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November 27, 2008

Like the song goes, 'the weather outside is frightful' ... when is it summer again?

Don't forget to check out the HOT events ...
the newest being the AMAZING Gospel Christmas Project on December 7th.  Also, Aubrey Dayle and Vernon Reid perform together on two dates -  December 4 and 6.  Then, there's the annual AroniMAGE awards in honour of Aron Y. Haile on December 7thAnd the supersensational Soweto Gospel Choir on December 17 and 18 at Massey Hall.

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



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 Gospel Christmas Project – Sunday, December 7

Source:  Andrew Craig Productions

The Young Centre for the Performing Arts invites you to ring in the Christmas season with one of the hottest shows this season: The Gospel Christmas Project!

Imagine 20 of the world’s favourite Christmas carols, totally re-imagined and re-arranged in the high-energy style of Contemporary Gospel. Then imagine hearing those arrangements sung by powerhouse vocalists like Dora-award winner Jackie Richardson, Alana Bridgewater of “We Will Rock You”, Kellylee Evans (the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards Female Vocalist of the Year), and Gospel singing sensation Chris Lowe. Add to that mix the dynamic Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale, and put them all under the masterful direction of Andrew Craig, with his explosive band. It’s a recipe for an unforgettable holiday experience!

The Gospel Christmas Project has already been an acclaimed CBC Radio special, and made into a coveted CD recording. It’s also been a CBC Television special, not only nominated for a Gemini award, but a Bronze World Medal winner at the prestigious New York Festivals. It was a groundbreaking concert presentation with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and it was one of last year’s most-talked-about shows at Massey Hall. And now, you can experience it live at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, in Toronto’s Distillery District!

“I left with a surge of joy” – Carol Lipson, The Live Music Report
“It was the star on the top of the tree of Christmas experiences this year” – from the Gospel Christmas Project blog

Don’t miss this year’s most-uplifting holiday presentation. There are two shows only, and tickets are going fast!

The Young Centre For The Performing Arts
55 Mill Street, Building 49
Distillery District
2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Tickets: $20 – $45


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.


Gene Simmons Teams Up With Belinda Stronach

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

(November 26, 2008) Global glory and unimaginable wealth may have eluded the vast majority of hard-working Canadian pop and rock bands for decades, but those days are over, says Gene Simmons, the self-made rock 'n' roll squillionaire, American marketing superstar and founder of the cartoonish glam-rock band KISS.

"I have a new business model that will get Canadian bands out on tour, onto television and into the world's mainstream," Simmons said last night as he laid out some of the details behind plans to relaunch his dormant Canadian label, Simmons Records. It's a new joint venture between the star of the hit reality TV series Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Magna auto parts heiress and former Tory/Liberal MP
Belinda Stronach, and Universal Music Canada.

"The idea is to have the bands we sign develop a strong Canadian identity first in Canada, then move them onto the world stage," said Simmons, who is in Toronto "for a few days" to finalize the deal, scout talent and take care of the Canadian ends of other businesses – books, comic books, advertising and merchandising – that he helps run under the Los Angeles-based umbrella company Simmons Abramson Marketing.

"For years, the only way Canadian acts could make it was to go to the States and more or less become an American band. In the new music marketing age, that doesn't have to happen."

The connection with Stronach, for four years a silent partner in a Canadian talent development company, Big Bold Sun Music, was coincidental, Simmons said.

"I've known the Stronach family for years. Our company handles the promotion and merchandising for Frank's Energy Drink, which was created by Frank Stronach, Belinda's father.

"When (Universal Music Canada president) Randy Lennox and I were talking about the new label, and the philosophy of new business models, he mentioned Belinda might be looking to invest in a new music company. It made sense to me."

Simmons is looking to sign three Canadian acts a year to his label – "pop, pop-rock and rock, and we're even interested in rap artists, as long as they've got something different going for them, like a sense of humour."

He has his eye on the Toronto progressive hip-hop band Down With Webster as his first signing.

"They're peculiar and eccentric, a cross between Arrested Development, Sly & The Family Stone and Red Hot Chili Peppers," Simmons said. "Their music is like a stew that's made out of familiar ingredients but tastes different because of the way it's blended and cooked."

Acts signed to the label will also star in a Canadian-made reality TV series for a network Simmons is not at liberty to name.

"We'll follow them from the time they start making their first album, and make moves to say goodbye to their families and girlfriends, and go out on the road ... like leaving home to join the circus."

The bands and their music will also be featured in merchandising and product advertising campaigns, and movies and TV shows, Simmons said, adding that financing for the new venture amounts to "millions."

The label will offer its artists a version of the all-inclusive and controversial "360-degree" deal, which will make the record company a partner in touring, merchandising, publishing, licensing, television and product placement revenues, Simmons said.

"Canadian labels have been trying to do something like this for years. What's different this time is me. I know how to make things happen."

Toronto Man Returns To Ethiopia A Pop Star

Source: www.thestar.com - John Goddard,
Staff Reporter

(November 20, 2008) A Toronto man who once fled Ethiopia in terror is to return Saturday as the country's No. 1 pop star.

Kemer Yousef, who escaped on foot with nothing 24 years ago, has scored an unprecedented video hit with Nabek, a seven-track DVD showing him singing from a yacht in Toronto Harbour and dancing on the steps of Casa Loma. Clamour for his return has become so great that the central government is helping to arrange a six-concert homecoming tour that opens Dec. 7 at the East African country's largest indoor venue – Addis Ababa's 20,000-seat Millennium Hall.

For Kemer (Yousef is his father's name) the tour means seeing his family for the first time since he escaped across the desert to Somalia at the age of 20. His mother is in her 70s. His father is 103.

The tour also means singing to former enemies.

Kemer belongs to the Oromo ethnic majority, long oppressed by successive ruling minorities, who are now as swept up by the pop phenomenon as anybody else.

"Ethiopia has more than 70 ethnic groups and languages," tour co-producer Bumiden Abdul Wahab explains by phone from the central city of Adama. "Normally people only listen to their own music, follow their own traditions.

"Kemer shook up the country," he says. "He broke the barrier. Every time you turn on the radio – in whatever language – you hear his music.

"If you ask 10 people, at least nine have his CD."

Kemer is a broad-shouldered man with a magnetic grin and a warm, tender way of expressing himself.

He grew up in an oral and singing culture in the village of Golu, near the town of Deder, in east-central Ethiopia. Villagers had enough to eat, he says. The famine regions lay elsewhere.

But throughout his childhood, the successive governments of Emperor Haile Selassie and Mengistu Haile Mariam relentlessly persecuted the Oromo.

"You cannot even call yourself Oromo," Kemer says of the Selassie period. "If you dress as Oromo, if you write Oromo language, you will be killed."

Of the Mengistu period, he says: "I remember one night when they came and took my uncle and for no reason they shot him in front of the door.

"You cannot even grieve and not even scream," Kemer says.

"If you scream, if you cry, they will kill you. Then they ask (your family) to pay for the bullet you get killed with."

In 1984, Golu's elders pooled their resources to help their young people escape. Thousands of people mobilized and with dozens of classmates Kemer caught a ride east to the rallying point of Jijiga.

He joined a camel caravan of about 200 people on a three-day march to the border. Most died on the way. Snakes killed some. Bandits killed many others, stole their animals, and raped and abducted many of the women, leaving 37 survivors.

In 1987, after much suffering, Kemer made it to Toronto. He now lives in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

"I have a song in my language," he recalled several years ago on CBC Radio's Global Village.

"I say, `Thank you, Canada, for wiping my tears, for listening to my cry, for reaching for me with a long hand, far away in Africa, and giving me this opportunity to be a human being, to be somebody, to sing again for others.'"

Throughout the hard times, music remained important to Kemer. In refugee camps, he made up songs about refugee life. At a transient centre in Rome, he sang as he mopped floors.

In Toronto, after learning English and taking an electronics course, he assembled a band from musicians he met mostly in subway stations.

In 1993, he found a role model. Ali Birra, the only Ethiopian Oromo star of the 1960s and 1970s, moved to Toronto.

"Ali Birra is a reference singer for all Oromo people," says French musicologist Francis Falceto, the brains behind Ethiopiques, a hit world-music CD series mining the best of that golden era.

"I didn't give Kemer much help, really," Birra says at home in Pickering, where he now lives.

"He's a very good learner. He watches. He picks things up and improves them."

Kemer developed a niche, playing Oromo political and social events in Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, Dallas and Washington, D.C. He played in Australia and travelled to Amsterdam, Oslo, Frankfurt and Rome. He married an Oromo woman he met in Munich.

He constantly innovated. Instead of standing still like most Ethiopian singers, he danced and ran. To enhance melodies, he mixed pentatonic and diatonic scales – "like Kenny G," he says.

For the homecoming tour, he trained three Caucasian Toronto female dancers – Jennifer Dallas, Elisha MacMillan and Yaelle Wittes – to dance Oromo-style and sing backup lines.

"People are so excited," he says. "They want to see how Canadian girls can dance Shaggoyyee, Ragada, Gattumi and Skista."

In 1997, Kemer's brother Redwan escaped to Kenya. Kemer got him to Canada. Within weeks Redwan landed a job in a variety store at Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave., and on his first day at the cash register two thieves walked in and shot him in the back. He survived but remains traumatized.

"The bullet followed me from Africa," Kemer says fatalistically.

About five years ago, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi opened a dialogue with expatriate Oromo communities in Europe and North America.

"The system changed, the people changed, I changed," Kemer says of his broader themes in recent years of love between men and women, love for humankind, and love for Ethiopian village life.

The changes brought a new infectiousness and universality to his songs, and opened him to the new, mass audience.

John Goddard is accompanying Kemer Yousef on his homecoming tour to Ethiopia. Follow their journey in the Star's Entertainment section.

Dancing with DeGeneres

Source:  Kam Williams

Born in Metairie, Louisiana on January 26, 1958, Ellen Lee DeGeneres attended the University of New Orleans after graduating from high school, but dropped out following her first semester. After a number of unsatisfying jobs, Ellen’s started out in showbiz as an emcee at a comedy club in New Orleans. By 1982 she had already landed national recognition when her videotaped stand-up performances led to her being named the “Funniest Person in America” by Showtime.

Ms. DeGeneres then moved to Los Angeles to film her first HBO Special. That same year, she made history on the Tonight Show by becoming the first female comedian to be summoned by Johnny Carson to sit down with him after a performance.

Her acting career began on TV on the Fox sitcom, “Open House,” and she was subsequently offered a part on ABC’s “These Friends of Mine” which was renamed “Ellen” en route to enjoying a successful run from 1994 to 1998. During the series’ fourth season, Ellen came out publicly as lesbian on the Oprah Winfrey Show, as did her character in an episode watched by a record 46 million viewers.

A beloved entertainment icon, Ellen’s distinct brand of humour comic has resonated with audiences not only on television, but on the big screen (Finding Nemo) and as the author of two books. However, she’s found a home in the daytime arena with her hit syndicated talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” now in its sixth season, which has now earned a total of 25 Daytime Emmy Awards.

 Here, she talks about
Ellen’s Really Big Show, an annual special she’s again hosting for TBS. The one-hour variety special, filmed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is set to air on Saturday November 29th at 9 PM (ET/PT). During our spirited chat, Ellen also talked about the Presidential Election and about both Barack and Michelle Obama’s dance moves. And since she married her long-time companion, Portia de Rossi, in August, she was willing to weigh-in on the passage of Proposition 8 in California, a measure banning gay marriage in the state.

KW: Hi Ellen, thanks for the time. 

ED: Well, thank you. 

KW: You danced with both Barack and Michelle on the show. So, which one’s the better dancer? 

ED: Well, I think that we agree that Michelle was. But I think that's good. I would be worried if he was a good dancer because that would mean he’s not spending enough time working. I always worry when someone’s a good golfer, too. It's like you shouldn't have time to be good at anything. You should just be a politician and you shouldn't have time to practice golf or dancing. So I am thrilled that Michelle’s a better dancer. Although he is a good dancer, better than a lot of people that I have seen on the show.

KW: Were you surprised at how much play the dance clips from your show got on all the cable news channels? 

ED: No, I wasn't that surprised about that. I guess when you get the political candidates to dance, well actually only one danced, that’s going to get some play. I have the picture of Barack and me dancing right outside of my dressing room door, I see it every single day, and it makes me very happy.

KW: Where did you develop your dance moves?

ED: I get my dance moves from just moving around and listening to music and not really worrying about if it's perfect or not. 

KW: I see you have Tony Okunbogwa back this season as the show’s DJ. How is that working out? 

ED: I love Tony, I love his music; I love his style, so I am thrilled to have Tony back. 

KW: Have you heard from Senator McCain since his appearance on your show, since your awkward exchange?   

ED: No. I don’t think we're going to keep in touch anyway. I mean, I would be  

glad to take a call from him. He seems like a nice guy. That was a moment that was an obvious question for me to ask, if he doesn’t really agree with equality, and that’s what it really boils down to is equality. I wasn't going to give him too hard of a time because I understand that that's what he believes and I wasn't going to change anything. I wasn’t there to change his mind, I just wanted to present a very obvious case that we are all the same and we all deserve to have equal rights. But I am glad people watched it and, like I said, I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. That’s not my job. It's not the kind of show I ever want to do. 

KW: Do you care to comment on the outcome of the election?

ED: I was thrilled, and really proud as a lot of people are about it. It was energizing that Obama got in and I felt excited about that. But the next day, especially because Obama got in, there was a big loud voice saying you were not equal to us. And that feels bad. That feels really, really bad. And if anybody could put themselves in that situation of feeling a giant loud voice saying you don’t deserve the same rights, you are different and you are not equal, it feels really bad. So it took a little bit of air out of me from the excitement from the night before. I do feel hopeful and excited. But certainly that was an emotional day for me. The next day, I'm trying to do a show when I felt that sad inside. But I've kind of bounced back. I feel good now. I'm not really a political comedian. So I think I'm done with that. I don’t think I will be commenting further.

KW:  I watched your show the day you mentioned Keith Olbermann’s commentary about Proposition Eight.

ED: I thought Keith Olbermann was so brilliant and eloquent, and that what he said is all that needs to be said. It's on our website and I hope that everybody watches it. I am sure you can find it just about anywhere. It really is just about following your heart and people really paying attention to what the right thing is. 

KW: I also read an article in the LA Times by Steve Lopez where he said that what the gay movement needs is a black Elton John, a black icon.

ED: I don't understand that statement about a black Elton John. But it needs for

people to not be ignorant. It needs for people to open their minds and understand. It is a fundamental right for people to be allowed to love who they want to love and marry who they want to marry and stop holding on to some form of discrimination that it’s just isn't fair. And if you look back, as you know if you watched what Keith Olbermann talked about, this happened to black people. It’s crazy that we're still holding on to some form of this. So I don't know what it is going to take, but I do have faith that people will realize that this is wrong. 

KW:  What the writer was suggesting with that black Elton John comment was that, although the African-American community is generally liberal, it tends for some reason to be somewhat homophobic and anti-gay marriage. And it would help if a black superstar would come out. 

ED: Well, I think, unfortunately, it all comes down to certain cultures are just

more accepting or less accepting. I understand what you're saying about that stigma and unfortunately there are a lot of very well-known black people that are gay but unfortunately closeted. And that doesn't help things that people are not able to live their lives honestly. Do you come out and just force people to deal with it, or do you wait for it to be accepted and then people get to live their lives honestly and openly? Which comes first? It's a big risk for people to have a big career and come out. And that's because of what's going on, but it would change things if people would live their lives in a way that's healthier for them really. It's not really helping anybody to live a life that isn't true to themselves. But I don't know, I have faith that people will, even without some type of a symbol, open their minds and their hearts. 

KW: Have you gotten any negative feedback from people about your marriage?

ED:  I think I am probably protected from a lot of stuff that would be negative. I know there's always going to be feedback no matter what the subject. I mean I am shocked by somebody commenting on my shoes or my clothes. Everyone has an opinion and especially now more and more, everyone is logging about everything and has an opinion.  So I can't possibly pay attention to that.  Listen, I am sure that there are station managers that carry the show in certain markets that aren't really thrilled with it because they probably are the people that would vote yes on Proposition 8.  They don't agree with gay marriage, they don't understand it, and probably were a little fearful in the first place of an openly gay person. So, I am sure people have opinions about it and I am sure they don’t really love me anyway, any which way I go. So, I can't really pay attention to that. I just have to speak from my heart. I don't really ever get political on the show. But to me that was not political. To me this is just about equality and about something that is way, way overdue.  But to answer your question, I am sure some people don't like it. 

KW: Are there topics that Ellen, the stand-up comedian, would touch on your upcoming special that Ellen, the talk show host, wouldn’t do on her daytime show? 

ED:   There is really no difference between Ellen, the stand-up, or Ellen, the talk show host, or even Ellen at home. The humour that I’m still writing that you see every day on the show is the same as when I did stand-up, as when I toured. It’s just kind of commentating on absurdities and human behaviour. So, as far as the special how goes, it’s not like I'm going to be topless or start cursing all of a sudden. It’s pretty much the same. Although now that I mentioned it, I may be topless.  That’s sounds actually kind of exciting. 

KW: What can we expect from this year's special as compared to last year's, anything different or anything big plans? 

ED:  Well, as the title says, it's even bigger. And, I think that's says it all. Last year it was really, really big. This year, even bigger. And you know what that means! I don't know. I think it's going to be the same kind of excitement, the same kind of acts that you have never seen before. We brought in people from all over the world that are fascinating to watch and I think most of you are going to just sit there and wonder how they even thought of this idea that that would be a possibility as a talent. That's what I am going for. 

KW: Of the other comedians who will be performing, Jerry Seinfeld, Katt

Williams, Mike Epps, Jamie Kennedy, etcetera, do you have a favourite? 

ED: I don't really have a favourite comedian. And it wouldn't be fair for me to say.  But I think, I mean, obviously Seinfeld is just so smart, so funny. And there will be a lot of new comedians that I haven't seen. I hope I get to go see some of them because I really haven't seen any of the newer comedians, because I'm always so busy. 

KW: Do you miss doing stand-up? 

ED: I don't miss traveling and sleeping in a hotel every night. I mean that touring 

got really old. I did it for 15 years and I had no idea I was going to be a talk show host, but I used to joke with the audience at the end of my set that someday I am going to make you come to me, and I'm not going to come to you anymore. And now they do come to me. So, I still get to do stand-up every single day. I love that live energy exchange between the audience and myself, and to get to say the things I want to say and comment on.

KW: Is there any guest you haven't been able to book on the show? 

ED: Bono, because I think he's an amazing man for what he does as a humanitarian even more so than as a musician. And George Clooney, of course, we're going to capture him one day. We're going after him and he has eluded us, but we will get him. Of course, now I want Keith Olbermann on, just because I love him and I think he's brilliant

KW:  Why you think people should tune in to a comedy special at this time, considering the tough economy? 

ED: Well I think people need to laugh everyday, even more so now. Whether the economy is good or bad, I think the most important thing is to laugh and to feel positive, if you are laughing at something positive. But if you are laughing at mean jokes then it's a wash

KW: What is your process when you are trying out new material? 

ED:  I am the opposite of Chris Rock and Seinfeld and Leno and everybody.  I never try out material. When I did the Oscars, when I do anything, I write it and I just have a gut feeling and I just keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until I think have the wording right and know what I want to say and I just say it. I don't ever go to clubs and try it out. I have writers here with the show and we collaborate on that and the same thing with this special coming up. So, I just have a feeling of what I want to say and what is the right wording and I don't ask anybody. In the very beginning, I made lots of mistakes. I did some stuff on stage that clearly didn’t go over, but you know you just keep trying, and I think part of the fun, especially early on, is letting the audience see the mistakes. They love to see that. They like to see the process. So yeah, that's always how I've done it. 

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

ED: I'm very happy. 

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid? 

ED: Afraid! No, I'm not afraid. I'm sometimes sad. Afraid of what, just in general? 

KW: The way I got that question was I asked Columbus if there’s any question nobody ever asked him that he wished someone would, and he said, “Yeah, are you ever afraid?”

ED: Oh, really. What was his answer?

KW: Yes. 

ED: I wouldn't even think to say that. No, never. I don't really ever live my life in fear. I really live my life in gratitude and feeling positive for the most part, except for the other day that happened. That was sad to me, but then I realized that everything happens for a reason and it has caused this movement of people kind of standing up and saying this isn't fair. So I kind of accept everything, that it's all perfect. 

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks, what was the last book you read? 

ED: Probably Wayne Dyer's book, The Power of Intention. 

KW:  And Music maven Heather Covington’s question: What music are you listening to? 

ED: God, I listen to so many different things. Last night I was listening to Anthony Hamilton and Coldplay. 

KW: My wife just saw Anthony Hamilton in concert this week.  She loved him. Thanks again for the interview, Ellen, and best of luck with everything.  

ED:  Thank you. 

To see a video of Ellen dancing with Barack Obama, go HERE.

To see a video of Ellen dancing with Michelle Obama, go HERE.

Power Couple

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

(November 22, 2008) It's rare that the entertainment gods allow both partners in a marriage to step into the spotlight at the same time, but that's just what's happening this coming week to Colm and Donna Feore, the "first couple of Canadian show business."

Tomorrow night, Colm makes his first appearance as a regular character on 24 in a special two-hour TV movie prequel, Redemption (Global/Fox at 8 p.m.), while on Thursday evening, musical comedy stage veteran Donna will debut as the director of a straight play when It's a Wonderful Life opens for the Canadian Stage Company at the Bluma Appel Theatre.

They're both riding the crests of incredibly successful careers these days, but a double play like this is still cause for celebration, so they are marking their good fortune with dinner at Nota Bene.

You might think a duo as glamorous as the Feores do the fast-lane restaurant number all the time, but nothing could be farther than the truth.

"The first question I always ask myself about every job," insists Colm, "is how much time I'm going to have to spend away from home."

Home is a gorgeous house in Stratford – literally, a stone's throw from the Festival Theatre – where they live with their three children.

"I know it would be easier if we had all moved to Los Angeles years ago," Donna concedes, "but we both decided that Canada is where we wanted to raise our kids."

Most of their lives are spent juggling their respective calendars around who's going to be home, who's working in New York or Europe, who's making dinner (usually Colm) and who's ferrying the kids to their various sporting events (usually Donna). With all that, you can understand Colm's answer to the question, "What did it feel like when you were offered a role on 24?"

He raises one eyebrow. "I told my agent, `I don't know how to tell you what I feel until I check with Donna.'"

So he called her from London, where he was shooting a movie, and said, "This is a stupidly good opportunity. I don't think I can pass this up, but it will f--- up our lives."

Luckily for all concerned, Donna's answer was: "Go ahead and do it. We'll make sense of this when we get a chance to."

The part is a fascinating one. Colm was asked to play Henry Taylor, the husband to Allison Taylor, the first woman president in American history.

The fact that two-time Tony award-winner Cherry Jones would be playing his wife made the deal even more attractive.

"I don't know if they knew what they were getting when they hired Cherry," quips Colm. "Not only is she the best actress in New York, but she can be presidential just standing there."

Discussing details of 24 with a cast member is always a tricky business because of the cloak of security the producers insist on wrapping around everyone.

"Our one rule in the house," Donna says with mock gravity, "was that no 24 scripts were to be left out."

"Because you're weak," Colm taunts.

"Okay," Donna admits, "I looked at one. I love that show. It makes my heart race."

Colm is surprisingly forthcoming, however, about some details concerning his character.

"Cherry and I have had a tragedy in our lives," he reveals. "Our son has died, but we have differing opinions about why and how it happened. I become fixated on finding out the truth and everyone else tells me I'm being delusional. But, somehow, it all dovetails with the stories about Jack Bauer and the big guns and world terror."

Pausing with a piece of pasta close to his mouth, he adds, "Oh, and by the way, Tony Almeida isn't dead," referring to Jack's right-hand man apparently slain in Season 5.

"Colm!" chides a shocked Donna.

"Oh, everybody knows that," he says with a grin. "It's all over the Internet."

Sunday night's two-hour movie is meant to set the stage for the January debut of Season 7 of 24, which was delayed a full year owing to both the Hollywood writers' strike and internal problems relating to script and budget.

"I think, originally, they wanted to shoot a lot of Season 7 in Africa, but it was just too expensive," Colm explains. "But, now, they put it into the prequel and, I tell you, it's very timely, very politically charged stuff. I'll be curious to see how much makes it to air."

Getting on the air is also the theme of Donna's current project, because the adaptation of Frank Capra's classic 1946 film, It's a Wonderful Life, which she's directing, is set as a radio play of the period.

"I don't know how else you could do it," she admits. "It's such an episodic film and such an iconic one that if you tried to duplicate any of its scenes totally, people would always just compare it to the movie.

"This way, they get a certain amount of distance and novelty, which makes them look at the material in a different way. It's really a simple story and doing it as a radio play removes all the excess fat and lets us concentrate on the story."

The original film, with its tale of how a seemingly prosperous town suddenly totters on the edge of bankruptcy thanks to problems at a savings and loan company and the machinations of a greedy banker, has some scary echoes in today's headlines.

"I'm shocked at how relevant it is and I'm always surprised by how much it still moves me," Donna says.

"It's about one individual asking what his whole life has been worth, which is something we're all doing a lot more of these days."

This summer brings the Feores back to Stratford, where Colm is playing Macbeth and Cyrano, the latter directed by Donna. After that, will there be another year of 24 for Colm?

"I only signed for one season," he hedges. "I don't know if they have any further use for me or not."

When asked if that means he's alive at the end of Season 7, he tries to shove the words back into his mouth.

"Oops, that's plot. Can't tell you that." Then he smiles wickedly. "I will say one thing, though: This is one program where you really don't know from week to week whether or not your head is going to blow up."

Chris Brown Sweeps AMAs

www.globeandmail.com - Dean Goodman, Reuters

(November 24, 2008)  LOS ANGELES — R&B singer Chris Brown swept the American Music Awards on Sunday, winning three prizes, including artist of the year.

He overshadowed Alicia Keys, who led the field with five nominations, and ended up with a pair of statuettes. She was considered the favourite for artist of the year, the ceremony's final award.

Brown was clearly shocked when his name was announced. He said he would have given the award to British rock band Coldplay, which was nominated for four awards, but went home empty-handed.

The 19-year-old star was also named favourite male artist in both the soul/R&B and pop/rock categories. His girlfriend, Rihanna, won those categories for the women.

Keys' awards were for her chart-topping disc, As I Am, which was named favourite album in the soul/R&B and pop/rock categories.

Other multiple winners included outspoken rapper Kanye West, who has never been afraid to express his dismay when he is overlooked at awards shows. He won the first two American Music Awards of his career, but said he would give one of them away to fellow nominee, Lil Wayne.

"If it was last year, this would have been my award," he said of the favourite male rap/hip-hop category. "This year, it's Wayne's award. We'll see what happens next year."

Earlier, he won for the statuette for favourite rap/hip-hop album with Graduation. West challenged musicians of all genres to push each other, and to reclaim the spirit of artists like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. In his case, he declared, "I wanna be Elvis!"

But host Jimmy Kimmel retorted a little later, "Elvis died on the toilet with half a jelly doughnut in his mouth, so you might want to rethink that one."

For the second year, winners were determined by online voting. They used to be decided by a poll of 20,000 music buyers, but producers decided to make the event more inclusive in the wake of slumping ratings. The move seemed to work, with last year's show attracting 11.8 million viewers, up from 10.9 million the year before.

The performance-heavy event spanned the generations, from Disney starlet Miley Cyrus, who turned 16 on Sunday, to former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox. The Scottish rocker received a lifetime achievement award and said, "I never thought that I would live to see the day that I would be 53 years' old standing on the stage."


Following is a complete list of winners at the 36th annual American Music Awards, which took place on Sunday at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.


Chris Brown


Favourite male artist - Chris Brown

Favourite female artist - Rihanna

Favourite band, duo or group - Daughtry

Favourite album - Alicia Keys, As I Am.


Favourite male artist - Brad Paisley

Favourite female artist - Taylor Swift

Favourite band, duo or group - Rascal Flatts

Favourite album - Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride


Favourite male artist - Chris Brown

Favourite female artist - Rihanna

Favourite album - Alicia Keys, As I Am


Favourite male artist - Kanye West

Favourite band, duo or group - Three 6 Mafia

Favourite album - Kanye West, Graduation


Favourite artist - Jordin Sparks


Favourite artist - Enrique Iglesias


Favourite artist - Linkin Park


Favourite artist - Third Day


Favourite album - Alvin and the Chipmunks


The Jonas Brothers


Annie Lennox


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Top 39 Caribbean Destinations

Source: www.thestar.com - Austin Considine,
Special To The Star

(November 22, 2008) This hasn’t been a great year so far for the Caribbean tourism industry. Seven named hurricanes have hit the region this fall, an earthquake registering 6.1 rocked parts of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, and the global financial meltdown has made people increasingly skittish about taking a vacation this winter.

But with new hotels continuing to open, high-end resorts raising the bar on amenities, family-oriented getaways expanding their offerings and talented chefs starting restaurants that are transforming the region’s culinary scene, there are plenty of reasons for vacationers to seek some solace in the sand and surf of the Caribbean this winter.

1. Anguilla, already the home of famed upscale resorts like Cap Juluca and CuisinArt, gets yet another big-name player in April when the Kor Group, whose Viceroy brand has planted its flag in places like Palm Springs, South Beach and the Riviera Maya, officially opens the Viceroy Anguilla, (800-357-1930.)
Rooms start at $550 (U.S.) a night. (Unless otherwise noted, all prices quoted here are U.S. for double occupancy and for low season.)

2. Does that sound too posh for you? Then, for a bit of old-school-style Anguilla flavour, check out the new Elvis Beach Bar (264-476-0101), a Class C racing sailboat that in 2007 was converted into a bar and restaurant, and features live music every weekend.

3. The neighbouring islands of Antigua and Barbuda have been in the midst of a tourism boom. Among the additions to the local scene are a major expansion of Sandals Antigua Caribbean Village and the opening of the Lighthouse Bay Resort (888-836-5427), on the pink sands of Barbuda’s Palm Beach, a narrow sandbar just off the mainland. Rooms start at $679, with all meals included.

4. On the southeast coast of Antigua, St. James’ Club and Villas opened its Mamora Bay Divers scuba centre (1-800-345-0356) last spring, giving guests of the secluded, 40-hectare resort a chance to explore the marine life teeming around the reefs and shipwrecks off the coast. Dive packages start at $75, with equipment rental. 

5. The Bob Marley legend may have been born in Jamaica, but it lives on in the Bahamas at the Marley Resort and Spa (242-702-2800), which was opened on Nassau Island in July by members of the Marley family. It has 16 luxury villas, an organic produce restaurant and an extensive spa. Rooms start at $450. 

6. On Paradise Island, the Atlantis resort (888-877-7525) unveiled a 497-room tower, Reef Atlantis, last December, and continues to burnish its eco-friendly reputation with the expansion of its Blue Tourism project: a collaborative effort aimed at studying and conserving natural reef habitats. Rooms at the tower start at $340 a night, with $10 from each booking going toward the conservation program.

 7. Bigger is better seems to be the philosophy of the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort (800-367-3484;), in the Palm Beach area of Aruba, which is more than doubling the size of its resort. It is adding a new complex of accommodation, restaurants, pools and landscaped grounds, giving it the largest room count on the island. Rooms in the new complex start at $350.

8. St. Lucia continues to attract developers looking to expand on the high-end of the market. The latest arrival: Cap Maison, (44-208-812-4734 ), offering 50 luxury rooms and 22 private residences atop a seaside cliff in Cap Estate, overlooking a secluded beach. Rooms start at around $405 a night.

9. Visitors to Aruba also have a couple of new dining options. The 325-seat beachfront restaurant La Vista, at the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino (297-586-9000), features contemporary Italian fusion cuisine; and at the Old Man and the Sea (297-735-0840), in Savaneta, you can enjoy the catch of the day right on the beach or in a private dining room at the end of the pier. 

10. Long a playground for the rich and famous, Barbados continues to build upon and enhance its luxury offerings. The legendary Sandy Lane (866-444-4080; ), a resort known for its celebrity clientele and for rates that start at $1,000 a night, has upgraded (if that’s possible) in the off-season, with the renovation of the Bajan Blue restaurant - with a different theme every evening - and of its spa.

11. But what if you aren’t Mick Jagger? Or even K-Fed? Try the Settlers’ Beach Hotel (246-422-3052; www.settlersbeachhotel.com), which just opened a beachside Italian restaurant and bar in February, Spago. Rooms at the hotel start at slightly less than those at Sandy Lane, at $134 a night.

12. Also on Barbados, the 267-room Almond Casuarina Beach Resort (246-620-3600; www.almondresorts.com), an eco-friendly resort that uses solar power, opened in May on Maxwell Beach after having been bought and rebuilt by Almond Resorts. The refurbishments include 100 new rooms, new restaurants and new pools. Rooms start at $450 a night, with specials available through much of December.

13. Coming to Grand Cayman, on West Bay, is Lighthouse Point (345-946-5658; www.lighthouse-point-cayman.com), another environmentally friendly resort that hopes to generate 17,000 watts of its own power daily. Condos and rentals are scheduled to open in March, starting at $2,800 a week.

14. Bay Streeters who still have a job in 2009 might want to celebrate in Virgin Gorda, at the new Aquamare Villas (787-61-2638; www.villaaquamare.com), a tiny, three-villa cluster on Mahoe Bay. Each beachfront villa is 8,000 square feet, with three master bedrooms. As one might expect, such opulence doesn’t come cheap. ``Discounted” introductory rates are available until Dec. 15: $12,500 a week. They jump to $25,000 a week during the holidays

15. Known above all for its rusticity, Dominica’s newest developments are characteristically nature-oriented and eco-minded. On the luxury end, opening in late January is Rosalie Bay - A Nature Resort (767-440-4439; www.rosaliebay.com). The 28-room boutique property is on a nine-hectare plot along a black-sand beach that is a “prime nesting area” for endangered turtles, the hotel says. Introductory rates for the new resort start at $200 a room until June 1, when turtle nesting season begins, and rates go up to $250.

16. Also on Dominica, Sea Cliff Cottages (613-756-3116; www.dominica-cottages.com) has opened the fifth of its quaint, seriously affordable cottages perched on a cliff overlooking the beaches of Hodges Bay. Off-peak rates for a studio cottage start at $70 a night and increase to a whopping $90 a night during the winter season.

17. Change has been coming to the Dominican Republic in recent years. First, five-star resorts transformed this longtime budget getaway; now, it is the “resort within a resort” concept, giving guests a sense of seclusion - often with private pools and restaurants while still offering all the resources of a bigger resort. Tiara, at the Club Med Punta Cana (809-686-5500; www.clubmed.us) on the easternmost tip of the island is among them, a development geared toward families, offering a cluster of 32 spacious oceanfront suites and a private infinity pool and bar. Opened in May, it is part of a $34-million makeover that also includes a full service spa; an upgraded, more healthful menu; and a new mini-water park and upgraded skate park. Suites at the Tiara start at $3,010 for a seven-night stay, and including dining, drinks and activities.

18. Also in Punta Cana, look for the Moon Palace Casino, Golf and Spa Resort (800-635-1836; www.palaceresorts.com), opening in two phases in 2009, the first in January. When completed, it looks to be the largest resort in Punta Cana, with 2,103 rooms, with rates from $466 a night.

19. Eco-tourists may want to check out the Cayman Diving Lodge (800-852-3483; www.divelodge.com), on the east end of Grand Cayman Island, which is set to open in March, and which management is claiming will be the first totally green building in the Grand Caymans. Built of recycled materials and powered by solar panels and a wind turbine, the lodge’s dive facilities are complemented by 12 rooms and 12 condos. Prices are not yet set.

20. The British developer Peter de Savary is calling Grenada the new St. Tropez - in no small part because of the millions he is pouring into developing several properties on that famously rustic island. Among them is Mount Cinnamon, (866-720-2616; www.mountcinnamongrenada.com), which opened last March on Grand Anse Beach. The resort climbs a quiet hillside that overlooks the sea and features an extensive spa, steeped in traditional West Indian remedies. Rooms start at $500.

21. Also, on Grenada, an old favourite is back. LaSource (888-527-0044; www.theamazingholiday.com) has reopened this year after years of reconstruction following the wreckage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Set on Pink Gin Beach on the island’s southwestern tip, the resort offers a relaxing atmosphere (no children under 16 are admitted most of the year), with room rates starting at $315 per person, including daily spa treatments and a host of outdoor activities.

 22. The intimate, nine-room Villa St. Pierre (596-596-786-845, www.hotel-villastpierre.com) is a recent addition to Martinique’s hotel scene, having opened just last month in the heart of historic St.-Pierre, which in 1902 was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Pelee. Also coming to Martinique: Cap Macabou (596-596-742-424; www.capmacabou.com), a so-called “hotel de charme,” with 44 rooms, set to open this month.

 23. Although Guadeloupe won’t see much in the way of new accommodations this year, several established locations have undergone renovations for the coming season, as the island continues to modernize. Notable examples include the Blue Season Hotel Fleur D’Epee (590-5-904-000; www.hotel-fleur-depee.com), which recently renovated all its rooms and reconstructed its diving center.

 24. Jamaica is experiencing staggering growth, with a bevy of new developments, particularly at the higher end, bringing hundreds of new rooms to the island. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more extravagant, it did. On a lagoon near Port Antonio, Kanopi House (www.kanopihouse.com), sister property to the posh Kamalame in the Bahamas, opens Dec. 12, with 10-person-maximum suites running $5,000 a night.

25. Also on Jamaica, Iberostar Hotels and Resorts (876-680-0000; www.iberostar.com), a Spanish resort chain, opened the first phase of its Rose Hall complex in Montego Bay in 2007, recently completed Phase 2 and expects to complete Phase 3 this month, bringing the total number of its rooms to 978. Rates start at $110 a person a night.

 26. On the north shore of Jamaica, about 25 miles from Montego Bay near Lucea, two Grand Palladium resorts (876-620-0000; www.fiestahotelgroup.com) - both claiming five stars, but relatively affordable - opened in July: the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa, and the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa. Rooms for each start at around $200 a night.

 27. With just six rooms (each of which can accommodate four guests), the no-frills, beachside Coral Paradise Resort (877-267-2572; www.coralparadise.com) on Bonaire, is surely an antidote to the big-resort trend sweeping the rest of the Caribbean. But the resort, which opened in April, doesn’t stint on service, offering 24-hour shore-dive access, daily boat dives and next-door proximity to the popular Captain Don’s Habitat diving center. At $160 a night for two guests (and $35 for each extra person in a room) in peak season, it’s also eminently affordable.

28. On Curacao, the largest of the Netherlands Antilles, the Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino (599-9-435-5000; www.renaissancecuracao.com) is set to open Dec. 1 in Willemstad, making it one of the first full-service resorts to appear on Curacao since the early 1990s. The Renaissance sits on the waterfront at the 19th-century Rif Fort, which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Rooms start at $267.

29. Families thinking about a vacation in Puerto Rico this winter might want to check out the new Coqui Water Park at El Conquistador Resort and Golden Door Spa (866-317-8932; www.elconresort.com), part of a $110 million renovation that was completed last February.

30. Just east of Old San Juan, in the beachside community of Condado, Puerto Rica, La Concha, a Renaissance Resort (787-721-7500; www.laconcharesort.com), reopened late last year after years of restoration and $220 million in reinvestment. The hotel, which first opened in 1958, has retained its trademark seashell-shaped restaurant, designed by Mario Salvatori.

31. Originally scheduled to open last summer, the Radisson St. Martin Resort (888-201-1718; www.radisson.com/stmartin) is now set to open on Dec. 8 on the secluded beach cove of Anse Marcel, on the French side of the island. With 63 suites and 189 rooms, the resort will feature a beachfront restaurant, a tapas bar in the lobby and a 150-slip marina. Rooms start at limited introductory rates from 309 euros, about $393 at $1.30 to the euro.

32. On St. Kitts, the Beach House Restaurant (869-469-5299; www.stkittsbeachhouse.com) ramps up the luxury quotient on the local dining scene, offering panoramic views of Nevis, and a kitchen headed by George Reid, of Cap Juluca fame.

33. On St. John, stop in for a bite at the new St. John Waterfront Bistro (340-777-7755; www.thewaterfrontbistro.com), on Cruz Bay beach. Opened last February, this French-Caribbean hybrid offers items like poached Caribbean lobster tail with tomato-fennel broth, roasted sweet corn, leeks, crispy garlic and creamy white corn polenta.

34. Also on St. Lucia, Calabash Cove Resort and Spa (758-456-3500; www.calabashcove.com) opens its doors next month, offering oceanside accommodations at Mason Point overlooking Bonaire Bay. Rooms start at $295.

35. Usually a safe bet during hurricane season, parts of the Turks and Caicos were hit hard by Hurricane Ike this summer. But the vast majority of the country’s resorts and most popular beaches received just a few bumps and bruises, and the damage was cleaned up quickly. Not only are the resorts on track, there are several new offerings this year - unsurprising, given the island’s meteoric rise as a hot vacation spot. Among them: the Grace Bay Club, which in February is opening the Estate (649-946-8323; www.estateatgracebayclub.com), a group of 22 residences, as part of its $250 million expansion and renovation; the 22-acre Seven Stars Resort (866-570-7777; www.sevenstarsresort.com) on Grace Bay beach, which opened in July; and the Nikki Beach Resort (649-941-3747; www.nikkibeachhotels.com/turks), a 432-acre gated resort that opened in April and that now includes the Turks and Caicos Yacht Club Marina, able to accommodate mega yachts, with 110 slips.

36. Due to open in January at the Beaches Turks and Caicos (649-946-8000; www.beaches.com) is the $125 million Italian Village. It features 162 luxury family suites and a renovated 45,000-square-foot waterpark.

37. Well-heeled travelers have long considered St. Barts their winter playground, with a popular getaway being the 14-room Carl Gustaf Hotel (590-590-29-79-00; www.hotelcarlgustaf.com), where a seven-room villa can go for as much as 48,000 euros a night. This December, this swank hotel is opening a new restaurant, Victoria’s, headed up by Emmanuel Motte, who plans to infuse his traditional French cuisine with Caribbean and lighter Asian fare. The hotel has also completely refurbished its popular Carl Gustaf Lounge and added a new Boutique Spa by Carita, created by the sisters behind the deluxe Carita spa in Paris.

 38. On Tobago, the Bacolet Beach Club (868-639-2357; www.bacoletbeachclub.com), which opened in June, is being billed as an exclusive boutique with an Asian-Cuban restaurant. Rooms start at $190. Just a few minutes away, a multimillion-dollar expansion of Scarborough Jetty was completed last December, and it can now accommodate Voyager-class ships (which hold up to 3,114 passengers), and should raise Tobago’s profile as a vacation destination.

 39. Despite the name, the Virgin Islands Campground (877-502-7225; www.virginislandscampground.com) on Water Island, just off Charlotte Amalie, is actually an affordable collection of eco-friendly, wood-frame-and-canvas cottages overlooking the sea. It is adding two cottages, for a total of seven, by Dec. 1, and plans to have 12 a year later. They use wind-generated electricity and have a solar-heated hot tub. Rates start at $75 a night.

New York Times News Service


Deborah Cox Gives You A Sweet Promise With Latest CD

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Eunice Moseley

(November 20, 2008) *Before there was Alicia Keys and Mario, there was Deborah Cox, the “discovery” of Clive Davis when he was at his Arista Records label. Cox was a background singer for Celine Dion when Clive took her under his wing. Thirteen years later after her self titled debut in 1995, which included the hit she co-wrote, “Sentimental,” Deborah releases her first R&B CD in six years on DECO Recording/Image Entertainment titled “The Promise.”

 “Last year’s album was a tribute to Dinah Washington, it received a Grammy nomination,” powerhouse vocalist/songwriter Deborah Cox said about her tribute CD off the DECCA label when ask about the long period between albums. “I wanted to mix it up a bit…don’t want them bored,” she went on to say about her new CD, “The Promise.”

Bored you will not be on “The Promise,” which can be considered a party album for Cox - who co-wrote the entire album - and enlisted the help of hit makers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, John Legend and of course her childhood sweet heart, business partner and husband Lascelles Stephens (just to name a few).

“I had so much flexibility,” Deborah said about producing an album on a label she owns. “I have to micro-manage…manager every aspect…It is an insult when corporate people get in the way of creativity. People want to be part of the success... (they) can get in the way.”

But Cox says of the hard work of having your own label is all worth it when you have a product you are totally satisfied with and one that she (and husband) will reap most of the benefits from. Deborah is a multi-platinum selling artist whose second album “One Wish” in 1998 achieved platinum status giving her fans the hits “We Can’t Be Friends” and “No Body is Suppose to Be Here,” which was the number one single for 14 consecutive weeks. In 2002 she released “The Morning After” on Clive Davis’ J Records.

Deborah went on to become an actress appearing in the films “Love Come Down” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” starring Golden Brooks and Darrin Dewitt Henson, as well as an episode of “Nash Bridges.” She went on to tour in musicals such as David Talbert’s “Love on Layaway” and Tim Rice and Elton Johns’ “Aida.”

The beautiful title track, “The Promise,” is written by John Legend and co-produced by Cox.

“That song amplifies where I am right now as a mother, wife, friend, sister…,” Deborah said about the powerful selection. “I heard the song two years ago and kept that song …its special…a song to sing to a loved one.”

Aside from the title track my favourite cuts on “The Promise” CD are “All Over Me,” co-written by Cox and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, a sexy number; “Where Do We Go From Here,” which she co-wrote, has a Pop dance feel to it; “Love is not Made in Words,” a cute Pop/R&B song, and “Beautiful U R,” which is a “hot” Pop dance number.

Innovative Yamagami Is One To Follow

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

(November 21, 2008) The only thing better than hearing a hot new talent is having them play new music, too.

That was the double treat yesterday afternoon at University of Toronto's Walter Hall, as the Women's Musical Club of Toronto presented 20-something Richmond Hill-raised cellist
Kaori Yamagami with pianist Peter Longworth.

The venerable afternoon-music presenter (which admits men, too) has a long and honourable history of introducing new talents. Yamagami is one to follow.

Rather than stick to a tried-and-true program of greatest hits, Yamagami offered a solo Cello Sonata by Hungarian avant-gardist Gyorgy Ligeti (who died in 2006), as well as a new work, commissioned by the WMCT, the Fantasy for Solo Violincello by local composer Larysa Kuzmenko.

The Ligeti Sonata was a treat. One of its two main musical ideas is a lovely modal sequence that slides up and down the fingerboard with ghosts of the 16th century.

Yamagami's phenomenal control was there from the first notes – as were the yummy, molasses-thick tones from the priceless Stradivarius cello loaned to her by the Canada Council Instrument Bank.

The new piece by Kuzmenko, affected by memories of late Toronto cellist Kristine Bogyo, was more plaintive than playful. But it did give Yamagami opportunity to show how one, long sweep of a bow can be broken down into myriad shades of meaning and colour.

On offer were some more traditional pieces: a fun set of variations on a Mozart theme by Beethoven and the odd (and less-played) Cello Sonata No. 4 in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1. In the latter, Yamagami pulled together much of Beethoven's stop-and-start musical inventions into a compelling whole.

The final piece on the program could very well have led to dancing, such was Yamagami's zestful rendition of Stravinsky's Suite Italienne. In fact, it was dancing that led to this suite, adapted by the Russian composer in the 1920s from his much-loved Pulcinella ballet suite.

Let's hope this recital was but a teaser for many more Toronto appearances in the future.

Computer Aids Kanye West's Transition To Singer

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

(November 24, 2008) Blame it on T-Pain.

If the southern MC hadn't popularized the voice-distorting software Auto-Tune, chances are
Kanye West wouldn't have traded rapping for singing on his new album 808s & Heartbreak, which hits stores today.

Intended to subtly correct bad pitch notes in small doses, the computer program debuted as an overt gimmick with Cher's "Believe" in 1998, where it was used to create a robot-like voice.

"I think that was an accident," posed Toronto producer
Derek Brin. "I think they were literally trying to fix her voice and it turned into a cool effect."

Led by T-Pain and Akon (both of whom are imbued with distinct natural vocals), Auto-Tune manipulation is all the rage in hip-hop and R&B, yielding hits by Lil Wayne and Rihanna. Now, soul-sampling producer turned ordinary-but-emphatic rapper West is using the processor to mask his vocal flaws and sing on the majority of his new disc.

West always sang the hooks on his previous records but brought in singers like Jamie Foxx and Brandy when it was time to record, said boyhood pal Sakiya Sandifer.

"I used to always tell him, `Your voice is not that bad, you might want to keep that,'" Sandifer said in a phone interview from New Jersey. "But he always wanted somebody that could sing it better. This album is basically raw emotion set to music ..."

Would West, who has said he employed Auto-Tune "to distance myself from that traditional rap sound," have gone this route without the device?

"We'll never know," said Sandifer. "The tool was there and he used it."

While not as polished as his past trio of eight-Grammy-winning efforts, 808s & Heartbreak has less obvious sampling and a consistent, hypnotic synth sound dominated by the Roland TR-808 drum machine referenced in its title. There are also snippets of deliberate distortion where West sounds like he's literally phoning his verses in.

"It's not just that he's singing, musically it's a little different than what he normally does," said producer Brin, whose partner Andrew Dawson engineered the album. "And he played pretty much all of it himself; the crew of people around him was very small."

Blame it on despair.

Forget the metaphors, social commentary and champagne-swilling club jams, 808s & HeartBreak is a cryptic and mournful airing of the 31-year-old Chicago native's travails: last year's death of his mom; the breakup with fiancé Alexis Phifer; the isolation of life in the spotlight. Even the party starter "Paranoid" is undercut by bitter lyrics.

The CD insert includes a fold-out photo of West with the mother-manger who was a constant presence at his side and in his songs. He plaintively eulogizes her on "Coldest Winter" with "Goodbye my friend/Will I ever love again?"

Other tracks find him alternately fantasizing about an ex (allegedly Phifer) and lambasting her: "Tell everybody that you know/ That I don't love you no more" ("See You in My Nightmares").

"Welcome to Heartbreak" is a treatise on loneliness – "My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs" – given West's recent comments to People on the first anniversary of his mother's death following plastic surgery: "I feel like I moved to California, then my mom moved to California, and she did stuff she wouldn't have done if we'd stayed in Chicago. If I'd never made it in the music business, it never would've happened."

Blame it on ambition.

"I think the risk for Kanye would be to come out with an album like Graduation," said Sandifer. "Kanye's brand is innovation."

808s & Heartbreak has a good buzz, said Flow 93.5 FM's program director, Wayne Williams.

"At first it was `What the hell is he doing?'" said Williams of the October debut of "Love Lockdown." "But it grew on a lot of our listeners. The anticipation now is not just to hear the new Kanye record, but also to see if he can (pull off an entire album of singing) or not."

In a recent interview with British journalists, West set his own bar: "I now want to be grouped among those musicians you see in those old black-and-white photos: the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles. And I'm not going to get there by doing just another rap album full of samples. I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of a generation."

Vocalist-Songwriter Rita Shelby On The Come Up

Source:  www.eurweb.com -
By DeBorah B. Pryor

(November 21, 2008) "We are some amazing people ... as human beings ... the African American race; everything that exists for us in this country exists against all odds. And here we are!"  -- LaRita "Rita" Shelby.

*Let's face it, when the Spirit truly moves you, there is no doubt that its time to GET MOVIN'! With a true sense of determination and resolve, all excuses seem to vanish; obstacles suddenly disappear and what once seemed like trouble have now morphed into triumph-creating lemonade from what at first appeared to be lemons.

This is what has apparently happened for Nashville, Tennessee-born LaRita Shelby; a triple-threat artist with skills as a singer, dancer and writer (and the fact that she's simply gorgeous doesn't hurt either), who moved to Washington, D. C. during her formative years and later to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

Still considered a "struggling artist," this girl has seen her share of high-profile "close calls." When the late choreographer Michael Bennet auditioned her for Dreamgirls alongside hundreds of other teens, she made it to the final four, but was devastated when she didn't win the role.

And when she attended an open call for the 80s TV show, FAME, and beat out thousands of other talented wanna-bees in the process; again making her way to the finals; even casting director Meg Lieberman was baffled when she didn't get the role; which she later learned had gone to Janet Jackson.

"In those days," says Shelby, "it wasn't like the reality show stuff we see now; where if you get really close all the wonderful things happen for you. Nothing happened."

But Shelby admits she is not bitter about these experiences; and likens her them to the many artists who are just like her, "standing in the shadows" as she mentions in reference to the old Motown film of the same name.

Over the ensuing years the burning desire to sing became stronger than anything; so she tried singing R&B - with aims to please the "powers-that-be" who were looking for black singers to perform the runs that came so easily from the Chaka Khans, Tina Maries and Whitney Houstons. But this was not to be the fate of the artist who now goes by the stage name "Rita" Shelby; being untrue to herself by forcing a singing style that did not come naturally to her. She wasn't Chaka, nor Tina and certainly not Whitney. She was Rita Shelby; whose true calling was more Jazz-oriented.

"If I ever do music again it won't be under pressure [to] do a certain run, hit a certain note, [or] sing a certain style," she vowed.

When she finally let go of all the things she was "trying" to be, and grew to love and approve of all the things she already was, her true voice gave way, and doors began to open up for her.

Well kind of ... there was still one conversation she had to have: a conversation with God.

As the single parent of a young son; and recent divorcee at the time, Shelby had little to no resources: no expendable income; no support system outside of her loving family and friends, and no real sense of direction as an artist; so she prayed, asking: where do I go from here? "God has a sense of humour," she chuckles while talking to RadioScope founder/host and EUR publisher, Lee Bailey, for whom she still works as the Chief Journalist and Co-producer of RadioScope.

"[God told me] 'You're going here, you're going there, trying to do this, that and the other; and you're sitting on the very thing that Me and your mother gave you! I've put it in the L.A. Times, twice!'," Shelby said as she recalled her revelation.

Soon afterwards, Rita was surprised to learn that an L. A. Times music critic had praised her highly -- twice in fact -- after hearing her sing a cappella at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences once in North Hollywood, California.

There it was: Her Calling.

And after a few hits and misses with producers who tried to change her style; and the other normal ups and downs every true artist endures, things started moving in a solid direction.

Today, armed with her new 13-song CD entitled "A Date with a Song," Rita Shelby has obviously become comfortable in her own skin; effortlessly singing her original jazz tunes with the accompaniment of a small band called The 2 Jazzy Crew; which consists of core members Jimmy Watlington and Arthur Washington, who alternate on drums, and bassist Lindsey Redmond. Producer Michael Wells often sits in on guitar and studio sessions; and music director (and high school chum) Willie Daniels (who was the first to come on board) also doubles on keyboard and co-wrote many of the songs with Shelby on the CD.

But Miss Shelby's turn towards good fortune had only just begun. Little did she know that a meeting with (and future signing by) Vida and Richard Nash of RHM Management would bring in Grammy-award-winning producer, arranger, musician and A&R man Andre Fischer; who would produce three tracks on the album and, in then bring in buddy Michael Melvoin, the composer of scores for films and TV shows; and has worked with  hundreds of artists the likes of Peggy Lee to John Lennon; Bette Midler to Quincy Jones, even served as National President of the Recording Academy in 1984 and 1985. Then, like a domino effect, producers such as Michael Wells came in and produced new tracks; and went back to enhance some of the tracks Shelby and her crew had already recorded.

"Because of Michael Wells we got Gene van Buren to sing background for ME!" the singer exudes. van Buren, who has worked with Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and The Drifters, has been referred to as "one of the best kept secrets in black music." He lends his talents to the song "Cherish the Moment." Wells also brought keyboardist Earl "The Juice" Johnson in to redo keys on the song "This is where I draw the Line." Shelby really credits Michael Wells with the ability to "embellish the music while staying true to it." The vocalist adds that Wells "knows how to bring out a certain level of performance in me…without abandoning my jazz foundation."   

While a number of the tunes on "A Date With A Song" will recall to many a style reminiscent of the old piano-bar sets: comfortable and pleasant; with lyrics that showcase life's idiosyncrasies from a palatable perspective. The album's got a little sumpthin'-sumpthin' for everybody. There's the down-home, funk-soul driven "Holding Down This Forty" - a jam referencing those working hard 40-hours-a-week only to have "one thin dime" when the eagle flies; which Shelby adds, "It's a fun way to associate with what people are going through; while at the same time inspiring them to continue to dream." Then there is [This Is Where I] "Draw the Line" a jazzy, smoke-tinged song that speaks of unrequited love and resilience; "Drink You Some Act Right" is a song that, although delivered in an eloquent and sexy style with a jazz spin, puts a hilarious twist on the ingredients needed for one to --- shall we say --- "get over oneself."

Here's some of the lyrics:
Drama on the high seas
That's the ship that you sail
Tempers flair like the night wind
You need mood-modifying ale
Sip you some sit down
Pour you some breath-right
Mix it with passion and some reason for delight
A small mirror will do
'Cause it ain't all about you
Get a glass, relax, Drink You Some Act Right. 

This writer was 'too done' after hearing this song. It's one more of several delights on the album. Other tunes on the disc include "Old Man's Girl," (it won't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out what that's about!), "Sour Citrus," "Try Love On for Size," and the albums' title cut, "A Date With A Song" - which  was named after Shelby's many Friday nights with her music-which she claimed as her "Mister" at one time.

Shelby's songs are delivered with a humanism that is relatable; and her life experiences have revealed a storyteller who has chosen to look on the bright side of darkness. Her genuine love for God, family and friends was sprinkled throughout the interview. And at one point, after being complimented by interviewer Lee Bailey, she humbly responded, "I am standing on the shoulders of so many amazing people - many of which have nothing to do with Hollywood. It wasn't their calling." She recalled the journey of her late mother; who wanted to be in the entertainment business too, but never quite made it, saying, "She was the dream deferred. I am the dream realized." And finally, likened much of who she is today to President-elect Barack Obama, who she called "the wonderful combination of all to which he has been exposed."

Go to Rita Shelby's MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/ritashelby to hear music from her debut album, A DATE WITH A SONG. You'll be glad you did!

Passion Drives Toronto's New Music Orchestra

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

(November 20, 2008) Alex Pauk's eyes light up like a kid's at Christmas as soon as he begins talking about work.

There is no promise of money, power or influence from toiling in the field of new music. But passion has its own rewards.

"I got into this because of the thrill I get whenever I open a new score," says the man who has led Toronto's Esprit Orchestra for a quarter century. It is the country's only full-size orchestra devoted to new music.

To mark the start of its 26th season on Sunday, Pauk has assembled a particularly compelling evening at the Jane Mallett Theatre.

"All of the pieces on the program are bringing two or more worlds together in one piece to create a new entity," says Pauk, who wants to attract new listeners to 20th- and 21st-century creations.

These are contemporary masterworks that need a larger ensemble, such as the 45-member Esprit. Pauk gets further help from two of Toronto's finest soloists: pianist Andrew Burashko, artistic director of the Art of Time Ensemble, and violinist Marie Bérard, concertmaster of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra.

The evening opens with a fanfare – John Adams's 22-year-old Short Ride in a Fast Machine. The title evokes the veteran American minimalist's thrill of driving a sports car.

"The entire score is made up of rhythmic units that people could hum or tap out," explains Pauk. "It's the way they're layered and the difficulty of playing them on orchestral instruments that's difficult. ... Adams takes it to another level by making it really fast, which makes it particularly exciting."

The other American treat on the program is Aaron Copland's Piano Concerto No. 1. Fresh from soaking up the exciting ideas of Europe's bright young things in the early 1920s, the 20-something Copland sat down to see how he could combine new musical ideas with an indigenous American sound.

"It's not a Gershwin piece, but you hear the genesis of jazz leaping into the classical realm," Pauk says of a concerto that is "full of brilliant flashes ... jagged rhythms and unexpected turns."

Pauk credits Burashko for making a plea for Copland's 15-minute, two-movement romp. "What that passion means to me is a fantastic performance, because he really desires to play the piece."

Canadian content comes from free spirit R. Murray Schafer, who turned 75 this past summer.

In the mid-1980s, Schafer left Canada to fill his head with new ideas in Switzerland. Part of his creative process involved sitting down at the piano for stream-of-consciousness improvisations.

A visit to King Ludwig's fairytale-like castle in Bavaria, and all of its Wagner memorabilia inside, inspired an improvisation that led to Dream Rainbow, Dream Thunder.

"A big part of (Schafer's) creative impulse comes from big, late-Romantic writing, yet there is a distinct Schafer flavour in his work," says Pauk. The composer will be on hand for a pre-concert chat.

Least known on the program is 71-year-old Ukrainian Valentin Silvestrov, represented by Dedication for Violin and Orchestra.

"The sense of melody and where it comes from is Mahleresque," Pauk explains. "Violin and, later, the clarinet, establishes a melody, which is picked up in layered fragments by the rest of the strings, creating ever-shifting tone clusters."

It's like hearing the melodic whole and its component parts together and separately at the same time.

Because Pauk needs to increase the number of string players on stage, the brass (which also gets an important job to do) will be placed up in the theatre's cross aisle.

"The audience will feel like it's sitting in the middle of the orchestra."

How often do we get a chance to experience that?

Just the facts
WHAT: Esprit Orchestra, with Andrew Burashko and Marie Bérard
WHERE: Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. E.
WHEN: Sunday @ 8 p.m. (pre-concert chat at 7:15 p.m.)
TICKETS: $15-$32 @ 416-366-7723 or stlc.com

New Music Honours Old's Rich History

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

(November 21, 2008) Anyone who thinks that there isn't much of a hunger for new music in Toronto didn't see the long line-up waiting to enter St. Anne's Church at Gladstone and Dundas Aves. last night.

Soundstreams hosted its seventh visit by the 26-year-old
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the 15-year-old Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, led by their founding conductor, Tonu Kaljuste.

Every available pew and chair in the spacious, domed, Byzantine-style, century-old Anglican church was taken by people eager not only to hear one of the world's finest choirs, but also to experience 20th- and 21st-century compositions alongside older fare.

In a nod to tradition, chorus and orchestra began with a glowing setting of Beatus vir (Blessed is he) by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741).

The prolific baroque-era composer asks for two choirs and two orchestras, but the constraints of the building meant that both small groups were seated side by side, in front of Kaljuste. Yet, thanks to the friendly acoustics created by the domed ceiling, the Estonians achieved the echo effect anyway.

From the first notes, the 26 singers and 20 instrumentalists were models of balance and precision.

Over the course of the evening, several members of the choir had a chance to perform solos. In each case, they sang well, without overshadowing their fellow choristers.

Once the Vivaldi was out of the way, Kaljuste could show how modern compositions honour such a rich history while taking music in entirely different directions.

The second half of the program was devoted to the music of living Estonian composer Arvo Pärt: a eight-year-old piece for string orchestra, Orient & Occident, and a setting (revised in 1992) of Te Deum (We Praise Thee, O God), supplemented by piano and electronically altered wind harp.

The Te Deum is a masterpiece of delicate layering of melodic motifs that meet and mesh in gorgeous plays of tone, overtone and counterpoint.

It was given an impressive, affecting reading, although the overall aural effect would benefit from more reverberant acoustics.

Also on the program were three excerpts from a new setting of The Seven Last Words of Christ by composer Paul Frehner, a University of Western Ontario professor.

Arising from an old Roman Catholic meditative tradition marking Holy Week, the music is, by necessity, intense and mournful. Frehner does it with understated flair, creating a drone of unsympathetic vibrations to underpin unison and tone-cluster chant forms.

It is an effective way of building tension, which Frehner releases at the end of the Sixth Word with the delicate introduction of a medieval plainsong hymn tune, "Tantum ergo," which has been attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Tellingly, the applause for Frehner's new piece was warmer than for the Vivaldi chestnut.

Jazz Vocalist Puts Herself First With New 'Solo' Act

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

(November 24, 2008)  Longtime fans will notice a marked difference on Susie Arioli's fifth album; in spite of her slimmer physique, the up-front vocals and solo cover photo yield a whole lot more Susie to love.

"I'm trying to feature me," explained the lively Toronto-born, Montreal-based singer who will showcase Night Lights with a live performance on Jazz.FM91 at 7 tonight.

Guitarist/producer Jordan Officer is still her main collaborator in the ensemble, which was founded in 1998 as the Susie Arioli Swing Band, became the Susie Arioli Band and is now billed as Susie Arioli featuring Jordan Officer; but there's no mistaking the star of the disc comprised of jazz classics such as "Blue Skies" and "You Go to My Head."

"Just before we started to record, somebody sent me Stacey Kent singing `Landslide' and her voice was enormous," said Arioli, 44. "And I sent that to Jordan and I said, `You know, I think that is more of what we want to do. I don't think the guitar should be louder than the voice.'"

Likewise, instead of them appearing together on the CD cover as usual, Arioli's beaming visage dominates the front, while Officer is pictured on the back.

"The whole `We're a band la la la ...' it lacked focus and people were not sure where to put our record," Arioli said. "Sometimes, I'd be in the old-time swing section; I want to be in the vocal jazz and I want people to associate me with that."

But there's more in play here than retooling artistic vision: Arioli and Officer have also ended their romance of more than a decade.

"The other records were more teamwork and peace and love," Arioli acknowledged. "You know how couples are: we were being delicate with each other and missing the boat on what's the right career move. What jazz singer puts her band on the freaking cover?"

However, the vocalist, who also plays snare in the band, never considered making Night Lights without Officer, described in publicity material as her "musical soulmate."

"We had disagreements, but we have big agreements on music so you can't really kill that little baby. What do you do, murder the child when you get divorced? I don't think so.

"I do want to expand myself as a musician, see where my sound starts and his sound ends, and he has plans to do his own record ...

"I have to be a little in love with the people I'm playing with, and I need them to be a little in love with me or I just don't feel comfortable enough for my throat to completely open and to feel happy."

Late Fiddler Paid Tribute At Folk Awards

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

(November 24, 2008) Toronto fiddler Oliver Schroer, who died of leukemia in July, was the only artist to win in multiple categories at the fourth annual Canadian Folk Music Awards last night in St. John's, Nfld.

Schroer, the focus of a special musical tribute at the gala featuring protégé Emilyn Stam and Toronto violinist Anne Lindsay, won Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year and Pushing the Boundaries honours for his album Hymns and Hers.

Schroer's sister, Martina Schroer, accepted the awards.

The Contemporary Album of the Year award went to Toronto-based songwriter/guitarist/producer Luke Doucet and the White Falcon for their CD Blood's Too Rich.

Calgary's Corb Lund took home the English Songwriter of the Year prize for Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, and Guelph's Tannis Slimmon was named Contemporary Singer of the Year.

Montreal blues/roots music artist Michael Jerome Browne won in the Solo Artist of the Year category.

In the traditional music categories, Toronto-based Scottish folk singer Enoch Kent took the Traditional Singer of the Year award, and Montreal folk ensemble Genticorum won Traditional Album of the Year for La Bibournoise.

Quebecois traditionalist Yves Lambert and his le Bébert Orchestra took the Ensemble of the Year award.

Lightfoot! by Gordon Lightfoot won the first Classic Canadian Album Award, a new category honouring influential folk recordings more than 25 years old.

The winner is chosen by fans voting on the website (canadianfolkmusicawards.ca).

Other 2008 awards included:

Indian Music Takes Centre Stage With Movie

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

(November 25, 2008) A unique experiment to bring original Canadian music into movie theatres across the country moves another step forward with tonight's Larger Than Life concert presentation of contemporary First Nations folk rock, pop, hip-hop, blues and dance artists at the Revival Theatre.

The concert, featuring Sierra Noble, Plex, Marc Nadjiwan, Jason Burnstick, The Johnnys and storyteller-comedian Winston Wuttunee, will be filmed by Toronto's Strong Road Productions as part of a series of features screened in Cineplex Odeon theatres, says Larger Than Life producer Brent Bain.

"It will be shot with seven moving and two fixed cameras in high definition and 5.1 surround sound," says Bain.

The result will be screened in select Cineplex theatres on Jan. 28.

"It's a very expensive production with revenue potential greater than the ticket sales for the actual concert," adds Bain.

Following the lead of ticketed one-hour, stand-alone concert films featuring Maritimes rocker Joel Plaskett, Toronto songwriter Royal Wood, pop band Great Lakes Swimmers and Vancouver-based guitarist and composer Alex Cuba, Larger Than Life will be the first to feature Indian artists.

"Contemporary aboriginal music is evident at the community level and in our culture, but not really present in the mainstream music industry," Bain adds. "This is a unique opportunity to showcase prime First Nations talent in places where it wouldn't be seen or heard otherwise.

"We'd really like to celebrate their contribution and to raise the bar for native music, by focusing less on the spirit aspects of the work and more on the performances themselves."

No stranger to concerts or film, songwriter/music producer Nadjiwan welcomes the Cineplex experiment. An Ojibway born in northern Manitoba and raised in northwestern Ontario, he leads the award-winning folk-rock outfit Nadjiwan (its third album, Philosophy for the Masses, is released today).

"Interest in First Nations music is increasing and there's a lot of great talent coming from that direction. But it's difficult for us – for any independent artist – to be heard. This is a way of declaring ourselves."

Just the facts
WHO: Larger Than Life

WHEN: Tonight at 7

WHERE: Revival Bar, 783 College St. W.

TICKETS: $25 at the door

Platinum Blonde Bassist Found Dead In Studio

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raveena Aulakh,
Staff Reporter

(November 25, 2008) Kenny MacLean, who rose to fame as bassist in the 1980s Toronto-based new wave band Platinum Blonde and had just released his third solo album, was found dead yesterday in his Yonge St. recording studio-apartment.

"This is devastating," said Mark Holmes, former lead singer of Platinum Blonde who performed with his old friend Friday night at the Mod Club at a showcase for MacLean's new album, Completely.

"He was incredibly happy – everything was going well for him," Holmes said in an interview last night, adding the Scottish-Canadian musician's mother and sister were at the CD release party.

"Kenny and I even got together on the stage and sang three songs from old times. It was one of the happiest nights. It was kind of like a send-off. It was a big and successful party."

Platinum Blonde had a string of hits including Hungry Eyes and Crying Over You.

Friends said MacLean's sister Pamela had been unable to contact the musician, who was in his early 50s, and, along with his publicist and personal assistant, got the landlord to let them into his studio and living quarters on Yonge near Wellesley St.

Pamela found her brother collapsed in the bathroom holding a toothbrush with the tap running, Holmes said. MacLean had another home in Yorkville but likely stayed at the studio after the Friday night party, friends said.

The cause of death is not yet known.

Former Platinum Blonde drummer Chris Steffler, who helped recruit MacLean into the band in 1985, said his old friend was on prescription anti-anxiety medication but was otherwise healthy.

"He was in tip-top shape. He could bench-press 200 pounds," Steffler said last night in an interview, adding he still often played with his old friend who was talking to him about getting Platinum Blonde back together for a show and maybe more.

"He had everything to live for," Steffler said, calling MacLean's final show "electrifying."

Steffler met MacLean in 1978 when they played together in Toronto bands The Next and The Suspects.

He said when Platinum Blonde decided to add a fourth member, he suggested MacLean, who debuted on their Alien Shores album.

MacLean had kept busy after the bad called it quits as a full-time act, recording solo albums, working with a company called hMh Music to develop budding artists and an act that played covers of other bands' work.

As news of his death spread yesterday, heartbroken fans started to pay tributes on Facebook. Some called him a great musician, others remembered him as a funny guy.

Heart Problem Killed Platinum Blonde Bassist

Source:  www.thestar.com - Stacey Askew,
Staff Reporter

(November 25, 2008) An autopsy was performed today on former Platinum Blonde bassist Kenny MacLean and friends say they have been told preliminary results suggest his death on the weekend was heart-related. "All indications show it looks to be the heart," said Mark Holmes, a friend of MacLean's and frontman for the band that had a string of 1980s hits including "Crying Over You" and ``Somebody Somewhere." MacLean's sister found him Monday in the living quarters of his Yonge St. studio, collapsed in the bathroom clutching a toothbrush while the tap was running. He was 52. Holmes said MacLean had stopped drinking, had not touched drugs in years and appeared to be incredibly healthy. The band was to meet Monday to talk about a possible reunion gig. MacLean's family is planning a small private funeral for next week. Friends are starting to plan a public event in honour of MacLean, who had just released his third solo album.

The Mary Mary Interview & CD Review: It's All About 'The Sound'

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

(November 25, 2008) *It's the weekend, in the year 2000 and at any number of night clubs across the country people are bouncing to the vicious bass line of "Shackles," a song about praising God through life's tough circumstances that has the swagger of Biggie Smalls.

Fast forward to 2008: DJ's at Urban AC and Hip Hop stations are cranking the synthesized pulse of "Get Up," an equally arresting recording that motivates listeners to be "go-getters," that could run neck-to-neck with any Rhianna jam.  

What the two bangin' cuts have in common is that they were born of
Mary Mary, the soulful contemporary gospel sister act, Erica and Tina Campbell whose urban-inspired sound was contrived by long-time producer/collaborator Warryn Campbell.

Since their debut album "Thankful" (released in 2000) Mary Mary's barrier-breaking music has had a twinge of spunk that suggested they were boundary-less, on a mission to saturate the un-churched with truth-telling lyrics and club ready beats, while never abandoning their breeding ground -- the church. 

With their "hype" hair, hip hugging wardrobe, bangin' beats and relatable lyrics, Mary Mary's agenda has permeated perceptions about the look and feel of salvation.  The unstoppable duo continues to cross over the spiritual bridge that divides Believers from non-Believers, as they introduce God  to millions of unsuspecting listeners via their Hip Hop, R&B, Soul, Electronic and Pop infused vibe with the release of their fifth studio recording, "The Sound" (Columbia/Integrity Music.)

Each of Mary Mary's previous offerings cascaded smash hits:  the RIAA platinum-certified Thankful (featuring "Shackles:); the RIAA gold-certified Incredible (yielding "In The Morning" and "Thank You") and RIAA gold-certified Mary Mary (which boasts "Heaven" and "Yesterday.") Their fourth album, "A Mary Mary Christmas" released in 2006 was also a success.  Considering the sisters' best-selling purview, "The Sound" will likely be an encore award-winner, debuting as Billboard's #1 Gospel Album, #1 Christian Album and #7 Top 200 album. 

As much as the Inglewood, CA natives acknowledge their gospel base, they want to be seen on the same level as other great entertainers of any genre. "We're just artists who happen to be Christians," Tina said.

Unlike any of their other work, their new project inches them closer to mainstream comparisons and might further step up their secular appeal because as a total package "The Sound" sounds decidedly like a pop album.

The album remains gospel by its incessant message that having a connection with God causes one to be triumphant.  "The Sound" aims to encapsulate the spirit of victory with a hodgepodge of styles, both past and present. Opening with the warm female voice who provides their definition of sound assists with translating "the sound" on each track.

The journey begins with the title track "The Sound," a sixties-flavoured number that could bring back The Jerk (a dance from that era).  From there an imaginary DJ from "My Block Radio" navigates through the tracks.  (This cleverly creative arrangement reminds me of the times when DJs played music that they or their listeners enjoyed because of the way it made them feel, not due to chart status or popularity.)

As the Campbell sisters rap/rhyme, "The God In Me" picks up on T-Pain vocoder-like expressions, the song "Superman" gets a visit from Hip Hop's David Banner, uber breezy "Seattle" and "Dirt" are easy-listening cuts and the heavy strings, bass drum drive to the off-beat syncopation of "I'm Running" looks back to the 70's. As the only two gospelesque tunes of the album "I Worship You" and "It Will All Be Worth It" (which features a family of their favourite gospel predecessors) bring the ladies back to their soulful element. If the point of the diversity they present on "The Sound" is to show that they are just as talented and sometimes more so than the mainstream elite, the point is well taken.

It's one thing to sing about "the sound of holding on and staying strong" as the lyrics of the title cut go, but the Campbell sisters know all too well about crying out to God in desperation.  In April this year, the group and their families encountered an unexpected health crisis. They were forced to cancel concert dates in Europe when Warryn —- who is married to Erica -- had to undergo emergency surgery to remove one of his kidneys where cancer was found. 

Via cell phone while they were rolling to their respective hair appointments, I spoke to the down-to-earth pair about Warryn's outcome, their career, and their passion for "The Sound:"

Being marketable and competitive

Mona Austin (MA): How are you involved in your career development form a marketing standpoint?

Tina: We don't just leave it to chance.  We try to be hands-on and very involved in the process. We hired our own Web team.  We hit the entire United States and the rest of the world.  After our hard work it's in n God's hands.

MA: Do you see yourselves as competitors along with the mainstream or is competition a "bad word" in ministry?

Tina: It's not necessarily a bad word depending on what the intention is.  It is a competitive market. We have to understand this.  When you enter the business of selling records you have automatically entered a competition.   But the mindset and motivation and your views and passion and how you approach it can determine whether it's a bad thing.  Is our whole entire goal and aim to sell a whole bunch of records and letting people know who we are?  Not necessarily. Is our focus and priority more about making sure people know who we represent? Yes. It's not competition as in we wanna beat everybody else.  We do wanna win ... but do we want people who hear our music to know who we're representing? Yes.

MA: You've won a number of awards including an ASCAP for the song "Yesterday."  Speaking of competition, you ladies are judges for the singing competition Sunday's Best.  Judging people who are praising God with their voices -- isn't that an oxymoron?

Erica: We're not judging their praise we're judging their talent.  It's the difference between your profession and your business.  My profession is singing and I want to be the absolute best at it.  The people in the competition, that's their profession.  Their business is to spread the message of Jesus.  You can't get the message confused. Professional you have to be the best.  You have to have the look.  You have to have the sound. You have to be able to be marketed. But your business is always to spread the message of Jesus. I can't judge that but I can judge you professionally.  People may feel like it's an oxymoron, but if you understand the principles then it makes total sense.

The Look of Success

MA: What influences the Mary Mary look and style?

Erica:  I don't understand why it's so foreign for Christians to be cute. . .If I represent an awesome, perfect, incredible God shouldn't something about the outside of me reflect that as well?  And we're trying to encourage women to take care of their temples, which means their bodies, your health to reflect what's on the inside.  And that's the only thing we're trying to do.  Now, we're normal, we're human.  I'm actually on the way to get my hair done right now. I'm getting my nails done after that and there’s no reason for that. 

Tina: Both of us had taken on a vegan diet after about a year ago shortly after I had my daughter.  Never thought that would be possible for somebody like me and Erica and somebody  who had bacon, eggs, potatoes and biscuits their whole entire pregnancy, I never thought I'd be eating tofu and soy protein, but I hired a chef who brought me food that was so incredible I couldn't deny it.  Once I became knowledgeable and started reading up on all the health benefits of eating that way, I thought it was a great idea. It had to be the food that soled me. . ..

We have kept up a vegetarian lifestyle more so than vegan.  It gets a little hard to maintain a vegan lifestyle n the road.  We let beef and pork go and we eat chicken very rarely and drink loads of water and it makes a world of a difference on how you maintain your health.

MA: With your family originating from the South (their mother is from N'Awlins), once in a while you don't get the urge for some sweet potato pie or pralines?

Tina: Oh honey don't get it twisted!  We like all of that.  We like dessert.

And that's where the challenge is, we eat salads and fruit at the t the end of the day you want some sweet potato pie or some cake and ice cream.  We don't eat pork chops and beef ribs and all that stuff anymore, but we will entertain some 'lil desserts here and there. So that's where we're trying to find the balance. I have not found it yet, but I'm still searching.

The Sound

MA: What is "The Sound"?

Both: It's our music with the sound of joy encouragement, desperation, faith, passion and intensity behind it.

MA: "The Sound" is your fifth album, how does this one stack up to your previous work?

Erica: I believe it's our best work to date.  I think as you go through life you grow in faith, you grow naturally, spiritually, you grow, you learn, you get stronger.  So I think our subject matter has changed in that way.  Songs like "Seattle" and "Dirt" reflect where we really are.  At the same time we're normal so we listen to the radio, so you wanna be relevant to what's going on ...  I believe it's a cut above the rest even if you compare it to R&B and Hip Hop albums, the tracks are amazing.  It's not a good gospel album, just a good album.  But when you add a good album with the power of Jesus Christ it phenomenal.

MA: At one point, Warryn Campbell, who is the producer had a health scare..  How is he doing today?

Erica: He's doing absolutely fine.

MA: What was the motivation for the song, "The Sound"? It reminds me of Tina Turner.

Erica:  I was driving down the street. I was just thinking what does it sound like in a person's voice when they are victorious.  What do you see in a person's eyes when they are determined to leave the past in the past and to become their best selves?  Sometimes it's just in a holla.  Sometimes it's not a particular word. That's the sound we're talking about: what a person feels, like when a football team goes onto the field and they holla real loud because they're determined to win.  They're not saying 'we're gonna win,' but that yell they let out lets you know they're ready to fight and they're ready to win.  The sound that you hear when a person comes to that place is "the sound of victory, the sound of no defeat, the sound of holding on, the sound of staying strong" (lyrics from "The Sound").

MA: What do you want to say to your listeners with "The Sound"?

Erica: It's no longer to time to just exist.  It's time to live. It's time to soar.  It's no linger time to just have a dream.  It's time to walk in expectation of that dream and take nothing less than the manifestation of that dream. With faith and persistence nothing is impossible with the Almighty.  That's what we're trying to portray with this CD.

MA: You have an array of other gospel acts on the album. How did you decide who you wanted to work with on this project?

Tina:  We didn't really think it out that hard.  We just had a list of people who we loved growing up. . .fortunately everyone said yes. all of the were people we wanted to be like.  We call this our "dream come true song." Our parents only let us listen to gospel music in the house so we learned from them (It Will All Be Worth it features Karen Clark Sheard, Dorinda Clark Cole, Rance Allen, Andrae Crouch, Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins).  What's more awesome than that is we caught it all in the DVD.  Me and Tina are just overwhelmed with emotion because you're standing here with people you've admired all your life.  Yes, they were all our idols.

MA:  How did you pick up on R&B, Hip Hop, mainstream, secular music?

Tina: The streets we were on is where Hip Hop came from.  You know what I mean?  Our parents just didn't allow it in the house.  WE heard it in the neighbourhood.  WE heard it at school. We heard it in cars driving down the street.  We just weren't allowed to listen to it inside of our own home.  And the reason behind that, my mom explained later on is.. . .some of the songs could be planting messages subliminally that were above your child's level of understanding that would be introducing you to subjects that your parents weren't ready for you to be introduced to..  So for that reason my mom was like, 'I think you can't go wrong with gospel so we'll just stick to gospel.'

The lead song form the Sound, "Get Up" will be played on Ugly Betty this week.  It was also the track used in the post election piece on the Tom Joyner Show.  Stay up to date on "the wonderful world of Mary-Marydom" as Tina calls it, by logging on to www.ilovemarymary.com. Mary Mary is anticipating the 2009 release of their bath and body line "Be You By Mary Mary," which will be available in participating Walmart stores nationwide around Valentine's day.


Sarah McLachlan To Receive Special Juno

Source: -
The Canadian Press

(November 20, 2008) VANCOUVER–Sarah McLachlan will be given a special award at next year's Junos honouring her humanitarian work. McLachlan has been named as this year's recipient of the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. McLachlan founded the Lilith Fair touring festival in 1997 to showcase and promote women in music and it also raised more than $7 million for charity after three years. In 2000, she was also was bestowed with Canada's highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada, she is the spokeswoman for the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and is involved with youth charities to get underprivileged kids music lessons and mentorship. McLachlan says she's honoured and humbled to receive the award and has always wanted to help others because she's been so blessed in her life. It's the second year for the award, which was given out to country artist Paul Brandt last year. The award was named in honour of broadcasting pioneer Allan Waters, the founder of CHUM Limited. The Junos will be held on March 28, 2009.

Survey Predicts Cancelled Foreign Shows

Source: www.thestar.com -
James Bradshaw

(November 21, 2008) A survey by the members of the Conférence Internationale des Arts de la Scène (CINARS) suggests that up to 600 out-of-country performances by 36 Canadian arts organizations could be cancelled in the absence of two cultural diplomacy programs and a stalling economy. CINARS said the questionnaire was informal, sent to 220 organizations, of which 36 responded. But the numbers hint at the broader impact the recent cutting of PromArt and Trade Routes - two programs until recently administered by the federal government to help artists and organizations tour their work abroad - will have on Canadian's foreign profile. CINARS general director Alain Paré said the timing could not be worse with the economy already struggling. He hopes to have a more accurate picture of the fallout after its annual conference, now under way in Montreal. "Canada's a huge country, but we don't have the population to support our artists. It's a question of survival to tour abroad," he said. Paré added that it would be dangerous to cancel so many shows, leaving international buyers hesitant to book Canadian acts they fear might not honour their agreements. Companies responding to the survey included the Alberta Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Les 7 doigts de la main. Their estimates put next year's resulting financial losses for all 36 companies at $4.9-million.

Theatre of the Mind: Ludacris

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(DTP/Def Jam)
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1893915%5fAM8lvs4AAHyESSx7kgtdkhkkY8M&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1893915%5fAM8lvs4AAHyESSx7kgtdkhkkY8M&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1893915%5fAM8lvs4AAHyESSx7kgtdkhkkY8M&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)

(November 25, 2008) The Southerner with the volcanic flow lives up to his stage name with this schizophrenic concept album. It's supposed to unfold like a movie, but aside from collaborators billed as co-stars and the 31-year-old rapper-actor yelling "Cut!" that premise falls flat. There are a few cool scenarios ("One More Drink" details a club outing, "Call Up the Homies" describes hanging out with The Game in L.A.) but the bulk is Luda's typically profane ho-hum braggadocio. The guest-a-minute outing, includes Floyd Mayweather, Chris Rock, Ving Rhames and Spike Lee, along with usual suspects, T.I., Jay-Z and Jamie Foxx. I cheered the line "I got mo' cheese than provolone" ("M.V.P.") thinking Ludacris was poking fun at himself and the disc was meant to parody hip-hop, then realized he was talking about cash.  Top Track: The catchy "What Them Girls Like" recalls Snoop's "Drop It Like Its Hot."

Live at Newport: Christian Scott

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1893915%5fAM8lvs4AAHyESSx7kgtdkhkkY8M&pid=1.5&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1893915%5fAM8lvs4AAHyESSx7kgtdkhkkY8M&pid=1.6&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1893915%5fAM8lvs4AAHyESSx7kgtdkhkkY8M&pid=1.7&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)

(November 25, 2008) The 25-year-old trumpeter's third disc opens with the mournful "Died In Love" which recalls fellow Crescent City native Terence Blanchard's Hurricane Katrina suite. The brooding vibe continues through the album recorded this summer. Scott has drawn comparisons to Miles Davis for his jazz-rock leanings. Otherwise, he has a distinctly ethereal style which stays clear of mutes and be-bop, Accompanied here by pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Jamire Williams, bassist Joe Sanders, saxist Walter Smith and guitarist Matt Stevens, Scott serves up rousing new material, as well as fresh versions of "Litany Against Fear," "Anthem," and "Rewind That" from his two studio albums. There's also a companion DVD that depicts the concert, with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.  Top Track: The ballad "Isadora" shows off Scott's romantic side.


Print & Save: Our Holiday Movie Guide

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

(November 14, 2008) The holiday movie season offers a bounty of new releases vying for your attention. Like everyone else at this time of year, each movie has its own hopes and dreams. Some simply want to provide respite for exhausted shoppers, idle teens and entertainment-starved families. Others wish for the kind of glory that only an Oscar can bestow. While no one ever gets everything they put on their wish list, you can be sure that Santa – or Academy Award voters – will provide some contenders with their heart's desire. Here's a list of what's coming soon. (Space won't allow for a full list and dates may change so keep checking the Star's movie listings.)

NOV. 21

Voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus
What it's about: In the latest animated adventure from Disney (the studio's 48th), Travolta voices the part of a canine TV star who thinks his fictional super powers are real. He learns otherwise when he must travel cross-country to reach his owner (Cyrus).
Wish list: The same combination of critical success and boffo box-office that made Wall-E such a summer fave. If Beverly Hills Chihuahua is any indication, Disney knows it can't go wrong with a talking dog.

Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke
What it's about: She's 17, he's 108 and a vampire. Can two lovers (Stewart and Pattinson) overcome these differences and make their relationship work? Readers of Stephenie Meyer's vampire-centric romance novels already know the answer.
Wish list: The loyalty of Meyer's millions of fans, who'll need to come out in big numbers if they want a movie franchise to call their own.

NOV. 26

Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
What it's about: On the eve of WWII, an English aristocrat (Kidman) heads Down Under and finds love with an Aussie rancher (Jackman). Smooching on horseback ensues.
Wish list: The pride of the titular nation and the same degree of export value attained by Moulin Rouge, director Baz Luhrmann's last collaboration with Kidman.

Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall
What it's about: When bad weather foils their holiday plans, a San Francisco couple (Vaughn and Witherspoon) spend Christmas Day with the four families of their divorced parents.
Wish list: Big laughs from viewers who like Vaughn and Witherspoon best when they're in a romantic comedy.

Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin
What it's about: Charting one of the last century's most fascinating political careers, this biopic pays tribute to Harvey Milk, the San Francisco politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to major public office in America, only to be murdered in 1978 by a disturbed colleague.
Wish list: A third Best Actor Oscar for Penn, whose spot-on performance even has Milk's loved ones raving.

NOV. 28

Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Chiara Mastroianni
What it's about: During a Christmas gathering, a family puts aside its many rivalries and resentments to confront the medical crisis of its matriarch (Deneuve).
Wish list: More of the kudos that critics typically bestow upon the film's director, Arnaud Desplechin, and some of the word-of-mouth that attracted viewers to fellow French imports La Vie en Rose and Tell No One.

DEC. 5

Frank Langella, Michael Sheen
What it's about: In this fact-based drama by writer Peter Morgan (The Queen), TV interviewer David Frost (Sheen) tries to get a wary Nixon (Langella) to fess up to his misdeeds on camera.
Wish list: The same raves that greeted the stage version on Broadway, which also starred Langella and Sheen.

Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg, Eliza Dushku, Bill Pullman, Danny DeVito
What it's about: In this black comedy, Rickman plays a Nobel Prize winner whose less-than-noble demeanour does not endear him to his family, especially after he proves reluctant to exchange his freshly won prize money for his kidnapped son.
Wish list: A more enthusiastic response than was earned by Bottle Shock, another movie starring Rickman that director Randall Miller shot after this 2007 effort, but which has already come and gone from theatres.

Ray Stevenson, Julie Benz, Dominic West
What it's about: Vigilante Frank Castle (Stevenson, replacing Thomas Jane) continues his brutal one-man war on the mobsters who killed his family.
Wish list: An unlimited supply of ammo for its hero, one of the most enduring if least appealing characters in the Marvel Comics universe.

DEC. 12

Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates
What it's about: An alien being (Reeves) arrives with a special message for humankind – will we heed it or risk destruction at the hands of our visitor's giant robot pal?
Wish list: The same veneration accorded the 1951 original, the eerie science-fiction classic that spawned the immortal words "Klaatu barada nikto!"

Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
What it's about: This adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Tony winner pits a nasty nun (Streep) against a progressive-minded teacher (Hoffman) in a she-said/he-said battle at a Bronx school in the 1960s.
Wish list: Multiple honours for the already much-decorated trio of leads, though Streep must be facing some serious statuette-storage issues.

John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Vanessa Ferlito, Freddy Rodriguez
What it's about: Yet another tumultuous family gathering, this time for a Puerto Rican clan in Chicago.
Wish list: Maybe a vacation for overworked star Leguizamo. This marks his fourth screen appearance in a major movie this year.

Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Alexandra Maria Lara
What it's about: A former prison guard (Winslet) and several other characters in postwar Germany cope with the legacy of the Holocaust.
Wish list: A spot to call its own in a crowded marketplace for WWII-themed Oscar bait.

DEC. 17

Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Hughes, Doua Moua
What it's about: A grouchy Korean War vet (Eastwood) is none too pleased to become involved in the lives of his Asian-immigrant neighbours, especially after one young man messes with his beloved car.
Wish list: Whatever good will is left over for Clint after Changeling, his other new directorial effort that's already in release.

DEC. 19

Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper
What it's about: A suicidal IRS agent (Smith) changes the lives of seven strangers in unexpected ways.
Wish list: The same number of moistened eyes as The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith's last teaming with director Gabriele Muccino.

Voices of Emma Watson, Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Sigourney Weaver
What it's about: An unusually gifted mouse, a sour-tempered rat and a hapless servant girl are the heroes of this feature-length toon.
Wish list: The patronage of parents and tykes who've already mastered the pronunciation of Ratatouillie.

Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Terence Stamp, John Michael Higgins
What it's about: In this adaptation of Danny Wallace's book, Carrey plays a guy who turns his life around when he spends a year saying yes to everything.
Wish list: A comeback for Carrey, who hasn't been seen on screen since the 2007 flop The Number 23.

DEC. 25

Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Courteney Cox
What it's about: Sandler plays a hotel handyman who learns that the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew are not only coming true but taking over his reality.
Wish list: The warm feelings of families who made a hit out of Night at the Museum.

Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Elle Fanning, Elias Koteas
What it's about: Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this romantic fantasy stars Pitt as a man fated to age in reverse. Blanchett plays the great love with whom he cannot grow old.
Wish list: Awards for everyone involved, but especially the FX artists responsible for making Pitt's de-aging process plausible.

Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Haley Bennett
What it's about: Wilson and Aniston head a family that gains many life lessons thanks to one very demanding dog.
Wish list: Many freshly warmed hearts and no need for a pooper-scooper.

Gabriel Macht, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes
What it's about: One comic legend pays tribute to another as Frank Miller presents a screen adaptation of Will Eisner's 1940s strip about an urban crime fighter.
Wish list: The combined wow factor of fellow masked-vigilante story The Dark Knight and Sin City, which Miller co-directed.

DEC. 26

Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson
What it's about: A Nazi colonel (Cruise) collaborates with fellow dissenters within the Third Reich in a plot to kill the Führer. As you may have guessed, they didn't succeed but this true-life tale of intrigue reveals how close they got.
Wish list: A secure release date, for one thing. Bryan Singer's thriller has already moved several times, but after healthy response at test screenings, MGM has bumped it up from a far less competitive date in February 2009 so Cruise's eye patch won't go to waste.

Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
What it's about: Rourke plays a washed-up pro wrestler looking for a last shot at redemption and the forgiveness of his estranged daughter (Wood).
Wish list: Renewed respect for Rourke – giving his all to director Darren Aronofsky, the actor makes good on the potential he displayed before his career went off the rails.

JAN. 2

Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon
What it's about: DiCaprio and Winslet are married suburbanites coping with the pressures of family, work and societal change in 1950s Connecticut.
Wish list: A respectable portion of the box-office take of Titanic, the last movie to pair Leo and Kate. Winslet's husband, director Sam Mendes, could also reclaim some of the lustre his career has lost since American Beauty.

Studios Banking On 3-D Movie Takeover

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(November 19, 2008) SINGAPORE–If Dreamworks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg is right, you'll soon be out shopping for the latest in designer glasses. 3D glasses that is.

Hollywood studios such as Dreamworks, Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox are betting 3-D will finally become the next big thing in film, luring moviegoers to the theatre with advancements in a technology that first caught viewers' attention in the 1950s.

"In five to seven years, all movies will be made in 3-D,'' Katzenberg said Wednesday at the start of an inaugural four-day 3D festival in Singapore.

"Everyone will have their own glasses. It will become a fashion statement.''

Disney, which plans to produce 17 movies in 3-D over the next three years, is looking to promote the technology around the world by helping to subsidize the conversion of screens to digital, and then to 3-D - a process that will cost billions of dollars.

"There's been a tremendous investment in 3-D," Disney Studios Motion Group President Mark Zoradi said. "We really believe in this medium.''

The 3-D film technique works by creating the life-like illusion that the images are three dimensional, instead of the 'flat' images normally seen on movie screens and TV.

Movies shot in 3-D can still only be shown on about 1,400 of the 30,000 screens in the U.S., and just 700 abroad. Theatre-owners have been reluctant to invest in the changeover, especially in the midst of a global economic slowdown.

Dreamworks had initially expected to show its next big 3-D animation 'Monsters Vs. Aliens' on 5,000 screens next year, but it will be viewed on less than half that amount.

"The rest of the world is about 12 to 24 months behind the U.S. in getting digital installed," Zoradi said.

Singapore, which has committed to hosting the annual 3-D festival until at least 2017, hopes to become a leader of 3-D media in Asia. The government of the wealthy Southeast Asian city-state is investing $10 million over the next two years to fund 3-D projects, production, post-production and training facilities.

"We'd like to be in a nice position when all this takes off, and we see it taking off very quickly," said Lee Boon Yang, minister of information, communications and the arts.

The evolution of 3-D technology over the next 20 years could eventually lead to movie theatres that show holographic films, Katzenberg said.

"In sound, we've gone from vinyl, to 8-track, to cassette, to CD, to digital," Katzenberg said. "The flat screen movies of today are the equivalent of vinyl record.''

"This is the beginning of an extraordinary change in how all video is experienced.''

John Travolta Unleashes His Voice

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

(November 21, 2008) John Travolta has played everything from hoofers to scrappers in his four-decade career, but he's always done it on two legs.

The animated Disney comedy
Bolt gives him four, in his title role of a confused canine, a white shepherd who thinks he has super powers because he plays a hero on TV.

But there's something even more remarkable about Travolta's dogged debut. It's the first time he's done professional voice work, if you don't count the TV and radio ads he did as a teenager. Disney had courted him many times to lend his distinctive voice to animated characters, and prior to this he always declined.

"The truth is, I was waiting for something good," he says down the line from Hollywood.

"I was being competitive with Tom Hanks and Robin Williams, thinking, `Well, they've done great with Toy Story and Aladdin. I'm not just going to do anything. I want to keep up with the big boys.' So I waited a good 10 years before I was offered Bolt."

What is it about Bolt that made him finally roll over?

"Well, I knew it was high-end Disney and I knew it was (producer) John Lasseter, and I knew it was a good character. It was a good story; it reminded me of Sullivan's Travels. When I was a kid, I loved that movie. It had a classic feel to it. I thought, `Maybe this is the one to take a chance on.'"

Travolta felt comfortable getting under Bolt's fur. He has three dogs of his own. "I have a Rhodesian ridgeback, which is close to the size of a white shepherd. I also have a cocker spaniel and a dachshund, which are more my daughter's dogs. The ridgeback is more my size. My daughter likes little dogs; I like big dogs."

The pooches acted as in-home coaches for Travolta, but he didn't need to go to obedience school.

"I grew up with dogs. I've had a lot of dogs over the years, so it's kind of a natural rapport I have with them. I didn't need to learn too much."

People wouldn't know this from seeing Bolt, since Travolta never appears on camera, but he recently shaved off his hair. It's for a role as a spy in the Euro thriller From Paris with Love, which is co-written by Luc Besson and due out next year. The mane is growing back, but Travolta enjoyed being hairless.

"I did, much to my pleasant surprise. Having no hair is kind of a fresh feeling. They did an online vote and 90 per cent of the people loved it and thought I should keep it. Women loved it as much as men. I was surprised. That's one vote for the guys who are losing their hair. I love it."

There's one more thing Travolta has never done before and which he's about to do. The New Jersey-born actor turns 55 in February, and he figures it's about time he published his life story. His autobiography is due out before summer.

"I wrote it and it was accepted by Hyperion. It's out in June of '09. I worked on it for four years. It would have been out earlier, but I just didn't find the time."

Will it bark out any secrets?

Travolta chuckles: "Well, there are certain stories I've never told before, but nothing that's going to be too delicious."

Evan Ross: The Gardens Of The Night Interview With Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com – By Kam Williams

(November 20, 2008) *Evan Olaf Ross was born in Greenwich, Connecticut on August 26, 1988 to pop diva Diana Ross and Norwegian shipping magnate Ame Naess.

Following not only in his mom's footsteps, but in those of three of his sisters (Tracee Ellis Ross, Rhonda Ross Kendrick and Leona Naess), Evan entered showbiz at an early age, making an impressive film debut as T.I.'s troubled younger brother in the critically-acclaimed ATL.

Next, he received rave reviews for his NAACP Image Award-nominated performance as a troubled teen in the made-for-TV movie Life Support.

He then returned to the big screen for another memorable outing as a stammering swimmer in Pride. That, in turn, led to his being signed to do eleven more pictures, including his current release, The Gardens of the Night, a harrowing drama about kidnapping, child molestation and homeless kids co-starring Gillian Jacobs, Tom Arnold, John Malkovich and Harold Perrineau.

Here, Evan talks about his new flick, s well as everything from his budding musical career to Barack Obama to his close relationship with his mother.

Evan Ross: Hey Kam, how're you doing?

Kam Williams: Very well, thanks.

KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama winning election?

ER: I feel like we've been saved. I'm happy that we have a good person as president. I think that's important.

KW: Your father's from Norway. Do you speak Norwegian?

ER: Very little. I can understand some. I should have learned more, because I lived there for a long time. I am sure that I will at some point take the time to learn to speak it.

KW: Where did you live over there?

ER: Oslo.

KW: And where else did you live growing up?

ER: Let's see. Switzerland. Greenwich, Connecticut. New York. Los Angeles.
London... And we spent a year in France. My mom lived there longer when she
was trying to make the Josephine Baker Story.  

KW: So, what prompted you take on another challenging role in Gardens of the Night?

ER: Actually, I loved it from the moment I read the script, because I had just seen a very interesting documentary my mother recommended to me called Streetwise, about how homeless kids survive on the streets. So, when I read Gardens of the Night I thought it was an incredible idea and such a great story.

KW: Your female co-star is white, which had me wondering whether this was a case of colorblind casting?

ER: The role of Donnie wasn't originally written for an African-American, but I kept meeting with them and auditioning because I really wanted to be a part of the film. I kept fighting for the role, and ended up doing it. More than anything, this was a passion project for everybody associated with the film, especially because it was such a tough subject.

KW: I hope that this approach to casting is a sign of things to come.

ER: Damian [director Damian Harris] was really great about that issue. He saw that skin color isn't an issue among kids living on the street. Their worry is survival. So, I think that it was really great how he handled it in the movie. Never once was color talked about or made an issue. No one asked, why was this white girl with me. It never came up, and that's the way I think it should be. It's a non-issue.

KW: How was it working with Gillian Jacobs? You shared so many haunting scenes together.

ER: Really, really great. It ended up just being me and her and the director, not only on the set, but we also spent a lot of time with children in homeless shelters. I had been blind to the fact that there were that many homeless kids. It was very hard for all of us sitting with them and having them talk about their lives and share all the emotions of what they're going through. Gillian and I really bonded after that to keep each other's spirits up because it was such a heavy experience. As a result, we had great chemistry, so working with her was good. 

KW: Was this your most emotionally-challenging role to date?

ER: Of the movies released so far, yes, although I have some others that will be coming out, like Black Water Transit, which were equally-challenging, but in a different sort of way... The more I think about it, Gardens of the Night might have been the toughest, since it took so long to shoot, and it was heavy being with the homeless kids and in their environment. 

KW: Do you think you're getting typecast as someone who only plays troubled characters?

ER: No, I've been the one kind of choosing to go in that direction. I like showing reality. But I have a more upbeat film coming out that I did with Hilary Duff called Greta. I play a more strong-willed character in that movie. But I like reality, because I think we shy away from showing the truth when we don't need to cover up the truth. So, the way I choose projects is based on what I think is most real and most interesting, not on what's paying the most money or what's most popular.

KW: When did you develop an interest in acting?

For full interview, please go

How Van Sant Finally Got Milk

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

(November 22, 2008) SAN FRANCISCO–As the party's celebrity guests swirled around him and 1970s-era disco music blared, the normally shy and reserved Gus Van Sant allowed himself an expansive smile of satisfaction.

"I've been working towards this for more than 15 years and now it's finally happened," he said, while greeting the seemingly endless procession of people waiting to shake his hand and congratulate him.

It has taken the 56-year-old director that long to bring the story of slain San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk to the screen. Beset by legal hurdles, setbacks and a frequently changing cast, he twice abandoned the project to direct other movies, but always returned to
Milk (which opens Wednesday).

The party, at San Francisco's City Hall, was attended by the film's stars – Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, James Brolin, Diego Luna and James Franco – as well as the city's current mayor, Gavin Newsome, and various other dignitaries. The venue holds a special significance because it was in the offices upstairs that 48-year-old Milk, a member of the city's board of supervisors, and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were shot to death by fellow city official Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978.

The assassinations galvanized the gay community. When White was sentenced to a seven-year jail term, a mass protest erupted into a pitched battle between police and demonstrators. Police cars were burned and city hall was attacked. The White Night Riots, as they came to be called, ended with police storming the Castro District's gay village.

Milk's story prompted a bestselling book, The Mayor of Castro Street, and the 1984 Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk.

The openly gay Van Sant originally attempted to film the story back in 1992, with Oliver Stone set to produce and Robin Williams portraying Milk. The project fell through when Stone and Van Sant could not agree on a script. Van Sant went on to direct To Die For, Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester.

He made another attempt at the Milk story in 1998 when Sean Penn agreed to play Milk and Tom Cruise expressed interest in the role of Dan White.

"I wanted to reinvigorate the project and I had meetings with both Sean and Tom, but it didn't go any further because I was an inept producer and didn't realize that I had to call people every day and keep in touch," Van Sant recalled in an interview at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Finally, with a new script by young gay TV writer Dustin Lance Black based entirely on the recollections of Milk's friends and compatriots – somebody else held the film rights to The Mayor of Castro Street book – Van Sant returned to the project yet again.

Richard Gere and James Woods were both interested in the role of Milk, but Penn was available. Matt Damon was set to portray White until a scheduling clash forced him to drop out. Josh Brolin replaced him.

To prepare for the role, Penn met many of Milk's friends in "The Castro" and immersed himself in archival tapes and film footage of Milk's speeches.

"To me, Sean Penn is the greatest actor we have," said Van Sant. "It was a challenge for him to play an openly gay politician. He had to work at it."

He admits that before filming began he was a little concerned that the Oscar-winning Penn, whose previous project had been directing Into the Wild, might attempt to muscle in on the director's duties.

"It would have been a little bit disastrous if Sean had decided he wanted to direct while we were filming, and I really didn't know how that would work," he said. "But it didn't happen because Sean came into the project with a certain amount of respect for the films that I'd done and he was very much an actor on this film and he kept actors' hours. As he said, he was a different animal from Sean the director."

Milk was filmed earlier this year in San Francisco, using locations in The Castro where Milk lived and ran a camera shop, as well as in the city hall offices where the assassinations occurred. Some of Milk's friends appear in small roles in the movie, and some 5,000 residents of The Castro turned out as extras for the crowd scenes.

"Everyone was very excited about the project and the possibility of telling this story dramatically, so we were given a lot of co-operation," said Van Sant. "City hall was extremely helpful. We had meetings with the mayor and he offered to move out of his office for a month so we could shoot there, but we didn't take him up on it because I figured we would drive him crazy."

Cleve Jones, who was one of Milk's closest confidants and is portrayed in the movie by Emile Hirsch, was a guest of honour at the film's premiere at the renovated Castro Theater, opposite the storefront where Milk began his political career.

Jones, who provided many of his memories as material for the screenplay, is delighted at the finished product.

"Gus has done a wonderful job of recreating those times when Harvey was paving the way for openly gay people to serve in elected offices across the country," he said at the city hall party. "Watching Sean Penn convey Harvey's empathy and strength, I could almost believe we were back in those days and Harvey was still with us."

Milk: Sean Penn Is Hope Personified As Gay Politician

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

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)
Starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna. Directed by Gus Van Sant. 128 minutes. At the Varsity. 14A
(November 26, 2008) Two remarkable transformations are at the heart of
Milk, Gus Van Sant's affecting portrait of Harvey Milk, the slain 1970s San Francisco politician and civil rights icon.

First and foremost is
Sean Penn's title performance, which woos gold in the coming awards season. Here he's hope personified, easily adopting his subject's ready smile that is so much in evidence in The Times of Harvey Milk, Rob Epstein's Oscar-winning 1984 documentary on the first openly gay politician in California's history.

The other impressive transformation is director Van Sant, who has spent most of the past decade avoiding linear narratives. Working from a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black (TV's Big Love), Van Sant embraces conventional biopic format as he tracks Milk's progress from a closeted Wall Street money man who, on the eve of his 40th birthday, decides to out himself and move west to enjoy San Francisco's supposedly more liberal climes.

Milk makes the leap with Scott Smith (James Franco, making the most of a small role), a man 20 years his junior whom he brazenly propositions in the New York subway. The two set up a camera shop in San Fran's Castro neighbourhood, where a wave of pink immigration is shocking the city and the nation.

As a gay man himself, Van Sant might have been expected to try to elevate his subject beyond the near-sainthood status accorded him from his 1978 assassination at the hands of a deranged fellow politician.

Instead he takes the more honest and dramatically satisfying route. He astutely uses documentary footage to remind viewers of how unliberated the 1970s really were.

But he leaves Penn's magnetic empathy to speak for itself. The actor portrays Milk as a flawed and self-interested man for whom personal epiphany came slowly, but who experienced a history-altering "road to Damascus" moment when it did.

He is at first happy to play the hippie businessman, dubbing himself "Mayor of Castro Street" as he quickly builds alliances by organizing popular street festivals and promoting the lifestyle he had until recently practised in secret.

Politics beckon when he becomes frustrated with conservative agendas, which contrary to perceptions are very much a force (and remain so today, as the recent Proposition 8 vote to reverse gay marriage rights demonstrated).

Milk's repeated attempts to attain public office are stymied as voters react with fear to the prospect of a gay takeover of city hall. Ever the optimist, beginning every public speech with, "I'm Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you," the charismatic chameleon successfully mobilizes public support against a proposition to fire gay teachers, a civil rights landmark.

He forges ties with everyone from Teamsters to conservative politicians, the latter including fellow rookie supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin, brilliantly understated), a Vietnam vet and former fireman who will later shoot Harvey and Mayor George Moscone over a political dispute.

That killing, which the movie portends with an elegiac score and scenes of Milk predicting his assassination in tape-recorded statements, is presented with little varnishing of the known facts.

Milk's one weakness is that it attends to political triumphs and defeats more faithfully than it does personal ones. Lovers and friends played by Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna and others are well presented, but make little impact next to Penn's imposing take on martyred idealism. The film understandably and movingly centres itself on Penn's portrayal of a hedonist-turned-activist who discovered that in order to change his world, he had to find his voice.

Hollywood Actors Guild To Seek Strike

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(November 22, 2008) LOS ANGELES–The Screen Actors Guild said Saturday it will ask its members to authorize a strike after its first contract talks in four months with Hollywood studios failed despite the help of a federal mediator.

The guild said it adjourned talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers shortly before 1 a.m. after two marathon sessions with federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez.

SAG, representing more than 120,000 actors in movies, television and other media, said in a statement that it will launch a ``full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization.''

"We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement," the statement said. "Now it's time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.''

The statement did not specify what led to the impasse, saying only that "management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept." A SAG spokeswoman said she would not comment further. A call to the movie producers group, known as the AMPTP, was not immediately returned.

SAG's national board has already authorized its negotiating committee to call for a strike authorization vote if mediation failed. The vote would take more than a month and require more than 75 per cent approval to pass.

SAG is seeking union coverage for all Internet-only productions regardless of budget and residual payments for Internet productions replayed online, as well as continued actor protections during work stoppages

But the AMPTP said it was untenable for SAG to demand a better deal than what writers, directors and another actors union accepted earlier in the year, especially now that the economy has worsened.

Earlier this week, the producers' group said it had reached its sixth labour deal this year, a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the local branches of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, accounting for 35,000 workers.

The stagehands alliance accepted Internet provisions that were modeled on agreements with other unions, the producers group said.

Actors in prime-time television shows and movies have been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, with the hope of avoiding a repeat of the 100-day writers strike which shut down production of dozens of TV shows and cost the Los Angeles area economy an estimated $2.5 billion.

Is This Nicole Kidman's Last Movie?

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

(November 25, 2008) NEW YORK–Nicole Kidman isn't sure whether she will ever make another movie. But if she doesn't, it's fitting that her final screen role should be in Australia, the epic $130 million romantic adventure that reunites her with her Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann and filmed in their homeland with an all-Australian cast and crew.

"I wanted to make a film for my country since I was a little girl," she said. "I grew up on Australian cinema, and the films created my aspirations and my dreams. This film represents that for me. Baz wanted to do a Gone With The Wind-type film for Australia, mixing high comedy and intense drama with references to many different films and somehow put them together in an homage to old movies, and I think it's wonderful."

Kidman, 41, portrays an English aristocrat who travels to Australia where she meets a rough, tough drover (Hugh Jackman) and they reluctantly join forces to save the land she inherited. Luhrmann's sweeping story includes villainous cattlemen, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the plight of part-Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and placed in state institutions.

Luhrmann wrote 19 drafts of the script and then filmed for nine months, mostly in Australia's Outback, shooting four different endings before he was satisfied.

"I saw far more of the country while making this film than I ever did before," said Kidman. "Even though it was really tough and difficult at times, I'm so glad we travelled around and filmed in so many different locations. To feel the air and see the wonderful sunsets and be ravished by the elements was exquisite."

She learned how to ride a horse like a ranch hand while herding cattle, and it made such an impression on her that she and her husband of two years, country star Keith Urban, have bought a rural cattle ranch in Australia.

"I love the film and I loved the cows, so when we're in Australia we're going to spend a lot of time on the property," she said.

After Moulin Rouge! in 2001, Kidman and Luhrmann had often talked about working together again and were set to team up on Alexander; but when Oliver Stone beat them to it with his own version in 2004, Luhrmann began thinking about Australia.

He went to see Kidman in Nashville, where she lives with Urban. "He never gives you a script; he just tells you his ideas," she said.

"He's very, very different to anyone I have ever worked with.

"Baz is such an unusual filmmaker and obviously the process to get the film made is unusual, as well. He's completely original ... he whispers things to me.

``He has ways in which he accesses my emotional life."

Kidman and Luhrmann, 46, were talking in a New York hotel room not far from an apartment where Kidman is temporarily staying with her baby, Sunday Rose, who was born five months ago.

She and Luhrmann had just flown in from the Australia premiere in Sydney and she looked glamorous in a grey, low-cut tweed suit and diamond-drop earrings.

She and the director are clearly close friends.

"She wasn't just an actor in this; she was my partner," said Luhrmann. "At times the shoot was very hard and difficult, and when some people thought they couldn't go on Nicole was the one who led the charge. When things are at their very worst, that is when she is at her very best."

But he doesn't think they could ever work together again.

"So many life-transforming things happen when we work together," he said reflectively. "On Moulin Rouge! she was breaking up with Tom Cruise and my father died. Then six weeks before we finished filming Australia, she told me she was pregnant and we both burst into tears because I knew that was what she had wanted more than anything else. We both said we can't make another movie together because there are only so many life-transforming events we can go through."

Luhrmann has no projects lined up for the future, although he says: "One day I'll take that James Bond film. That'll be fun."

Kidman, too, has nothing planned now that she has finished a two-week stint filming a small role in the musical Nine, due out next year. And she is not seeking any more work.

"I have to say I'm not that interested in making films any more," she said.

"I know I'm not meant to say that, but that's where it is for me now. I'm 41 years old and very happy being in Tennessee with my baby and with my husband. I just don't have that burning desire any more."


Hugh Jackman Named People's Sexiest Man Alive

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(November 19, 2008) NEW YORK – Hugh Jackman has been named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. The magazine's executive editor, Jess Cagle, tells NBC's Today show that Jackman is a "surprising choice," but he'd been on the editors' minds "for a long time and it seemed like this was the year to do him." Cagle points out that not only is Jackman's career at its peak, with the X-Men movies and his upcoming epic with Nicole Kidman Australia, but he's "built like a tank." Kidman throws her two cents in, telling People that "women's jaws drop when Hugh walks in a room."

Henry Simmons In Lifetime Original Film

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 20, 2008) *Actor Henry Simmons has been cast opposite Ed Begley Jr., Tyne Daly, Linda Emond, Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons in the Lifetime original biopic "Georgia O'Keeffe," according to Variety. The film from Sony Pictures TV follows the 20-year love affair between the American artist (Allen) and photographer Alfred Stieglitz (Irons). Simmons portrays writer Jean Toomer, with whom she has an affair later in her life.  Begley plays Alfred's brother, Lee, a doctor who examines Georgia after she faints and years later when she suffers a breakdown. Daly is set as artist Mabel Dodge Stern, a friend of Georgia's who lives in New Mexico. Emond plays Georgia's friend Beck, with whom she travels on her life-changing trip to New Mexico.   Bob Balaban is directing the movie, set to premiere in third-quarter 2009.

Actor Calls Prickly Sean Penn 'A Sweetie'

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(November 25, 2008) In interviews, Sean Penn can come across as cranky, belligerent and even downright rude, but his co-star in the new movie Milk says she saw a very different side of the actor. "He is the sweetest, funniest, most charming man ever," gushes Toronto-born Alison Pill. "I love talking about working with him ... he's so funny and awesome." The film, which also stars Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Diego Luna, is being buzzed about as an awards season contender, and Pill says she was thrilled to be part of such a top-drawer cast. It opens tomorrow. "When I first signed on to it, I had just heard it was Sean Penn and (director) Gus Van Sant," she recalls. "Literally every day, somebody else, some other favourite actor of mine was added. It was pretty amazing." In recent years, Pill, 22, has built a stellar reputation as a stage actor, earning a Tony nomination two years ago for her Broadway debut in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Her performance as Milk campaign manager Anne Kronenberg is already garnering praise.


Jason Priestley Coming Home To Host Geminis

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

(November 24, 2008) Jason Priestley is feeling a case of hall envy.

On the line from L.A. to chat about his upcoming gig hosting the Gemini Awards Friday in Toronto, the man who will always be known as Brandon Walsh admits he's only recently had the chance to catch up on the revamped 90210 because he's been so busy.

"It's not exactly what we used to do, but it's shot in a surprisingly similar fashion to the way that we used to shoot it. It's very classic (Aaron) Spelling coverage. It's pretty great. I kind of enjoyed it," he says.

"Here's what surprised me: how big the high school hallways are. How big their high school sets are. They're far larger and much more impressive than ours were," Priestly adds. "Ours were so ghetto and rinky-dink compared to what they have. They obviously have much more money to spend on sets than we did back in the day."

While he's half-joking, it makes sense that Priestley is making comments on the production, considering that these days he makes most of his money behind the scenes as a director. It's a job he broke into on the original Beverly Hills, 90210, eventually directing 19 episodes.

In a retro-future link, he is now slated to direct an episode of the new series in January – and although he pleads ignorance about any plot details, even if he knew he's savvy enough not to spill the beans.

Right now, he's busy directing three episodes of the ABC Family show The Secret Life of the American Teenager and also guest-starred as Earl's cousin, a professional backpack model, on My Name is Earl two weeks ago.

"That turned out pretty well, it was a pretty funny bit. I had a good time doing that," he says. "But it was pretty easy because they are all such funny guys over there."

Having lived in Toronto previously, Priestley says he's looking forward to coming back and touching base with friends, and celebrating the Canadian film and television industry.

"I've really made an effort as a Canadian actor and director to stay connected to the Canadian television industry," he says. "So for me to come back to host this show, to see so many people that I continue to work with to this day, it's really going to be a lot of fun for me."

Priestley has only been nominated for a Gemini once, as part of a group nod in 2003 for a Dave Foley Christmas special. But he plans to fall back on his experience hosting the Junos in 1998 in his hometown of Vancouver. While he doesn't know what's planned for the Geminis, he's going to bring the funny.

"With any of these awards shows, you've got to keep it moving, you've got to keep it funny and you've got to keep it fun for the audience, and that's going to be the thing for me," Priestley says.

"That's not going to be difficult. There are so many talented people in Canada, so many writers and producers that know how to put on their award shows."

The show airs at 8 p.m. Friday on E! and Showcase.

If this year's show has a bit of buzz, it's because people are probably hoping to see some 90210 crossover. Shenae Grimes, the former Degrassi: The Next Generation star who plays Annie Wilson on 90210, has been announced as a presenter.

Christopher Bolton of Rent-a-Goalie and Natasha Henstridge (Eli Stone) are also slated to hand out hardware.

In addition to hitting some of his favourite local haunts, Priestley says he is looking forward to experiencing the recent dip in the temperature.

"I miss the cold. I'm a guy who grew up skiing in B.C.," he says. "Being down here in California, where it's hot all the time and everything's on fire, it freaks me out."

Walters Lands Interview With Obamas

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(November 26, 2008) *Barbara Walters will sit down with President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle for an interview set to air as a one-hour special tonight on ABC.

The veteran journalist will cover such topics as the transition, the economy, foreign policy and how the family is dealing with the immense change in their lives, according to the Hollywood Reporter. 

ABC is hoping to score a ratings bonanza to rival the numbers generated by the Nov. 16th "60 Minutes" interview with the Obamas, which gave the newsmagazine its best ratings in years. 

Parts of the Walters interview will also air on ABC's "Good Morning America," "World News" and "Nightline."

Check out excerpts from the interview below the photo of the Obamas and Walters.

The following are excerpts from Barbara Walters' interview with President-Elect Barack Obama, conducted Tuesday in Chicago (courtesy of ABCnews.com).

Barbara Walters: How did you feel when you read about the three heads of the auto companies taking private planes to Washington?

Barack Obama: Well, I thought maybe they're a little tone deaf to what's happening in America right now. And this has been a chronic problem, not just for the auto industry, I mean, we're sort of focused on them. But I think it's been a problem for the captains of industry, generally. When people are pulling down hundred-million-dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people's money, that indicates a sense that you don't have any perspective on what's happening to ordinary Americans. When the auto makers are getting paid far more than their counterparts at Toyota, or at Honda, and yet, they're losing money a lot faster than Japanese auto makers are, that tells me that they're not seeing what's going on out there, and one of the things I hope my presidency helps to usher in is a, a return to an ethic of responsibility.

That if you're placed in a position of power, then you've got responsibilities to your workers. You've got a responsibility to your community. Your share holders. That if -- there's got to be a point where you say, 'You know what, I have enough, and now I'm in this position of responsibility, let me make sure that I'm doing right by people, and, and acting in a way that is responsible.' And that's true, by the way, for members of Congress, that's true for the president, that's true for Cabinet members, that's true for parents. I want all of us to start thinking a little bit more, not just about what's good for me, but let's start thinking about what's good for our children, what's good for our country. The more we do that, the better off we're going to be.

Walters: Should bank executives -- it's almost Christmas time -- forgo their bonuses?

Obama: I think they should. That's an example of taking responsibility. I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, "I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times."

Walters: How are you going to get along without your Blackberry?

Obama: (Laughs). This is a problem. I, you know, one of the things that I'm going to have to work through is how to break through the isolation ... the bubble that exists around the president. And I'm in the process of negotiating with the Secret Service, with lawyers, with White House staff ...

Walters: You might have a Blackberry?

Obama: Well, I'm, I'm negotiating to figure out how can I get information from outside of the 10 or 12 people who surround my office in the White House. Because, one of the worst things I think that could happen to a president is losing touch with what people are going through day to day.

More on "Good Morning America" and "World News" and watch "A Barbara Walters Special: Barack and Michelle Obama," Wednesday, tonight at 10 p.m. ET

Brooke Burke Wins Dancing With Stars

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(November 26, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Brooke Burke waltzed away with the mirror ball trophy on the Dancing with the Stars finale.

The 37-year-old TV personality and mother of four dominated the seventh season of the popular ABC dancing competition and bested former NFL player Warren Sapp and former 'NSync member Lance Bass during the Tuesday night finale, in which she reprised an emotional Viennese waltz routine that earned her a perfect score from the show's panel of judges.

"Unbelievable," was all Burke could muster after winning amid a flurry a confetti.

From the outset, the slinky former host of E!'s Wild On and CBS' Rock Star commanded the ballroom this season, coming in first place eight out of 10 times and receiving a 10 – the judges' top score – 16 times. Burke was crowned the latest "Dancing with the Stars" champion after the judges' scores – 88 out of 90 – were combined with viewers' votes.

"I actually can't believe it," said Derek Hough, Burke's professional partner, who's never won the competition. "I really can't. I honestly can't. The journey's been so long. It's been tough. It's been wonderful. It's been everything I could ever hope for. Wow. I can't believe we actually did it, girl."

Burke maintained an eight-point lead over Sapp, the charismatic 35-year-old fan favourite whose technique was consistently criticized by the judges. Sapp still managed to hustle his way into second place with professional partner Kym Johnson, despite receiving one point less from the judges than the third place finisher, 29-year-old singer Bass.

"From the moment you start, you make me smile," head judge Len Goodman told Sapp.

Bass and his professional partner, Lacey Schwimmer, were upbeat about their loss. The pair danced away after their dismissal. And he's not hanging up his dancing shoes just yet. The former boybander will join professional dancers and other former contestants for the 38-city "Dancing with the Stars" tour, which is set to kick off Dec. 17 in San Diego.

"You never took the safe road once," judge Carrie Ann Inaba told Bass during the finale.

Previously dismissed celebrities – actor Cody Linley; sprinter Maurice Greene; actresses Susan Lucci and Cloris Leachman; chef Rocco DiSpirito; reality TV star Kim Kardashian; actor Ted McGinley; and comedian Jeffrey Ross – also returned for a last dance. Injured volleyball player Misty May-Treanor and singer Toni Braxton remained off their feet.

TV Viewers Escape Reality, Embrace Scripted Shows

Source:  www.thestar.com - Scott Collins,
Los Angeles Times

(November 22, 2008) HOLLYWOOD–Is the recession driving viewers away from reality programming? There's been so much chatter about politics and the economic meltdown on TV this fall that it's obscured another reality: Some of the U.S. networks' biggest unscripted series have been sinking in the ratings.

New York-based ad company Horizon Media delivered an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data for broadcast series during the first two months of the TV season, compared with the same period last year. The verdict? Established reality-competition and game shows, including Dancing With the Stars, Survivor and Deal or No Deal, are suffering a slump almost as bad as the larger economy. Hardest-hit is Fox's Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? which has shed nearly half its share of the 18-to-49-year-old demographic since last year. Among all viewers, 5th Grader is off 35 per cent, to 5.5 million.

Almost as bad is NBC's Deal, with the Wednesday edition plunging nearly 29 per cent, to a mere 8 million viewers. The Friday airing has performed even worse, falling 38 per cent. ABC's Dancing is down 9 per cent – despite Cloris Leachman's unlikely tenure on this fall's edition. And CBS's Survivor: Gabon has dropped one-tenth compared with last fall's Survivor: China. Even Fox's Cops, which in March celebrates its 20th anniversary, has tumbled 17 per cent.

Now, it could be argued that all of network TV is down. But virtually all of the series that have shown improvement this fall are scripted shows. Among them: NBC's 30 Rock (up 23 per cent), the CW's Gossip Girl (20 per cent), and CBS's Ghost Whisperer (8 per cent).

So, what's up? Part of the explanation is TV's natural aging process. Many reality shows currently on network schedules gave been around for a while.

And efforts to pump in new blood have not been successful: Take a look at ABC's Opportunity Knocks, which got the hook after three airings this fall.

Overexposure is also a factor. Deal or No Deal at one time looked like a fairly durable game concept. But multiple weekly airings, plus a daytime syndicated version that launched this fall, have beaten the life out of the show.

And what about that economy? Well, hard times may not have any direct effect on what people choose to watch, but there's little doubt that during times of upheaval, viewers' tastes can shift.

For example, the deep recession of the early 1980s may have created a fertile environment for the success of nighttime soaps about the treacheries of the rich and infamous, such as Dynasty and Dallas.

24 Seeks Redemption

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

(November 23, 2008) NEW YORK–"It's just television," Kiefer Sutherland scoffs at the notion that 24's fictional black president may have helped pave the way for Barack Obama.

"You don't honestly believe that our show helped put the first African-American in the White House, do you?"

As a matter of fact, yes, if you consider the impact and influence the medium, and pop culture in general, can have on otherwise entrenched ideas and opinion.

But Sutherland remains sceptical. "Look," he sighs, "all we simply did is look to the future. You have a huge African-American population, and it was just a matter of time before they were represented politically by a president.

"In Season 7, we have a female president. And 52 per cent of the country are women. So it is clearly also just a matter of time before there is a female president."

In the 24 world, typically, it will only be a couple of hours – the popular "real-time" spy thriller returns tonight on Global, E! and Fox, with a two-hour "prequel" TV-movie, 24: Redemption, neatly setting up January's much-anticipated return from a prolonged hiatus.

That, and its Canadian star's unfortunate incarceration. Sutherland stoically served out his 48 days (including Christmas and his birthday) last year on dual charges of driving under the influence.

Prison and presidential prognostication aside, the returning 24 has a lot to prove. The previous, sixth season was widely considered a disaster.

That might be a sign that the spy drama's revolutionary storytelling format has at last run its course.

At the very least, it called into question the methodology in the 24 writers' room – until now something of a point of pride – of flying by the seat of their collective pants.

For years now, they have deliberately painted themselves into plot corners, if only to challenge themselves to come up with a way to tap-dance their way out.

Until last season, this high-wire, without-a-net approach undeniably fuelled the show's kinetic creativity. Indeed, the prior Season 5 is generally considered to be the series' best.

Season 6, even fans agree, fell apart very early on, the moment the unlikely cast Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder blew up the city of Valencia, Calif.

But Sutherland, a hands-on executive producer as well as the series' star, would beg to differ.

"I read a lot of the criticism about Season 6," he says, "and it wasn't so much that I disagreed with it ... we've had so many nice things said about us that obviously it was our turn. But the fact is, these are issues that we've had to deal with every year.

"Inherently, we've always had a real issue between Episodes 12 and 15. We found out very early on that one (plotline) was not going to run the entire day, that you would solve one problem and it would kind of morph into a secondary problem, and that would kind of take you home.

"We've always had a problem with that transition – the writers know it and I know it. But we're really competitive guys. We want a perfect season. And I think we're getting closer to it.

"I would have to say that the last four episodes of Season 6 are some of the best work we've ever done. I do wish we had gotten there smoother. It's a constant battle."

But a battle, at least, that is essentially under their control. The writers' strike work stoppage, alas, was not.

"The time that we took off," Sutherland allows, "now that was scary. Forget about the audience. I have an attention span that doesn't last very long. It's an awful lot to ask of people."

It has, however, served to pique our interest about the ongoing adventures of Jack Bauer and his pals – though without the support of the now-dissolved CTU, it's pretty much down to just Jack, who we catch up with tonight hiding out in Africa, dodging a Senate subpoena (wielded by fellow Canadian Gil Bellows) for some of his more extreme actions in the defence of his country. Primarily, of course, his resolute, repeated reliance on torture as his go-to information-gathering technique.

Again, this is something Sutherland hears a lot. And thus has given it some serious thought.

"The things that Jack Bauer does ..." he begins, carefully choosing his words. "I mean, if you take a look at the show, all of those moments ... well, first off, the torture is used as a dramatic device, to show you how intense and serious a specific situation is.

"But if you take a look at any single person that he's tortured, from Season 1 up till now, every single one has given him the information that he needed to go from scene A to scene B. That's a pretty good track record.

"I think that Jack Bauer, whether you agree with it or not – and in many cases I don't, and my political ideals are vastly different – but I think that he comes from a very moral-centred place.

"Playing Jack, the tagline that I always have at the back of my head is that, at absolutely any cost, he will do whatever it takes to save those 15 people held hostage on that bus. He is a very apolitical, focused, one-dimensional guy, a very driven individual. By the time they call him in, the s--t is really bad."

And, given the events of the coming season, which one of the other actors accidentally reveals will include a hostile takeover of the White House itself, it is all about to hit the fan.

Jon Voight Steps Into Role Of Supervillain On Fox's 24

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

(November 23, 2008) NEW YORK–He's the new 24 season's special guest villain – the mysterious, manipulative, Machiavellian puppet-master, Jonas Hodges, introduced tonight in Redemption as Jack Bauer's ultimate evil nemesis. In truth however, veteran actor Jon Voight is one of Kiefer Sutherland's biggest fans. "I was really looking forward to working with Kiefer," he enthused. "I really like his work, his intensity in the work. This is his show, a big part of his creation. He's the example, the guy who sets the tone. Everybody plays off Kiefer. It's a big responsibility." A responsibility, Voight says, that Sutherland handles with aplomb. "He really comes to the set tremendously prepared," Voight said. "It's terrific to work with him. We had fun. We really liked each other." Voight and Sutherland's father, Donald, go back several years. "We still see each other occasionally," he said. "We're a couple of guys who've been down the road a little bit. We don't feel old, neither one of us. We feel rough and ready and just as crazy as when we were 18. But we've learned a few lessons." If Voight is sounding a bit reflective these days, it may have something to do with the imminent approach of his milestone 70th birthday at the end of December.  "I'm still an idealist," he insists. "I love the possibility of accomplishing things in my life, and I do think about leaving a legacy. I do something every day toward that legacy." A legacy, like his old pal Donald that includes a second-generation acting offspring.  Having clearly resolved whatever issues he's had in the past with his daughter, Angelina Jolie, Voight now looks forward to meeting his 4-month-old twin grandchildren when the family gets together for the American Thanksgiving. And he's immensely proud of her other accomplishments. "Angelina takes care of business," he beams. "She's a proactive person. She'll make a decision, and she'll make it out of compassion and justice. That's what she strives to do. You have to admire that."

Nicholas Campbell The Man Who Loves Mean Streets

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Sarah Hampson

(November 21, 2008) It is Halloween night, but no one here in this café on Toronto's Parliament Street needs to dress up in costume. They are already rich in character. Outside, in the small backyard next to the alley, men stand in a circle amidst discarded boxes, piles of miscellaneous junk, a rusted truck and plastic chairs, spewing cigarette smoke and expletives into the spooky warmth of a Toronto fall evening.

Nicholas Campbell fits into the scene, perfectly cast with his look of handsome dereliction. It is not the first time the celebrated character actor has suggested a seedy location for a media interview. “I often do them down at the race track,” he explains. “It's exciting, and the girls seem to like it, “ he cackles, suggesting that he is complicit with the media in promoting his image as a mythic bad-boy of Canadian drama.

Best known for his role as the coroner on CBC's long-running TV series Da Vinci's Inquest (1998-2005), he runs his hand through his long, grey hair and speaks in a smoky, barroom voice, a low, friendly mumble, punctuated by an easy and frequent laughter. His legs jitter like jackhammers as he drinks coffee. The only thing calm about him are his piercing blue eyes, clear and sure in a face that's worn as an old shoe.

Campbell has had a hard time adjusting to life post- Da Vinci and its regular paycheque, but he is in a moment of resurrection – once again.

Last Monday, he made his debut in a new part that will last until the end of the season as the father of Graham Abbey's character in The Border, the popular Gemini-nominated CBC-TV drama. Campbell is also nominated for a Gemini, for his stunning performance as a reclusive cowboy with a troubled past in The Englishman's Boy, the CBC miniseries adapted by Guy Vanderhaeghe from his celebrated novel of the same name.

He is also making a comeback on the stage. Last week, he opened in Festin, directed by Jason Byrne, at Toronto's Berkeley Street Theatre. And with Ted Dykstra, he is developing an ambitious theatrical project. Based on Leo Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata, it involves music, dance and the spoken word.

Stories about Campbell always precede him.

The son of a wealthy family who attended Upper Canada College, the exclusive Toronto private boys' school, and Queen's University, he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Canada Revenue Agency in back taxes. He is broke. He is a gambler. The 56-year-old father of three grown children doesn't own a car or a house and reportedly hasn't had a credit card since 1991. His romantic life is in ruins, too. Three marriages have ended in divorce. Disaster is the most loyal girlfriend of the man who has been called Canada's Nick Nolte, it would seem.

But who is the man beneath the stories? Is his bad-boy image just a costume?

“Maybe I have encouraged people to think I'm a little wilder than I am sometimes,” he admits sheepishly at one point. “I'm really kind of conservative and a scaredy cat. You can't find my name at any rehab centres.”

The truth about Campbell is not simple. He has his demons, he admits. But his behaviour has more to do with the perilous beauty of feeling the world than it does with wanting to sabotage his participation in it.

It is often assumed that he rebelled against his background. But he loved his years at UCC, he says. “I have great memories there. There was this high level of expectation.” At Queen's, he planned on studying law, until he happened to take a course in theatre during his first year. “I felt really lucky that I knew what I wanted to do.” Upon graduation, he moved to England to attend the London Drama School and the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The early part of his career was in the theatre, with small parts in movies, including A Bridge Too Far and the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. His family was always supportive, he adds.

He has never been a drinker. His drug habit was mostly pot. “I came from the drug generation, but I never did hard drugs – never heroin, some cocaine. But it was not the love affair that people think it was. Drugs are not something that have touched my life as much as people think out there.”

He takes responsibility for his debacle with Revenue Canada. “I kept avoiding it and avoiding it,” he says. During the seven seasons of Da Vinci's Inquest and the one season of Da Vinci's City Hall, which was cancelled in 2006, he caught up on some of his back taxes. “But the bill kept going up with penalties. I did okay,” he says of his repayment schedule. “But 75 per cent of it is interest.” He doesn't like to divulge how much he still owes. When pressed, he does. But the candour makes him nervous, and he asks that the amount not be published. “As soon as you say a number, it sounds like, this guy is an asshole. He didn't pay the government. I look like a fucking idiot,” he explains., wincing slightly. (Let's just say that the amount he owes is enough to pave a lot of roads.)

His gambling at the racetrack is also the stuff of legend, he insists. “I am irresponsible about buying horses,” he allows. But he doesn't bet on races. “The way I see it, you get given only a certain amount of luck in this world. Everyone has luck. But you only get so much, and to me, I don't want to use a good portion of it betting at Woodbine or in a poker game. I sweat the results so much that I don't enjoy it.

“I see my whole life as a gamble,” he adds, as a mumbled afterthought. And by that, he means his pursuit of a career that is built on nothing more than the hope that someone will hire you for a gig next week.

Acting has been his greatest addiction, he says. Ask him about his work with Chris Haddock, the creator of Da Vinci's Inquest, and he will go on a long tangential spree about their creative collaboration and the way Campbell was encouraged to ad lib on the set. “I would read the script once, and then put myself out there, almost like on a tightrope with no net. Or I would try to get myself talked into a place where I don't know what I am going to say next … I can literally talk myself out of knowing what the next line is, and then reaching for it. …” He trails off, laughing a bit, and shaking his head at the memory. Acting is a drug because “you can get away from your own experience and that is really exhilarating,” he explains.

He is curious to know how others live. He has a favourite bar, Soupy's Tavern, in downtown Toronto, which is frequented by a down-and-out crowd. “That place did more to shape my career than drama school and Queen's together. It was like a soap opera with characters. Forget about me forgetting about my taxes. They didn't have Social Insurance Numbers or a driver's licence. There are other ways of looking at the world than what UCC and my parents told me.”

But if the acting life has brought satisfaction, it also creates insecurity. “You are vulnerable to feelings,” he says quietly. “And you are vulnerable to getting a wrong view of yourself, good or bad, and most times bad.”

Without prompting, he expresses a series of doubts and regrets. “I haven't allowed myself to be successful as a director,” he confesses. He directed several episodes of Da Vinci's Inquest as well as the 1992 documentary, Stepping Razor: Red X, about the death of reggae star Peter Tosh. “I don't have the same fire about getting things done,” he laments. He is close to his children, two of whom live with their mother in California. But still, “whatever sadness I feel everyday is wishing things had gone differently. I wish I could be going home now to help them with homework.”

Nicholas Campbell, a bad boy? He is too painfully self-aware to be incorrigible.

His dilemma is a drama of identities. He can portray others with chilling conviction. But about himself, he is far less sure.

Consider it the ironic plight of the talented actor.

Dawson Is Back Creekside

Source: www.thestar.com - Barbara Rodriguez,
The Associated Press

(November 19, 2008) RALEIGH, N.C. – James Van Der Beek is back creekside.

Five years after his star-making turn as the centre of "
Dawson's Creek" came to an end, Van Der Beek is back on one of Wilmington's sound stages – working with some of his former crew colleagues – for a guest appearance on the CW's teen drama "One Tree Hill." The episode airs Monday night.

"This is just a real nice homecoming for me," he said.

Van Der Beek has tried to distance himself from his days as Dawson Leery, a film-crazed teen with aspirations of becoming a director.

He returned to North Carolina to play a director on "One Tree Hill" who is interested in turning a book written by Chad Michael Murray's character into a film.

Van Der Beek will appear in three episodes, with the rest airing in January after the show returns from a holiday break.

"I thought it was a real fun character," the 31-year-old actor said, insisting the roles are quite different. "I'm excited to work with my friends and to play a little bit."

"Dawson's Creek" debuted on the WB in 1998, a decade before co-stars Katie Holmes appeared on Broadway and Michelle Williams was nominated for an Academy Award. When the series, set in a small coastal town in Massachusetts, ended in 2003, Van Der Beek said he was exhausted and anxious to move on.

"It's something I feel quite a bit of distance from," he said.

Van Der Beek appeared as a star football player in 1999's ``Varsity Blues," then made a dramatic shift in 2002's "The Rules of Attraction" to play an obsessive drug-dealing college student.

Although he recently filmed guest appearances on the television comedies "Ugly Betty" and "How I Met Your Mother," and is working on a pilot for Fox, Van Der Beek said he often finds darker roles the most challenging.

He recently played kidnapper Anthony Zappa in "Taken in Broad Daylight," a film based on the true story of kidnapped teenager Anne Sluti.

"It comes from a real place of sadness," he said about preparing for such roles. "What you have to do is get in and track these actions, and come up for some justification in the character's mind."

Van Der Beek said he hasn't watched many episodes of "One Tree Hill," but admires the actors and show executives for keeping it relevant, referring to creator Mark Schwahn's decision to jump the show forward by four years in its fifth season. The show is in its sixth season, and there's talk about a seventh.

"I think anything that shakes things up, breathes fresh air," he said. "You're actually pushing these people ahead. It's good to take those risks because it keeps everybody sharp."

Shield Nears Its Revolutionary End

Source:  www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore,
Associated Press

(November 21, 2008) No drama series reached further with a surer hand than The Shield.

This was true before. Now, all the evidence is in. The 88th and final episode of this sure-fire police drama airs on Showcase Canada next month.

It doesn't stumble at the finish line. It's everything a series finale should be.

More to the point, this last episode, which runs in Canada in two weeks, completes the mission that has driven The Shield for seven seasons, since its first explosive moments gave the audience a start.

With its premiere, it relaunched the stalled career of its star, Michael Chiklis, while it wasted no time scoring viewers and awards, redefining its network and paving the way for subsequent ambitious FX dramas, from Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me to this fall's Sons of Anarchy, which puts viewers in the middle of a motorcycle gang.

Since March 2002, The Shield has remained a revolutionary series. It brought unaccustomed quality and daring to cable. It pushed TV drama overall to greater heights. Somehow, every week, it was superb.

This was a cop show that demanded words like "gritty" and ``raw." Its protagonist, Det. Vic Mackey, was a vigilante lawman in the roughest district of Los Angeles. As he fought lawlessness with his own brand of lawlessness, he could rival Tony Soprano as TV's most despicable hero, its reigning charismatic brute.

And speaking of The Sopranos ... devotees of that Mob drama gathered for its series finale a couple of years ago expecting to learn Tony's fate (jail? death? redemption?). Instead, the audience learned squat, to the musical accompaniment of ``Don't Stop Believin'." This made some viewers mad.

Now you wait for The Shield to wrap up things. "All will be revealed," the show has been promising. And it will. Don't stop believin'.

What will happen to Mackey? Jail? Death? Redemption? No wonder Shield fans are wondering.

With his anti-gang Strike Team, Mackey succeeded in mopping up crime where nothing else might have worked. But he was ruthless and cunning, an ACLU nightmare. Navigating by his broken moral compass, he lorded over his informants, tampered with evidence, bullied suspects and manipulated everyone around him.

On the fly, he hatched his own game plans, and no one (not even his Strike Team mates) was privy to the full, authentic version in his head.

Notwithstanding his successes, Mackey has caused a world of hurt, almost any part of which could have put him in the slammer.

On a show that always revelled in con games, double-crossing and hairpin plot twists, what would do justice to Mackey – and the show?

Hint: He gets exactly what he deserves. So, too, do many of the others in Mackey's universe. Some end up happy; some, not so happy; some, not so alive.

Written by Shield creator Shawn Ryan, the "Family Meeting" finale is a brilliant episode. It's tense and heartbreaking, as well as something the hyperkinetic Shield has seldom been before – willing to pause for interludes of excruciating calm.

"We don't want to resolve everything in the world," Ryan said. ``We try to wrap up some things, and other things, you leave with the idea that, the next day, the world goes on.''

Of course, fans of The Shield can expect to feel regret at parting ways with the show's all-too-engaging personalities.

It's also sad to realize that such a splendid troupe of actors will no longer be convening for the viewer to enjoy each week on a single show.

Here's a shout-out, then, to the squad that, along with the phenomenal Chiklis, includes CCH Pounder (who plays the upright precinct captain), Jay Karnes (as sharper-than-he-looks Det. Wagenbach), Walton Goggins (Strike Team member Det. Shane Vendrell), David Rees Snell (who, as Det. Gardocki, rounded out Mackey's rogue trio), Benito Martinez (the city councilman), Catherine Dent (steady Officer Sofer) and Cathy Cahlin Ryan, who played Mackey's tormented wife, but, in real life, is married to Shawn Ryan.

Production on The Shield wrapped nearly a year ago. The finale was completed last spring. Ryan said he hadn't seen it for months when, recently, he screened it for reporters and reflected.

"It's obviously a special show for me," Ryan said when the lights went back up. He said he had watched with a twinge of "nervousness, knowing what's coming."

Then he touched on all that had passed.

"You know how people look back and say, `I wish I'd known what we had, I wish I'd appreciated it more?' I think everyone on the show appreciated every single season. We all treasured it.''

The Shield is a show that viewers, too, will treasure to the end.

Dominating The Airwaves For 25 Years

Source:  www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore,
Associated Press

(November 20, 2008) NEW YORK – You take trivia answers that call for rapid-fire questions. You take a jumbo roulette wheel and the letters of the alphabet. What you've got are Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, TV's reigning syndicated shows for a quarter-century.

But that's only for starters. Wheel has rallied 4.6 million of its daily 10.4 million American viewers for the online Wheel Watchers Club, which gives members a crack at winning a prize from each day's telecast.

There are versions of both Wheel and Jeopardy for personal computers, with Jeopardy available on the PlayStation online network. And you can play variations of both shows on your cellphone.

What's next? Come January, any U.S. cellphone owner can compete in real time against the daily trio of on-air Jeopardy contestants (as well as against others from the audience of 9.5 million) while viewing the broadcast.

"Wheel and Jeopardy have now transcended what we traditionally call programming," says Harry Friedman, executive producer of both shows. "They are now a part of people's lifestyle."

They have boosted the early evening audience for CBC-TV since being added to the line-up in the fall, with Wheel drawing more than 400,000 viewers at 5.30 p.m. weekdays and Jeopardy almost 1 million at 7.30 p.m.

They have certainly settled into the ethos. Is there anyone who's never seen Pat Sajak selling vowels while his Wheel co-host Vanna White lights up the puzzle board? Or heard the scholarly purr of Canadian ex-pat host Alex Trebek reciting each Jeopardy answer, as if the facts were already second nature to him? Could there be anyone who doesn't know that twinkly, sort of crazy-making tune for Final Jeopardy?

One key to their success: Neither show has a habit of calling attention to itself, with the notable exception of software engineer Ken Jennings's 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy in 2004, which not only made headlines and thrilled the public, but also threatened the steady-as-she-goes reliability that makes both shows so comfortable to watch.

Even if you haven't tuned in since the Reagan administration (Jeopardy is now celebrating its 25th season; Wheel premiered in syndication a year earlier, in 1983), you're prepared for what you'll see if you watch any day this week.

Not that there haven't been changes. Upgrading to high-definition television. Going on the road with more frequency and extravagance. Especially themed tournaments. Modifying the rules to energize the shows.

But Friedman speaks as the keeper of a sacred trust when he cites ``our philosophy of not messing with the fundamental formats."

"We keep the game the same," he explains from his Los Angeles headquarters, "but we know we can change the show around it."

He marvels at the shows' compatibility. In most of their 200-plus markets, they air back-to-back, each having long ago proved itself as the ideal complement to the other.

"Wheel is a game, Jeopardy is a quiz, and each of them requires its own skill set," Friedman says. "Wheel is best played by people who are avid readers and who like to do crossword puzzles, because they understand what words look like, how they appear to the eye.

"That requires a different skill than playing a game that's knowledge-based, like Jeopardy."

But as they carry on in TV tandem, each show has struck out for other media platforms.

With its January launch, Jeopardy Live intends to bridge even not-so-web-savvy Jeopardy devotees with American cellphone gamers who may not include a TV quiz show in their media mix.

But that's not all, declares Friedman, as his search continues for the next new twist.

"Fortunately, the way technology is going today, we never have to search too far, or wait very long," he says, with a cautionary note about the games: "As they morph onto new platforms, we always have to maintain their integrity."

Super Dave Plans Comeback

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

(November 23, 2008) TORONTO — Super Dave Osborne is gearing up for more outrageous stunts.

The accident-prone daredevil, portrayed by U.S. comic Bob Einstein, says he's in talks to resume his televised exploits, and promises they'll be bigger and better than ever.

“Obviously, I have to go pretty absurd,” says Einstein, whose misadventures in the '80s as the klutzy stuntman included a fall from the CN Tower and being eaten alive by Mr. T.

“I can't really divulge what we're going to do but it will be absurd, I promise. And you know, now with computer imaging and things like that, you can do a little more. ... I can take it, maybe, another step.”

The accident-prone daredevil, portrayed by U.S. comic Bob Einstein, says he's in talks to resume his televised exploits, and promises they'll be bigger and better than ever. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)

Aside from being utter fiascos, Super Dave's antics were known for their low-budget effects, often involving haphazard contraptions designed by stunt co-ordinator Fuji and featuring flimsy protective padding and harnesses made from “genuine Saskatchewan sealskin bindings.”

Stunts would invariably end with a stuffed dummy dressed as Super Dave being crushed, burned, buried, flung or worse.

“I'm able to go into an immediate coma, so I don't remember too much,” Einstein says when reminded of his alter ego's dismal record.

Dressed in his trademark red-white-and-blue Super Dave jumpsuit for an interview at a downtown hotel, Einstein readily agrees that the amateur touches of his early skits added greatly to their humour, and even though he's eager to incorporate new technology he insisted that the spirit would remain the same.

Einstein refused to reveal more about the potential series but predicted that shooting would begin next summer in California.

The Los Angeles-born Einstein lives in L.A., but Canadian fans can be forgiven for believing he was a Canuck.

He spent 12 years in Toronto during Super Dave's heyday, appearing regularly on Jon Byner's Bizarre sketch comedy series and later starring on his own talk show, The Super Dave Osborne Show.

Einstein says he thinks back fondly on his time in Canada but admits there were painful moments here, too. Literally.

“You can't do everything I did for all those years and not sustain some injuries,” he says.

Much like Super Dave's best-laid plans for over-the-top tricks, Einstein's plans for hilarious mock stunts occasionally ended horribly for himself. He recalled once driving into a scene on a motorcycle and putting his left heel down to stop. His heel broke.

“Which is about as painful as you can possibly imagine,” he says. “And I'm rolling around on the ground and the crew and everyone are dying laughing, thinking I'm acting, and the more I yell ‘I'm serious!' the harder they're laughing — they're crying,” he says, apparently still exasperated.

Then there was the “very arrogant special-effects man” who fashioned a plaster of Paris cast for Einstein's rear so they could shoot an arrow into his pants. The skit involved a golf course built on an ancient burial ground and an annoyed aboriginal man trying to drive Super Dave off the land.

Einstein recalls the special-effects man assuring him that everything would be fine.

“And so he (shoots the arrow) and it goes right through the plaster of Paris, into my behind. And I can't explain the pain of getting a razor arrow shot into your ass,” he says.

“And the last thing I did is, I looked over at him before I fell — because I had to complete the stunt — and he gave me a palms-up, like, ‘Hey, you win a few, you lose a few.”'

In recent years, Einstein has kept busy with guest appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm (as Marty Funkhouser), the defunct Arrested Development (as Larry Middleman) and the caper flick Ocean's 13 (as Agent Caldwell).

Einstein says he's excited to resume shooting Curb Your Enthusiasm in December, promising more unfortunate hilarity next season.

“I guarantee you, in the first episode another member of my family gets it,” says Einstein, whose character lost both of his parents in recent seasons.

For those who can't wait for his alter ego's return, a DVD of favourite Super Dave stunts hits the market on Tuesday. Titled Super Dave's Super Stunts Spectacular, Vol. 1, the 140-minute collection includes the infamous CN Tower debacle, in which Super Dave is accidentally knocked off the top of the Toronto landmark.

It also features the basketball catapult stunt, in which Super Dave tries to stage the highest slam dunk ever but ends up smashing his entire body into the glass backboard behind the net.

Although Einstein says it's been over a decade since Super Dave performed his outlandish feats, the trim 66-year-old says he's ready to tackle new ones and has worked hard at staying in shape and looking young.

“Instead of eating, I do Botox. I have about 1,100 pounds of Botox all over my body,” he says.

“It's a body Botox and if it ever cracks, I'm in trouble.”

Great TV But It's Not All Dance

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

(November 25, 2008) By any measure applied to TV programs, So You Think You Can Dance Canada has to be rated one of the most successful shows ever produced in this country. Six weeks into the series, launched on Sept. 11, the show came in as No. 1 of all the new fall programs. The three performance episodes were averaging 1.36 million viewers and SYTYCDC was rated the top show for women, younger viewers and urban markets.

Dancers and choreographers struggling to bring audiences into theatres must be a little peeved, or at least a touch envious. But they shouldn't fume because watching this show, even witnessing a taping of it, has little to compare with the experience of attending a live dance performance.

So You Think You Can Dance has spawned a new genre: TVDance, a close relative of music video. There's almost nothing live about it. Even when you're sitting in the bleachers in the cavernous Lake Shore Blvd. studio where the competitors charge through their numbers, it's the screen you tend to watch, not the performance, frequently obscured in any case by creeping cameramen trolling for close-ups.

The performers are dancing for the camera, after all. You just have to take the judges' word for it that some of these couples are generating enough heat to singe the skirts on the young women ranged around the catwalks above the stage. (Those dancers who don't are invariably enjoined to "take it to another level.")

The dancing looks great, but there's no emotional connection between performers and audience. For that, you would have to attend an actual dance concert: last Saturday's flamenco performance by Mercedes Ruiz comes to mind.

Granted, the judges are in a much better position – right on the set – to really feel something and notice more than the dancers' amply exposed young bodies.

(Last Wednesday night, Lisa Auguste and Nico Archambault's sexy jazz-funk number choreographed by Blake McGrath caused American guest judge Dan Karaty to comment, "They wouldn't allow that (on the air) in the States.")

Some of the judges really know what they're talking about, and you can learn from their comments what makes great dancing. Jean-Marc Généreux, for one, obviously knows everything about ballroom dancing. When Rex Harrington, artist-in-residence at the National Ballet of Canada, is on the show, he gives really good feedback to the dancers on how to improve their performances.

But make no mistake: the judges are performing just as hard as the competitors. This is how TVDance works. Their enthusiasm never wanes; they talk as if they're in love with the dancers. On last Wednesday's show, Généreux was positively postcoital, tearing up as he stood to give a slow clap and tell Natalli Reznik and Vincent Noiseux that their execution of Stacey Tookey's contemporary piece was "the best performance of the night."

Tookey's piece was engaging choreography that would stand up on a theatre stage. But not a lot of what gets danced on SYTYCDC is as earth-shattering as the judges and producers would have you believe. The dancers justify the high praise they've been earning all round, but if this show was called So You Think You Can Choreograph, it would be a different story. Too often the routines, like the krump number where the dancers impersonated cat burglars, are gimmicky and require more acrobatic than dance skills. But that's TVDance for you.

It really does look pretty exciting on the small screen. And if So You Think You Can Dance Canada can entice more people to go and see dance in a theatre or, as Harrington comments, if competitors like Archambault (an audience favourite) encourage boys to "put down their hockey sticks and start dancing," then more power (and higher ratings) to it.


Canadian Actors Broadway Bound

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(November 25, 2008) The continuing conquest of Broadway by Canadians added two more victories to its list this week with the news of two performers, who both starred in last season's hit musical White Christmas, landing roles in major Manhattan musicals.

The Star has learned that
Kate Hennig will take over the leading role of dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson in the hit musical Billy Elliot after the creator of the part, Haydn Gwynne, returns to England this June.

And Peterborough's Graham Rowat will be one of the gamblers in the Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York as he joins the cast of the revival of Guys and Dolls, opening this winter under the leadership of Stratford's artistic director, Des McAnuff, and his frequent choreographic collaborator Sergio Trujillo, both from Toronto.

Hennig was originally scheduled to appear at the Stratford Festival this summer as Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest, but has surrendered those roles for a crack at Broadway. There is no word yet on Hennig's replacement.

She is currently reprising the part of Martha in White Christmas that she dazzled Toronto audiences with last winter; only this year she's in the company playing Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Some of Hennig's most prominent local credits include The Danish Play, the Shaw Festival production of Gypsy and the National Arts Centre/Royal Shakespeare Theatre co-production of The Penelopiad.

Rowat also spent some of his early career at the Shaw Festival and has been seen locally in Beauty and the Beast. His most recent Broadway credit was in Hal Prince's musical about Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, LoveMusik.

McAnuff's Guys and Dolls is one of the most eagerly awaited shows of the Broadway season, with Oliver Platt already announced as Nathan Detroit and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) as Miss Adelaide.

Previews are scheduled to begin on Feb. 3 with an opening slated for March 1. McAnuff will then return to Stratford where he will direct Colm Feore in Macbeth and Bruce Dow in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Clifford Cardinal Has Fallen In Love

www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

(November 25, 2008)  Clifford Cardinal was just 17 when he first left the family home, leaving his anxious mother, Tantoo, to make do with "cellphone mothering."

Five years down the line, however, any rancour that might have existed between the Cardinals seems to have disappeared. The two aboriginal actors - Clifford has followed his famous mother into her line of work - take turns complimenting each other over the phone from Edmonton, where they are working on a new play and sharing a house for the first time since Clifford moved out.

"I've got a lot of respect for his drives and his passion for his art," says Tantoo, 58, whose three decades of acting credits include roles in films like Legends of the Fall, Dances With Wolves and Black Robe.

"It's so much fun to work and play with my mom," replies Clifford, 23, the second of Tantoo's three children.

If this all sounds a bit formal, however, the conversation soon gets sillier. "I would never be as outspoken as my mom," Clifford says of his mother's noted activism. "My mom's like Sarah Palin - she's a real maverick."

"Not Sarah Palin!" Tantoo cries. "Oh God." And the two dissolve into hearty laughter, a sound that regularly punctuates the interview.

The Cardinals are acting opposite one another in
Three Little Birds, a new play by Kenneth T. Williams that is both funny and sad, and launched Workshop West Theatre's 30th season last week in Edmonton. One of the last times Tantoo was on an Edmonton stage, she won a Sterling award for best actress in Floyd Favel's All My Relations.  Tantoo plays Annie, a strong-willed Bob Marley fan in her 50s, dying of cancer and disappointed that she probably will not live to see her unmarried 30-year-old daughter, Kerry (played by the unrelated Michaela Washburn), have a grandchild.

Troy, a troubled 17-year-old father played by Clifford, enters her life unexpectedly - breaking into her house on the reserve, his baby girl in a sling on his back.

Rather than turning Troy into the police, Annie sets him to work helping around the house - for instance, rolling her medical marijuana into joints.

In return, she gets to partly fulfill her dream of being a Kokum (grandmother).

The Cardinal clan can relate to unorthodox approaches to parental discipline. At the age of 15, when Clifford was going through a difficult time ("I was angry and had blue hair"), Tantoo let him miss a semester of school to sit in on rehearsals of one of Michael Hollingsworth's Canadian history plays at Toronto's VideoCabaret.

"That was a bold parental decision and the best one ever," says Clifford, who went back to school the next semester and later went on to act in Hollingsworth's The Saskatchewan Rebellion.

Tantoo is originally from Alberta, but Clifford was born when she was living in South Dakota in the 1980s. They didn't stay there long, as Tantoo's career took her to California, Vermont and then Toronto (with many other stops along the way).

"In this world of being an artist, you've got to be a nomad and go where the berries are," explains Tantoo, whose appearances on the small screen include memorable stints on Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Street Legal and her Gemini-winning work on North of 60.

Clifford found much of what he saw of his mother's career appealing. "I remember being on some film set with my mom dressed up like a real, live Indian - pretty exciting stuff," he recalls. "For most people, acting is an impossible dream. But for me, it's not a totally foreign concept that someone could make a living as an artist."

Younger sister Riel, studying at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, also has the acting bug, and Clifford has written a one-woman play called Stitch for her. Oldest child Cheyenne is the odd Cardinal out, currently studying for his MBA. "He's the black sheep of the family," Clifford jokes.

"I figure they have to follow what their passions are," Tantoo says. "I hope that I'm not tampering with whatever decisions their souls want to take."

How does Clifford's father fit into the picture? There's a pause. "Cliff is an immaculate conception," deadpans Tantoo, showing where her son got his wicked sense of humour.

"My father lives on in South Dakota on Pine Ridge, a very poor reserve, and has a lot of personal demons," Clifford explains, diplomatically. "I've only had one phone conversation with him. He asked me if I was a good golfer."

In Three Little Birds, Troy's father is also absent, in jail, something that gives Clifford a personal hook into the character. "I think about all the things that happen to young aboriginals, and I'm speaking about the men here, who don't have the role models," says Clifford, who was nominated for a Jessie award in Vancouver last year for his role in Green Thumb Theatre's production of Tales of an Urban Indian.

Tantoo's personal connection to Annie, an offbeat character "dancing to her swan song," is cancer. "I know a lot of people who have gone that way," she says. "Who can avoid that experience?"

Cancer has become a hot-button issue in the aboriginal communities near Tantoo's birthplace of Fort McMurray, where some say development has come at the expense of the environment and health. On a recent trip to the boomtown, the actress was astonished by how much the area has changed. "You can't recognize the place, only some of the trees," she says, recalling how there was no television, electricity or even a highway when she was a child. The long-time activist is not impressed by the growth tied to the controversial oil sands. "It's all about raping the land and raping the earth," she says.

"I thought it was nice," interjects Clifford, lightening the conversation with his twentysomething irony. "Lots of great jobs and stuff."

This leads to more laughter. Sounds like mother and son are enjoying their family reunion. "Well, we're not crying," Clifford says.

Three Little Birds runs until Nov. 30 at Edmonton's Catalyst Theatre (780-420-1757).


High-Tech Titles, Lowbrow Stereotypes

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

(November 22, 2008) Depending on your perspective, Cole Train is either the baddest badass in Gears of War 2 or just another stereotypical character to grace a pixelated screen. Often talking as if he's straight out of a '70s blacksploitation flick, "The Train," as he refers to himself, is one of the sidekick characters in the smash hit sequel video game that launched earlier this month.

Since being introduced in the first version of the game in 2006, the character has been criticized by many bloggers and commentators, but is also equally loved and supported by plenty of gaming fans – all of which is just another example of the weird way the video game community deals with race.

For some, talking about race in video games is kind of like complaining about airline food just as the plane nosedives into the tarmac. By looking at the subject matter of most games, the drive-by violations against cultures are just additional fodder for denouncing the medium. Considering the sophistication that goes into making even the simplest video game, race and culture and their use are often as calculated as the software and programming needed to create the increasingly beautiful graphics.

But that just might be the problem.

"They may be incredibly sophisticated from a technical standpoint, but not necessarily from a cultural standpoint," says Jim Steyer, president and founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based family entertainment consumer advocacy group. "There are a lot of good games, but studies show that almost twice as many blacks and Latinos show up as villains in media in general, and that's really reflected in games.

"The thing is, there's often a premium on the quality of the game play over everything else. The Grand Theft Auto series is famous for this ... the cultural representations in that game perpetuate an incredible amount of race and gender stereotypes."

In that respect, at least Train is one of the heroes, so at least it's not a negative in that way. What's surprising is how some of these characters persist considering the advances in customization of characters, like the Wii's Miis, although for a majority of games they are not playable, but that is changing. As well, this is more than a just a North American phenomenon, as many games from around the world rely on stereotypes, particularly when creating villains and non-playable characters. Part of it could be chalked up to the limited way stories are told in games, with cut scenes, usually only when necessary to move the action along. The thing is how realistic should we expect virtual worlds to be? It's obviously a goal for some game makers, and according to Steyer, this is important because media images do shape how young people consider what is normal, and the repetitive replay nature of video games serve to reinforce these ideas even more.

According to Rob Parungao, Asian characters don't fair much better. An avid gamer, the 25-year-old wrote his University of B.C. honours thesis on the portrayal of Asian characters two years ago, and became one of the few voices to speak out about racial representation in video games.

Now a graduate of the Masters in Sociology program at Concordia, Parungao can look back with some perspective. He received a fair amount of media attention because of the provocative nature of his work – and plenty of hate mail from gamers.

A history and sociology co-major, Parungao compared the progression of Asian characters in film over time with the situation in games.

"It was this idea that representation of Asians in film were growing more and more neutral. So my argument was, if that's the process in film, let's see what happens with games over the last 20 or 30 years. So I took a look at the games in the early '80s and compared them to the early 2000s, and I found that they stayed about the same," he says.

"So the question is: Why and how have video games plateaued, whereas other media like film have moved in a more a positive or neutral direction?"

He argues that many game characters need to be larger than life, and further, that video games, as a medium, aren't subject to the same kind of criticism or scrutiny that media such as film and television are. He also thinks some of the ideas about character stereotypes come from game designers reflecting the media they grew up with – B-movies and horror films – so anachronistic ideas and characters often emerge in games.

Some observers note that gaming is considerably younger than its media counterparts, even though it already generates more revenue than film.

"As interactive entertainment grows, both in terms of the art and as a media, we're witnessing a broadening of the demographics of gamers," says Hal Halpin, president of the U.S.-based Entertainment Consumer Association.

"Gaming is maturing along with gamers.

"Additionally, games are becoming more international. The subject matter is more complex and more diverse. As the sector and its consumer base widens, we'll continue to see bigger, broader challenges such as socio-economic and cultural sensitivities that will come into play – and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. The music and movie businesses survived their maturation, so too shall gaming."

The immersive nature of games makes it easier to give a pass to something culturally questionable.

"I'm a bit schizophrenic about it," says Parungao. "One minute, it's this awesome sequence or great graphics, but then you see something silly content-wise, and you say, `Why did you have to be like that?' But if it's an enjoyable game, of course, you can move on."

While stereotypical representation is something that has been an issue with video games since their inception, the controversies that have arisen around more sophisticated issues of cultural context point in some ways to progress.

About a month ago, Microsoft announced that Fallout 3, a dystopian role-playing game, would not be released in India because of cultural sensitivity issues. The software company and the game's manufacturer, Bethesda Softworks, haven't elaborated as to why, but the reason cited by many is the presence of two-headed, mutated cows called "Brahmins" in the game.

Because of the historical implications, the game is also being edited for its Japanese release, removing a mission in which a player can explode a nuclear bomb in a city.

What's interesting here is that Bethesda Softworks is self-editing in order to make the game more culturally palatable for a particular audience. That said, calls to Bethesda were not returned. According to gaming blog Kotaku.com, the general reaction among Japanese gamers has been disappointment that they're missing out on the experience.

In another incident, LittleBigPlanet, one of PlayStation 3's most important titles for the season, had its planned launch date in October delayed a week because a Muslim gamer noticed a song in an early-level background that set words from the Qur'an to music – a certain affront to some Muslims. Sony and Media Molecule, the U.K. company that made the game, were shocked. They removed the song, then released an online patch to remove it from copies already out.

This case seems to be extenuating circumstances. The song was a licensed track from a 2006 album by Toumani Diabate, a Muslim from Mali who has since stated that in his culture it is normal to play music inspired by words from the Qur'an. The game manufacturers decided to err on the side of caution.

Another controversy erupted earlier in the year around a trailer for Resident Evil 5, which featured a white character mowing down a group of African zombies. Criticized by a game journalist, it ignited several incendiary discussions on gaming comment boards.

Africa is something of a new setting for games, so there is a sensitivity about the area, but Louis-Pierre Pharand says it didn't affect his production of Far Cry 2, a recently released shooter set in a fictional war-torn country on the continent.

Pharand and his team at Ubisoft Montreal seemed to go out of their way to avoid such cultural mishaps, hiring consultants on African military regimes and politics, and travelling to Africa because "we decided we had to go. We had the North American version of what Africa was, and that's bad."

They also used voice actors that had similar cultural backgrounds to the characters. Since the game is played in the first person, its makers created nine choices of characters of different ages and backgrounds.

"We could have made one playable character, and try to put everything into one, but that would have been a major mistake for us because we would have had to make decisions like: Do we want the character to be white? Do we want him to be black?" Pharand says.

"I'm not going to kid you. We focus-grouped a lot, and those characters were picked out of 15, and they were the ones that tested well."

Fact is, with first-person games, the player's physical appearance is less of an issue. In the new Mirror's Edge, the main character is Faith Connors, an Asian woman, which should be seen as a sign of progress.

The fantasy settings of many games means the most elegant solution is no race at all. That's what made the LittleBigPlanet song controversy even more surprising, as the stars of the game are cute cross-stitched characters called Sackboys, and the game features ways to customize characters with fabric and clothing.

This notion of racial irrelevance is fostering hope that in the digital space, race shouldn't be an issue. Ideas trump all. This partly explains why many gamers aren't bothered by racial stereotypes, beyond seeing them as another avenue to criticism.

"Gamers have always felt that they are under fire. And to raise the race issue only adds a new direction of attack," says Parungao. "Normally, the big three are addiction, representation of females and violence. And to add a fourth other angle, like race, that just makes it more problematic for gamers.

"I can see why they want to shut that down, but I think it's a conversation that you should have, because I think it will only lead to making better games."

Experience Goes A Long Way With Xbox 360

Source:  www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star

(November 22, 2008) If you're one of the 14 million Xbox 360 owners who subscribe to the Xbox Live service, you might notice things look a little different when you log on next and download an update.

Dubbed the "Xbox Experience," this graphical and navigational overhaul replaces the aging dashboard with a slick new 3-D interface, allowing users to better interact with other gamers, see what content is on their hard drive (or disc drive) and find it easier to download additional content, be it new songs for Rock Band 2, bonus maps for Gears of War 2 or extra levels for Grand Theft Auto IV.

Xbox Experience also brings new community and social networking features. Previously, players could only initiate conversations when they were inside a game, but this new interface allows for chatting while on the dashboard itself – and continue on even if two gamers decide to play different games at the same time. Players can also host "parties" (think chat rooms) and share photos with up to seven others.

Perhaps borrowing a page from Nintendo's Miis, Xbox Live subscribers can also create an "avatar" – an online graphical representation of themselves – and customize the way the 3-D character looks with hundreds of aesthetic options and accessories. As with many Nintendo Wii games, players can choose to import their avatar into some games, such as Scene It? Box Office Smash.

South of the border, Xbox 360 owners can also download films via DVD rental giant Netflix, but this service is not available in the Great White North. That said, Canadian Xbox 360 owners can watch select titles from MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

On a related note, Sony Computer Entertainment America announced that the two-year-old PlayStation Network, which offers downloads of games, movies and TV shows to people with a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable, now has 14 million subscribers, the same number as Xbox Live.


Celebrate the Season — Holiday Listings

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

(November 20, 2008) Here is just a taste of the wide array of music, dance, theatre and other events offering a festive feast for the season. Make sure to check the What's On section each week for more holiday listings.


Cavalcade of Lights, a 42-year holiday tradition for Toronto, kicks off on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. with the official tree lighting, fireworks and live music from the Canadian Tenors, Serena Ryder, Alex Cuba and Toya Alexis. A DJ spins tunes for skaters on the ice rink until 10 p.m. Festivities continue every Sat. through the month with fireworks and music from Canadian Idols Theo Tams, Mitch Macdonald, Drew Wright and others on Dec. 6; Dragonette on Dec. 13 and Serena Ryder on Dec. 20. Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W. Info: 416-338-0338 or toronto.ca

Harbourfront Centre's outdoor skating rink, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, opens for the season on Nov. 17 (weather permitting). This year features Fireside Rinkside, with outdoor fireplaces and seating areas around the rink. Starting Nov. 22, every weekend has acoustic performances and storytelling by local artists. 235 Queens Quay W. Full info at 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

Swedish Christmas Festival features festive entertainment like traditional folk dancing and the Lucia Pageant. There's also a Children's Christmas Workshop with crafts and a marketplace with traditional Swedish gifts, Lucia gowns, homemade crafts and more. Runs Nov. 22 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. & Nov. 23 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (free admission). Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W. Info: 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

Toronto Zoo's annual Christmas Treats Walk features strolling carollers and all the animals getting their very own seasonal goodies. Enjoy some hot chocolate yourself after the walk. Dec. 26 at 10 a.m. (half price admission all day; bring non-perishable food item). Toronto Zoo, Meadowvale Rd. & Hwy 401 E. torontozoo.com

Trail of Lights walk-through holiday light show at Downsview Park is a 2km route with hundreds of themed light displays set to festive music — over half are animated. The event also has a huge holiday tree, horse drawn carriage rides, photos with Santa and more. Runs Nov. 28 to Dec. 31 from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. ($10-$12). 35 Carl Hall Rd. Info: downsviewpark.ca

The Messiah

Ballet Creole presents their dance rendition of the holiday favourite, in an urban and contemporary production blending popular and African-Caribbean dance. Dec. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. ($25-$35 at 416-973-4000). Fleck (formerly Premiere) Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W. balletcreole.org

Canadian Sinfonietta presents Part I of the Messiah and works by Jason Locke and Mozart. Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. ($25/$15 at 416-872-4255). Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

Classical Music Consort performs the sacred oratorio with a minimalist approach, using period instruments and the voices of the CMC choir. Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ($30/$15 at 416-978-8849 or uofttix.ca). UofT's Chapel at Knox College, 56 St. George St.

Elmer Iseler Singers join forces with the Amadeus Choir to give their rendition of Handel's Messiah with 100 voices under guest conductor Sir David Willcocks. Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ($50/$45/$10 at 416-217-0537). Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St. E.

Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra present their annual performance of Handel's masterpiece, with soprano Nancy Argenta, alto Laura Pudwell, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and baritone Brett Polegato joining them. Dec. 17-20 at 7:30 p.m. ($39-$79 at 416-964-6337). Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor St. W.

Tafelmusik also has the popular Sing-Along Messiah, with conductor Ivars Taurins in full costume as Herr Handel, on Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. ($29.50 at 416-872-4255). Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Toronto Classical Singers are accompanied by the Talisker Players Orchestra for highlights of Handel's Messiah, Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. ($25/$20 at 416-443-1490). Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge St.

Toronto's Favourite Messiah has the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir teaming up with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra plus soprano Gillian Keith, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy, tenor Frederic Antoun and bass Robert Gleadow for performances Dec. 17-20 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. (tickets at 416-872-4255). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. tmchoir.org

Choirs and Chorales

Amadeus Choir's Season of Festivity holiday concert has special guests The Bach Children's Chorus, harpist Erica Goodman, pianist Eleanor Daley and organist Shawn Grenke. The concert also features winning compositions from the Choir's annual Christmas Carol and Chanukah Song Writing Competition. Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ($35 at 416-446-0188). Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge St.

Celebration Choir and Vocal Mosaic presents Let There Be Song, with guest tenor Peter Stuckless and two TTSS community choirs. Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. ($12/$8 at 416-455-9238). Bloor Street United Church, 300 Bloor St. W.

Echo Women's Choir performs songs of longing and comfort from a variety of composers and countries in their A Light in the Window winter concert with special guest Jani Lauzon. Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ($12 at 416-588-9050 ext. 3/$15 at door). Church of the Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Square.

Healey Willan Singers presents Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Folk Songs for the Four Seasons" and other seasonal music for women's choir. Dec. 13 ($15/$10 at 416-519-0528). Church of St. Martin in-the-Fields, 151 Glenlake Ave.

Nathaniel Dett Chorale presents an Indigo Christmas... Great Joy!, Dec. 17 & 20 at 8 p.m. ($39.50 at 416-872-4255). Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

Scarborough Choral Society presents Sounds of Christmas with a big chorus, full orchestra and CharActors Theatre Troupe. Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m., Dec. 7 at 2:30 p.m. ($18-$25 at 905-305-7469). Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd.

Toronto Mass Choir offers A Gospel Christmas, Dec. 17 at noon (free). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

The Upper Canada Choristers present their holiday concert Wassail! With Venezuelan gaita group La Parranda and the Choristers' Latin ensemble Cantemos. Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ($20 at 416-256-0510/$25 at door). St. John's York Mills Anglican Church, 19 Don Ridge Rd.

Vivace Vox vocal ensemble presents Songs of Comfort and Joy with alleluias, spirituals, songs of celebration and Mozart's "Exsultate, jubilate," with guest artist soprano Katie Murphy. Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. ($15/$10 at 416-455-9238). Bloor Street United Church, 300 Bloor St. W.

Voices hold their 13th annual Christmas choral concert featuring Vivaldi's "Gloria" and Holst's "Christmas Day" plus works by Vaughan Williams and Canadian composers. Dec. 6 ($20/$15 at 416-519-0528). St. Thomas's Church, 383 Huron St.

Orchestral Overtures

The Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra presents Jubilant Overtures with seasonal music, an audience sing-along and silent auction. Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. ($20/$15/$10 at 416-239-5665). Humber Valley United Church, 76 Anglesey Blvd. eporchestra.ca

North York Concert Orchestra presents a Christmas choral concert featuring excerpts from Handel's Messiah and a selection of holiday carols. Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. ($15 at 416-628-9195). Grace Church-on-the-Hill, 300 Lonsdale Rd.

Orchestra Toronto offers works like Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," Rimsky-Korsakov's Suite from "Christmas Eve" and other works Dec. 7 at 3 p.m., pre-concert talk at 2:15 p.m. ($35/$30 at 416-872-1111). Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St.

Toronto Consort presents The Praetorius Christmas Vespers, which recreates a Christmas service as it might have been performed in 17th century Germany. Dec. 12 & 13 at 8 p.m. ($14-$53 at 416-964-6337). Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor St. W.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra returns with their popular holiday-flavoured arena rock attraction, Dec. 26 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. ($43.50-$52.50 at 416-870-8000). Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St. They also perform Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum ($42-$52 at 905-527-7666).

Via Salzburg Chamber Orchestra presents Festive Strings with string music from across three centuries. Dec. 18 & 19 at 8 p.m. ($50/$45/$25 at 416-872-4255). Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

Strike Up the Bands

Canadian Brass are joined by organist Eric Roberts for a Christmas concert Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ($29.50-$59.50 at 416-872-4255). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

Christmas with the Salvation Army has the Canadian Staff Band and 300-voice Festival Chorus performing with singer Margaret Davis, dramatist Colin Fox and organist Giles Bryant plus a carol sing-along. Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ($15-$25 at 416-872-4255). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

Etobicoke Community Concert Band has their Christmas Pops concert, with a guest choir and hit songs of Christmas past and present. Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. ($18/$15/$5 at 416-410-1570). Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium, 86 Montgomery Rd. eccb.ca

Hannaford Street Silver Band presents Christmas Joy with guests the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus and organist Andrew Ager. Works include a medley of Errol Gay's A Dickens of a Christmas and the traditional French carol "Il est né le divin enfant." Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. ($39/$33/$25 at 416-366-7723). Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St. E.

Northdale Concert Band has a holiday concert with soloists Gifford Toole on piano and Cynthia Gollinger on saxophone. Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. ($10/$8 at door). St. Jude's Anglican Church, 10 Howarth Ave. Info: 416-486-3011.

Toronto All-Star Big Band holds a vintage Swing era Christmas show with jazzy tunes, nostalgic stories and humour. Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. ($39 at 416-366-7723). St. Lawrence Centre's Jane Mallet Theatre, 27 Front St. E.

Celtic Sounds

The Barra MacNeils bring East Coast Celtic sounds to the stage for their Christmas show Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. ($29.50-$64.50 at 416-778-8163). The Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave.

Cantores Celestes Women's Choir are joined by Kelly Galbraith and Cairdeas for Out of the Mist, Above the Reel — A Celtic Christmas featuring seasonal music in the Celtic tradition. Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. ($20 at 416-236-1522). Runnymede United Church, 432 Runnymede Rd. cantorescelestes.com

Celtic Christmas Celebration features music from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales with pipers, dancers and special guests the Tartan Terrors and the Dewi Sant Welsh Choir. Nov. 29 at 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. ($25 at 416-259-6541). The Assembly Hall, 1 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Dr. celticchristmas.ca

The Irish Descendants embrace the holidays in East Coast style with their Gift of Christmas Tour, featuring traditional carols, humour and antics. Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. ($40 & up at 905-305-7469). Markham Theatre for Performing Arts, 171 Town Centre Blvd.

Carols and Sing-Alongs

Christmas Carol Service with holiday music new and old, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Northminster United Church, 255 Finch Ave. W.

Singing OUT! holiday concert is a Festival of Favourites, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. ($20 at SingingOut.com or Out on the Street at 551 Church St.). St. Luke's United Church, Carleton & Sherbourne Sts.

St. Cuthbert's Anglican Church has Advent Lessons and Carols with the choirs of St. Cuthburt's, Leaside United and St. Augustine of Canterbury Churches, Nov. 30 at 3 p.m.; Carols with Friends followed by mulled cider and cookies, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. (bring can of food for the food bank). 399 Bayview Ave. stcuthbertsleaside.com

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir presents their annual Festival of Carols with the Youth Choir and the Festival Brass. Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ($30-$78 at 416-598-0422). Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 1585 Yonge St. Info: tmchoir.org


Barenaked Ladies are Barenaked for the Holidays with a performance featuring holiday favourites and some of the band's own hits. Dec. 6 & 7 at 8 p.m. ($39.50-$69.50 at 416-872-4255). Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Emilie-Claire Barlow offers an evening of music with Winter Wonderland, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. ($35 & up at 905-305-7469). Markham Theatre for Performing Arts, 171 Town Centre Blvd.

The Canadian Songbook is a holiday musical experience featuring four of Canada's most celebrated songwriters — Murray McLauchlan, Stephen Fearing, Paul Quarrington and Catherine MacLellan — taking the stage for a night of original songs and stories. Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. ($42.50 at 416-870-8000). The Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave.

John McDermott annual Christmas concert has special guests Gowan, Eric Bogle, Suzie Vinnick and the Arrogant Worms, Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. ($39.50-$69.50 at 416-872-4255). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

Stuart McLean — A Vinyl Café Christmas has the popular storyteller with brand new Dave and Morley adventures and great music. Dec. 13 at 8:30 p.m., Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. ($25-$50 at 416-872-4255). Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Sarah Slean and Friends offer an annual holiday show, Dec. 19 & 20 at 8 p.m. ($32.50 at 416-973-4000). Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W.

Michelle Wright brings her A Wright Christmas Tour to various venues around Ontario, including The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m.; Class Act Dinner Theatre in Whitby on Dec.7 at 7 p.m.; Mississauga's Living Arts Centre on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. Full tour info at michelle-wright.com

Voice of Youth

The Ault Sisters — Amanda, 17; Alicia, 15 and Alanna, 13 — offer a special holiday matinee concert Dec. 14 at noon ($8-$16 at 416-531-6604). Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St. W.

Bach Children's Chorus and Bach Chamber Youth Choir present the family concert Ring Bells Ring! with traditional and contemporary carols, a Chanukah song, songs about winter and songs about bells. Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. ($20-$24 at 416-870-8000). Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St.

Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio's young artists present Seasonal Songs to celebrate the festive time of year, Dec. 11 at noon (free). Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W.

St. Michael's Choir School presents A Christmas Overture with special guest True North Brass. Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. & Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. ($22.50-$36.50 at 416-872-4255). Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Toronto Children's Chorus presents A Chorus Christmas: Magic of the Season, Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. ($34.50-$44.50 at 416-872-4255). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

More Seasonal Sounds

Jacob Moon offers Welcome Christmas concerts with band, string quartet and special guests. Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Christian Life Centre in Ajax; Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Toronto's Westminster Church, 14 Dewhurst Blvd. jacobmoon.com

Moods of Christmas concert with La Petite Musicale of Toronto features a blend of voices and steelpan, plus special guest actor/comedian Marvin Ishmael. Nov. 30 at 5 p.m. ($30/$25 at 416-286-9435). Armenian Youth Centre, 40 Hallcrown Place.

Ron Moore, "Elvis voice-clone" is joined by Gerie and the Koasters for Christmas with the King, Dec. 6, doors open 7 p.m. ($20 at 905-985-6881). Whitby Courthouse Theatre, 416 Centre St. S.

Shlock Rock Family Chanukah Concert, Dec. 25 at 2:30 p.m. Chabad Lubavitch of Markham, 83 Green Lane, Thornhill. Info: 905-886-0420.

20th Annual Benefit Concert for the York Centre for Children features guest artists Michael Burgess, Jackalyn Short, Toronto Mass Choir and the Bach Children's Choir. Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. (tickets at 905-887-5896 or 905-294-5230). Unionville Alliance Church, 4896 16th Ave.

The Nutcracker

Ballet Jorgen presents The Group of Seven Nutcracker, a new Canadian version of the classic, inspired by works from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. & Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. ($25 & up at 905-306-6000). Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Centre Dr., Mississauga.

Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., Dec. 20 at 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. ($30-$45 at 905-874-2800). Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Lane, Brampton.

Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. ($33/$29 at 905-305-7469). Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd.

Musical Story & Song Theatre presents their adaptation of E.T.A Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, with various suites of Tchaikovsky's music performed on harp and vocals. Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. ($10 at 905-668-2174). Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W.

The National Ballet of Canada once again celebrates the holidays with James Kudelka's version of The Nutcracker with the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky. Dec. 6-28 ($20-$200 at 416-345-9595). Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W. national.ballet.ca

Toronto International Ballet Theatre presents their version of the classic holiday ballet, choreographed by Tatiana Stepanova. Guest artists include Alexei Borovik, Adam Hartley and Hannah Schiller. Dec. 20 at 7 p.m., Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. ($35-$40 at 416-870-8000). Cardinal Carter Theatre, 36 Greenfield Ave. tibt.org

Xing Dance Theatre presents their version of the ballet with choreography by Xing Bang Fu; this performance marks Simon Sylvain Lalonde's last time in the role of the Nutcracker Prince. Performances Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. ($28-$38, gala tickets $100 at 416-973-4000). Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West. xingdancetheatre.ca

Holidays on Stage

Cinderella The Sillylicious Family Musical from Ross Petty Productions takes the classic and turns it into a "fractured fairytale" with Adam Brazier and Dan Chameroy as the evil stepsisters and Mr. Petty himself as the evil stepmother. Degrassi: The Next Generation's Paula Brancati plays the pumpkin-obsessed heroine. Performances run Nov. 28 to Jan. 4 ($49-$77 at 416-872-5555). Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St. rosspetty.com

Dear Santa has Santa Claus trying to fulfill a child's special Christmas wish while his staff has to overcome a supply shortage at the North Pole. The Norm Foster comedy, presented by Theatre Scarborough, runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 13 ($17/$14 at 416-396-4049). Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Rd.

It's A Wonderful Life is Philip Grecian's staged radio adaptation of the Frank Capra holiday film classic. It follows George Bailey, a restless and ambitious man who thinks he's more valuable dead when his guardian angel Clarence appears to show him the value of his life. Starring Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show), the CanStage production runs to Dec. 20 (tickets at 416-368-3110). St. Lawrence Centre's Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E.

Dickens Doings

Canadian Children's Opera Company presents A Dickens of A Christmas, based on Dickens' classic holiday story, composed by Errol Gay with libretto by Michael Patrick Albano. The fully staged production features all 200 choristers from the CCOC. Nov. 28-30 at 7:30 p.m., matinees Nov. 29 & 30 at 2 p.m. ($35/$15 at 416-973-4000). Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W.

Dickens Fellowship Christmas Tea includes lunch and a lecture with Dorothy Duncan, who talks about Victorian Christmas Treats. Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. ($15, must reserve at 416-923-2035 by Nov. 26). St. Clement's Anglican Church, 59 Briar Hill Rd.

Motus O Dance Theatre presents its production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, weaving together dance and theatre. Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. ($26 & up at 905-305-7469). Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd.

For the Kids

Aga-Boom combines physical comedy, mime, poetry, circus arts and experimental theatre into a story that begins and ends with scenes about paper — going from a small piece stuck on someone's hand to a huge paper fight. Created by veterans of Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian premiere runs Dec. 30 to Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Dec. 31 at 1 p.m. only, no show Jan. 1 ($39-$65 at 416-366-7723). Bluma Appel Theatre at St. Lawrence Centre, 27 Front St. E.

Sandra Beech has an interactive Winter Warm-up Song-a-Long concert for kids with emcee Alyson Court (Loonette from The Big Comfy Couch) plus her mascot Chickery Chick and the Yes I Can Band. Nov. 30 at 1 p.m. ($30 at 416-870-8000). Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave.

Disney on Ice presents A Disneyland Adventure for the holidays, with characters like The Incredibles, Minnie and Mickey Mouse and others visiting famed Disneyland attractions like the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and It's A Small World. Performances run Dec. 19-28 at various times ($15-$90 at 416-870-8000). Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way. Disneyonice.com

Two characters from Disney on Ice make appearances at Hillcrest Mall's Bay Home Store & Kids on Dec. 19 from 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (9350 Yonge St. Richmond Hill, 905-883-1400) and at Erin Mills Town Centre on Dec. 19 from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. (5100 Erin Mills Pkwy, Mississauga, 905-569-1981). First come, first served; donation of one unwrapped toy per child recommended.

Dufflebag Theatre presents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. ($18 at 905-305-7469; family 4-pak $48). Markham Theatre for Performing Arts, 171 Town Centre Blvd.

Franklin's Family Christmas Concert has Franklin the Turtle and his friends Beaver, Bear and Fox learning about the Christmas spirit. Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. ($27.50 at 416-778-8163). The Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave.

Light the Menorah and Bang the Drums has conductor Resa Kochberg and the Resa's Pieces concert band leading everyone in a fun-filled afternoon of Chanukah tunes and children's classics. Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. ($5). Beth Tzedec Synagogue, 1700 Bathurst St. Info: 416-636-1880 or kofflerarts.org

Puppetmongers Theatre present their holiday show Bed & Breakfast. Created and performed by bother and sister team Ann Powell and David Powell, it's a retelling of the fairytale classic The Princess and the Pea, set in a detailed Edwardian-style dollhouse peopled with tiny servants and aristocrats. Runs Dec. 20 to Jan. 1 at 2:30 p.m., with evening shows Dec. 20 & 27 at 7 p.m. No shows Dec, 24, 25 or 31 ($16/$13; special New Year's Day gala and party $30). Reserve through puppetmongers.com through Nov. 30; as of Dec. 1 at 416-531-1827. Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.

Post-show puppet making workshops after most matinees, 3:30 p.m., for kids ages 5-12 ($10, bring an empty cardboard cereal box).

Rock & Roll Holidays

The Johnstones add some ska/punk flavour to the holidays with their Christmas tour, stopping here Dec. 6, doors at 5:30 p.m. All ages ($12.50 at Rotate This or Soundscapes). Mod Club, 722 College St.

USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) are joined by Rebel Emergency for an all-ages concert that is part of the Edge Electric Xmas concert series. Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. ($16.50 at 416-870-8000). Sound Academy, 11 Polson St.

White Cowbell Oklahoma have their annual "White Trash Rock X-Mas" show, Dec. 19, doors at 9 p.m. Must be 19+ ($15 at Rotate This or Soundscapes). Lee's Palace, 529 Bloor St. W.

Historic Holidays

Black Creek Pioneer Village is decorated for the holidays with Christmas Remembered, running daily from Nov. 22 to Dec. 31 (free with admission); enjoy Christmas by Lamplight with fiddlers, traditional treats and over 200 artefact lamps illuminating the village, Dec. 6, 13 and 20 (ticketed event); enjoy special Christmas dinners Dec. 7, 14 and 21 with sittings at 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. (reservations required). 1000 Murray Ross Parkway. Info: 416-736-1733 or blackcreek.ca

Colborne Lodge is decorated for a Victoria Christmas. Enjoy a tour of the home of the founders of High Park, discover festive traditions, decorations and foods enjoyed during the 19th century. Nov. 22 to Jan. 4, 2009, Tues. to Sun. noon to 4 p.m. ($5.71/$3.81/$3.33 plus GST). Colborne Lodge Dri. in High Park. 416-392-6916.

Gibson House's family open house, A Taste of Hogmanay includes tastes of holiday foods and make Hogmanay crafts to take home. Dec. 31 noon to 5 p.m. ($5.48/$3.10/$2.62 plus GST). 5172 Yonge St. 416-395-7432.

Stroke of Midnight lets visitors experience the 1851 home by candlelight and to celebrate a traditional Scottish New Year with songs, stories and Scottish foods including haggis. Dec. 29 & 30 from 8 to 10:30 p.m. ($19.05 plus GST, reservations required).

Mackenzie House takes visitors back in time with A Victorian Toronto Christmas. Tour the 1859 row-house dressed in holiday greenery, sample mulled cider and a biscuit in the historic kitchen. Nov. 25 to Jan. 4, 2009. ($5.71/$3.81/$3.33 plus GST). 82 Bond St. 416-392-6915

Write a Letter to Santa Claus on a wish card created on the 1845 printing press using old-fashioned pen and ink. Nov. 25 to Dec. 24.

Santa Stories from the Victoria era read in the cozy family room followed by mulled cider and cookies in the historic kitchen, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. Pre-registration & pre-payment required. ($8-$5 plus GST).

Hogmanay! has musical group Gin Lane performing at this Traditional Scottish New Year's celebration, Dec. 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. ($19.05 plus GST, pre-registration and pre-payment required)

Montgomery's Inn has Carols in the Tavern on Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Begins with a a carol sing with costumed staff and the Islington Village BIA Tree lighting at 5:30 p.m., a reading of A Christmas Carol 6:30 p.m. at the inn followed by some Christmas Spirit in the tavern. ($20 plus GST, pre-registration required). 4709 Dundas St. W. 416-394-8113.

A Celtic Christmas is an evening of Celtic Christmas music with Sandy MacIntyre & "Steeped in Tradition". Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. ($20 plus GST, pre-registration required).

The Queen's Necklace & Other Enchantments is an evening of storytelling by the fire. Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ($20 plus GST, pre-registration required).

Museums of Mississauga have Christmas evening tours, Dec. 3, 10 and 17 at 7 p.m. (regular admission: $5/$3/$1.50). Bradley Museum, 1620 Orr Rd. and Benares Historic House, 1507 Clarkson Rd. N.

Home for the Holidays event has Santa at the Log Cabin, holiday goodies, traditional music and more. Dec. 14 from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. at both Bradley and Benares (food or cash donation). Info: museumsofmississauga.com

Scarborough Historical Museum holds a Christmas Open House of its festively decorated McCowan Log House and Cornell House. Dec. 7 noon to 4 p.m. (Pay-What-You-Wish). 1007 Brimley Rd. 416-338-8807.

Spadina Museum has Sharing Our Tradtions featuring food, music, crafts and displays celebrating both Edwardian Christmas traditions in Toronto with those of this year's cultural guest, Panorama India. Nov. 30, Dec. 7 & Dec. 14, noon to 5 p.m.. ($9/$7.50/$ plus GST). 285 Spadina Rd. 416-392-6910.

An Edwardian Christmas highlights the traditions of the Austin family circa 1900 with tours of the historic house, cider and a Christmas treat. Nov. 25 to Jan. 4, 2009. Tues.-Fri. noon to 4 p.m., Sat. & Sun. noon to 5 p.m. ($7.62/$5.42/$4.48 plus GST).

Todmorden Mills Museum offers a A Regency Christmas in the Valley program with samplings of holiday treats prepared on the open hearth and a take-home craft for kids. Dec. 7, 14 & 21 noon to 4 p.m. ($5.24/$3.81/$2.38). 67 Pottery Rd. 416-396-2819.

Village Lantern Tours in Markham takes visitors around a 25 acre historic site, with activities like seasonal-themed crafts, candle-dipping and, weather permitting, ice skating. Dec. 19-23 at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ($6/$5/$4). Markham Museum, 9350 Hwy 48. Info: 905-294-4576 or markhammuseum.ca

Unionville Olde Tyme Christmas has Main Street filled with carolers, entertainment, horse drawn carriage rides, the Santa Train and more, including a candlelight parade on the Friday. Runs Dec. 5-7 (free admission). Info: 905-477-0117 or unionvilleinfo.com

Santa Sightings

Erin Mills Town Centre has the sleigh bells ringing for Santa's arrival with children's crafts, a mini dance party and more. Nov. 22 from 10 a.m.-noon (must pre-register at 905-569-1981).

Story Time with Santa gives the little ones a chance to spend some time with the holiday's biggest VIP for a group reading and interactive session. Recommended for kids ages 2-8 (donation of one unwrapped toy per child required; must pre-register at number above). Dec. 3, 10 & 17 at 9:30 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.

Breakfast with Santa has the big guy mingling with kids as they enjoy food, crafts and entertainment. Dec. 14 at 8 a.m. ($50 for family of 4, $15 each additional child). Tickets available at Guest Services, while supplies last. 5100 Erin Mills Pkwy, Mississauga.

Pet Photo Nights with Santa let furry friends get in on the holiday excitement, Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. (must pre-register your pet at 905-569-1981). Erin Mills Town Centre, 5100 Erin Mills Pkwy, Mississauga.

Santa Experience interactive play sessions feature sing-alongs, dancing, story reading and a special moment with jolly old St. Nick. Runs to Dec. 24 at varying times, Mon.-Sat. ($5, pre-register at the Holiday Information Desk). Sherway Gardens, Hwy 427 & the QEW. Info: 416-621-1070 or sherwaygardens.ca

Santa Readings gives the little ones a chance to spend some time with the holiday's biggest VIP for a group reading and interactive session. Recommended for kids ages 2-8 (donation of one unwrapped toy per child required; must pre-register at 905-883-1400). Dec. 3, 10 & 17 at 10:15 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Hillcrest Mall, 9350 Yonge St., Richmond Hill.

Go Shopping

Christmas Bazaar at Sir Adam Beck School features local vendors, a bake and book sale, silent auction and activities for the kids. Nov. 29 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (free admission). 544 Horner Ave.

Christmas Marketplace features handmade gifts like jewellery, pottery, glass, home décor, gift baskets and more 50 artisans. The event also features live entertainment. Nov. 20 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (free admission). Mississauga Civic Centre, 300 City Centre Dr. Info: 905-896-5314.

Country Day School Designer Fair retail showcase features unique holiday giftware, home décor items, original artwork, designer fashion and more. Nov. 20 from 6:-9:30 p.m. ($15/$5) and Nov. 21 from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (free admission). CDS Performing Arts Centre, 13415 Dufferin St., King. cds.on.ca/designerfair.asp

Festive Holiday Sale features art work, crafts, greeting cards, handmade items, jewellery and more. Nov. 22 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Unitarian Congregation, 84 South Service Rd. Mississauga. Info: uucm.ca

Festive Spirits is the Sculptors Society of Canada's year-end celebration/soiree, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. The sale and exhibition continues to Jan. 9. Canadian Sculpture Centre, 500 Church St. Info: 647-435-5858 or cansculpt.org

Holiday Craft Show & Sale features crafts and gifts from local artisans. Nov. 29 from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (free admission). St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church, 470 Woodbine Ave. Info: 416-694-2918.

Holiday Gift Show warehouse sale event runs to Nov. 25, Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (free admission). Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. W.

Holly Berry Fair features unique vendors, home baking, books, a silent auction and more. Nov. 22 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Rosedale United Church, 159 Roxborough Dr. Info: 416-485-4992 or rosedaleunited.org

Home for the Holidays Christmas sale features over 130 exhibitors offering home décor accents and accessories, furnishings, gift ideas and more. Runs Nov. 21 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Nov. 22 & 23 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ($9/$8). Markham Fairgrounds, 10801 McCowan Rd. Info: 905-982-1115 or countrydecoratingshow.com

One of a Kind Show & Sale Christmas edition runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 7; Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ($12/$6.50 at door; online discount). Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place. oneofakindshow.com

Ten Thousand Villages Christmas Festival fair trade holiday sale features over 130 artisan groups from over 35 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Items include coffee, games, toys, personal and home accessories, carpets and Christmas décor. Runs Nov. 28 from 8 p.m.-10 p.m., Nov. 29 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. & Nov. 30 from noon-5 p.m. Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W. Info: 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

More Holiday Happenings

Seniors Christmas Party at Club 626, Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. ($25 at 416-267-3147). Ukrainian Cultural Centre, 1604 Bloor St. W.

Geritol Follies Christmas Variety Show musical and comedy extravaganza, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. (ticket info at 905-528-8095). Hamilton Place Theatre's Great Hall.

Holiday House Tour self-guided tour through homes in Ajax, Brooklin, Oshawa and Whitby, all decorated for the season by local interior designers. This year's event features a meeting with designer/TV host Meredith Heron (Restaurant Makeover). Nov. 22 ($20). Tickets/info at Whitby's Station Gallery, 905-668-4185 or whitbystationgallery.com

Metropolitan United Church has Carols United sing-along Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.; The Christmas Pageant Dec. 14 at 11 a.m.; annual Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. and the Christmas@Queen live story on the front steps Dec. 24 at 5 p.m. 56 Queen St. E. Info: 416-363-0331 ext. 26.

Pasko sa Toronto (Christmas in Toronto) showcases the best of Filipino Christmas traditions, including a live belen (crèche), traditional parols (Filipino Christmas lanterns), shopping at a tiangge (Filipino-style flea market)and food highlights for noche buena (traditional Filipino Christmas Eve dinner). The event also features special performances by Philippine-based entertainment superstars Jericho Rosales, Kim Chiu, and Gerald Anderson. Nov. 23 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. ($20-$100 at 647-724-5488 or 416-628-9930). Metro Toronto Convention Centre south building, 222 Bremner Blvd. ystillo.com

Pickering College Holiday Home Tour self-directed tour of seven homes in Newmarket and Aurora, decorated by local florists, decorators and designers. Nov. 29 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ($35 at 905-895-1700 ext. 403). Pickering College, 16945 Bayview Ave., Newmarket.

Richmond Hill Heritage Centre hosts a Holiday Spice Tea, Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. & 2:30 p.m. ($6); Pot Pourri mixes Christmas and Chanukah with a combo of holiday foods to eat and crafts to make. Dec. 13 at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. ($10, reserve at 905-780-3802). 19 Church St. N. Info: richmondhill.ca

Celebrate the New Year

Jazz It Up New Year's Eve matinee concert with Bob DeAngelis and his Champagne Orchestra, Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. ($39-$99 at 416-872-4255). Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

The Musicians in Ordinary celebrate New Year's Day with their annual Viennese Baroque Music concert, featuring music from Vienna of 1700-1750, with works written by Vivaldi, Caldara, Fux and an anonymous composition for archlute and harpsichord. Guests Christopher Verrette and Sara Anne Churchill join in, Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. ($20/$15). Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Info: 416-535-9956 or musiciansinordinary.ca

New Year's Eve Comedy Extravaganza with some of Canada's best comics and sketch artists like Debra DiGiovanni and host Sean Cullen. Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. ($39.50-$59.50 at 416-872-4255). Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Toronto Operetta Theatre's production of Karl Zeller's The Bird Handler (Der Vogelhandler) runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4 at the St. Lawrence Centre and they are continuing their tradition of a special Operetta on New Year's Eve with a pre-performance reception plus dinner and a dance at the nearby Hot House Café on Dec. 31 ($145 at 416-366-7723; does not include performance ticket). Full info at 416-922-2912 or torontooperetta.com

Toronto Zoo's 6th annual New Year's Eve Countdown has lots of music and entertainment like the Care Bears, a High School Musical tribute show, Majinx Magic Show and more, plus a Kid's Countdown. Dec. 31 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. ($10/$7). Toronto Zoo, Meadowvale Rd. & Hwy 401 E. torontozoo.com

Young Frenchwoman's Holocaust Memoir Touches A Global Chord

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

(November 22, 2008) Given her great love of literature and demonstrated facility with words, it's entirely conceivable that Hélène Berr would have become a published author at some point in her life.

One readily imagines, for instance, a roman à clef about her struggle to survive in occupied Paris during World War II, when she was forced to wear the stigmatizing yellow star publicly declaring her Jewish identity. Or possibly a Holocaust memoir about her eventual incarceration in a Nazi concentration camp. A budding Shakespeare scholar, Berr might have fashioned her boundless intellectual curiosity into a career as a literary critic.

Those possibilities – and any number of others – were rendered hypothetical when Berr died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen at age 24 in April 1945, mere days before the camp's liberation.

More than 60 years after her death, Berr has been resurrected as a French literary sensation with the publication of
The Journal of Hélène Berr, a diary of her life from April 1942, when she was still a student at the Sorbonne, until February 1944, just before she and her parents were arrested and sent to Auschwitz. "If she hadn't been arrested, she would have used the journal as a basis for writing something else," says Berr's niece, Mariette Job, the moving force behind the diary's publication. "Had she come back, she would have written about the camps."

Berr wrote the journal for her fiancé, Jean Morawiecki, who had fled Paris to fight with the Free French. When Berr was rounded up by the Nazis, the diary fell into the safe hands of the family cook, who passed it to Morawiecki after the war. In 1995, Morawiecki entrusted the journal to Job, whose mother, Denise, was Hélène's sister. Job eventually turned the journal over to the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

"I wanted to make sure that it was preserved properly. I also wanted to make sure that it would be used by researchers or historians," says Job, 58, through a translator during a promotion visit to the Toronto publisher of the journal.

"It was actually a good thing that it went to the museum because a lot of people read it. Over five years, the idea of publishing it developed and matured."

The Journal of Hélène Berr was first published in January by Tallandier, a relatively small French house that specializes in history-related titles. An instant success, it topped sales of 100,000 copies in France and has since been sold to more than 20 other countries.

"I knew it was exceptional. But there is a big difference between knowing it and seeing it happen," Job says.

"It wasn't just the fact that it was a blockbuster success, but it was the way people reacted to it. I received letters, poems, collages. People would call me. There was a great deal of emotion in the way that people reacted to it."

Naturally, comparisons have been made to that most famous of Holocaust diarists, Anne Frank. Berr's posthumous celebrity has also spawned references to Irène Némirovsky, whose Suite Française, a previously undiscovered tandem of novellas set in occupied Paris, became an international bestseller when it was published in 2004, more than 60 years after the author's death in Auschwitz.

A nearer touchstone might be the voluminous and painstakingly detailed diaries kept by Victor Klemperer, a Jewish literary critic who survived the war in Dresden. Like Klemperer, Berr brings an adult awareness to her darkening circumstances.

In an entry from Dec. 13, 1943, Berr writes: "I don't know why I have a sense of foreboding. For the last two weeks or so there have been rumours that we are all supposed to be arrested before 1 January. Lucie Morizet (a school friend) ... was adamant that I should do something. Do what? I'd have to lift a whole planet."

Such passages convinced Job of the journal's potential resonance.

"It has helped people who knew nothing about the Holocaust to understand. And it has even helped the victims themselves to understand better," says Job, whose parents avoided deportation to the camps through a series of unlikely circumstances.

"It asks questions that are very timely and still have no answers. It is a very universal book. It speaks to everyone."

The Journal of Hélène Berr is published by McClelland & Stewart.

Marcia: The Nightmare Next Door

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

(November 22, 2008) Marcia, Marcia, Marcia ...

They were, back in the early 1970s, America's squeaky-cleanest family. Yet somehow the intervening decades have been rife with Brady Bunch revelation:

Father-figure Robert Reed's conflicted, closeted homosexuality, and constant complaints about the show's inherent banality.

"Lovely lady" Florence Henderson's pseudo "dinner date" with TV son Barry "Greg" Williams.

Williams stoned on pot while shooting a scene in the Brady driveway.

Fictionally incestuous off-camera make-out sessions among the Brady brood.

But this ... this is truly shocking, shocking enough to propel
Maureen "Marcia" McCormick's new tell-all, Here's the Story, to No. 4 on the New York Times bestseller list. (Okay, so even Dog the Bounty Hunter made No. 1. It's still a pretty impressive achievement.)

Marcia Brady, boomer television's virgin princess, the girl every young girl wanted to be and every young boy wanted to deflower. Marcia Brady ... bulimic, thieving, self-loathing, depressed, chronically unemployable coke-snorting slut.

The mind boggles.

"Well, I was pretty good at hiding it," allows the now 52-year-old wife and mother. "I hid behind that smile for years."

McCormick's descent into drug-fuelled depravity is not without precedent. Lauren Chapin, the adorable "Kitten" of Father Knows Best, famously became a heroin-addicted prostitute. Anissa Jones, Family Affair's cherubic Buffy, died at the age of 18 from a lethal combination of cocaine, angel dust, Quaaludes and Seconal.

Subsequent female child-star casualties include Dana Plato of Diff'rent Strokes – after arrests for drug fraud and robbing a Las Vegas video store, she succumbed, in an apparent suicide, to an overdose of prescription painkillers.

But somehow, McCormick was different, special. The very pinnacle of perceived purity, the worst thing you could ever imagine happening to her was a pimple.

Not so, insists the now-reformed covert bad girl. "It was a crazy time," she recalls. "The '70s, the '80s ... an all-out drug revolution.

"I have a very addictive personality. I think I would have gotten addicted to drugs no matter what."

Her early life was never as charmed as it may have appeared. The daughter of an unfaithful, born-again father and a syphilitic, occasionally institutionalized mother – and, before her, grandmother – McCormick spent most of her formative years absolutely convinced that she would be next.

After winning the Baby Miss San Fernando Valley beauty pageant at the tender age of 6, she began a precociously lucrative career in TV ads for dolls, including Barbie, and later provided the pre-recorded voice of several of them. It was, for example, the young McCormick who put the chatty in Chatty Cathy.

Life would never be the same when, after episodic appearances on Bewitched, My Three Sons and I Dream of Jeannie, she landed the coveted role of Marcia Brady in 1969.

The show had run its course by 1974, which is when McCormick's downward spiral began. Her identification as a Brady was so entrenched, the only work she could get was on shows like Love Boat and Fantasy Island, generally considered the last refuge of the Hollywood has-been.

It was at this point she began to sabotage herself, habitually missing auditions and appointments to hide out in her closet at home doing drugs. It cost her what little was left of her professional reputation, and ultimately potential comeback roles in Midnight Express (coincidentally, as a drug-dealing hooker), and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It took her instead to Wonderland Ave. in Laurel Canyon – on the same street, and at roughly the same time, that porn star John Holmes became infamously involved in a drug-related 1981 quadruple homicide.

McCormick's habit became so bad she began to trade sexual favours for drugs, resulting in two abortions. When her friends and family (both real and Brady) intervened and encouraged her to seek treatment, she ended up with controversial L.A. therapist Eugene Landy, who later had his license revoked for his exploitation of Beach Boy acid casualty Brian Wilson.

It took a religious re-awakening and the love of a good man – current husband Michael Cummings, with whom she has a daughter, 19-year-old Natalie – to break the cycle of self-destructive addiction.

Two years ago, after a humbling appearance on the reality show Celebrity Fit Club, she decided it was finally time to share.

"I think that's one of the reasons why we're here in life," she says, "to share each other's stories, to talk about problems, to learn from each other's mistakes. And that's what I wanted to do.

"It was cathartic. And you know, it feels really, really good.

"I've made a lot of mistakes. I've been through a lot of hard things. But it's okay to be open about it. It's okay to be human, to be imperfect."

And harder than ever to keep it a secret.

"I was lucky," McCormick allows. "Back when I was growing up they didn't have the paparazzi that they do today. I wasn't followed and hounded by them."

Unlike the hard-partying, panty-less, car-trashing Britneys and Lindsays.

"It is a lot different today," she acknowledges. "I feel sorry for them that they can't go anywhere, that they have cameras around them 24 hours a day. That's got to be hard."

McCormick herself is still not immune to scurrilous, unfounded gossip – though by the same token, it has been suggested that she may have manufactured, or least exploited, this one herself.

Before publication of the book, rumours abounded of the revelation of a lesbian encounter with her TV sister, tortured middle child Eve "Jan" Plumb.

At the time, McCormick coyly refused to deny or confirm. But there is no mention of it anywhere in the not coincidentally bestselling book.

The furthest she will go even now is to insist, again contrary to widespread rumour, that the rest of her Brady family remains steadfastly supportive.

"We're all still good friends," she says. "Barry read the book and loved it. Susie (`Cindy' Olsen) read it and loved it ...

"I don't talk with Eve anymore. She won't return my phone calls. I really don't know what's up with her."

One word ... actually, three: "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"

That Grant You Got Last Year? Don't Count On It

www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

(November 24, 2008) The message on the website is stark: The Community Foundation of Ottawa has suspended its grant program for 2009.

Last year, the foundation handed out 470 grants worth $5.4-million to arts, education, health, social and environmental groups. They paid for everything from new playground equipment to outdoor performances of Twelfth Night, from translating information about Alzheimer's disease into French to the music appreciation programs for children and seniors run by Ottawa's Bach Choir. Next year, the foundation won't make any such grants: Its investments have lost so much value in the stock market that administrators have no income to draw on, and regulations prevent them from touching the capital.

"You can imagine how difficult this decision was," said Barbara McInnes, president of the foundation. "It's the heart and soul of what we do."

This is the worst-case scenario; other groups, both the community foundations that act as philanthropic umbrellas and the private family foundations that tackle particular causes, are struggling to keep the grants flowing at a time when their investments are not doing well enough to produce any income.

"Many of our members believe that they have an important role and, indeed, commitment to step up as funders, in effect as stabilizers, when things go badly in the sector at large," said Hilary Pearson, president of Philanthropic Foundations Canada, the Montreal-based professional association in the field.

"We are going to be continuing to support our grantees to the best of our ability," said Nathan Gilbert, executive director of Ontario's Laidlaw Foundation, which has supported new artistic creation among other programs in the past, but currently focuses all its efforts in any field on programs that engage youth. Recent art projects it has funded include Haircuts by Children, a project by performance and theatre artist Darren O'Donnell in which young people cut adult hair. "We are not looking at reducing our level of disbursements," Gilbert said.

Still, arts groups who have seen the income from their own endowments dry up are now concerned they will lose the project grants such foundations deliver.

"We are already seeing a decrease in foundation donations ... The really significant impact across the country will be in funding foundations," said Ivan Habel, general manager of Vancouver's Green Thumb Theatre, a children's touring company. After shaving $14,000 off his $1-million budget because the Victoria Foundation that manages the company's endowment will not be making a pay-out in 2009, he now estimates he may loose $35,000 of the $80,000 Green Thumb usually receives in the direct grants from charitable groups.

Other groups expect to see the impact soon, and say while foundation grants only make up 2 or 3 per cent of their budgets, those project grants may be hard to replace.

"What foundations support are important programs that can be difficult to find other support for elsewhere," said Anette Larsson, vice-president of sponsorship and development at the Toronto International Film Festival. She said foundations have made pledges toward the festival's new headquarters, the Bell Lightbox now under construction at King and John Street, and are particularly important for year-round programming such as the Cinematheque film screenings and those provided for young people and mental-health patients. She said TIFF has been warned by one small family foundation she declined to identify that there will be no grant forthcoming in 2009.

Culture A Growth Industry In Hard Times

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(November 24, 2008)  During its opening week, an astonishing 68,000 people walked through the new entrance of Frank Gehry's reinvented Art Gallery of Ontario. And the verdict is close to unanimous. Of all the arts buildings that have emerged during this decade of Toronto's cultural renaissance, the AGO is the one that has truly made the town dizzy with delight.

Coming at a time when the economic outlook is cause for gloom, the transformation of our art gallery into one of North America's most magical museums is one of the few major good-news developments of a not-so-festive season.

It's still a stretch to hope that Gehry's AGO can do as much for his childhood hometown as his Guggenheim in Spain did for the previously slumbering Basque town of Bilbao. But given the hit Toronto has taken from the decline in U.S. tourism, a little international acclaim can't hurt. And the AGO's triumph should send a signal to politicians about why art matters.

So as we approach Thanksgiving on the far side of the border, let us give thanks to The New York Times, which greeted the transformed AGO with glowing words and a colour image on its front page.

This may be one of Gehry's most gentle and self-possessed designs, writes architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, while marvelling at "its billowing glass façade, which evokes a crystal ship drifting through the city."

That kind of enthusiasm will encourage Greg Sorbara, the former Ontario finance minister whose current mission is to revitalize the province's tourist industry. During the AGO's opening gala, Sorbara remarked that images of the new façade and the Galleria Italia could be signature icons – as clearly identified with Toronto as the CN Tower.

The rebirth of the AGO, stuffed with new treasures, instantly improves the quality of life for art lovers. But the likelihood is that even among those who care only about the bottom line, this project (which cost $300 million) will turn out to be one of the smartest investments ever made in this city.

It's an even happier story when you consider the context in which the AGO has reopened. This is one of the last in a series of major cultural advances Toronto has made in this first decade of the century.

We also finally got a purpose-built opera and ballet house in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Two of the country's top centres of arts education, the National Ballet School and the Royal Conservatory of Music, have turned decaying facilities into glittering new palaces.

Despite controversy about Daniel Libeskind's Crystal addition, the Royal Ontario Museum's new light-filled home for dinosaurs has great popular appeal. Its neighbour, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, has established its identity as a tiny jewel cherished by connoisseurs.

The Distillery District has become a favourite arts precinct, partly thanks to the emergence of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, where Soulpepper found the home it deserved.

Meanwhile, Nuit Blanche has given Toronto a way to celebrate the arts with an annual all-nighter. The Giller Prize has raised the profile of Canadian literary fiction to an almost unbelievable level. And Luminato, the annual festival of arts and creativity, has given us the perfect early-summer bookend for the late-summer glitz of the Toronto International Film Festival.

When you put all these pieces together, it becomes obvious that even as other industries crumble, creativity and knowledge are the engines that keep Toronto buzzing.

What next? Despite a looming recession, we need to extend the cultural renaissance into the second decade of the century. This is not the moment to say "Enough."


Muses Both Mystical And Muscular In This City Of Women

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Sarah Hampson

Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers
At Rachel Browne Theatre In Winnipeg on Thursday

(November 21, 2008) WINNIPEG - In a sure sign that Serge Bennathan has come to town, the four dancers on the Rachel Browne Theatre stage execute vigorous high kicks before hurling themselves violently through the air. The women of Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers are the latest muses for the Vancouver-based choreographer and former artistic director of Toronto's Dancemakers. In his new work
Samarcande, the dancers have clearly become intimately acquainted with Bennathan's slash-and-burn style of choreography.

Samarcande (the French spelling of Samarkand is used because Bennathan was born in France) is one of the fabled cities along the legendary Silk Road. It has existed in Uzbekistan for more than 2,700 years, surviving countless invaders including Genghis Khan. Its very name conjures up the romance of the Orient.

Bennathan has certainly been inspired by the city's poetic past, but it is Samarcande's resilience that is his metaphor. He sees the city's survival against the vicissitudes of history as parallel to a dancer's struggle to become an artist and eke out a living in the mean streets of the arts. By capturing the tumultuous myth of such a storied place, he can pay tribute to the resilience of the dancer.

A Bennathan piece is always one of contrasts. Bruising athleticism is set against moments of exquisite grace. The soloist is often working in opposition to the ensemble. The cacophony of music is followed by silence. Intense light generates a sudden blackness. All these hallmarks of his work exist in the intriguing Samarcande.

Bennathan has also included spoken passages of his own elliptical poetry. Dancer Johanna Riley is the speaker and she breathlessly intones his florid words as they summon the muse of dance to gird the loins of her followers.

Bennathan, both choreographically and verbally, exhorts the dancers to their calling, be it in both misery and ecstasy. In Kristin Haight, Lise McMillan, Sarah Roche and Riley, he has dancers who thrive in his challenging world. They throw themselves into floor rolls, hop turns, horizontal hurls, perilous balances, deep side stretches, crab walks, limb thrusts and back-breaking arches. As well as this extreme athleticism, they also show acute lyricism from the other side of the Bennathan choreographic coin in their gentle shudders, controlled slow motion and detailed gestural undulations.

Bennathan does quote the East in classic movement and positioning. Palms clasped together snake up and down in front of the body like curling incense. The women sit with their legs bent beneath them, hands placidly resting on their thighs. They recline on one leg while circling their arm around the other upraised leg bent at the knee, foot on the floor. They gently roll their hips side to side in the time-honoured belly dance.

These moments of Oriental choreography, as it were, are just way stations between bursts of Bennathan's restless kineticism. But even when the women are at their most physically energetic, there is an ecstatic quality about their carriage, almost as if they are in a trance. In fact, it is this ethereal mystic quality that is at the heart of Samarcande.

In the solos, Bennathan has made individuality a key: McMillan conveys vulnerability and insecurity; Haight is wild energy; Riley is all about reaching and yearning; Roche is completely caught up in ecstasy. Together, they seem to sum up the four ages of mankind, from youthful outpourings to the altered state of death.

Composer Bertrand Chenier has given Bennathan an infinite variety of moods, from pulsing percussion and clashing chords, to a mournful violin and subdued piano. His striking electronica is modern-sounding, yet other-worldly at the same time.

Norma Lachance has costumed each woman in tight-fitting pants and diaphanous shirts in a colour scheme of ochre to grey-black. The dancers are feminine – the see-through shirts are sexy – yet the pants give them a certain toughness.

Dean Cowieson's lighting is very evocative and ever-shifting. The stage is stripped down to the exposed brick walls, so it's the lighting that makes the environment. The women are confined to squares of light. They are shown in silhouette, bathed in a dappled glow, or pinned by a merciless glare.

When taken together, the music, costumes and lighting fit Bennathan's introspective choreography like a glove. In reality, no matter how violent, or outward-reaching the physicality, it seems to come from within. When the women watch each other's solos, it is with a cool detachment. Yet, when they dance in unison, it is with an invisible bond of spirituality.

As Samarcande ends and the lights fade, Riley keeps repeating, “Listen to the other dancer.” She is calling on the history of dance, the community of dance and the dancer within. It is a transcendental moment.

Ballet BC Lays Off Entire Company

www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

(November 25, 2008) VANCOUVER — Ballet BC has laid off its entire company.

The move affects 38 staff, including dancers, administrative, artistic and contract staff. Artistic director John Alleyne has also had his contract terminated.

The announcement comes two weeks before dancers were due for their annual holiday layoff Dec. 12 to Jan 5. Ballet BC has also cancelled the scheduled January performances of Universal Ballet of Korea's Swan Lake .

"The severity of the economic crisis became clear in late October," said Graeme Barrit, chairman of the ballet's board of directors, at a press conference in Vancouver. At that point, targets for subscriptions had missed by $150,000 and ticket sales for the first two ballets in the 2008/09 season missed their targets by $120,000.

Mr. Barrit said that the board had met with all levels of government, from Ottawa to Vancouver city council, and had been advised to proceed with financial "caution and prudence." A council meeting later Tuesday in Vancouver will discuss a proposal from the city's arts managers to help with the $63,000 rent required for December's production of Moscow City Ballet's The Nutcracker .

A severe drop in projected ticket sales for The Nutcracker partly precipitated the drastic action taken, Mr. Barrit confirmed. Only 2,000 seats have been sold for the holiday classic; Ballet BC had expected sales to have reached 5,000 by now.

" The Nutcracker has the ability to save Ballet BC," he added, noting the company must sell 7,000 tickets if it is to return in January to continue its season.

But even if they do make their target, it will only be a temporary reprieve. "It gives us time to look for an angel investor," he said, adding that the company need donations to reach at least $500,000, and realistically $1-million to secure a future.

The news was given to staff at a meeting later yesterday afternoon in Vancouver, where they were told the current season was postponed until further notice.

"Everybody has gone, from top to bottom," said dancer Connor Gnam. "It was the biggest shock of my life."

Mr. Gnam's brother, James was also a dancer in the company. "It's much worse for him," said Mr. Gnam. "He has a one-year-old-child and provides the family income."

A number of the company are from overseas and could potentially lose their visas.


Grey Cup Game A Dud. But It Doesn't Matter

Source: www.thestar.com - Damien Cox

(November 24, 2008)  MONTREAL It used to be that the Canadian Football League needed the Grey Cup game to save the season.

For so many years over the past quarter-century, while bonfires burned across the league, with one team or another facing bankruptcy or extinction, the Grand National Drunk would arrive like the calvary and deliver 60 minutes of wild entertainment to captivate Canadians from Fredericton to Kelowna and convince them not to give up on the CFL altogether.

Dependable and durable, the Grey Cup game always delivered the goods, and the league would lurch onwards.

Well, the CFL isn't lurching these days. It's solid and surprisingly stable with its tiny clutch of eight teams. Even in the face of uncertain economic times and an incursion into southern Ontario market by the revenue-thirsty Buffalo Bills of the NFL, who will play a regular season game at the Rogers Centre next month, the CFL seems safely solvent.

So the fact that the 22-14 victory by the Calgary Stampeders over the Montreal Alouettes last night was the third Grey Cup dud in a row didn't really seem to matter when it was over.

It mattered, of course, to the crowd of 66,308, most of whom had shown up hoping to see the explosive Als win in an enormous stadium that had once been like scorched earth for the CFL back in the 1980s when tiny audiences forced the local franchise to fold.

People expected the 96th Grey Cup yesterday to be a spectacular track meet, staged as it was in an indoor setting that 32 years earlier had hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics.

Even with the presence of the league's top two quarterbacks, however, it turned into a defensive battle, with only two touchdowns, one by each team.

But the event that is the Grey Cup endures, we must surely believe, regardless of what actually happens on the field every November.

People will come to see the game, whether their team is playing or not, and they'll come from every part of the country, often organizing vacations around the Grey Cup. Even yesterday, folks from the GTA paid $130 for a ticket to sit in the upper reaches of the Big O and watch the Stamps and Als after a season in which both Ontario teams, the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats, were just awful.

Why? Well, because it's the Grey Cup, and if you believe in TV numbers, they indicate these days that within the all-important demographic of 18- to 34-year-olds, the CFL is enjoying a surge in popularity.

The sport of football is hugely popular here in Quebec, and while the Als couldn't follow up yesterday on the Vanier Cup triumph of Laval University the day before, there was huge Stampeder defensive lineman Miguel Robede, a graduate of Laval, with a white cowboy hat perched on top of a baseball cap as he posed for pictures on the field after the game with the trophy in his giant mitts.

Sandro DeAngelis of Niagara Falls, Ont., was the game's top Canadian with five field goals, then stirred a little controversy afterwards by bitterly complaining about losing out in year-end voting for the league's top special teams player.

Toronto-born Mike Labinjo, meanwhile, was a dominant force on the Calgary defensive line. A young man who benefited from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program to attend St. Mike's, the 28-year-old Labinjo has blossomed into a full-blown CFL star.

So there were intriguing Canadians right in the middle of the fray yesterday, decisive elements in the final result, carrying the same torch that native sons like Russ Jackson once lifted.

A wild offensive battle yesterday, of course, would have been better. But it didn't have to be that way, for the second largest crowd ever to watch a CFL championship game didn't come only for the thrills and spills.

They came, we should believe, as an expression of being Canadians.

Retired Lennox Lewis Says 'Boxing Needs Me'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 25, 2008) *It's going to take $100 million for retired boxer
Lennox Lewis to step back into the ring again.

After former foe Vitali Klitschko called for a re-match of their 2007 fight, Lewis said on Sunday he would be tempted to return only if he was offered the $100 million sum, and nothing less.

 "If someone wants to pay me serious money, $100 million or so, then I will fight again," said Lewis, according to AFP. "I don't have to do this, I don't need the money and my legacy speaks for itself. But boxing needs me - the heavyweight game is so boring now. All the characters are gone. I would like to save my sport."

 "The fights have been so dull and one-sided. I couldn't believe what I was watching," added the former heavyweight champ after seeing the Klitschko-Peter fight from Berlin last month. 

 "Boxers usually come back or continue fighting for two reasons," he said. "Either the atmosphere of the crowd or the money. Me? I don't need either, I'm happy as I am. But I think the sport needs me and I love my sport. And I don't like seeing it the way it is."

 So far Lewis has only received offers of $40 million to return to the ring.

 "It would have to be nearer $100 million to make me say yes, but there are people out there who can get that kind of money together," he said. "There are a lot of people who would pay to see me fight again. It would be exciting, for the sport and for me. And if I come back, it will be to win, not play." 

 Lewis quit in June 2003 after he won a technical knock-out victory over Klitschko when the referee had to intervene in the sixth round with the Ukrainian suffering a badly cut eye.

Brian Burke A Leaf At Last

Source:  www.thestar.com - Damien Cox,
Sports Columnist

(November 25, 2008) The wait is over. Brian Burke is set to become the new president and general manager of the Maple Leafs.

With only a few final details to be sorted out, none of which are viewed as deal-breakers, the deal is all but done.

The former Anaheim GM was forwarded a "term sheet" by the Leafs over the past 24 hours, which included acceptable clauses on the length of contract and compensation.

Burke's deal will include the rest of this season, then a five-year contract that kicks in next season. He made about $1.4 million managing the Ducks, and is expected to see his salary doubled in Toronto.

Cliff Fletcher, who has been acting as Leaf GM since John Ferguson was fired last January, all but confirmed the deal on the FAN 590 morning show today by saying he believes it would be a "great move" for the Leafs to hire the 53-year-old Burke.

Burke was willing to strike a deal last week, but the Leafs dictated the pace of these negotiations, which slowed towards the end of last week then picked up speed on the weekend.

The only key remaining negotiating point is believed to be the reporting structure of the new regime, whether Burke will report directly to the MLSE board on a regular basis, or to a senior executive like current Leaf president Richard Peddie.

It's not believed, however, that Burke is particularly worried, having had to "manage up" during his days running the Canucks and Ducks. There are no other road blocks left that would impede a deal from being cut between the Leafs and Burke.

Theoretically, Burke could have signed a deal Sunday or Monday, but is now committed to stay in the Boston-area with his family through his daughter's bridal shower on Friday.

That sets the stage for the Leafs to introduce him as their new hockey czar on Saturday, with full coverage allotted to CBC's Hockey Night in Canada on a nation-wide basis that evening before and during the Leafs' home game against the Philadelphia Flyers, coincidentally the team for whom Burke once played as a minor-leaguer.

Dave Nonis, the former Vancouver GM, is expected to be announced as a new member of the Leaf front office at the same time as Burke is introduced.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Burke will become the first American to be GM of the Leafs, joining his college pal, head coach Ron Wilson.

B2ten Could Have The Formula For Olympic Medals

Source:  www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman,
Sports Reporter

(November 25, 2008) If Helen Upperton's bobsled had wheels, they'd have been spinning.

The promising young pilot was stuck in a rut: fourth at the 2006 Turin Olympics; five fourth-place finishes on the World Cup circuit the following season. She knew her driving was improving, even if the results didn't show it. She also knew she needed a new sled, so she committed herself to doing whatever it took to buy one.

It turned out to be a lot easier than she expected.

That summer she hooked up with an outfit called B2ten, a group of well-heeled Canadian businessmen who have pooled about $2 million together to provide Olympians with the extras that could produce a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games – no strings attached.

It's not a blank cheque. In fact, the athletes don't get any cash. The program provides services and goods to try to complement what already exists and generally recruits athletes who are on the cusp of an international breakthrough but might be short of resources.

"They said, `You tell us what you need and we'll make sure you have it,'" said world champion speed skater Denny Morrison, a B2ten member.

Among the other 16 winter athletes in the program are Olympic moguls champion Jennifer Heil, Olympic skeleton silver medallist Jeff Pain, Team Canada goaltender Kim St. Pierre, long-track speed skater Christine Nesbitt and short-track speed skater Francois-Louis Tremblay.

Upperton has been one of the major beneficiaries because of the equipment needs in her sport. B2ten has invested well over $100,000 in buying her a sled from the Monaco federation, several sets of steel runners, plus support to help her adapt to the new sled.

But as Upperton explains, the help hasn't stopped there. The Calgary native said B2ten has provided mentoring, advice on team management and dealing with sports politics, access to top athletic trainers like Scott Livingston of the Montreal Canadiens, osteopaths, sports psychologists and a lot more.

"There's so many different options," she said. "If you need them, you can access them. ... They don't have a cookie-cutter formula for everybody."

The donors appear to be in it truly to help the athletes, getting nothing tangible in return but a tax receipt.

"There's no quid pro quo, it's not a marketing type thing, our name isn't on helmets or anything like that," said Barry Heck, a Calgary merchant banker who heads up the western investors.

But Heck said they share a feeling that Canada should be doing a lot better on the international stage but is hurt by abysmal resources. He said they like the fact the organization is private, there's no politics and not a nickel is spent on administration because all the time is donated.

"The athletes are not making money doing it; quite the opposite," he said. "The passion and dedication that they show, I tell you if that doesn't inspire you as a Canadian or a parent or an individual, I don't know what else can. It really chokes you up. It does."

That's evident in the pride in Heck's voice as he talks about being at Canada Olympic Park with his family when Upperton won her first World Cup with her new sled.

"To have that personal connection with her and knowing you really did help, it really is powerful," he said. "It's just a very rewarding thing to see it in their eyes and just to be able to free them up to be able to really concentrate on their sport."

B2ten happened by accident.

It all started with Jenn Heil. Her coach and boyfriend Dominick Gauthier enlisted the help of Montreal businessman J.D. Miller in building a team of experts and financial backers around Heil that helped boost her to Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Games. Heil lived with the Miller family for the four years leading to the Olympics.

Miller and Gauthier figured they had a good thing going, so why stop. The more money Miller raised through his business connections across the country, the more athletes they added.

"I don't think any of us knew what to expect, knew what it would grow into," said Heil. "I think what's cool about B2ten is it's really unique in the Canadian landscape of sport. What's so different is I think it's the only organization that targets the athletes on the individual approach."

Gauthier serves as the program director, although his primary job is as a freestyle moguls coach for Heil, Stephanie St. Pierre and Alexandre Bilodeau, all of whom are part of B2ten, while Miller, a long-time amateur sports enthusiast who does advisory work on complex financial situations for public companies, handles the business side. Andrew Parsons, a neighbour of Miller's and former business heavyweight, does the accounting.

"Andrew Parsons was the CFO (chief financial officer) for the Bronfman family for many years and here he is helping us for free and working a lot actually," said Gauthier. "It's people who believe in sport, who believe in making the sport system a better one in Canada."

Claire Angus Caplan of Toronto and her husband, businessman Mark Caplan, were among those recruited by Miller. They became so enamoured with the grit and character of the women's bobsledders that they're now involved in filming a documentary of their Olympic journey.

Angus Caplan believes it's the moral support as much as the financial that lifts the athletes.

"Financial is one thing, but I think it's also seeing that people actually give a crap. It really helps inspire them that someone does care and it's also not just about one event."

Miller notes the needs are different for every athlete.

"You can't supply the same resources to every athlete. We have athletes in this program that cost six figures a year and others that cost low five. It's not important what the number is. What's important is they get what they need in order to be the best they can be."

For Morrison, that's meant helping him furnish an apartment near the Richmond Olympic Oval, where he's now training for the Games, buying him a mountain bike for training, and extra pairs of carbon fibre speed skating boots at $1,300 a pop so he can experiment to find the best approach.

For World Cup freestyle aerials champion Steve Omischl, it's been the opportunity to work with the sports psychologist he's always wanted and have her accompany him to some events.

Rochette, having her best season so far, got help paying for her choreographer, a music specialist and a ballet teacher.

Speed skater Christine Nesbitt, also off to a flying start this year, was losing a lot of time and gaining a lot of stress trying to get around Calgary on her bike and the bus. So someone in the B2ten group living there provided her with a car, covered the insurance and gave her a gas allowance. They're also helping her with an apartment near the Richmond Olympic Oval.

"If there's a genuine need for it and they agree that there's a need for it, they'll approve it," said Omischl. "But if you're saying, `I want to go to Maui on vacation because I'm stressed out and it'll help me out,' you can forget about that."


Argos Still Looking For Coach

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Allan Ryan

(November 25, 2008) While the Toronto Argonauts have been home and cooled out for three weeks now, they are not any closer to naming a new head coach. General manager Adam Rita said yesterday that, while the team has talked about a lot of possible successors, the interview process had not begun. Asked for a timeline, Rita said the Argonauts intend to have something in place on their coaching search by Feb. 1.


Rev Up Your Fat-Burning Metabolism

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

"Understand that the right to choose your own path is sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility." -- Oprah Winfrey

What if I told you I could get your metabolism revved and primed to lose body fat in as little as 35-40 minutes, three days per week?

I know it sounds like another one of those late night infomercials selling a miracle product. I promise you -- this is the real deal.

Just because you have a busy schedule doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to being overweight and out of shape.

I have a workout that's going to get you in and out of the gym in approximately 35 minutes. You're going to sweat and you're going to have to do some work, but it won't be at all unrealistic. I guarantee that you'll enjoy yourself and see results.

Let's face it: We all live busy lives, so the best workout is one that doesn't take up a lot of time -- and produces optimal results.

I've been training clients for more than 13 years and have experimented with hundreds of conceivable workout routines based on a variety of goals. The routine I'm outlining in this article actually startled me when I saw the results it began to produce. Clients were losing fat, gaining lean muscle and increasing strength.

One day, a client told me his schedule was going to get super busy and that he could manage three days per week of workouts -- but only 35-40 minutes per session. For him, every second had to count.

In a previous career that feels like a million years ago, I worked in a very fast-paced and stressful industry on Wall Street -- I knew what my client was experiencing and I knew what needed to be done both physically and psychologically.

Within three weeks of the new routine he said, "Raphael, what are you doing to me?" I thought maybe he was injured, but then he proceeded to tell me he had lost an inch off his waist and that his arms and chest felt tighter and leaner. This type of feedback is music to a trainer's ears.

The routine is circuit like in nature, but it's not traditional circuit training. For those who are not familiar with circuit training, it's simply moving from one exercise to the next without rest for a specific time period.

You're going to be combining weight training and cardio within the routine, and your pace must be brisk and your weights challenging. Your repetition scheme should be in the 10-15 range.

Don't get caught up in the myth that high reps (more than 15) will make you tight and prevent the bulky look. Excess body fat creates the bulky look. Once you lose the fat, you'll look and feel lean.

After a brief warm-up, you're going to cycle your workout with two weight training (except for legs) exercises followed by a three-minute cardio burst. The workout is not random and haphazard. There is no rest during the 30 minutes. You perform two consecutive weight training movements and then three minutes of cardio where the intensity is ramped up.

Beginners should take their time and move at a pace that's comfortable. If you've never worked out, it's important to build your intensity levels naturally and go at your own pace. Exercise form and technique is absolutely vital.

All weight training exercises should be taken to momentary muscular failure. In other words, if 15 repetitions is your goal, you should not be able to perform repetition No. 16. Remember, there is no rest between exercises and there is no rest during the entire 30-minute routine. When you complete one exercise, just go to the next one.

If you are a member of eDiets and not familiar with some of the exercises, simply access the Virtual Trainer on the eDiets fitness program and get a complete description along with an exercise animation for each movement. If you're not an eDiets member, perhaps it's time to think about joining now.

The program is divided into "phases" that isolate each muscle group. This allows for complete focus on each muscle. In addition, a cardio segment is included in each phase with intensity guidelines.

Sets and repetitions are provided for each exercise. An example is 1x10-15; this simply means one set of 10-15 repetitions. Concerning cardio, high intensity refers to a challenging level -- but one where you would still be able to hold a conversation.

Begin with a five-minute cardio warm-up. Then begin the routine.

Phase 1
Leg press: 1x12-15 (one set of 12-15 repetitions)
Machine Leg Curl: 1x12-15
Machine Leg Extension: 1x15
Treadmill: Jog three minutes and build intensity gradually. Not to a sprint level, but so that it's somewhat challenging.

Phase 2
Machine Chest Press: 1x12-15
Dumbbell Incline Chest Press: 1x12-15
Treadmill: Jog three minutes and build intensity gradually. Not to a sprint level, but so that it's somewhat challenging. After completing the treadmill, immediately go to the next phase.

Phase 3
Abdominal Crunches (on floor): 1x15
Double Crunch: 1x15
Bent Knee Leg Lift: 1x15
Stationary Bike: Three minutes (high intensity) followed by two-minute cool down at low intensity.

Phase 4
Lat Pull Down: 1x12-15
Seated Cable Row: 1x12-15
Seated Machine Row: 1x12-15
Cardio Step Mill: Three minutes (build intensity so last minute is high intensity).

Phase 5
Seated Machine or Dumbbell Press: 1x15
Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 1x15
Cardio Step Mill: Three minutes (build intensity so last minute is high intensity).

Phase 6
Seated Dumbbell Curls: 1x15
Machine Curls: 1x12
Cardio StairMaster: Three minutes (higher intensity, but you should not be gasping for air).

Phase 7
Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: 1x15
Ropes Triceps Pushdown: 1x15
Seated Bench Dips: 1x15
Cardio Stairmaster: Five minutes (higher intensity, but you should not be gasping for air)

Cool down for three minutes and then stretch for five minutes.

As you can see, the routine is balanced and designed to keep you constantly moving. Just remember to move from one exercise to the next and one phase to the next with no breaks -- unless you absolutely need them.

Perform the routine on three alternate days of the week with a goal of completing it in 35-40 minutes. The goal is to perform the most amount of work in the least amount of time.

Don't forget that the ultimate key to a toned and tight body is the combination of proper nutrition, exercise and consistency.

As always, check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program.


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com
 — The Buddha

"Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things, which renew humanity."