the Frank Sinatra film Suddenly (a family is taken hostage as part of a plan to assassinate the president) are a couple of reference points, while Zinedine Soualem's freaky bowl haircut is exactly like John Cazale's in Dog Day Afternoon. The director also plays with the idea of celebrity, keeping the camera outside the post office in the first half as cops and onlookers speculate - and flashbacks make us suspect - that Van Damme has truly snapped.

El Mechri, who has a theatre background, worked quickly to get the sharp performance he was looking for. "I think the worst thing for an actor is to overthink, so I don't think Jean-Claude was aware of the emotional opening up that was happening," he says, leaning forward and puffing on a cigarette. "He told me his first day on Bloodsport [his first starring role] felt like the first day he walked into a karate centre, and that his first day on my set felt like his first day on Bloodsport."

Perhaps the greatest challenge for Van Damme was not acting. El Mechri told Van Damme when he walked into the post office, without knowing what would transpire, he would be facing himself. "How would he react? Would he be a guy you can rely on? Everybody will assume he's going to try something," the director says, adding with a laugh: "It was hard for him because he wanted to do his moves, and in real life it's not like that."

Van Damme was blown away when he finally saw the finished film. "We were in Belgium doing the final lip synch and I showed him the film in a hotel suite on a big-screen TV, just the two of us," El Mechri says. "He was nervous the minute he stepped in the door. He cried watching the courthouse custody scene and laughed a lot. He loved the music. He was like a happy child."

El Mechri is already feeling the benefit of the film's strong reception in Europe. He's working for a top studio and developing his next project, a romantic comedy about a midwife and loan shark, in New York. As for Van Damme? "Jean-Claude controls Jean-Claude," El Mechri says. "It's about his choice, not what's offered to him. But I think people will have more respect for him now as an actor."

Special to The Globe and Mail

The Public Goes Native, Courtesy Of A Lot Of Canadian Talent

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Simon Houpt

(November 13, 2008) NEW YORK — In a coincidence that seems arranged by the spirits, aboriginal Canadian performers and writers spanning a century are appearing in New York this week as part of two separate events that demonstrate the enormous distance native culture has travelled in that time.

The American Museum of Natural History's annual
Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, which presents works engaged in ethnography, will host a rare screening tomorrow evening of a newly restored print of In The Land of the Headhunters, a 1914 silent film set among the Kwakwaka'wakw in British Columbia. When the film premiered last June in Vancouver, some descendents of the cast suggested their ancestors participated in the production as a subversive way of presenting their culture at a time when official government policy was extremely oppressive.

Downtown, living native culture will take the stage of the Public Theater in the form of the second annual Native Theater Festival, which opened last night with a concert at Joe's Pub by Martha Redbone. This year's festival, which will draw hundreds of industry players, including literary managers from theatres around New York and across the U.S., includes three staged readings of plays, a public panel discussion on Saturday afternoon and numerous other meetings.

The festival was originated by Oskar Eustis, the Public's artistic director now in his fourth year, who had actively sought out native writers during his tenure as head of Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, R.I., including Canadian Drew Hayden Taylor, whose play The Buz'Gem Blues he produced in 2005. The Ford Foundation, a long-time supporter of the arts in the United States, is footing the festival's $175,000 bill.

The Public has a long history of giving space to those outside the mainstream, particularly members of visible minorities, being a strong New York base for playwrights such as Diana Son, Suzan-Lori Parks, George C. Wolfe (who served as the theatre's previous artistic director), Anna Deveare Smith, Nilo Cruz and David Henry Hwang.

"The Public has always been kind of a trailblazer in giving voice to artists of colour and giving voice to experiences that are not represented on our stages. That is in the DNA of this building," said Mandy Hackett, the theatre’s associate artistic director. "Diversity is really a core tenet of what the Public is built on. I think we've seen success in the African-American community, the Latino community, the Asian community, but I really feel strongly we haven't seen the same success in the native community."

Two of the three plays in the festival will be directed by Canadians: Marie Clements from Galiano Island in British Columbia will direct tonight's kickoff play, The Conversion of Ka'Ahumanu, about the relationship between the Christian missionaries in Hawaii and indigenous women in the 19th century, by the native Hawaiian/Samoan writer Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl; Alanis King will helm Laura Shamas's Chasing Honey tomorrow, featuring the Canadian actress Tamara Podemski. The latter has previously received a workshop production at Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto.

Other Canadians taking part include playwright Daniel David Moses, Yvette Nolan and Jennifer Podemski, all of whom helped to curate the festival by serving on its advisory board. And Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John, and Billy Merasty will appear in the third play, Eric Gansworth's Re-Creation Story, a playful alteration of the Haudenosaunee creation narrative.

Many are also participating in the various field discussions - closed to the public - designed for members of the industry to talk openly about issues affecting native theatre.

Hackett noted that, during a field discussion last year, the native Americans expressed mild envy of the sense of community and government support enjoyed by their Canadian cousins. "I think Canada is challenging America to say, 'How can you support your native artists on the same level that we do?' That's a big issue for native artists living in America."

Nolan, the artistic director of Toronto's Native Earth, echoed the sentiment. "We seem to the Americans that we're quite organized and have some kind of solidarity they don't necessarily feel. They feel more far-flung. I don't know if that's true; that's just our perception of each other," she said on the phone from Toronto yesterday, during a brief break in rehearsals for A Very Polite Genocide, which opens next month at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. "I can name five, six, seven native theatre companies in Canada, and the Americans don't have that kind of depth and breadth."

Still, Nolan noted, while government funding in Canada is greater than in the U.S., "from where I sit, it doesn't feel like enough."

So, naturally, one of the goals of the festival is to see some of the work on the Public's stage in a full production. "We are looking for relationships with theatres like the Public, where the work can be shown, so we're not always doing nickel-and-dime theatre because we only have nickels and dimes, to have our work seen by a broader audience."

Nolan recognizes that Eustis is inundated with pitches for full productions from all quarters of the theatre world. "At least he's listening to us. We know he's interested because he's having this festival, we know he's honourable because he's been producing work at Trinity Rep by Drew [Hayden Taylor], so we know it's not just lip service, that there will be an opportunity for somebody, somewhere."

Hackett says, in planning future seasons at the Public, "these plays are absolutely infiltrating our discussions."

The Native Theater Festival continues through Saturday at New York's Public Theater (http://www.publictheater.org or 212-967-7555).

Olga Kurylenko Talks About Playing One Of The New Bond Girls

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

(November 14, 2008) Ah, the Bond Girl. Devastatingly beautiful, good with a gun (or a knife, a sports car, an atom bomb and even, in one spectacular instance of cheap 007 Freudian play, her neck-snapping thighs), devilish but gold-hearted (she really just wants to be loved), the Bond Girl is as reliable an archetype as Bond himself, if not more so.

A swell Bond Girl will enliven even the worst late-period Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton franchise wheeze. Remember Grace Jones and her tower of laser-cut hair in A View to a Kill, or scary-perky Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough? Of course you do, because the 007 movies have always been more about the exotic, ludicrous women than the personality-deprived contract killer doing the Queen's dirty work.

While the latest revival of the Bond brand has generated an enormous amount of ink about the suitability of Daniel Craig — probably because he's the first Bond since Sean Connery to take the part seriously and play against the camp factor, to wallow in Bond's dark, murderous well of self-loathing — the Bond Girls have yet to catch up.

And, yes, my post-feminist friends, the producers still call them "girls." In the Bond world, you can blow up a building, fly a cargo plane, or plug any number of goons with hot lead, but if you're female, you're still not quite a grownup. Eva Green made a valiant attempt in Casino Royale to turn the Girl into a Bond Woman, but she got bumped off in the end.

Olga Kurylenko's Camille, another beautiful but damned creature with a scarred past (literally in this case) and a disarming pout. Already a star in France, Kurylenko will be familiar to North American audiences from Paris, je t'aime, wherein she played a vampire, or from her two other sexy-people-with-guns movies, Hitman and Max Payne.

While Kurylenko hardly breaks the Bond Girl mould, it's not for lack of trying. In every scene she has to herself, the energetic actress practically inhales the screen, daring to out-sulk and out-glare Craig. But then, stuff starts to blow up and she's quickly relegated to the familiar damsel in (flawlessly made-up) distress role.

Now that America has an African-American president, is it too much to ask for a Bond heroine who's not half 007's age and who wears army boots, not heels, to a shootout?

The Bond films, after 21 previous instalments, are now entertainment machines. How do you make your mark as an artist when the franchise is more important than the players?

Well, you know, it's funny, because I didn't feel that at all. For me, first off, it was my first time. Probably if you do only that kind of film, it becomes, you know, too much, and I don't want to do that. The goal is to do as many different parts as possible. But, for me, it was the first time I had to do my own stunts, and I had to learn so much, and it was so exciting! I've never done anything like this ever — why else would I do it?

Watching you do action scenes in beautiful haute couture outfits was a marvel.

Well, it was not haute couture! It was just simple.

But pretty. How do you jump out of an airplane in a bespoke dress?

In the last scene, I'm just wearing jeans that was very handy. And in the first part of the movie, I'm wearing a skirt and I go on the boat, and what we chose is a bathing suit for under the skirt. It's perfect! It's one piece, so if I turn over in the skirt, it's not like you see my underwear! Ha! At the same time, it looks cool. This girl is always ready to fight, so she dresses accordingly, but at the same time she can't walk around in cargo pants, because she has to be attractive, because she uses her looks for charming people. She has to be in between. She goes for something cute, but at the same time very handy. No bling-bling, no diamonds, nothing crazy, because she's ready to run.

Many actresses have played Bond heroines, and some have done very well after, but some less so. There is a belief that the role comes with a curse.

No, no, I don't believe in that. I believe I'm going to keep working. I've already done a film after this, and I'm the main character. We can't generalize. It's about what you want to do. I want to work, I want to act, not just be present in movies. When you want something, you work on it.

 You are Ukrainian, but most of your work has been done in French. Now you're playing a Latino secret agent. Only in Hollywood!

 Yeah! Ha! But I think it's great, you know? Talk about transformation. That's why this job is so interesting, because you have to go in the skin of different people. They can be from all over the world. People ask me, when I am tanned, if I am Brazilian. I always get that. In Paris, in New York, people ask me what I am. So I knew it was something I could do, because I've heard it before.

You're taller than Daniel Craig. Did they make you stand in a ditch?

I don't think I am taller! No, no! But if I put heels on, I think I am the same height. But without the heels, he is taller.

How many films do you have to make before the press stops calling you a "model/actress"?

Ah, it's their fault! I don't know why they call me that! I think people just don't want to think, so they keep writing that. I guess they need to present that I was a model before, so they keep talking about that. At the same time, it is my past, but I don't do it any more, so what do they want me to do?

The film has a very open ending. Are you in the next one?

 Ha! I don't think so! I mean, nobody has spoken to me about that. Ask the producers! There is no Bond Girl who ever came back, because each time they need new women, so I don't think it's going to happen.

Are you ready for this sudden leap into global fame?

I don't think you can ever be ready. It's all happening so fast, some days it's like a big wave coming at me. It's unbelievable. And it's fun! People say I am lucky, but it's not just luck, you have to know how to catch the luck. And it could end tomorrow, so I'm enjoying it and I appreciate it.


EUR DVD REVIEW: The Perfect Holiday

www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(November 13, 2008) Nancy (Gabrielle Union) has had her hands full raising three kids alone since her divorce from J-Jizzy (Charlie Murphy), a self-absorbed rap star. Since he doesn’t devote enough quality time to them, she’s ended up overburdened and neglecting her own needs. This state of affairs hasn’t been lost on her youngest, Emily (Khail Bryant), who whispers to Santa Claus a Christmas wish for a man to make her mom happy again. What the little girl doesn’t know is that Benjamin (Morris Chestnut), the mall Santa whose lap she’s sitting in, just happens to be a very handsome hunk underneath the fake beard and red fat suit. More importantly, he’s available and instantly smitten as soon as he looks over and gets a load of Nancy.

The problem is that Benjamin is just seasonal help and, after Christmas, he’ll be back at his more mundane job as an office supply salesman, although he does dream of becoming a famous songwriter. So, even after he does summon up the courage to approach Nancy in street clothes at the cleaners, he’s still suffers from low self esteem, he hightails it out of the store before she can respond. Thus unfolds the underlying premise established at the outset of The Perfect Holiday, one of those syrupy sweet romantic comedies which keeps a pair of lovebirds obviously meant for each other apart via a series of frustrating circumstances. In this case, the flies in the ointment are Benjamin’s shyness, Nancy’s cluelessness, her son, John-John’s (Malik Hammond), attempt to sabotage the relationship, and her ex’s interference, too. Despite a supporting cast with Katt Williams, Faizon Love, Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard, the picture belongs to Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut, who certainly generate the romance genre’s requisite chemistry. I saw mommy kissin’ Santa Claus, ghetto style.

EUR DVD REVIEW: This Christmas

www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(November 13, 2008) *For the first time in years, the Whitfields are returning to L.A. for a family reunion being hosted by their mother (Loretta Devine) with the help of her boyfriend (Delroy Lindo). But each of her kids arrives not only with luggage but burdened by emotional baggage, so there are pressing issues which need to be addressed before they can all enjoy the Christmas celebration Uncompromising Kelli (Sharon Leal) has a very successful professional career in New York City, but no man in her life, because she’s picky and refuses to settle. Meanwhile, Melanie (Lauren London), in from Atlanta, is a free-spirited undergrad in her seventh year at Spelman College where she keeps changing her major. She’s brought along her latest boyfriend (Keith Robinson), a pre-law major at neighbouring Morehouse College.

Arriving from San Francisco is eldest sister, Lisa (Regina King), who is stuck in a bad marriage to a wife abuser (Laz Alonso) with a mistress (Amy Hunter). As for the Whitfield males, there’s hot-headed Claude (Columbus Short) who’s ashamed of his white girlfriend (Jessica Stroup). Quentin, Jr. (Idris Elba) is a struggling jazz saxophonist who has disappointed his mother by following in his failure of a father’s footsteps. Finally, there’s Michael (Chris Brown), the baby, a talented teen still living at home who’s been blessed with a beautiful singing voice. Yet, he’s been reluctant to pursue his dream due to his mother’s aversion to show business. This wholesome family flick does a decent job of interweaving the strands of the leads’ predicaments in an entertaining fashion, even if the goings-on tend to be more cartoonish than credible. Miraculously, the assorted skeletons are revealed and dealt with satisfactorily, ultimately enabling the very contented Whitfields to gather around the dinner table for a closing Kodak moment on Christmas day.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and violence.
Running time: 119 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Twilight Star Takes A Bite Out Of Fame

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Hiscock,
Special To The Star

(November 16, 2008) For someone at the centre of an ever-escalating fan frenzy that is now bordering on the hysterical, Twilight star Robert Pattinson seems very much at ease.

The British actor's self-deprecating sense of humour and refusal to take the phenomenon seriously is helping him deal with the besotted adoration of millions of teenage girls around the world who are enraptured by the tortured romance between a brooding, beautiful vampire and a mortal schoolgirl.

"It's absolutely nuts," he says, shaking his head in bemusement and laughing. "It's just crazy. A year ago I couldn't get a date and now the whole world's turned over and I can have any 14-year-old girl I want."

He is joking, but the fervour will only increase when Twilight is released on Friday. Assuming it is the success it is expected to be, Pattinson is already signed for two sequels, ensuring that for the next few years he will be one of the world's leading heartthrobs.

Pattinson, 22, was virtually unknown when he was picked by director Catherine Hardwicke to star opposite Kristen Stewart in the film version of author Stephenie Meyer's best-selling Twilight saga.

Stewart plays Bella, a newcomer to the tiny town of Forks, Wash., whose school classmates include the handsome Edward Cullen, one of a family of vampires who try to protect their secret by living as normal a life as possible.

Bella becomes infatuated with him and the two become entwined in a passionate, unorthodox Romeo and Juliet-style romance between vampire and mortal, complicated by the arrival of a new vampire clan that threatens to disrupt their lives.

The four-book series has sold 17 million copies and there are more than 350 fan sites on the Internet, so the burden of expectations was high and casting the right couple in the leading roles was vital.

Pattinson had been acting in amateur plays at a theatre near his London home and had had a few minor roles in movies when he was picked to play Cedric Diggory in two Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

He had been torn between an acting career and going to university but the Harry Potter roles convinced him to stick with acting, although he spent the best part of the next two years unemployed.

His agent persuaded him to visit Los Angeles to audition for several films, one of which was Twilight. He performed a love scene with the already-cast Stewart and she persuaded Hardwicke that he was the right actor to portray Edward.

Pattinson was no so sure.

"I'd read the book and I couldn't really picture myself in the part as this handsome, perfect guy," he said.

"I thought it would be impossible to play him because he's basically an enigma. I didn't want to play a stereotype vampire so I sort of broke down every vampire element of him and tried to relate to it in a human way. I tried to humanize it as much as possible."

It seems ironic now, but when he was announced as the actor who was to portray Edward on screen, fans were furious.

"People sent me hate mail and the Internet was full of messages from Twilight fans who didn't want me. They said I looked like a bum," he recalled with a laugh. "But Stephenie Meyers helped me out by giving me her seal of approval, then the trailer came out and everything turned around. I started getting love letters and fan mail instead of hate mail.

Pattinson was talking in suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. He was sporting a several-day stubble and was casually dressed in jeans and an open short-sleeve shirt over a T-shirt.

He talks quietly and modestly and has a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile, which makes it easy to see the attraction he holds for teenage girls.

After filming Twilight on location in Portland, Ore., he returned to Los Angeles and has been there for the past seven months, learning to drive, exploring the city and attempting to adjust to the cultural differences, particularly the American attitude toward alcohol.

"It's a very different culture," he said.

"There really isn't a pub scene in L.A., and people here don't understand how it's such a normal thing to drink in pubs in London.

"They think it's very strange and there's such a stigma attached to it here, but it just seems normal to me."

An accomplished musician, he occasionally takes his guitar to open-mike nights in L.A., although it is becoming more difficult now that he is recognized wherever he goes.

"I did a couple of gigs, which people filmed and put on the Internet and it kind of ruined the whole experience for me," he said. "So I've kind of stopped now and I think I'm going to wait for all this fuss to die down before I start doing live gigs again."

(Pattinson's song "Never Think," appears on the best-selling Twilight soundtrack.)

Scripts are pouring in and he will soon be seen as the painter Salvador Dali in Little Ashes and in January will begin filming the romantic drama Parts Per Billion, portraying Dennis Hopper's son.

In the meantime he is becoming more famous as the build-up to the release of Twilight reaches its peak.

His only previous exposure to fan frenzy was after he appeared in the two Harry Potter films.

"I was a bit surprised that people recognized me and wanted my autograph but it didn't last very long and was nothing like this," Pattinson said.

"This is just bizarre."

Tony Curtis: Picture This

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Matthew Hays

(November 18, 2008) MONTREAL — Sitting across from Tony Curtis is a strange experience. Now 83, the iconic actor is wearing a white T-shirt and skimpy shorts, and sits perched in a wheelchair in the lounge of a swank, downtown Montreal hotel. Age has made him a less recognizable famous figure – but, when Curtis opens his mouth to speak, that low, husky voice is unmistakable.

In town to collect a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Film Festival, Curtis, the star of such landmark American films as Sweet Smell of Success (1957), The Defiant Ones (1958) and Some Like It Hot (1959), is also talking about his co-written memoir, American Prince, which hits stands this month. As well as telling his tales of working with such masters as Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kramer, the actor delves into his rather troubled personal life, recalling his tormented marriage to Janet Leigh (one of their offspring is actress Jamie Lee Curtis), his working relationship and romance with Marilyn Monroe, the loss of one of his sons to a drug overdose and Curtis's own stint at the Betty Ford Center.

“It's good to be here, to meet people like you,” Curtis says, clutching my hand. The book has provided an exercise in clearing things up, he says. Having lived a crazy existence in Hollywood, filled with numerous lovers and plenty of the sauce, there are volumes of lore surrounding Curtis – some of it fact, some fiction, some a blend of the two.

He confirms that Elvis Presley credited his own hairstyle to Curtis: The greased-back look that culminated with a cresting wave of locks on top was directly lifted from the actor's grooming habit. “I was extremely flattered that Elvis used my look. It was like an Olympic relay race: I handed the style on to him, and he handed it on to another generation of young people.”

Curtis has often been quoted in relation to his affair with Monroe. The two worked together in the comedy Some Like It Hot, in which Curtis donned drag for his role. When some rushes were being screened, some of the technicians working on the film asked Curtis what it was like kissing her. His response: “Kissing Marilyn was like kissing Adolf Hitler.” Naturally, the quote stuck in people's minds. He now explains that he was dumbfounded by such a silly question. “Of course Marilyn was amazing to kiss,” he says. “I was making a joke.”

Curtis goes on to discuss some of his time with Monroe in detail: “I had a lot of fun with Marilyn. A friend of mine had this house on the beach, and I would take her there, and we would make love on the beach. We would get hamburgers and steak to cook, and then we'd build a fire. Because Marilyn knew I might screw up the steak, we had the hamburgers to fall back on. We were in love with each other. She learned about men with me and I learned about women from her.”

And Curtis recalls that Monroe had a tremendous sense of humour. “During the shoot of Some Like It Hot, someone told her that I had a better-looking ass than she did. She looked at him, unbuttoned her blouse and said, ‘He doesn't have [breasts] like these!'”

If there is a role Curtis holds dear above all others, he says he would have to point to Sweet Smell of Success, the searing indictment of certain strains of American journalism, co-written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman. “I was able to bring a lot of my own emotions to that role. I think you have to somehow take on a role like that without overloading yourself. You can't relive an emotion. An emotion should be called only because you're able to use it once. A shock – the first time you have one, it's an emotion. The second time you do it, it's not. It's about acting in the moment, which I was able to do with Sweet Smell of Success.”

He is quick to add that he also loved working with Richard Fleischer, the director of The Boston Strangler (1968), in which Curtis got to play a serial killer. “Richard was extremely considerate and always gave the actor a lot of freedom in their role.”

And working with Kubrick, widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived? “Stanley and I both grew up in New York, so we understood each other in a certain way. What always got me about Stanley was how perceptive he was. You could walk down the street with him, and he'd see things that you would never notice. He picked up on the strangest things – it was part of what made him such a brilliant director.”

Curtis found himself in an odd position in 2005, when he was widely quoted as blasting Brokeback Mountain, apparently taking offence at the notion of “gay cowboys.” He insists now that he was widely misquoted. “I never said that I didn't like the film. I just didn't know what the big deal was. To see two guys falling in love? … People didn't want to see the subtleties unfold.”

Curtis now says he loves his gay fans, and says he worked with many gay men in Hollywood over the years, including director Vincente Minnelli. And he says he loved the references to his work in the teen comedy Clueless (1995), in which star Alicia Silverstone realizes the boy she is pining over is gay, in large part because he has rented a series of Tony Curtis movies. “I loved that!” he says.

“I've always had great, profound friendships with gay men.”

But Curtis closes the interview with a colourful assertion of his heterosexuality, insisting that one of his favourite pastimes has always been, and still is, making love to women. (Curtis is currently married to his sixth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis; they wed in 1998.) It's a fitting end to a conversation with Curtis, as this Hollywood legend has clearly had as storied an off-screen existence as any of the characters he has portrayed on the big screen.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Hill Harper: Actor, Author, Activist On His Friend Barack Obama, New Book, And ‘CSI New York’

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

(November 19, 2008) *AAA is not just a reference to the Auto Club; it also is a nod to Hill Harper, the actor, author, and activist.

While his most recent foray into the public eye is through his role as Sheldon Hawkes on the television show “CSI: New York,” but he’s been acting since he was just 7 years old.

Since then, he’s locked in memorable performances in Spike Lee’s 1996 film “Get on the Bus” and 2000’s “The Visit.” He’s also written two critically acclaimed books “Letters to a Young Brother” and “Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny.”

Harper led the United Negro College Fund’s HBCU Empower Me Tour, serves as a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor, and has also launched a social network called ForRealSolutions.com, and established the MANifest Your Destiny foundation, a non-profit youth organization. Whew.

But Hill Harper is not looking to slow down. The ivy-leaguer is preparing his third book, filming the CSI series -- fresh off the campaign of his Harvard schoolmate Barack Obama, where he served as a member of the Obama for America National Finance Committee.

“It’s become famous now, but he’s been community organizing for years; doing a lot of work in the community in Chicago, helping out steelworkers that have been laid off in the Southside and in Gary, Indiana, doing voter registration work, working out of the basement a church on the Southside for about $13,000 a year,” Harper told EUR's Lee Bailey of his good friend, President-elect Barack Obama. “So, he came with a great deal of life experience, whereas a number of us, myself included, came straight from undergrad to grad school. So I was younger and still trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Was I going to go on the artistic side, or into government? There were a lot of intelligent, super smart, super committed people at Harvard Law School at that time.”

Harper continued that he and a number of Harvard Alums helped work on the campaign and are currently apart of Obama’s transition team.

“It’s just wonderful to look back and see that so many people were so committed to wanting to change the world have been able to work together in ways to support and help facilitate – hopefully over the course of the next eight years there can be real substantive change in terms of the US and policy. We’re going to see some shifts,” he said.

“There’s a great transition team working extremely hard to make sure they hit the ground running come January 21st and really focus on that first hundred days. There are big elements of this campaign that he talked about that I think are going to be the initial focus; certainly getting the economy back on track to a place where people are less fearful about their jobs and about losing their homes.”

 Harper shared that the Obama he knows today is not so different of the Obama of his Harvard days.

“It’s very interesting. There’s not much difference between the person he is now and the person he was then. He’s fundamentally the same person. At Harvard Law School, he was extremely committed to public service and working to improve the lot of life of people. Period,” he said. “And this is a really important part. When we graduated – there are four classes of students, as far as honours – there’s Suma Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, Cum Laude, and, I like to joke, Thank-you-Lawdy. No one had been Suma Cum Laude in 30 years and no one was our year. Barack was one of three or four that was Magna Cum Laude. I was in the Cum Laude, which was about 20-30 people, and then there was everybody else. So even if you were in the everybody else category; even if you were the lowest graduate from Harvard Law School, you had the opportunity to clerk for amazing level courts, you have the opportunity to work in six-figure salary paying jobs, let alone being the top graduate and also the president of the Harvard Law Review, which he was. He could’ve clerked for the Supreme Court, he could’ve clerked for the Appellate Court, he could’ve taken any number of amazing high-paying jobs.”

He also reminded that Obama, as well as most law students, graduated with student debt, so the attraction to take a high-paying job would be even greater.

“What did he do?” Harper asked, “he went back Chicago, to continue doing work for people that he certainly could have done without having attended Harvard Law School. Just like they said I was crazy, too, ‘This guy is graduating Cum Laude from Harvard Law School with a Masters in Government from the Kennedy School and he’s gonna go be an actor. He’s crazy.’”

“Barack did not let his experiences at Harvard change him. He knew why he was there. He came there with a purpose and even though he excelled there and had all this new opportunity come his way when he graduated, he left having that same purpose. He’s been on purpose and on his purpose his entire career, which I think is brilliant. I am so happy that the American public could see through the rhetoric during the campaign.”

Meanwhile, Harper recently filmed the 100th episode of “CSI: New York”, but the hard worker said that the success of the show hasn’t necessarily turned into more Hollywood opportunities.

“Being on a great show that is part of, arguably, one of the most successful franchises in television history is fantastic. It offers a platform of reaching a large amount of audience,” he said. “As far as opening doors career wise, that doesn’t happen so much because it takes up so much time that it’s very hard to do other things that fit into the window that you have, which is the three months off that we have. There are certain movies that have come up that I’ve found to be incredible projects that I would have loved to have done, but I just couldn’t do. There’s a real blessing to doing the show and it’s helped for this campaign and it’s also great for the books that I’ve written. So there’s a wonderful ancillary benefit to the show in that way, but as far as for pure career stuff and doing big movies and things like that, it’s very difficult.”

On the other hand difficulty doesn’t seem to be a word in Harper’s vocabulary. With his hectic television schedule, he’s on to his third book.

“It’s a book on relationships. It’s a challenging book to say the least,” he said of the not-yet-titled tome. “It’s kind of about how a guy like me, (is) working through and trying to figure out how this whole relationship stuff works. I’m excited about it. It’s for adults. It’s definitely a departure from the first two books that were for young people. I’m going to have to put across the book in big red letters ‘For Adults Only.’ Hopefully, it’s going to be a pretty provocative book because I want to promote a conversation.”

For more on Hill Harper, check out his
MySpace page or  website at www.manifestyourdestiny.org.  


Keke Palmer's Nick Premiere Breaks Records


(November 13, 2008) *Keke Palmer's new Nickelodeon series "True Jackson, VP" premiered to the channel's largest live-action series premiere audience ever for kids 6-11 (2 million), tweens 9-14 (2 million) and total viewers (4.8 million).   Palmer plays 15-year-old True Jackson, who ends up getting a job as Vice President of the Youth Apparel department of a fashion company called Mad Style.  She later finds out that some of the work environment is just like high school complete with mean girls and bullies.

Timbaland To Produce Rock-Themed Feature


(November 13, 2008) *Music producer Timbaland, born Tim Mosley, is making his first foray into Hollywood as executive producer of the upcoming feature "Vinyl," according to the Hollywood Reporter. Timbaland's Mosley Media Group is teaming with Effie T. Brown's Duly Noted Inc. to produce the film, which follows five young women facing life-altering decisions about their relationships with members of a rock band. Writer-director Richard Zelniker's film is set to begin shooting in the spring, with Brown, Marcus Spence and Timbaland's wife, Monique Idlett-Mosley producing.   The Mosleys plans to promote the film with behind-the-scenes content designed for mobile devices.


Plenty Of Promise In New Canadian TV Comedies

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

(November 18, 2008) With the recent announcement that the Trailer Park Boys are calling it quits at the end of this season, it has occurred to me that we are about to lose three of our most reliable sources of clever, topical and/or character-driven, distinctly Canadian homegrown humour.

Having made such inroads into convincing Canadians to want to actually watch their own programming, it seems a shame to relinquish such a large component of what is making the country laugh.

I mean, how do you replace a Trailer Park Boys? In fact, there is Showcase's thrice Gemini-nominated Cock'd Guns, a similarly deadpan rock twist on the same mockumentary style. On the other hand, if you related more to Trailer's taboo-toppling vulgarity, you need tune no further than the same cable channel's new and resolutely rude Testees, which has thus far made the Boys look more like altar boys.

In a recent interview, TV veteran Mark McKinney allowed that contemporary Canadian comedy will henceforth be divided into two distinct eras, before and after Corner Gas.

He is right, of course. And what are we to do when the reliably dryly witty sitcom shuts off its pumps at the end of this season?

Well, we can wait with bated breath for Brent Butt's next CTV comedy, Hiccups, starring his wife and Gas co-star Nancy Robertson as a neurotic children's author.

But in the meantime you really must check out McKinney's own show, the Winnipeg-shot Less Than Kind (on Citytv) – though considerably darker, no less dryly, consistently witty, and character-driven by an excellent ensemble, led by no less a casting coup than marvellous Maury Chaykin.

Also calling it quits at the end of this season, the longest-lived Canadian comedy of them all, 35 years now on CBC radio and TV, that venerable satirical institution, the Air Farce.

Say what you will about the relative relevance that comes with such comedic longevity, that is an unprecedented and most distinguished run, revitalized in recent years by an infusion of newer and hipper young talent.

Fortunately, topical humour is still estimably represented on CBC airwaves by This Hour Has 22 Minutes and, to a slightly lesser extent (in terms of format, not content), the increasingly inventive Rick Mercer Report.

And thus the torch is passed on, the mantle inherited, the legacy embraced.

And we will keep ourselves laughing for years to come.

SATURDAY NIGHT resuscitation Having recently joined the critical chorus excoriating Saturday Night Live for its recent decline, I now feel compelled to acknowledge the opposite.

Saturday Night was good this week. Very good; the show's current incarnation at its most confident, competent and consistent.

Even with a comparatively marginal host like Paul Rudd, a "wasn't he was that guy in ...?" at best.

That being said, the man walked the walk. And the regular cast kicked ass – even without new mom Amy Poehler, and despite the fact that her two new featured female replacements completely disappeared between the opening credits and closing farewell.

And, best of all, no more Tina Fey as Sarah Palin (or for that matter, Sarah Palin as Sarah Palin).

The worst thing you can say about musical guest Beyoncé was the unnecessarily excessive cleavage she showed in her first number.

Favoured (and deservedly so) recurring guest Justin Timberlake more than compensated – comedically, not musically – hilariously playing out the entire show he would have done had he not had to cancel next week's hosting gig.

This was to include, by the way, the return of that brilliant Bee Gees talk show goof (was nascent Late Show host Jimmy Fallon also booked?), and a turkey-themed sequel to the Internet musical hit, "D--k in a Box."

My highest commendation, however – and this is the big one – is that the show had not a single bad sketch. Maybe a couple went on slightly too long. But let us not pick nits. The laughs were there, beginning to end.

Kudos to the writers (all 23 of them), clearly refreshed and renewed after their pre-election descent into tired lameness.

Now if only they can keep this up.

Exuberant Dance Judge Stealing The Show

Source:  www.thestar.com - Joel Rubinoff, Torstar News Service

(November 17, 2008) We all know the dancing is great – no news there – and that the show is the No. 1 program in Canada, but what makes So You Think You Can Dance Canada (Wednesday, 8 p.m. on CTV) stand out for me aren't the gravity-defying spins, dips and krump-bumps by the finalists, but the way they're critiqued by judge Jean-Marc Genereux.

"I think I'm gonna have to call the fire marshal because they put the stage ON FIRE!" he shouted during a recent show with so much unbridled enthusiasm I was worried, for a moment, the stage had actually caught on fire.

Not to worry. The outspoken Quebecois ballroom champ was merely employing his mangled syntax and hysterical posturing in service of a performance so wrought with intensity only the most extreme metaphor could do it justice.

"That's the real cause of global warming," he expounded earlier about another couple, sounding, for a moment, like a seasoned environmental activist. "They are soooooo HOT!!"

I feel sorry for the other judges: dance diva Tre Armstrong, National Ballet star Rex Harrington and choreographer Melissa Williams, who guested on the panel that night, replacing choreographers Blake McGrath and Luther Brown. Their perfect diction and adjectival restraint do nothing to up the show's humour quotient.

"You are now orbiting in the sexy Rexy rocket to the stars!" Harrison noted one week in his own bid for catchphrase infamy, repeated to less effect later in the same show.

Ah, give it rest, Harrington. Your finely honed irony and intellectual smarts are no match for Jean-Marc's dramatic posturing and frenzied hyperbole.

"I think at the end of this show your realtor will get a lot of phone calls," he informed dance team Lisa and Vincent after an eye-popping House routine. "Because your house is going up ... (awkward pause) ... you just set your house ON FIRE!"

Again with the fire. And what was that about the house going up – did he mean in value, in flames, or both? And why would you call a realtor if your house was on fire?

Never mind. This man is a catchphrase powerhouse, a sputtering powder keg of adjectival infamy whose penchant for metaphorical grandstanding far outshines his inability to string words together to form coherent sentences.

"I'm not sure if this is a man ... a woman world," he yelped after a jazz routine to James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." "But Nico and Arassay, you control THE UNIVERSE!"

He also has something called a V.I.D. list, which until host Leah Miller explained its meaning – Very Insane Dancer – I figured was some kind of sexual disease scorecard.

Apparently, getting on this list is a bonus for dancers, signifying an original show stopping presence, while being removed is a sign the judging tide may be turning against you.

Given that it's viewers who will ultimately decide who walks off with the $100,000 prize and the title Canada's Favourite Dancer, it probably doesn't much matter if you're on or off.

But don't tell Jean-Marc. Any indication his feverish proclamations are meaningless could prompt a meltdown so dramatic you might have to call the fire marshal and your realtor, because not only will the stage catch ON FIRE!!, it could, ahem, go up in value.

Or something like that.

Fire Threatens TV's Desperate Housewives

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Derrik J. Lang, Associated Press

(November 13, 2008) LOS ANGELES — It's mayhem on the set of ABC's Desperate Housewives.

Most of the cast is attempting to flee a crowded nightclub that's slowly catching fire. Thick layers of smoke are quickly filling the room. Flickering flames are streaking up the walls. Pushy extras are hurrying to the nearest exit. And someone is still in the bathroom! Much like the tornado that ravaged Wisteria Lane last season or the supermarket standoff the year before, the nightclub fire is the buzzed-about sweeps stunt that will engulf Sunday's episode. The blaze appears to have been started by this season's mysterious — and perhaps villainous — new neighbour Dave Williams, played by Neal McDonough.

“I personally don't think my character is a bad guy,” McDonough said during a break from filming. “He's just damaged goods. Something happened to him that he just can't come back from. He has to take care of something. It's eating his life away. It's really interesting to explore a character like this, and it makes me feel very fortunate for my life.”

Away from their usual Universal Studios street set, the cast have gathered for the scorcher inside Sound Stage 28. Meanwhile, on another part of the back lot, a nightclub facade is being erected that will later be burnt to a crisp. In true sweeps fashion, someone won't survive.

During production of the episode in October, the actor portraying one of those in peril found himself in danger in real life.

Gale Harold, who plays the boyfriend of Teri Hatcher's character, was in a motorcycle accident and fractured his shoulder. Script rewrites were ordered after Harold was admitted to USC Medical Center.

This fire isn't the first to threaten Wisteria Lane's residents. In the series' first episode, Susan Mayer (Hatcher) accidentally burned down the home of Edie Britt (Nicollette Sheridan), who retaliated in the second season by lighting up Mayer's place. In the fourth season, the naughty twin sons of Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman) confessed to an arson.

Is series creator Marc Cherry a closeted pyromaniac?

“Not at all,” he says over lunch with Huffman a few days later. “I just like putting people in jeopardy.”

He certainly does. Without much explanation, Desperate Housewives was thrust five years into the future at the end of last season. Inspired by Lost, Cherry recalls nonchalantly pitching the leap to ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson during a baseball game last October. He said McPherson's initial response was: “Oh, that could be interesting.”

Cherry let the idea percolate with ABC executives because he knew it was a “pretty risky proposition.” After the fifth season premiered in September — apart from a few flashback scenes — there's been no going backward. What could have been a jump-the-shark moment ultimately reinvigorated everyone.

“I think it got everybody — the fans included — excited again,” said Huffman, whose character battled cancer during the fourth season. “It certainly got the writers excited again. It all started on the page. The housewives all look younger though, which is a little weird, but the men look at a little older, which is really how it really should go.”

The jump gave Dana Delany's tormented Katherine Mayfair, the centre of last season's mystery, a place alongside the housewives at their weekly poker games. However, beyond her pairing with plumber Mike Delfino (James Denton) laid out in last week's episode, Mayfair has mostly served as the caterer sidekick to domestic queen Bree Hodge (Marcia Cross).

“I've gotten to do a lot more comedy,” Delany said on her way to Sound Stage 28. “I guess I am hoping they will change it up a bit. I'm just honoured they asked me to come back in the first place. The show has never asked anybody to come back for the next season, so I think they're trying to figure out how you fit in a sixth housewife.”

Older counterparts for the children of Wisteria Lane were cast while the teenagers morphed into adults. Andrea Bowen, the 18-year-old actress who has played Susan's level-headed daughter Julie since the beginning of the show, will return to Sunday's episode as a graduate student who's dating an older professor (Steven Weber).

“This whole five-year change has really shifted the vibe on the set,” she said in her trailer. “It's spiced things up. There's the ability to do a lot more with these characters. For me, to come back in the middle of this has been interesting. I'm trying to get everybody to catch me up. I've been watching episodes like a regular viewer.”

Cherry, who once worked as a writer and producer on the long-running sitcom The Golden Girls, said he doesn't think Desperate Housewives will be doing any more fast-forwarding, but he does see an end to the series in sight. He's beginning to conjure up ideas for the sixth season and hopes the seventh season will be the last.

“I know what the last scene of the show is,” teased Cherry. “I already have that in my head. I would like to end the series after seven seasons. The problem is we are one of the top-rated scripted series on ABC.”

Cherry revealed that the final scene would feature just one of the housewives. Gasp! On a series where car wrecks, back-stabbing, murder, fire and other natural disasters are regular occurrences, it probably shouldn't be too surprising that, in the end, the show's mastermind may leave just one woman standing.

Stroumboulopoulos Happy Proving Naysayers Wrong

Source: Nick Lewis,
Calgary Herald

(November 13, 2008) Four years ago, many in the so-called "traditional media" scoffed at the idea of former MuchMusic VJ
George Stroumboulopoulos receiving his own talk show on the nation's public broadcaster. Here was a guy coming off news pieces about Britney Spears' used gum, the latest boy band developments and infighting among Oasis' Gallagher brothers--what could he contribute to the national discourse?

"When we started, we had to put up with a lot of (expletive) from the so-called 'traditional journalism community,' by a lot of people who didn't take what we did seriously," Stroumboulopoulos says. "Four years later, now a lot of them do, now that we've shown that we weren't just joking around."

So it's quite fascinating for the host of CBC's
The Hour to receive this year's Bob Edwards Award, an annual award passed out to Canadian journalists who possess the same literary spirit as the founder of Calgary's Eyeopener.

"I look at the award as a great honour," Stroumboulopoulos says, "but I don't accept it for myself. I accept it on behalf of all the people who work on The Hour. Nobody does this alone. Just because my face happens to be on the billboard, I'm the one receiving the award, but it's all due to the blood, sweat and tears of all the people backstage."

A graduate of Toronto's Humber College in radio broadcasting, Stroumboulopoulos began his career as an overnight DJ in sports radio in the '90s, and didn't aspire to much beyond that.

"I'm not ambitious, I never have been, it's just not in my DNA," he says. "I only do what I love, when I love, how I love to fill up the time. I'm forward-planning enough to know I want to build the sort of life that is sustainable on my terms, so I have to do it on a bigger scale, which is partly why I do (The Hour).

"But when I got out of Humber College, I just wanted to have an overnight radio show and play Led Zeppelin and Public Enemy, that was the extent of my ambition. And I quickly realized radio stations in this country pay you nothing and make you play crap, so I got out of that."

Having built up a reputation as a conversational, unabashed radio DJ, he made the transition to MuchMusic VJ, a job that quickly made him a household name across Canada. It was while on that job, he says, that Bono taught him how to be an engaging human being. It was Stroumboulopoulos' third live interview for the music station, and it was with U2. Stroumboulopoulos held his own over 30 minutes, and Bono ended the interview saying, "George, I'm a fan."

"The U2 interview was when people started to take me seriously," he says. "I noticed the next day, after the interview, that it changed the way I was perceived.

"And Bono is by far the most interesting human being I've ever had the pleasure of interviewing. . . . You watch Bono in a room--and we're talking about a room of thousands swarming around him--he'll take every single person and make that moment about them. You can pat him on the back or pull his arm, he's not looking away from the person he's talking to.

"Watching him in a room taught me more about this job than anything else. Because you realize, he has authentic human interactions, even at his level of celebrity."

Authentic human interaction is the basis for the guests appearing on The Hour, whether it's an author promoting healthy eating habits, an environmentalist pushing for change or a celebrity promoting a cause dear to them.

"We try to get people who have found a way of making a living by helping others, which isn't always a celebrity," he says. "We try to keep the humanity on the show."

And in doing so, Stroumboulopoulos has helped create a current affairs show that is very much part of the national discourse and very much a part of the CBC's mandate for strong journalism. Even if he doesn't think of himself as much of a journalist.

"I've never felt like I belong in this community, but then I quickly realized this idea of the community doesn't exist, it's just people," he says. "I'm 36 years old, and I look at (The Clash's) Joe Strummer and (Public Enemy's) ChuckDas kinds of journalists, as commentators of our times. And you notice within each of those men's careers, they weren't tied to any one thing, they could marry commentary with lots of other ideas. And I always wondered, 'Why can't I have a career like that?'

"Those men taught me that you can do things your own way, that you can present the situation in Darfur a different way, or talk about the environment in a way that's meaningful to people. And so with the show I'm hoping to just be good company, good company in the form of dinner conversation. I want to make them laugh, tell them something they don't know, and maybe raise their ire a little bit."

Aboriginal Cartoon Series 5 Years In The Making

Source:  www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski,
The Canadian Press

(November 13, 2008) It's being billed as Canada's first aboriginal cartoon series.

But with its blend of pop-culture references, quirky small-town humour and the odd political jab,
By the Rapids should speak to anyone who has struggled to find a place in the world, says Joseph Lazare, the show's creator, writer and director.

The show debuts tonight at 8 p.m. on APTN. It's has been a five-year undertaking for the 24-year-old filmmaker, who drew inspiration from his own background in crafting a satirical look at an urban teenager who is forced to live in his parents' small Indian hometown.

"I wanted to have a show that was special to our community but wasn't neglecting people from the outside," says Lazare, who grew up in Kahnawake, the Mohawk reserve just outside Montreal, and moved to Toronto a few years ago.

"There's some stuff we do that I think is just an aboriginal-people joke and (non-aboriginals are) like, `That's funny! I don't know why, but I think it's really funny,' and they can't stop laughing.

"So then they ask me a question: `Why is that funny? What does that mean?' And so I'm really excited about how we can do certain things on the show that'll get people asking questions and kind of doing their own research."

The show revolves around pampered teen Cory Littlehorn, a gadget-crazed kid who has spent his whole life in the big city – until his parents drop him off with relatives in the fictional Mohawk community of By the Rapids.

Cut off from his friends, the Internet and the city, Cory must find a way to get along with his no-nonsense grandma Hazel, his macho uncle Regis, his older cousin Karen and Karen's scatterbrained boyfriend, Derek.

Cory soon realizes he knows next to nothing about Indian culture, and slowly warms up to life on the rez. He's introduced to powwows, Indian tacos, the Mohawk language and local slang. Lazare said he was eager to offer a show that incorporates a mix of realism, fantasy and pop culture, and profile a light-hearted side to native life that's little seen in mainstream media.

"A lot of aboriginal media, if it is not hard-hitting, it's kind of soft, so what we like to do is be humorous but a little bit edgy in some ways."

Sopranos Stars On Hand To Autograph Collector's Edition Set At HMV

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(November 14, 2008) It was a mob scene – literally – Tuesday night at the Yonge St. HMV store.

More than 100 hardcore fans of the much-missed
Sopranos lined up to get their just-released collectors' edition DVD boxed set autographed by on-camera couple Bobby and Janice Soprano Baccalieri, a.k.a. actors Steve Schirripa and Aida Turturro, who came to town for the launch.

The entire series is already available, together and in separate season sets. But this is something special: 86 episodes on 33 discs, handsomely packaged in an illustrated, annotated album, along with three CDs of soundtrack music, and 3 1/2 hours of bonus extras, including an Alec Baldwin interview with creator David Chase, round-table dinner discussions between cast and crew, lost scenes, outtakes, parodies ...

That's 5,160 minutes of tasty Soprano goodness – or rather, badness – weighing in at more than four kilograms, roughly the same weight as Ralphie Cifaretto's severed head in a bowling bag.

It comes at a rather hefty price – $400 – which is in fact only about $100 more than the previously released, considerably less elaborate full-series collection.

But a small enough price to pay for the Soprano enthusiast.

And there are none more enthusiastic than its two visiting participants, Schirripa and Turturro, who I crawled into bed with for a very informal chat the afternoon before the signing.

Okay, so it was more like on the bed – we were relegated to the hotel suite's bedroom while a camera crew set up outside. But the historical significance was not lost on Schirripa.

"Isn't this where John and Yoko had their bed-in?"

(Technically, in the broader sense, yes, it was in Canada. But specifically Montreal.)

"I love this," Turturro gushed. "You can tell everyone that we all slept together."

But this uniquely intimate encounter involved another kind of passion – for the breakthrough series that critics have hailed as "the greatest show in TV history."

It is a passion the two actors share with the fans, and much of the conversation revolved around their own favourite Soprano moments.

"Like when Tony freaked out about the pulp in his orange juice," Schirripa laughs. "And that time Annabella Sciorra threw the steak at him."

"How about that thing at the beginning, with Junior and his girlfriend?" Turturro adds. "Another one of my favourites was when Livia was supposed to back the car up, and went forward instead ..."

And of course there is that controversial final episode, which still has people stopping them in the street.

"And that was what, way back in June?" Schirripa marvels. "I mean, this is November. How many TV shows can you think of that people are still obsessing about six months later?"

"I find it's the smart people who liked the ending," Turturro allows.

The other primary point of interest is the persistent rumour of a Sopranos movie. Which both agree is not likely to happen.

"Everywhere you go," Turturro says, "it's always, `Is there gonna be a movie?'"

"The show still has a lot of legs, as far as the audience goes," Schirripa agrees. "But obviously, David (Chase) created it, and whatever David wants is what we all happily abide by."

In the meantime, Turturro is focused on movies, and Schirripa is all over the map – having already written a series of "goombah guides," he has a marginally mobster-themed children's book that is being adapted as a feature film. He also has a new TLN food show, Steve Schirripa's Hungry.

And then there's that new Sopranos collectors' set to get through.

"You know what happens," Turturro suggests. "It's winter. You go home. It's late. There's nothing on TV. ... Or a friend comes over and they want to watch it ...

"I'm still addicted to it. As Steve was saying earlier today, you can watch it a whole bunch of times and (see) lots of little things you missed."

"There is still a large audience that wants to watch The Sopranos," Schirripa confirms. "It's still the best thing on television."


We've Come To The Trailer's End

Source:  www.thestar.com

(November 13, 2008) The TV travails of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles will soon be no more. Mike Clattenburg, creator of Trailer Park Boys, has announced on a Showcase.ca blog that there won't be a new season of the foul-mouthed comedy, which has been around for eight years. There will be a final one-hour TV special, Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys, airing on Showcase Dec. 7, and a movie sequel, Countdown to Liquor Day (the working title), due in theatres in October 2009. "But, after that, there will be no more," Clattenburg wrote. "Yes, it's the end of Trailer Park Boys. ... Much love and thanks from all of (us) at Sunnyvale Trailer Park."


Hey Charlie, Cheer Up - This Show Is A Real Hit

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

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
By Clark Gesner. Additional songs by Andrew Lippa. Directed by Allen MacInnis. Until Dec. 30 at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E. 416-862-2222

(November 14, 2008) You're a good show,
Charlie Brown.

It's a real delight to be able to report that the current holiday musical at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, which opened last night, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, is the best one done there in recent memory.

Not only is it staged, designed and performed with a high level of skill, but it has those unbeatable qualities of genuine warmth and charm that make a show happy for the whole family.

Even though they're no longer as popular as they once were, the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, which inspires this show, still has resonance for most audience members and – even better – it still has relevance as well.

We can all still learn from the eternal fall guy, Charlie Brown, his nemesis, the bossy Lucy, her sweetly simple brother, Linus, the faithful family pooch, Snoopy, and all the rest.

The qualities of love and understanding that they preach are done with laughter and brevity rather than cloying sentimentality.

Director Allen MacInnis keeps everything moving briskly on Robin Fisher's building-block set, lit in high style by Lesley Wilkinson, while the duo keyboards of Paul Sportelli and Wayne Gwillim provide the perfect accompaniment and Nicola Pantin's choreography is wittily apt at all times.

Cyrus Lane is a different Charlie Brown, more like a young Bob Newhart, but he sings with skill and acts with a freshness that's truly touching. I also was completely won over by the Linus of Andrew Kushnir, who looked like he came out of a pre-school production of Spring Awakening, but was completely enrapturing.

Jane Miller knows just how to deliver the crabby zing of Lucy and Jessica Greenberg is a winner as Sally, pulling her punches till she gets a chance to shine in "My New Philosophy," while Karim Morgan is a befuddled but intellectually endearing Schroeder.

My one problem was Jay Turvey's Snoopy, who was funny enough, but in a slick, artificial way that didn't fit with the open honesty of the other cast members.

But forget that one quibble and go see You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It will make you smile ear to ear, then maybe cause you drop a tear or two at the end. You can't ask for more than that.

Bonne Canuck, Bad Canuck

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

(November 15, 2008) He's played everything from a cornerstone of Canadian history to the curmudgeon of Corner Gas, but that's the way Eric Peterson likes it.

The 62-year-old actor sits at an Annex health food hangout, slurping thirstily at his Power Shake ("It's awfully good, you oughta try it!") and cackling with glee at the winning hand he's been dealt by the gods of Canadian show business.

He's getting ready to play a malignantly evil patriarch in the award-winning play
Festen, adapted from the 1998 Danish film, which opens at the Berkeley Street Theatre this Thursday.

"I know it's not my normal kind of role," he chuckles of a character who betrays his own family. "But one of the things that attracted me to it was wondering if people could believe I was that kind of a man."

It's easy to understand his uncertainty – Peterson's admirable reputation rests on a hat-trick of vintage Canadian good guys. First came the title role in Billy Bishop Goes to War, a play John Gray and Peterson created in 1978, which the actor later toured triumphantly across Canada, to New York, London and Edinburgh. The creative duo revamped it for a 1998 production at Canadian Stage, and now Soulpepper is planning to do it with them in the summer of 2009.

"I think," jokes Peterson, "I'm older now than he ever lived to be." (Actually, Bishop was Peterson's age when he died.)

Next in the gallery of people's memories would have to be Leon Robinovitch, the cantankerously liberal lawyer who lived on the Toronto Islands in Street Legal. That series kept him in the public eye from 1987 through 1994.

"I know some people dump on it now, but I enjoyed doing it because it was Canadian and entertaining and showed a certain part of the country to people."

That was certainly a different part of Canada than his most recent happy experience, the Prairie comedy hit, Corner Gas, which is going off the air early next year after its sixth wildly successful season. To a whole generation who never went near a theatre or heard of Street Legal, Peterson is a star because of Oscar Leroy, the retired owner of the two-bit pumping station that gives Corner Gas its name.

They call the town where the show takes place Dog River, but Peterson is convinced it's based on his own Saskatchewan home town, Indian Head.

"I'm very proud of that series and I'm very sad it's over," he sighs. "For me, it was like a dream come true. I mean, I was born to play that part.

"When my agent first put me up for it and I taped my audition, at the end I told the camerman, `Keep it rolling,' and then I looked at the camera and said, `I am this guy. You'll be making a huge mistake if you don't hire me.'"

Brent Butt made no such mistake and gave Peterson the job. Then he cast Janet Wright as Oscar's wife, not knowing that the two actors first met doing university theatre in Saskatchewan back in the late 1960s.

Peterson came to acting late and reluctantly. "Why would I want to be an actor?" he snorts. "I had no role models. Nobody in Saskatchewan was an actor. Nobody even knew anybody who was an actor."

But Peterson's older brother worked in England and brought home glamorous stories of London and its theatre. So after a few more local theatre shows, Peterson moved across the Atlantic.

"I went to England and toured all over the country, with probably the second worst theatre company in the land. It was called David Kirk Productions and he was like something out of the last century. A total rogue. Called everybody `dear boy.'

"Sometimes I'd be the carpenter, sometimes the assistant stage manager, sometimes I'd even act. But I soon realized I didn't really know anything, so I went back to Canada."

In one of those miraculous strokes of luck, Peterson enrolled at the University of British Columbia in 1970. Classmates included John Gray, Larry Lillo, Brent Carver and (in the spirit of total disclosure), myself, who all appeared in an all-male production of Twelfth Night.

Like many UBC students, Peterson soon found more excitement off campus than on, and joined Gray's Theatre Workshop (which later changed its name to Tamahnous), performing in shows like Nijinsky and Dracula 2.

But he was drawn to Toronto and got caught up in the excitement of the early years of Paul Thompson's Theatre Passe Muraille.

"That was incredible," recalls Peterson with fervour. "For me, what Paul was trying to do made sense: taking real experience and making theatre out of it."

Peterson recalls the entire Passe Muraille troupe taking up residence in a small town and basing characters on local inhabitants. (The process was outlined by Michael Healey decades later in The Drawer Boy.) "You'd start to feel you were just a dry, powdery shadow of what the actual guy was like," says Peterson, "but it was like Kool- Aid; the audience added the water and it was wonderful."

He hasn't stopped since.

His enthusiasm for his current project, Festen, shows that he still lives for the theatre. "The rehearsals are amazing, every day! Such energy and commitment and balls and people just going for it."

How does he tackle playing a father whose past sins against his family have finally come to light?

"I back into the evil roles. A little bit of humour, a little bit of niceness, then spring the trap."

The script has more than meets the eye.

"The play's metaphor is that the world is a dysfunctional family. Hell, haven't we just been through eight years where Big Daddy, George Bush has been f---ing all of us?"

Sure, he's a veteran of a 37-year career in Canadian show business. After all these years, it's still the young man who hit the road with Theatre Passe Muraille that looks across the table and shares his feelings as to what theatre really is.

"It's not so much about going out there and showing the folks what you've done. It's sharing what you're still discovering."


Whoopi To Produce 'Sister Act' Musical

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(November 14, 2008)  *Whoopi Goldberg has announced that she is mounting a stage production of her 1992 blockbuster film "Sister Act" to take place in London.  The Oscar winner and co-host of ABC's "The View" says she will not star in the theatre version, which mirrors the movie that starred Goldberg as an on-the-lam lounge singer who hides out in a convent.    The musical will open June 2, 2009, at the London Palladium, with preview performances beginning May 6, she announced Thursday on "The View."    Goldberg will team with Stage Entertainment, one of Europe's largest theatrical producers, in presenting the show.


Dancers Take Flight With The Seagull

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

(November 13, 2008) After 35 years as the artistic director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier has had time to reflect on what it means to be an artist, in particular in dance.

Some of those reflections are embodied in his 2002 ballet,
The Seagull, to be performed tomorrow for the first time by the National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre. The 66-year-old choreographer cites four questions in his notes to the ballet, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play, written in 1895.

What does it mean to be in love? What does it mean to be an artist? What does it mean to be an artist who is in love? What does it mean to be someone who loves to be an artist? The questions are implicit in the dance that Neumeier fashioned after watching the play in January 1996 and being suddenly struck with its suitability for ballet.

"I saw the possibility to translate Chekhov's world of writers and actors into a visual world of choreographers and dancers," says the American-born choreographer. The Russian writer's work translates well into ballet because "it presents a realistic world, but it has a spiritual or metaphysical world mixed in. By using the language of dance itself you can say a lot about the characters."

In the first cast of The Seagull, Sonia Rodriguez is Nina, an aspiring dancer; Greta Hodgkinson is Arkadina, a prima ballerina and sister to Sorin, the estate owner (Richard Landry). Nina is in love with Kostya (Zdenek Konvalina), a revolutionary choreographer. Aleksandar Antonijevic portrays Trigorin, the established, successful choreographer, and friend of Arkadina's.

In place of Chekhov's play within a play, Neumeier's Seagull encompasses different kinds of dancing from the period within the larger ballet. Chekhov, says Neumeier, was a friend of Tchaikovsky's and almost certainly knew the ballet world. He once wrote a short story called The Chorus Girl.

"Chekhov's time was an interesting point in the history of dance. It was a moment when we had the high point of the Imperial Ballet; we had revolutionary, young choreographers who were trying to do crazy things; and we also had a very lively cabaret life."

The music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Alexander Scriabin, and the percussion compositions of Evelyn Glennie delineate the different dance worlds.

"What's interesting when you watch it and when you perform it, is there are very distinct different types of dances to set what's real and happening, and something you're thinking about or a dream," says Rodriguez, delighted to be dancing a role with so much dramatic change and possibility in it.

Neumeier's large repertoire includes a number of contemporary story ballets, including The Saga of King Arthur, Hamlet, Othello, The Odyssey and The Little Mermaid, a commission from the Royal Danish Ballet to mark the bicentenary of Hans Christian Andersen.

But, he says, "I don't think narrative ballet is about stories that can be retold in words. I think it is about dramas that cannot be expressed in words. The levels in ballet are like emotions we experience in dreams.

"We know we're frightened, we know we are in love, we know we are erotically aroused, but we don't have a complete story around it. I think this emotional intensity gives the structure to my work."

The National Ballet's 10 performances of The Seagull run until Nov. 23 at the Four Seasons Centre.

Show Celebrates Two Anniversaries

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

(November 13, 2008) Toronto Dance Theatre doesn't look much like it did 40 years ago, when Patricia Beatty, David Earle and Peter Randazzo founded the city's first major modern dance company. But even if there's scarcely a glimmer of Graham technique – and no sign of those long, floor-sweeping gowns – the principles that have kept the company relevant and kept audiences coming to experience TDT have not altered.

"What we were trying to create was a community of individuals," says Beatty, whose New Dance Group of Canada was a precursor to the company she began with the two other dancer-choreographers. What they all had in common was their starting point: training with Martha Graham in New York City.

The unlikely triumvirate ran the company for nearly 30 years. Their method, says Beatty, "was pretty spontaneous, according to who was drawn to what area. We communicated constantly. We were in each other's dances, in each other's dressing rooms. We stayed together because we disliked the same things." It was only because the Canada Council demanded that the company have a sole artistic director that the collective management came to an end, says Beatty, 72.

The trio, whose hundreds of dances make up the biggest chunk of modern dance history in Toronto, were honoured in 1988 with a Toronto Arts Award. Earle alluded to the hard times the company had sometimes fallen on when he said, "For 20 years we have been trying to make love to this city but it always seems to have a headache."

More often than not, though, TDT was welcomed with a warm embrace, and today the company is on a sound financial footing – under the Toronto Dance Foundation umbrella side-by-side with the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Residing in the former St. Enoch's Church at 80 Winchester St., a building purchased in 1977 and renovated as a theatre and studios, the organization is still "dedicated to the creation of original works that celebrate the power of the human imagination."

Christopher House came to TDT 30 years ago as a dancer and resident choreographer and took over as artistic director in 1994. He remarks that the company has always had "a mission to develop audiences for dance." In the Internet age, TDT keeps close contact with its audience members – about 120 people came to this week's Process Revealed session to hear House talk about his newest creation – and has from time to time stepped out of the dance world to gain fresh converts, as in its collaborations with the music group The Hidden Cameras.

House's most cherished memories of TDT are all about the dancers that gave the company its reputation for always attracting top talent. Their names make a hall of fame for contemporary dance: in the early years, Barry Smith, Susan Macpherson, Peggy Baker, Anna Blewchamp and David Wood; later Claudia Moore, Robert Desrosiers, Grace Miyagawa, Learie McNicolls and Michael Trent; and in more recent times, Kate Alton, Bill Coleman, Laurence Lemieux, Michael Sean Marye, Sasha Ivanochko, Johanna Bergfeldt, Louis Laberge-Côté and William Yong.

With each new season, it seems he's working with a dream team, says House, on a break from rehearsing the new work, Dis/(sol/ve)r. "You fall in love with every new group, you think you will never be able to create without them," House says. "Then God sends you another group."

A large percentage of the current company is from the TDT school. Today's dancers come trained to a high degree of technical accomplishment, says House, but more than that, bring their own sense of who they are as artists. It is less common than it once was to face a company of obedient dancers ready to take direction. "People want to be part of the process. That's my favourite thing."

The process of creating Dis/(sol/ve)r, House's ninth full-length dance work for TDT since 2000, has involved the entire company. (The full House rep runs to more than 60 dances.) It's a piece that gets some of its direction from a current obsession, House confesses, "with particle theory." Working with Phil Strong as his composer, the choreographer says this work will be less episodic than previous shows. His themes include the concept of how a lover gradually dissolves from your life, and the notion that the hand, after the face, most expresses our emotions.

Beatty still teaches and she's choreographing a solo for a David Earle Dance program next year. But she doesn't identify with much of what she sees on dance stages these days. "It doesn't help deepen your experience of being alive. It's just dancing."

Her understanding of what Toronto Dance Theatre set out to achieve was "to offer dance as a living symbol for the richness of life."

Chances are, the current company would have no argument with that.

Just the facts:
WHAT: Dis/(sol/ve)r

WHERE: Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W.

WHEN: Nov. 18 to 22

TICKETS: $15-$38 at 416-973-4000


Ricci Wins 2nd GG Book Award

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

(November 18, 2008) Nino Ricci has claimed his second Governor General's Fiction Award for The Origin of Species, a semi-autobiographical novel set in Mulroney-era Montreal.

The Toronto-based author first won the prestigious prize, now worth $25,000, in 1990 for his debut, Lives of the Saints.

"I was much more innocent and fresh when I got the first one. And in some ways less appreciative," said Ricci, after receiving the award this morning in Montreal.

"I just didn't understand what it meant, although the first one probably had a much bigger impact on my life. It essentially made it possible for me to make a living as writer.

"But it's nice to get something at the mid-career stage because it means there's still fire in the oven."

It was the third loss in a week for Rawi Hage, whose sophomore novel, Cockroach, was also nominated for the Scotiabank Giller and the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize. It was a repeat of the fate that befell Hage's debut, De Niro's Game, which went on to win the lucrative International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award this year after being shut out from Canada's top three prizes.

The runners-up, each of whom received $1,000, also included Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances, which was also shortlisted for the Writers' Trust, David Adams Richards' The Lost Highway and Fred Stenson's The Great Karoo.

The award was one of 14 GGs handed out, seven in each official language, with $25,000 going to each winner.

The GG announcement draws the curtain on a high profile week of book prizes. Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce scooped the Giller last Tuesday and Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans claimed the Writers' Trust honour yesterday.

Among the other English-language GG winners, Toronto's Jacob Scheier took the poetry prize for More to Keep Us Warm and Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford won for Non-Fiction with Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army.

Mickey Mouse Hits 80

Source: www.globeandmail.com – Associated Press

(November 18, 2008)  WASHINGTON — Eighty years ago, a clothes-wearing rodent named Mickey Mouse whistled his way onto the silver screen, as Steamboat Willie made its cinema debut at the Colony Theater in New York.

That day, November 18, 1928, is widely considered the official birthday of Mickey Mouse, even if he was born of the imagination of Walt Disney months before his movie debut and also featured in a short animated film called Plane Crazy, which was made before Steamboat Willie but released afterwards.

Mickey Mouse was created almost by accident: Walt Disney's first cartoon character was a rabbit called Oswald, but the man who was to rise to become a pre-eminent force in global entertainment lost the rights to the rabbit in 1927 and returned to the drawing board.

He came up with a mouse, whom he wanted to call Mortimer.

According to popular legend, his wife preferred the name Mickey, and Walt Disney deferred to her choice.

The storyline of Steamboat Willie is flimsy, politically incorrect and features little, if any, comprehensible dialogue.

But the cartoon marked an animation landmark with its synchronized sound track that includes Mickey whistling and blowing raspberries at the irascible ship's captain, a large tobacco-chewing cat called Captain Pete.

In roughly seven minutes, viewers watch as Mickey Mouse is kicked out of the steering room of a riverboat by Captain Pete; hoists Minnie Mouse on board using a crane that grabs her by the knickers; swings a cat by the tail, strangles a goose and plays keyboard on some suckling piglets as the American folk song Turkey in the Straw plays from the innards of a goat.

The hapless mouse ends up paring potatoes in the galley when Captain Pete finds him making music with Minnie and mistreating animals.

Walt Disney wanted to record the soundtrack for Steamboat Willie with big-name studios RCA or Western Electric, but ended up contracting with “the bootleg Powers Cinephone process,” according to the Disney website.

“After a disastrous initial recording session, Walt Disney finally recorded the soundtrack with a 15-piece band and his own squeaks for Mickey,” the website says.

Just over a year after his debut in Steamboat Willie, on January 13, 1930, Mickey Mouse got his own comic strip, drawn by artist Ub Iwerks.

He made it into the Sunday comics on January 10, 1932, the same year that Walt Disney won a special Academy Award for creating the friendly rodent.

Mickey Mouse has gone on to star in over 120 different cartoons and got his own television show, The Mickey Mouse Club, in the 1950s, the theme song of which engraved in the minds of a generation of Americans how to spell M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E.

These days, children watch Mickey on the mouse's eponymous Clubhouse, which airs on Playhouse Disney, and his trademark morphology – the ears, in particular – feature on items of merchandise ranging from T-shirts to mugs to cuddly toys.

Charest Woos Arts Community

Source: www.thestar.com - Andrew Chung, Quebec Bureau Chief

(November 19, 2008)  MONTREAL–Premier Jean Charest, whose criticism of federal arts cuts hampered the federal Conservatives' bid for election gains in Quebec, is trying to secure support within the cultural community.

Yesterday, Charest promised that a re-elected Liberal government would eliminate the 7.5 per cent provincial sales tax on Quebec cultural products, including compact discs and videos, and movie, museum and cultural event tickets.

The move fits with Charest's strategy of trying to recapture a majority government on Dec. 8 by attracting more francophone and nationalist votes.

Though it would cost the treasury about $50 million, Charest said it was worth it since these industries contribute about $4 billion to the provincial economy, and directly employ 100,000 people.

In Montreal, Charest also said the Liberals would increase the tax credit for film and television production expenses to 35 per cent, from 29 per cent, equal to that of Ontario and British Columbia.

He also promised $10 million more to a government agency that helps cultural businesses aid film productions in the province.

Charest said the measures were necessary to attract foreign TV and film productions. "In the North American context, competition is very strong between governments to attract productions," he said.

The initiatives will be popular among artists and their allies in Quebec, something Charest knows well and suggests the federal Conservatives have yet to understand.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper began the federal campaign on track for a majority government, but went off track in Quebec after the public strongly disagreed with his culture cuts. Charest and his ministers criticized the cuts. Harper wound up with another minority.

"They received a message last Oct. 14," the premier said.

Charest's promises were welcome news to those in the film industry.

"These are excellent propositions," said Michel Desjardins, executive director of the National Institute of Image and Sound, a Montreal-based training centre for film, TV and new media.

Desjardins said the film industry has lost productions to other provinces because Quebec had fewer tax incentives. As well, he said, "the elimination of the tax can certainly help in the consumption of cultural products; especially in an economic period when it's a bit more difficult for people to access these products, this can make them cheaper."

On a $20 video, for example, a consumer would save $1.50.

Meanwhile, Action démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont said yesterday he would bring in experts to analyze infrastructure projects worth more than $100 million to prevent cost overruns.

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois promised to hire 40 more environmental inspectors.

With files from The Canadian Press

Truce Declared For A Day In City's Club Zone

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

(November 19, 2008) There had to be at least one moment of conflict when entertainment district residents and nightclub owners got together yesterday to talk about the area's problems.

It came early in Raising the Bar: Toronto Summit on Nightlife, Drinking and Violence, held at a restaurant on John St.

As Don Rodbard, a leader of the King Spadina Residents' Association, expounded on the problems of living in the district and his theories about how problem clubs operate, Mary Filigno, a co-owner of Level and other clubs, yelled, "That's not true!"

"I expected them to yell something during my speech. I mean I'd be disappointed if they didn't," Rodbard said later. "But I spoke with them afterward and now they are going to come to the working group meeting next week, which is the whole point of this."

If there was a reason to consider the summit a success, it's that the meeting gathered many of the entertainment district stakeholders in one room to discuss the many issues in Toronto's party zone.

Organized by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health along with the City of Toronto, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Toronto police and the Entertainment District Business Improvement Association, the day consisted of presentations on the state of affairs in clubland and offered some potential solutions to some of the area's issues.

"It's the failing nightclubs that tend to attract problems that can get out of control," said Adam Vaughan, the area's city councillor, who's been vocal about dealing with these issues since taking office. "If we can find a way to close the problem clubs quickly, than the good nightclubs will survive. It's separating the good from the bad that is difficult."

Some of the presentations included a look at a University of Western Ontario study about how social pressure and the bar environment make fighting more acceptable for young men. Another issue discussed was the rise of "pre-drinking," where people get very drunk at home before they even step into the bar.

In terms of possible remedies, risk-based or conditional licensing – where bars have certain restrictions as part of their licence – is becoming a much more regular occurrence.

And new training requirements for security personnel are expected to be announced later next year.

Some other ideas include:

An educational campaign focused on drinking in moderation.

Making the district a glass-free zone, i.e. only plastic bottles.

Soft closings, where bars provide food or entertainment after last call to make the exit process a bit more convivial. Or an idea from California: staggered closings with certain bars voluntarily closing early to cut down on the crowds leaving at the same time.

Putting more of the responsibility on drunken patrons, as opposed to punishing the clubs they frequent.

Some of the nightclub owners talked about starting an association so they could provide a unified front to speak to the city and residents' associations.

While many felt that this was a good start, the club owners said they still felt victimized.

"It was still too one-sided. I mean, as a nightclub owner, it feels like I'm always in the wrong," said Nick Di Donato, president and CEO of the Liberty Group.

"Some of the things they were talking about, like any sort of zero tolerance policy, all that will do is chase the good operators out."


Chan Leads After Short Program In Paris

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press, – With files from the Associated Press

(November 14, 2008) PARIS – Canadian teenager Patrick Chan had his best performance of the season today to take the lead after the men's short program in the Trophee Bompard.

The 17-year-old from Toronto, who captured the men's title two weeks ago at HomeSense Skate Canada International, skated to "Tango de los Exilados" by Walter Taieb, and hit near-perfect landings on a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple Lutz in quick succession for a score of 81.39.

"Everything that was supposed to happen went the way I wanted," said Chan, the reigning Canadian champion. "My goal here is to do better than at Skate Canada and right from the start I felt a lot more comfortable on the ice."

Japan's Takahiko Kozuka was second with 77 points and 2006 champion Brian Joubert of France was third with 73.75.

Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin were third after the pairs short program

Chan's previous best this season was 77.47 points.

"I did everything I planned to do," Chan said. "Luckily this time I didn't make any mistakes on footwork."

Chan was particularly pleased with his triple Axel.

"Even though I was landing it last year it is still a big deal for me," he said. "It's been giving me problems since Skate Canada and I haven't been consistent with it in training."

Kozuka started strongly but was undone when he landed on his outside skate after a flying sit spin and tumbled over.

"My program was fine, but I have some regrets," Kozuka said. ``Tomorrow, I don't want to make any mistakes."

Joubert's high-octane performance got off to a poor start when his attempted quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination failed.

"I'm very disappointed about my combination. I don't know what happened," said Joubert, who managed just one toe loop before backing out of the rest of the jump. "Everything was ready for the jump, my six-minute warm up was great. But I couldn't jump. I'm happy that the rest of my program was clean."

In pairs short, world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany had a season-best score of 68.18 to lead ahead of Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia, who scored 64.84.

Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Buntin, from Kelowna, B.C., were third with 58.66. The Canadian duo was fourth last month at Skate America.

"We had a much better short program this time," said Buntin. ``I think the big difference is confidence. There's nothing wrong with our skating but today we went out there believing in what we were doing."

`'We were just thinking too much during our programs at Skate America," Duhamel added. `'We took a new approach this time and it was nice to see us take a step up."

In ice dance, world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France took an early lead after dominating the compulsory program. Vanessa Crone of Aurora, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., are fifth.

The ice dancers skate their original program later today, while the men's and pairs events continue with Saturday's free program.

Delobel and Schoenfelder scored 37.98 points, while Italian pair Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali had 34.46 and sibling pair Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Britain had 32.32.

The Trophee Bompard is the fourth of six figure skating events in the ISU Grand Prix calendar, with Moscow and Tokyo to follow. Skaters collect points toward a place in the Grand Prix final in Seoul, South Korea, next month, but can only compete at two events each.

Today's program also features the women's short.

CFL Final No. 6 Not Just Another Game For Calvillo

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich, Sports Reporter

(November 19, 2008)  MONTREAL–Professional athletes have a tendency to play down the importance of individual games.

They approach every game the same way, they insist, and no game is any more important than another.

There's probably some truth to that, though the mind games athletes must play to keep their delicate psyches under control play a large role in that approach.

But maybe because he's been around so long, suffered so many disappointments and is facing serious personal issues involving his wife's health, Montreal Alouettes quarterback
Anthony Calvillo isn't pretending that Sunday's Grey Cup game against the Calgary Stampeders is just like the previous five.

It's a chance to erase the memory of losing four of those five games. And it could be his last one.

"I think we all want to change the mindset of what we've done in Grey Cups and this is one more opportunity for us to do it," Calvillo said yesterday. ``To be honest with you, how many more are we going to have in the future? That's the way I look at it now.

``When I talk about taking things to heart, this might be my last opportunity and I want to correct the view of what has gone on in the Grey Cup.

``This is a great, great opportunity for all of us. Not only myself, but a lot of guys who have been through that whole process."

The 96th Grey Cup is a clash between a young team from the West and a veteran squad from the East. And those Montreal veterans are carrying a lot of baggage. They have been one of the league's dominant teams for almost a decade, but have little to show for it as far as post-season hardware goes.

They don't want to be remembered as perennial bridesmaids, the Atlanta Braves of the Canadian Football League.

Veteran defensive back Davis Sanchez, who has two Grey Cup games with the Alouettes, shares Calvillo's sense of urgency.

``It was key that we get here and now it's key that we win this thing because we don't get that many opportunities," he said. ``For the older guys like me, we're not going to have that many opportunities left so we've got to make the most of this."

Calvillo has another incentive to excel on Sunday: There's no guarantee he will be back.

While his wife, Alexia, has finished her cancer treatment and appears to be well on the road to recovery, the final verdict is not yet in. She still needs regular blood tests.

``It's still nerve-wracking when she has to go in and get that blood work because the blood work is never going to lie," Calvillo said.

Her health will play a large role in whether the Los Angeles native, whose contract expires at year's end, returns for a 16th season.

``When I say that this potentially can be my last game, I do feel very good and confident that I want to continue to play," he said. ``But everything is going to be evaluated when the season is over. And winning or losing the Grey Cup is going to be part of that conversation.

``There's going to be a lot of emotions I have to deal with whether we win or lose. It's not going to be easy."

Head coach Marc Trestman would obviously prefer that Calvillo not decide to send his cleats to the hall of fame. Yesterday, Trestman couldn't think of enough superlatives to describe his quarterback, who tossed a league-leading 43 touchdown passes and is up against Calgary's Henry Burris for the CFL's most outstanding player award.

``If Anthony Calvillo didn't do what he did this year, we wouldn't be here," Trestman said. ``He's the guy, who as I've said since Day 1, has transcended our locker room, has given everybody hope and this city hope for this opportunity."

Q&A with Alouettes player

The Star's Chris Zelkovich goes head-to-head with Montreal defensive end John Bowman, a three-year CFL veteran and former member of the Daytona Beach Hawgs of the AFL2:

What's your first Grey Cup memory?

I first heard about the Grey Cup about three years ago. I was playing indoor football and they were trying to get me to play up here. They said the Grey Cup was like the Super Bowl.

Who's the scariest player on Calgary?

Hank Burris. None of the offensive linemen scare me, but he sure does.

Who's the scariest player on your team?

Walter Spencer. His temper is crazy.

If you weren't playing football, what would you be doing?

I'd probably be in the army, because everybody in my family – my dad, my brother – went into the army. Before I got my college scholarship I was about to enrol, but thank God somebody thought I could play football.

I wouldn't be caught dead without my ...


Who would play you in a movie of your life?



Fitness Extra: 4 Great Fat Burners!

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

What is the best exercise to burn fat?

In reality, there is no "best" exercise to burn fat because it's more of an issue related to sufficient intensity and consistency that helps to speed the metabolism. Not necessarily the exercise itself.

However, all things being equal, I will admit that there are certain cardiovascular exercises that seem to get the job done quicker and with more efficiency than others.

Bob Greene, author of Total Body Makeover, puts it best when he defines cardiovascular exercise as "the ability of the heart, lungs and arteries to deliver oxygen (which is carried in the blood) to working muscles, and your muscles' ability to use that oxygen to perform work over a particular period of time."

"By increasing your level of cardiovascular fitness, you are increasing the rate that your body can burn calories," Greene says. "The more aerobic an exercise is, the greater effect it will have on your aerobic enzymes (which help you burn more fat), cardiovascular fitness and metabolism -- and ultimately your percentage of body fat."

That is exactly what you want to accomplish.

That being said, I'm providing my top four cardio exercise fat burners (in no particular order):

Jogging -- I know that everyone can't do it due to fitness levels, possible knee injuries or excessive body fat. However, jogging burns a lot of calories and absolutely revs the metabolism. People who jog and use a calorie-restricted diet seem to lose fat at an accelerated pace.

A 30-minute jog at 5.2 miles per hour burns approximately 350-400 calories. The cumulative effect over a month or more is significant and turns you into a fat-burning machine.

Stepmill -- Found in most health clubs and not to be confused with the traditional stair stepper, the Stepmill actually has revolving steps that you continually climb while holding onto side bars.

It is a very difficult workout when first beginning and many people can only last several minutes.

If you build your capacity with natural progression, you'll be doing 20-30 minutes within a month. You'll also burn approximately 350 calories in about 30 minutes.

Aerobic Classes -- This falls into the category of many cardiovascular exercise classes such as Cardio Kick Boxing, Jazzercise and Cardio Boot Camp, etc.

As long as the class is aerobic and challenging, you'll get tremendous benefit. The calorie expenditure is dependent upon the type of class as well as continuous aerobic movement.

Spinning -- Spinning is an indoor specialized stationary-bike-ride class, limited to about 15 people and lasting about 45 minutes. Your spinning instructor plans a ride over imaginary terrain by changing intensity and speeds. The ride is set to upbeat music so it's a load of fun. You'll get extremely fit by spinning and will burn inches off your butt and shape your legs.

Don't assume that I don't like or approve of other forms of cardiovascular exercise. In fact, power walking is an excellent form of cardio and actually what most beginners should start with.

I just wanted to give you my calorie-crunching favourites. As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com
 — Andrew Carnegie

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