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November 6, 2008

History has been made!  Victory for Barack Obama!  What a proud moment to be alive to witness this remarkable time, not only in U.S. history but for all those who 'have a dream'!   I would be remiss not to mention Sen. John McCain and his gracious  speech upon conceding defeat.  

And please remember to pick up your poppy to commemorate our veterans for November 11.

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



Obama Triumphs, Will Be First Black US President

By David Espo, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama was elected the nation's first black president Tuesday night in a historic triumph that overcame racial barriers as old as America itself.

The 47-year-old Democratic senator from Illinois sealed his victory by defeating Republican Sen. John McCain in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states — Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Iowa.

A huge crowd thronged Grant Park in Chicago to cheer Obama's improbable triumph and await his first public speech as president-elect.

Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, will take their oaths of office as president and vice president on Jan. 20, 2009.

As the 44th president, Obama will move into the Oval Office as leader of a country that is almost certainly in recession, and fighting two long wars, one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan.

The popular vote was close, but not the count in the Electoral College, where it counted.

There, Obama's audacious decision to contest McCain in states that hadn't gone Democratic in years paid rich dividends.

Fellow Democrats rode his coattails to gains in both houses of Congress, toppling Republican incumbents and winning open seats alike.

Obama has said his first order of presidential business will be to tackle the economy. He has also pledged to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.


Def Jam Executive Vice President, Shakir Stewart was found dead

Source:  www.allhiphop.com - By Nolan Strong and Tai Saint Louis

(November 1, 2008) While details are being confirmed, sources stated that Shakir died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and his body was found earlier today, in his apartment.
"L.A. Reid and all of us at Island Def Jam Music Group are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague
Shakir Stewart," Def Jam told AllHipHop.com in a statement. "Shakir was an amazing man, in every sense of the word. A truly incredible friend and father who was an inspiration to not only our artists and employees, but to his family and the many people who had the privilege of counting him as a friend.  Our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time."
Stewart replaced Jay-Z's position at Island Def Jam and was named Executive Vice President of Def Jam Recordings in June of 2008.
Stewart began is career at Def Jam in 2004, as VP of A&R for the legendary label.
As A&R, he signed artists like Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and others.
Prior to working at Def Jam, Stewart worked for Hitco, where he signed Beyonce to a publishing deal and signed Ciara during his tenure at LaFace Records.
Shortly after his promotion to EVP with Def Jam, Stewart told AllHipHop.com that he was looking forward to signing a new, fresh crop of talent to the storied record label.
“My main thing is to keep supporting the artists that have cultural relevance, a message, a real fan base and that can touch the hearts of men and women,” Stewart told AllHipHop.com of his vision. “My commitment is to the artists of quality music and talent.”
Most recently, Stewart over saw the release of Young Jeezy’s latest album The Recession, LL Cool J’s Exit 13 and Nas’ untitled album.
“That's an honour for me because these are artists [whose careers] I've watched from day one. I remember buying ‘I Cant Live Without My Radio,’ ‘I Need Love’ and ‘Rock The Bells’ from LL, and Nas' Illmatic when that first came out. To be able to be a part of their careers now and work hand in hand with them in creating their albums now…this is [probably] Nas' most anticipated and controversial album ever…I'm for keeping the brand culturally relevant globally, coming in and being a part [from any standpoint] with a company that's had this type of history, recognition and respect is a huge honour and a challenge. I'm up to it, I'm a fan of the music and artists and I'm just passionate about it so I'm just ready to go.”

Point Blank: 'We're Putting The 'Hood In HMV'

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

(November 01, 2008) The hip-hop game is pretty thankless in this country all around, but if your starting point is Regent Park you face a steeper uphill battle to be heard than most.

Ask the cats in
Point Blank. They've been rolling together as a crew since junior high, for nearly 20 years now, and only this past September did they release an album with nationwide distribution.

It's a goodie, too. Point Blank (out on KOCH Records via the group's Tilt Rock Records imprint) is a record notable not just for the deft, battle-hardened rhymes kicked out with impossible ease by the group's six MCs – brothers Stump, Trouble and Kidd, slightly younger firebrand Imperial, Jackal and RPD, whose twin brother, Pikihed, serves as Point Blank's in-house beatmaker – and some soulful, hook-laden production, but also for the straight-up manner in which it addresses the poverty, marginalization, crime and violence that plagues life on some of Toronto's meaner streets.

There was a time when some might have waved off such "gangsta"-ish content in Canadian rap music as the opportunistic emulation of the guns-blazin' American hip hop. But these days, with gun crime a fixture in the news, Point Blank can lay rather decisive claim to simply tellin' it like it is.

"You can only hide the dirt under the rug for so long before you start trippin' over it," says Imperial, chilling with Kidd over a couple of beers earlier this week before Point Blank drove to Hamilton for a gig. They play another show tonight at the Comedy Bar on Bloor St. W., on a bill with Tilt Rock labelmates the Smugglaz and several stand-up comics.

Point Blank is proud to have emerged from Regent Park and is quick to praise the sense of community they felt growing up there (during their teens, many of them lived and paid rent under the same roof), a feeling that led them to eulogize the housing project as they once knew it in the video for Point Blank's lead single, "Born and Raised in the Ghetto."

That clip, which has notched nearly 356,000 hits on YouTube, matches footage from an ancient NFB reel touting North America's first public-housing project as a winning alternative to the demolished slums it replaced – the narrator promises "hard cash saved and better citizens" – with video of Regent Park's recent demolition (again) to make way for new condo towers. Although the video exposes much peace and positivity in day-to-day life in the Park, it is, thus, also a bitter indictment of everything that went wrong with this "daring experiment that may serve as a model for cities from coast to coast."

These guys should know. They've lived it. Criminal records and time served are not unknown among the group. Imperial was shot in the chest at a Queen St. nightclub in 1998, while Point Blank has been hounded for years by Toronto police claims that it's the centre of a violent gang trafficking in drugs, claims that Imperial and Kidd laugh off. "There aren't even any gangs in Regent Park," sniffs Kidd, with some authority.

The two speak often of being "mentors" to the Regent Park kids and are aware of the power they can wield in the community.

"A lot of kids these days don't have anyone to talk to them about morals," adds Kidd. "We had older guys that we looked up to, just like these young guys look up to us, who would show us right from wrong. That's why we're able to pass it on to other kids. We're able to talk to them about how we got schooled, how we took it in. We coulda been hard-headed kids and ignored schooling."

Asked the devil's advocate question of whether or not such mentorship duties are at odds with the dope hustling and gunplay often depicted in their lyrics, the two affable rappers argue that their commitment to their hard-fought career is, by example, presenting those kids with an alternate path. "If we're doing music, then it's music. We're not physically out there doing that stuff," says Imperial.

"We're teaching these kids that there's other ways that you can express your feelings," offers Kidd. "Instead of going out there and physically doing these things, you can speak it because they can't stop your freedom of speech.

"I know people who've never done anything their whole life. Nothing. They've just said: `Forget it. This all sucks.' But guess what? They work with Tilt Rock and Point Blank for two weeks and they've found their f---in' calling. `I need to go to marketing school. I wanna do promotion. I wanna do graphic design.' We influence these guys to do positive things because, involved in this business, there's so many positive things that you can do that are gonna help you throughout your life."

In that spirit, Point Blank is doing all it can to parlay the brewing success of the new album – it's drawing rave reviews and closing in on the 5,000 mark in sales, pretty fine for an underground hip-hop record from Canada – into further success for its compatriots. Tilt Rock has a full slate of releases from various solo Point Blank members and such friends as M3G, Shy Luv and Jae One on tap for the new year, while the label even regularly takes on interns from high-school age to their late 20s. Other homegrown, underground acts have been signed in the wake of KOCH's "experiment" with the group, too.

"Choclair? He's not a street rapper. He's just a rapper. Kardinal? Saukrates? Swollen Members? K-os? They're not street rappers. They're just rappers," says Imperial. "If you look at all them successful rappers who've been out there, none of them niggaz is from the `hood. We're the first 'hood niggaz to break the barrier and actually try to go into the mainstream. We're putting the `hood in HMV."

Obama's Grandmother Dies

www.thestar.com - Herbert Sample, The Associated Press

(November 03, 2008) HONOLULU–Barack Obama's grandmother, whose personality and bearing shaped much of the life of the Democratic presidential contender, has died, Obama announced today, one day before the election. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86.

Obama announced the news from the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. The joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said Dunham died peacefully late Sunday night after a battle with cancer.

They said: "She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances."

Obama learned of her death this morning while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. He planned to go ahead with campaign appearances.

The family said a private ceremony would be held later.

Last month, Obama took a break from campaigning and flew to Hawaii to be with Dunham as her health declined.

Obama said the decision to go to Hawaii was easy to make, telling CBS that he "got there too late" when his mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at 53, and wanted to make sure "that I don't make the same mistake twice."

The Kansas-born Dunham and her husband, Stanley, raised their grandson for several years so he could attend school in Honolulu while their daughter and her second husband lived overseas. Her influence on Obama's manner and the way he viewed the world was substantial, the candidate himself told millions watching him as he accepted his party's nomination in Denver in August.

"She's the one who taught me about hard work," he said. "She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me."

Obama's nickname for his grandmother was "Toot," a version of the Hawaiian word for grandmother, tutu. Many of his speeches describe her working on a bomber assembly line during World War II.

Madelyn and Stanley Dunham married in 1940, a few weeks before she graduated from high school. Their daughter, Stanley Ann, was born in 1942. After several moves to and from California, Texas, Washington and Kansas, Stanley Dunham's job landed the family in Hawaii.

It was there that Stanley Ann later met and fell in love with Obama's father, a Kenyan named Barack Hussein Obama Sr. They had met in Russian class at the University of Hawaii. Their son was born in August 1961, but the marriage didn't last long. She later married an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro, another university student she met in Hawaii.

Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother and stepfather at age 6. But in 1971, her mother sent him back to Hawaii to live with her parents. He stayed with the Dunhams until he graduated from high school in 1979.

In his autobiography, Obama wrote fondly of playing basketball on a court below his grandparents' 10th-floor Honolulu apartment, and looking up to see his grandmother watching.

It was the same apartment Obama visited on annual holiday trips to Hawaii, a weeklong vacation from his campaign in August, and his pre-election visit in October. Family members said his grandmother could not travel because of her health.

Madelyn Dunham, who took university classes but to her chagrin never earned a degree, nonetheless rose from a secretarial job at the Bank of Hawaii to become one of the state's first female bank vice presidents.

"Every morning, she woke up at 5 a.m. and changed from the frowsy muumuus she wore around the apartment into a tailored suit and high-heeled pumps," Obama wrote.

After her health took a turn for the worse, her brother said on Oct. 21 that she had already lived long enough to see her "Barry" achieve what she'd wanted for him.

"I think she thinks she was important in raising a fine young man," Charles Payne, 83, said in a brief telephone interview from his Chicago home. "I doubt if it would occur to her that he would go this far this fast. But she's enjoyed watching it."

Stanley Dunham died in 1992, while Obama's mother died in 1995. His father is also deceased.

When Obama was young, he and his grandmother toured the United States by Greyhound bus, stopping at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Disneyland and Chicago, where Obama would years later settle.

It was an incident during his teenage years that became one of Obama's most vivid memories of Toot. She had been aggressively panhandled by a man and she wanted her husband to take her to work. When Obama asked why, his grandfather said Madelyn Dunham was bothered because the panhandler was black.

The words hit the biracial Obama "like a fist in my stomach," he wrote later. He was sure his grandparents loved him deeply. "And yet," he added, "I knew that men who might easily have been my brothers could still inspire their rawest fears."

Obama referred to the incident again when he addressed race in a speech in March during a controversy over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother," he said.

Dunham was "a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world but who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her on the street.''

Still, much of who Obama is comes from his grandmother, said his half sister.

"From our grandmother, he gets his pragmatism, his levelheadedness, his ability to stay centered in the eye of the story," she told The Associated Press. "His sensible, no-nonsense (side) is inherited from her."

Madelyn Lee Payne was born to Rolla and Leona Payne in October, 1922, in Peru, Kan., but lived much of her childhood in nearby Augusta.

She was the oldest of four children, and she loved to read everything from James Hilton's Lost Horizon to Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Dunham and her husband were "vicious" bridge players, according to her brother Jack. After retirement, the two of them would take island cruises and do little but play bridge and a more difficult version called duplicate bridge.

Author Michael Crichton Dies Of Cancer

Source: www.thestar.com - Hillel Italie,
The Associated Press

(November 05, 2008) NEW YORK – Michael Crichton, the million-selling author who made scientific research terrifying and irresistible in such thrillers as Jurassic Park, Timeline and The Andromeda Strain, has died of cancer, his family said.

Crichton died Tuesday in Los Angeles at age 66 after privately battling cancer.

"Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand," his family said in a statement.

"While the world knew him as a great storyteller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us – and entertained us all while doing so – his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes."

He was an experimenter and popularizer known for his stories of disaster and systematic breakdown, such as the rampant microbe of The Andromeda Strain or the dinosaurs running madly in Jurassic Park. Many of his books became major Hollywood movies, including Jurassic Park, Rising Sun and Disclosure. Crichton himself directed and wrote "The Great Train Robbery" and he co-wrote the script for the blockbuster Twister.

In 1994, he created the award-winning TV hospital series ER. He's even had a dinosaur named for him, Crichton's ankylosaur.

"Michael's talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park," said Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg, a friend of Crichton's for 40 years.

"He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth. . . . Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

John Wells, executive producer of ER called the author "an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful.

"No lunch with Michael lasted less than three hours and no subject was too prosaic or obscure to attract his interest. Sexual politics, medical and scientific ethics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, astronomy, astrology, quantum physics, and molecular biology were all regular topics of conversation."

In recent years, he was the rare novelist granted a White House meeting with President George W. Bush, perhaps because of his scepticism about global warming, which Crichton addressed in the 2004 novel, State of Fear.

Crichton's views were strongly condemned by environmentalists, who alleged that the author was hurting efforts to pass legislation to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

If not a literary giant, he was a physical one, standing 6 feet 9 inches and ready for battle with the press. In a 2004 interview with The Associated Press, Crichton came with a tape recorder, text books and a pile of graphs and charts as he defended State of Fear and his take on global warming.

"I have a lot of trouble with things that don't seem true to me," Crichton said at the time, his large, manicured hands gesturing to his graphs. "I'm very uncomfortable just accepting. There's something in me that wants to pound the table and say, 'That's not true.' "

He spoke to few scientists about his questions, convinced that he could interpret the data himself.

"If we put everything in the hands of experts and if we say that as intelligent outsiders, we are not qualified to look over the shoulder of anybody, then we're in some kind of really weird world," he said.

A new novel by Crichton had been tentatively scheduled to come next month, but publisher HarperCollins said the book was postponed indefinitely because of his illness.

One of four siblings, Crichton was born in Chicago and grew up in Roslyn, Long Island. His father was a journalist and young Michael spent much of his childhood writing extra papers for teachers.

In third grade, he wrote a nine-page play that his father typed for him, using carbon paper so the other kids would know their parts. He was tall, gangly and awkward and used writing as a way to escape. Mark Twain and Alfred Hitchcock were his role models.

Figuring he would not be able to make a living as writer, and not good enough at basketball, he decided to become a doctor. He studied anthropology at Harvard College and later graduated from Harvard Medical School.

During medical school, he turned out books under pseudonyms. (One that the tall author used was Jeffrey Hudson, a 17th-century dwarf in the court of King Charles II of England.) He had modest success with his writing and decided to pursue it.

His first hit, The Andromeda Strain, was written while he was still in medical school and quickly caught on upon its 1969 release. It was a featured selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and was sold to Universal in Hollywood for $250,000.

"A few of the teachers feel I'm wasting my time, and that in some ways I have wasted theirs," he told The New York Times in 1969. "When I asked for a couple of days off to go to California about a movie sale, that raised an eyebrow."

His books seemed designed to provoke debate, whether the theories of quantum physics in Timeline, the reverse sexual discrimination of Disclosure or the spectre of Japanese eminence in Rising Sun.

"The initial response from the (Japanese) establishment was, 'You're a racist,'" he said. "So then, because I'm always trying to deal with data, I went on a tour talking about it and gave a very careful argument, and their response came back, `Well you say that but we know you're a racist.'"

Crichton had a rigid work schedule, rising before dawn and writing from about 6 a.m. to around 3 p.m., breaking only for lunch. He enjoyed being one of the few novelists recognized in public but he also felt limited by fame.

"Of course, the celebrity is nice. But when I go do research, it's much more difficult now. The kind of freedom I had 10 years ago is gone," he said. "You have to have good table manners. You can't have spaghetti hanging out of your mouth at a restaurant."

Crichton was married five times and had one child. A private funeral is planned.


Fantasy Island

Source: By Melanie Reffes, Bay Street Bull Magazine

Unlike Cannes, where celebrities tempt the paparazzi by getting married half-naked on private yachts, or nearby St. Barts, a hot spot to see and be seen, the island of
Anguilla attracts a crowd that seeks Garbo-esque privacy and will pay handsomely for it. Denzel Washington celebrated his big 5-0 in a villa full of his closest friends. Bruce Willis and the Bacon Brothers jam at the Pumphouse. Eddie Murphy digs the scene at Johnno’s, and a bikini-clad Céline Dion enjoys horseback riding along the beach. This is a place where the famous come to escape the intrusions that come with their fame, and yet it is only a brief boat ride or plane trip from St. Maarten.

Measuring 25 kilometres by five kilometres, the island has just two traffic lights, four banks, plenty of goats and about 1,000 hotel rooms, which include some of the finest in the world. There are no big tourist attractions—mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, all-you-can-eat buffets or duty-free shopping. Rather, it is unspoiled beauty with a gracious population of 12,000 who work mainly in tourism and who have an unbridled enthusiasm for welcoming the rich and famous. This unlikely Eden of salt ponds and sea grape trees is a Caribbean success story, complete with million-dollar villas, posh spas and a Greg Norman golf course.

The winner of umpteen awards, Cap Juluca resort is unapologetically decadent and visually spectacular. Whitewashed villas sparkle in the sunlight with turrets and parapets reflecting the glow of sunsets à la Arabian Nights. Indonesian spice body rubs, showers stocked with Bvlgari bath gels, lush gardens overflowing with frangipani and jasmine and gigantic beds fluffed up with Frette linens are standard-issue in a butler-tended five bedroom villa. Sorbet served on the beach every afternoon breaks up the monotony of a tough day in a lounge chair. And when you have an appetite for more than sorbet, there is Pimms.

Built on a coral outcrop a stone’s throw from the azure waters of the bay, the restaurant is gourmet splendour lit by the Moorish domes of the resort. Eurasian influences abound in recipes for crayfish and oxtail ravioli, miso-glazed black cod and a yummy cherry wood smoked salmon. And to be sure that the resort stays at the top of its game, its new owners are overseeing a $13-million facelift that includes everything from adding new flowers and lighting in the landscaping, renovating to the main house and restaurants, to ordering a fleet of solar powered golf carts and two Lexus Hybrid SUVs, so that guests and staff will have more environmentally friendly transport options.

Standing guard over the sea, the trio of white villas on Shoal Bay West beach looks like geometric castles in the sand. Altamer— a hybrid moniker combining the French and Italian words for ‘high’ and ‘sea’—is staffed by eight and has a hot tub big enough for 14. Carl Irish, who introduces himself as the chief service officer, shows off the African Sapphire villa, which is the newest of the three villas and is decorated with beautiful African objects such as a stunning chandelier, made with half a million beads, and three life-size statues of giraffes. But the amenities are very Western. “Everything is state-of-the-art,” Irish says, pointing to the largest of the 14 plasma-screens TVs, which measures 2.4 by 1.2 metres. “Twenty-three speakers pipe in 35,000 MP3 songs to the nine bathrooms, eight bedrooms and gym,” he adds.

Situated across from the scenic hills of French St. Martin, Villa Coyaba includes six bedrooms, a grand piano, a humongous swimming pool, Jacuzzi, gourmet kitchen, barbecue, fitness centre, and a children’s playground. Five of the bedrooms open out on to large terraces with views of the ocean or nearby St. Martin, in some cases both. A secluded beach is only a stone’s throw away. Equipped with a small conference room, fax machine, and eight seat conference table, the villa can be used for business as well as pleasure.

Commanding a paradisiacal view of the ocean that sparkles with iridescent blues and washes the softest talc-white sand in the British West Indies, is the aptly named, bluff-top mansion Exclusivity, which sits at the end of a ragged trail fringed by rows of scrub bush. The 15,000 square-foot house was built by Remi Goldstone, the daughter of a former U.S. senator, as her dream house, and when she’s not dreaming in it herself, she rents it. There are five oceanfront bedrooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool comes with a full security. The house is not recommended for children younger than 10, but some exceptions can be made. Guests are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. Nightly rates range from US$5,700 to $10,700 depending on the season.

One other remarkable property is Temenos, where bright white villas and buildings rise on the hillside, reminiscent of the architecture of the Greek islands. Appropriately, temenos is the Greek word for sanctuary. Each villa has its own infinity edge pool and a private walkway that meanders down to the beach. Residences described as spa villas, villas and estate homes range in size from 3,000 to more than 5,000 square feet with additional outdoor living space. Prices range from US$1.4 million to US $13.2 million. A hotel with 120 luxurious guest rooms and suites is under construction and is slated to open in 2009.

Not everyone needs to escape the paparazzi hounds, but we all need to retreat from the stress and madness of our world and lives occasionally. For that, the quiet beauties of Anguillaar happen to see any Hollywood stars, you will most certainly enjoy gazing at the glittering ones in the sky.


Burton Cummings Comes Clean

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(November 01, 2008) First, shake the hand – meaty and muscular, with fingers that have carved 10,000 keyboards.

Then, switch on the tape recorder, sit back, and just let him riff. He needs no invitation.

When I say my name, the eyes seem to flinch momentarily through the cigarette haze, because, although we've never met before,
Burton Cummings and I share a common history, having occupied the same psychic terrain known as Winnipeg in our formative years. A physical place, too, of course, but mainly a state of mind.

Burton and I roamed the same elm-lined boulevards, cursed the same endless winters, hung out in the same bowling alleys, and listened addictively to the same pop radio stations, the music imprinting itself forever in the fresh Silly Putty of our cerebella. Of course, there's one major difference: I can still recite lots of the old lyrics; Burton started writing his own – and went on to sell upward of 20 million records, entering the pantheon reserved for the royalty of rock music.

Just how deep this personal connection runs is immediately apparent, because it turns out that the object of Burton's first great adolescent crush was my first cousin Karen (“She didn't have any time for me”) and that his good friends growing up were two more of my cousins, Mark and Miles.

Of course, you couldn't come of age in the Russian shtetl that was still north Winnipeg in the 1950s and early sixties without associating with Jews, but Burton, nominally a gentile, probably overdid it (not for the last time) when he persuaded Rosh Pina Rabbi Phillip Shnairson to admit him to the synagogue's youth program – “the only goy,” he laughs, “to be a member.” He attended “more bar mitzvahs than most Jews,” can still recite (in Hebrew, no less) the first of the four questions from the Passover Haggadah, and belonged for four years to the Sabras, one of the teen clubs at the Young Men's Hebrew Association on Hargrave Street (about 200 metres from a theatre that now bears his name). “Listen,” he says, drawing on a cigarette, “I could daven [pray] by the time I was 12. All my friends were Jews. I found the Anglicans really boring.”

The newspaper-delivery route that Burton administered as a boy took him past the Ludwig house on Scotia Avenue, where he would stop to visit his friend Israel, tinkle the ivories on the family's grand piano, and experiment with their reel-to-reel tape recorder, then still a novelty. Ludwig still owns the earliest known tapes of Cummings singing songs by Ray Charles, as well as the Marathons doing Peanut Butter. “I was 13,” he says. “My voice hadn't even changed.”

And when he made his first professional appearance at 14, as a member of the Deverons, the gig was booked at the Herzlia Academy, then an orthodox shul in the city's south end. The booking agent was an enterprising kid named Lorne Saifer. Now, 47 years later, Saifer is still Burton's manager. His fee back then for the five-member band: $5. “None of them were old enough to drive, so we had to take cabs,” remembers Cummings. “We lost money.”

This was even before he had started dating a young Jewish girl from the south end, Jan Schneider, who would be his girlfriend for nine years (and very nearly became his wife) – a crucially important period in his personal and musical development. It was for Schneider that he wrote such hits as Stand Tall, Timeless Love and I Will Play a Rhapsody. Indeed, long after she was married to someone else, “I was still writing songs for Jan,” he says, “trying to make her think about coming back.”

All of this came flooding back a few weeks ago as Burton sat down to talk about his new CD, Above the Ground. It's his first solo album in 19 years, and he has not stinted on content: The disc boasts 19 songs, all new, music and lyrics by Cummings himself. The photo on the cover shows him sitting in a chair with his arms extended, looking not unlike another Winnipegger, the late magician Doug Henning, as if he were levitating an invisible body.

Above the Ground is an apt metaphor. Although the years have taken a toll on him – for the Globe's photographer, he was reluctant to open his jacket to show a Beatles T-shirt, for fear of revealing his ample stomach – Cummings has endured. The title track goes, in part: “Been waking up with my nose in the eggs now, and I suppose that I could use a shower, but I'll never turn the other cheek now, I guess the 'tude is getting dark and sour … Not a crime to want to kick it alone … but I have come to know what a real crime is … to mortify what you don't own.”

Turning 61 in December, Cummings says he now feels “a certain freedom” to speak his mind. “I'm not as guarded about my past as I was. I can say what I want. At this point, I'm not hiding. It's not going to have any long-term effects.”

Of his drug use during the glory years, for example, he concedes, “I shovelled an awful lot of the white lady up my nose. I did a lot of acid, smoked a lot of great hash, great weed. I barely even lay down till I was about 40. But no needles – I can't get a vaccination without passing out.”

Today, he says, he likes an occasional joint “whenever it's offered. I still smoke dope a little bit, not as much as before, because it's a little harder on your throat. And I like Newcastle Brown Ale. So I'm not ready to move to Lourdes quite yet. I've never really denied myself anything and I've never had any serious problems with alcohol or drugs, where I woke up with the shakes. To me, it was just rock 'n' roll party shit, that's all it was.

“I've read the Motley Crüe book,” he adds, referring to The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, “and Jesus, man, compared to them, I was an angel.”

Certainly, rock's snack-food diet of cocaine, hash and acid hasn't affected Cummings's memory. He belts out a dozen lines from his starring tenor role in the St. John's High School production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, circa 1963 (he played Ralph), and then sings a few bars of the first song he ever wrote, at 12, So Hard to Explain (“How do you tell the girl you love, the way you feel about her? … I find it so hard to tell her, so hard to explain.”).

Two years of operetta and a few more in the choir at St. Martin's Anglican Church constituted the only formal singing lessons Cummings ever had. “I was taught to sing from here,” he says, pointing to his diaphragm, “but I just sing. It helped to be the lead. From an early age, I always said, ‘Why try out for the chorus when you can try out for the lead?' ”

His gift for piano he owes mainly to his mother, Rhoda, who started him on lessons at the age of 5. He immediately rebelled, making it clear to her that he preferred to play road hockey and football with his friends. But a year later, she forced him back to it. Soon, he figured out that four basic chords – C, A minor, F and G – allowed him to play “80 per cent of the songs on the radio. From that point on, she couldn't drag me away from it. All of a sudden, I became a big hero because I could play Bumble Boogie.” The rest is music history.

He was just 19 when he became lead singer of the Guess Who, joining Randy Bachman, Jim Kale and Garry Peterson. They had a decade-long run at the top of the world, producing a steady stream of hits, including These Eyes, No Time, Laughing and (She's Come) Un dun. “Our heroes were the great songwriters of that period, King and Goffin, Lieber and Stoller, Lennon and McCartney, Mann and Weil.”

Cummings still retains a close connection to Winnipeg. In addition to the downtown theatre, there's a community centre named for him, he owns a stake in the city's legendary Salisbury House restaurant chain, and he just bought a house in the Tuxedo neighbourhood, with Assiniboine Park as his front yard. He won't disclose the purchase price, but says: “Let's put it this way. Lenny Kravitz paid for it. Thank you, Lenny. Thank you, God.” Cummings is referring to the royalties Kravitz paid him for his rerecording of the Bachman-Cummings classic American Woman, the first song by a Canadian rock band to make it to No. 1 on Billboard.

American Woman was a hit in 1970, the same year that Bachman, a Mormon, bailed from the Guess Who, unable to tolerate the rock lifestyle any longer. Cummings carried on for another five years before going solo, soon afterward producing I'm Scared.

The new house has a grand piano in the foyer. In the basement stands the 110-year-old Nordheimer upright on which Cummings has composed for the last 24 years, writing songs with Bachman and the late Kurt Winter, as well as producing such solo hits as Break it to Them Gently and Stand Tall. “I got it for $200 in 1970,” he says, “and, touch wood, if I lost everything tomorrow, you would see me on the street with that piano singing for my food. That will never, ever, leave my possession.”

Cummings also owns a secluded mountaintop estate near Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, which he bought in 1976 (“It's worth about 11 times what I paid for it”) and what he calls a 10-acre “garden of Eden” in Victoria, facing Mount Baker. These are shared with his wife of 27 years, Cheryl DeLuca, a naturopathic healer, and two dogs: a short-haired collie and a tiny Jack Russell, “the best friends you could ever have.” The touring life wasn't conducive to child-raising, and besides, he concedes, “I was too selfish to have kids.”

One day, Cummings insists, there will be a book chronicling his story. “I've started it many times, and every time I think I've finished, something else great happens and I figure I have to write about that. But one day, I will. I'm too busy right now.”

Ever The Activist, Singer Can't Put Politics Aside

Source: www.globeandmail.com  - Fiona Morrow

(October 31, 2008) VANCOUVER — Buffy Sainte-Marie was playing the piano (self-taught) at an age where most children are still grappling with speech. The precociousness of the three-year-old developed into a life on the cutting-edge - of music, art, teaching and protest.

Now 67, Sainte-Marie is releasing her first album in 15 years - Running for the Drum - produced by Chris Birkett, who collaborated on her two "Best of" albums in the nineties. She plays Toronto tonight and will return to the city next month to accept a lifetime-achievement award at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.

Along with the album release is a documentary on DVD - A Multimedia Life - charting Sainte-Marie's life story.

And what a story that is. Born in Regina in the 1940s, Sainte-Marie was orphaned as a baby, then adopted and raised in Maine and Massachusetts. It took a while before she realized that she was different - and even longer to trace her Cree origins. She was in her late teens before she was reunited with her community on the Piapot Cree reserve in Saskatchewan.

After graduating with a teaching degree from the University of Massachusetts in the early sixties, she headed to Greenwich Village to sing in local coffee shops and was spotted by Bob Dylan. He suggested she try out at another venue and two weeks later she had a rave review in The New York Times. (Sainte-Marie did a similar favour for Joni Mitchell, playing the unknown singer's tape to everyone she met - including Elliott Roberts, who became Mitchell's first manager.)

Though Sainte-Marie released albums and sang in folk festivals across North America and Europe, many of her songs became better known as performed by others. Her iconic anti-war number Universal Soldier was a hit for Donovan, while Until It's Time for You to Go became a standard for many, including Elvis Presley. Then there was the Academy Award for Up Where We Belong, sung by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker on the soundtrack for An Officer and a Gentleman.

Somehow she managed to squeeze in another degree - in oriental philosophy - and a fine-arts PhD. Then there were the five years on Sesame Street with her second husband and their son Cody (whom she famously breastfed on screen, watched over by Big Bird). She took the job, she says, so that children would "understand that Indians exist."

It was part of a decision made early in her career to raise awareness of aboriginal issues at any opportunity - a decision that meant she walked away from television and radio when broadcasters told her she was not to say anything political. She believes she was blacklisted.

"Sometimes you can't choose the politics," she sighs down the phone from her farm high up in the mountains of Hawaii. "I had very unfortunate experiences with former presidential administrations that just put an end to me in the U.S."

That "end" was just the beginning of a new direction: She was an early pioneer of digital art and then of Web-based teaching. Her Cradleboard Teaching Project is a successful multidisciplinary curriculum for indigenous elementary and high-school students, funded in part by a relentless speaking and performing schedule that takes her all over the world.

"I've been lucky to have had a life filled with plane tickets," she says with a laugh. "It's given me a lifetime of observing people - rich and poor, city and rural, doing well and doing not so well...."

In between, she retreats to Hawaii, where she lives with her partner of 15 years. She bought the house next door for her 90-year-old adoptive mother. Son Cody now plays keyboards in a local reggae band. The farm is a restorative place, where she recharges herself, feeds the goats - and gets "a lot of sleep."

But the activist in her can't stay quiet for long. The new album balances her trademark mix of love songs and political commentary - including a pointedly rewritten version of America the Beautiful.

"We still have a long ways to go in Canada," she says, referring to the impoverished state of native peoples. "But it's worse in the States. There still are very extreme problems, and the further south you go, the worse they get."

She can barely contain her contempt for Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, invoked for her "incredible ignorance" in matters related to Alaskan aboriginal communities.

Her response is to campaign hard for Barack Obama. "I'm going to lots of different pueblos, especially in the southwest - we're very much concerned with election fraud.

"I'm spending time on different reservations, hoping to make people aware of their voting rights and get a lot of people out to be present and keep an eye on things.

"In my opinion, Obama is one of the most qualified presidential nominees the U.S. has ever had," she says, the excitement clear in her voice. "When you get somebody who is so highly qualified and of that temperament. ... Oh man! It's inspiring."

Buffy Sainte-Marie and Richie Havens play Massey Hall in Toronto tonight at 8 (416-872-4255).

Feist Crowd Left Wanting More

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

(November 04, 2008) Leslie Feist has attained international ubiquity through an iPod ad, cracked the Billboard Top 10, crammed her mantelpiece with Juno Awards, played the Grammys and – perhaps most impressively – held it down with the cast of Sesame Street, so there's really not much to add to her list of pop-star accomplishments besides an arena tour.

The autumn road jaunt that brought Feist to the Air Canada Centre last night, in its smaller "theatre" configuration, isn't her first tour of Canadian hockey rinks, since she got to travel coast-to-coast opening arenas for the Tragically Hip as a member of By Divine Right. Still, while the Calgary native's former home base of Toronto didn't really need another reminder of how well Feist has done with her 2007 album, The Reminder, a sense of occasion hovered over her first onstage appearance beneath the Leafs banners at the ACC.

With characteristic grace, Feist – who played Massey Hall for the second time in a year on Saturday night after a couple of low-key appearances last week at the Rivoli and the Cameron House – appeared completely unfazed by the capacious new surroundings and made no attempt to augment a sedate set list now familiar from previous Toronto gigs for a venue more typically associated with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Metallica.

Arriving at the microphone by lantern light in silhouette against a white screen, she opened with the hushed "So Sorry" as if she was playing a far more intimate room to a crowd far less numerous than the 5,000 or 6,000 politely seated devotees in attendance. And, from there, she once again treated Toronto to a set almost militant in its mildness, casting whispery late-night cries de coeur like "Honey Honey" and "When I Was a Young Girl" and soulful slow jams like "The Limit to Your Love" and "Gatekeeper" into the void with utter disregard for where she was playing.

It worked, too, even if the ACC's acoustics made the (minimal) background chatter that plagued some slower numbers a little more audible than it might have been in different surroundings. Nevertheless, the surprisingly restrained response accorded such would-be moments of mass joy as "My Moon, My Man" and the mega-hit "1234" suggested the drowsiness of the rest of the material had exerted a tranquilizing effect, one not really shaken off until Feist busted out the rock-chick moves she really should let loose more often on a rousing, set-closing version of Nina Simone's "Sea Lion Woman."

Always On The Verge Of Breaking Up

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

(October 30, 2008) They hate touring and, on a bad day, they're not terribly fond of each other, either, but the members of F---ed Up are going to be spending a lot of up-close-and-personal time on the road together in the months ahead.

Once the dust settles on the fourth annual F---ed Up Fest – four star-studded shows in four days headlined, of course, by the white-hot Toronto hardcore sextet – this weekend, the band is off to Europe for seven weeks of touring followed by lengthy jaunts in the U.S., China, Japan, Australia and (fingers crossed) "maybe Hawaii," which will keep its dance card full well into 2009.

"This is the `job' part of being in a band," gripes frontman Damian Abraham. "If someone was, like, `We're gonna hire you for this job and we're gonna pay you $350 a week and you're gonna work one hour a day, but the rest of that time is going to be spent getting to that job and you're going to have to sleep on a stranger's floor and you're going to be living off fast food and that's gonna be your life for the next two years' – no one would take that job."

He plays "surly" well, but Abraham and guitarist Mike Haliechuk will, if prodded, quietly concede that they're thrilled to be as in-demand as they are now that F---ed Up's long-awaited second LP, The Chemistry of Common Life, is finally out there and receiving across-the-board rave reviews.

Sure, he stormed offstage a few days ago during a gig in Washington, D.C., taking most of a drum kit down with him, but Abraham admits that someday in the not-too-distant future he'll be looking back on all of this and wondering, "Why didn't I enjoy it more while I was here?"

He should. The Chemistry of Common Life – a deep, expansive punk-rock tour de force leagues ahead of even F---ed Up's celebrated 2006 debut, Hidden World – is shaping up as one of the year's must-have albums, and its recent launch with a boozy 12-hour show in New York is already the stuff of legend. Notably "up for it" onstage guests included Moby, Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis (who offered expectant father Abraham sage advice on child-rearing) and members of Vampire Weekend and Les Savy Fav, while the end of the night brought a jaw-dropping surprise.

"When everyone was gone and we were just packing up and getting ready to go wherever – we were going to sleep that night and we were kind of just getting ready to leave – all of a sudden Michael Stipe shows up," says Abraham. "No one was there. Everyone had packed up and left. It was just F---ed Up and Matador staff. He was, like, `I just came by to say congratulations on playing a 12-hour show.' We just hung out and talked for a while. He's a great guy, super-nice. He definitely does not have a lot in common with us."

Undaunted, F---ed Up adheres to its perennial promise to call it quits at any minute.

"We'll be around for another six months until we break up. Or another six days until we break up," says Abraham.

"It's a good sign that we keep saying that," says Haliechuk. "The minute F---ed Up stops saying that we're going to break up ..."

"... Then we're going to break up," affirms Abraham. "You need a good revolution every couple of years just to make sure the government works properly. In F---ed Up, we need a good break-up every few shows just to make sure the band can keep going."

'Something Else' by Robin Thicke

www.eurweb.com - By Fiona McKinson

(October 30, 2008) *Although the Grammy award winning Robin Thicke has been in music since he was 16, it was only in 2007 that many in the UK began to recognise his talents.

The smash hit Lost With Out You became a firm favourite. After supporting John Legend at Brixton Academy, Robin won over UK fans with his distinctive voice.

His twice-platinum album The Evolution of Robin Thicke promised much and the new album continues to deliver.

His voice is made for ballads and from the start the album seduces the listener with sexy soul, sometimes bi-lingual soul with injections of French in Loverman.

On Sidestep Robin goes back to a funky time with a retro groove. The seventies may have influenced the album but it sounds good now. Robin has the makings of a classic artist. A self-taught musician, he produced the album with long-term collaborator Pro-Jay. Robin describes it as a mixture of "classic Philly, Motown and '70s black disco." The only other collaborator is Lil Wayne but he definitely makes an impact as Tie My Hands has a worthy message.

The first single Magic, which was released in the UK on October 27, perfectly demonstrates how Robin fuses the old (sampling Curtis Mayfield's Move On Up) with the new. The video pays homage to Fred Astaire's 'Mr. Universe', Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey and Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Until You Get Enough.

Having written songs for the likes of Michael Jackson, writing the theme song for the new film Push, starting a screenplay and a book of poetry, Robin had no trouble ensuring each track on this album added value and was full of emotion.

The album has a distinct personality, not many people achieve that, and it certainly makes the listener want to know more about the artist. Dreamworld in particular captures the imagination. After sell out shows at London's KOKO, Robin is bringing the songs to life as he tours the UK this autumn/winter. Edgier numbers such as Hard On My Love seem made for the stage.

The physical and digital albums have a 'digital insert' section, which will allow people to access Robin's 'Something Else Luxury Suite', which gives users unlimited access to bonus songs, exclusive video content, pictures, wallpaper and news. But even without all the added extras, for fans of sophisticated soul music, this album is worth the investment.

Something Else is out now
Visit www.robin-thicke.co.uk

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

Young Pianist Follows In Famous Fingertips

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

(October 30, 2008) We all live by labels, but they often don't do people justice.

Take the example of American pianist
William Joseph. His label, Warner's Reprise, tells music sellers to classify him under new age. For radio station programmers, the company recommends adult contemporary.

Either label is guaranteed to turn away serious critics, and may confuse casual browsers. Yet here is a major young pop talent whose main mentor and collaborator is David Foster, the creative force behind Josh Groban.

Now, after gruelling tours as Groban's opening act in 2005, followed by audience warm-up duty for Clay Aiken and Il Divo, Joseph is on the road solo. The Canadian leg includes a gig tonight at Brampton's beautiful Rose Theatre, with fabulous chanteuse Lily Frost opening.

The best way of describing Joseph's music is to think of the piano as the singer. These are good, old-fashioned pop ballads where the emotions pass through Joseph's nimble fingers.

The orchestral backdrop will be familiar to adult-pop fans hooked on Il Divo-like operatic swells.

Joseph's latest album, Beyond, released last spring, includes his own original compositions, pieces co-written with Foster, as well as clever covers of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and the theme music from the classic Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone.

As is the case with so many other performers, success wouldn't be possible without serious classical training, hours of practice, years of paying dues – and being in the right place at the right time.

Joseph, now 25 and still based in his native Phoenix, Ariz., learned piano from Russian taskmaster Stella Saperstein. "I had classical training from 5 to 18, so I was able to work at technique and performance," says Joseph during a break in rehearsals for a recent private Toronto concert.

He wrote his first song at age 5, too, and scored his first local success with the theme song for the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team. The really big break came five years ago.

"Basically, what took me from classical piano and local composer-pianist was when I met David Foster at a charity event when he came through Phoenix," Joseph says. "I heard that he was coming through town and I had a friend arrange an introduction for the two of us.

"It was literally two hours before this big event, while they were doing the sound check. David invited me to come up to his piano and play. I played this song that I wrote and, within a few seconds, David started conducting to the drummer and to the band that was on the stage to join in spontaneously.

"Next thing I knew, I was rocking out to one of my songs with this band, and I've got David Foster conducting and I was just, like, please don't mess this up.

"After that he said, `You're going to come back tonight and you're going to open the show.'"

He hasn't looked back. With Foster's help, Joseph released a debut album, Within, in 2004, and was on the road shortly afterward.

Asked about his musical inspirations, Joseph cites names such as James Horner (famous for his Titanic soundtrack, among others), Hans Zimmer (The Lion King), Danny Elfman (The Simpsons' theme), and the creator of the Star Wars theme, John Williams.

Of Williams, "He not only has an amazing gift for orchestrations, but coming up with these catchy themes that you can't get out of your head that are going to outlive all of us," says Joseph with relish.

"What I focus on is melody first. Once you have a strong melody, you have so much to work with."

Just the facts
WHO: William Joseph, with Lily Frost

WHERE: Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln., Brampton

WHEN: Tonight, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $30-$55 at 905-874-2800 or myrosetheatre.ca

John Legend Is Determined To Live His Musical Life Outside The Box

www.globeandmail.com - Amy Verner

(November 03, 2008) In the opening frames of the music video for Green Light, the first single off John Legend's new album, the artist is playing the piano at a ritzy house party.

Problem is, he's performing his most famous song, Ordinary People, and no one is listening.

Legend stops, slams down the piano's front lid and belts out "Gimme the green light. Gimme just one night. I'm ready to go right now," before the up-tempo beat kicks in. Cue André 3000 (of Outkast fame) and, soon enough, the guests are united in dance.

Legend spent a whirlwind three days in Toronto earlier this fall and no matter what he said or played, people definitely listened (this reporter
attended three live performances).

But the video's storyline reveals Legend's desire to define a new sound with Evolver, his third studio album, which is now in stores.

"It's definitely a progression for me," the Ohio native says from a Toronto hotel suite. "I think the first single is indicative of that, and the rest of the album follows suit. I mean, all the songs aren't a huge departure, but I think enough of them are to show whatever box people were trying to put me in, I'm not going to remain in there."

Box? What box?

"I don't know, the crooner, the ...," Legend says, pausing. "You know, the neo-soul man, all those things. I don't mind those labels, but I think I'm more than that."

No doubt, especially with a stage name that suggests the pursuit of greatness.

Yet the man who was born John Stephens comes across as someone who can keep his ego in check while lapping up the fame. He's one of the most ubiquitous R&B artists around; he never seems to pass up an invitation to perform live or collaborate with his peers. Legend, who turns 30 in December, is also widely involved in charitable causes - from hurricane Katrina to OneXOne - and has been especially vocal in support of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama.

He says Evolver is less about changing people's perceptions of him as a person than his range as a musician.

"The idea is not to, like, do this huge self-examination. When I make the lyrics, it's to tell the story that I believe everyone can relate to. I think Ordinary People is the prototype, the quintessential example where 'We're just ordinary people, we don't know which way to go' is saying we're all just trying to figure this out," he explains. On a new track, he sings: Everybody knows but no one really knows.

Which, come to think of it, is a good way to describe the multiple Grammy Award-winning artist. Few people know he's an Ivy Leaguer, having studied English at the University of Pennsylvania. He moved to New York to work for the Boston Consulting Group. An introduction to Kanye West by Legend's roommate kick-started a career he had envisioned as a teenager.

Still fewer people know how different John Legend is from John Stephens. "Well, I think we certainly make choices with everything we do," he begins. "We're partly in the image-shaping business. I don't think we're creating; I think we're shaping an image for the public to see and, yeah, what you see is what I want people to see."

Legend says fans of his previous albums will continue to find favourites on Evolver.

"There are just songs I think people will love, like This Time and Good Morning, that couples will relate to in the tradition of Ordinary People," he says. "Over all, I'm just excited about the quality of the album, song for song."

He met Obama in 2006 before the Illinois senator decided to run for president, and he has stood behind the candidate ever since. If this alienates any of his listeners, so be it, Legend says. "For someone making soul music, the constituency is more left-wing and so it's easier to get away with supporting a Democratic candidate in the States. And then everywhere else in the world, I think a lot of people are rooting for Obama to win, so I'm not alienating my international base. It's a small risk, but I'm willing to take [it] because it's important enough to support Barack and speak out for what I believe in."

Legend subscribes to the belief that fame can be used for positive change and to raise awareness. "I think some people are cynical about it; they're sceptical about celebrities doing things. But at the end of the day, what's most important is the result of the effort," he says. "If you're educated about the cause that you're supporting, if you're able to help raise funds and raise awareness for what they're doing, and those funds go to save people's lives, then there clearly is a tangible benefit to celebrities throwing their weight behind a cause, and I encourage people to do it. We help raise money, we help save people's lives. And considering the alternative, I think the pros far outweigh the cons."

Same goes for endorsements. Legend's youthful face, age-appropriate only by way of some well-groomed facial hair, has appeared in advertisements. He fields plenty of offers. "I have to feel like it's worth my time and energy and the fact that it precludes me from doing something else. But also we care a lot about the creative and whatever the image of that brand is," he says.

Based in New York, Legend spends much of his time on the road and says an Evolver tour is imminent. He can count at least 10 previous visits to Toronto (Century Room is one of his favourite venues for listening sessions). Big venue or small, he simply enjoys performing live.

"The ambitious side of me wants to perform for a big crowd because it's an indication of how successful you are," he says. "But there's also a thrill to just sitting at a piano and looking in people's eyes and playing a new song for them," he adds, "and seeing every little reaction they have to it and commanding the attention of that small room."

Hence the first scene in the Green Light video, which basically functions as an inside joke. Looking ahead, Legend remains outwardly reserved about his expectations. "Hopefully the trajectory will still be going up," he says.

"I've had a lot of success, you know; hopefully, it will continue and I will continue to ascend."

Hundreds Mourn Death Of Jennifer Hudson's Relatives

Source: www.thestar.com - Caryn Rousseau,
The Associated Press

(November 03, 2008) CHICAGO – Hundreds of mourners streamed into a private funeral service for Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson's slain mother, brother and nephew Monday at a South Side church.

Small blue tickets that read "Hudson Family Funeral" were needed to enter the massive Apostolic Church of God, but that didn't deter crowds of onlookers who gathered outside.

Police directed traffic around the building, keeping passers-by across the street from its large front parking lot and away from those attending the services for Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, Jason Hudson, 29, and Julian King, 7.

The three were found shot to death late last month, the adults in Donerson's home and Julian in a vehicle found several miles away. Julian is the son of Jennifer Hudson's older sister, Julia Hudson.

No one has been charged in the shootings, although authorities have called Julia Hudson's estranged husband, 27-year-old William Balfour, a "person of interest." He remains in custody on a parole violation.

Shenika Bowers, 35, of Chicago was one of several dozen people who stood outside the church in hopes of sharing sympathies with the singer-actress, who she did not see entering the church Monday.

"She needs us right now," Bowers said of Hudson. "She needs support from everyone who she can get it from. I cannot imagine how she feels but I do feel for her.''

Latosha Funches, 33, of Chicago, said she's been a Hudson fan since the singer was on "American Idol" and wanted to pass along her condolences.

"I have kids of my own too," said Funches, who pushed her 11-month-old son in a stroller. "I know how she feels. I just hope she can get through it. She looks like she's very strong.''

Monday's services followed a public memorial held Sunday at Pleasant Gift Memorial Baptist Church, Hudson's childhood church.

The bodies of Donerson and Jason Hudson were discovered Oct. 24 at the family's home. Julian's body was found three days later in a sport utility vehicle on the city's West Side.

Police arrested Balfour the same day the bodies of Donerson and Hudson were discovered. After 48 hours – the longest Chicago police can hold a person without charges – Balfour was taken by the Illinois Department of Corrections on a parole violation.

Balfour had served seven years for a 1999 attempted murder and vehicular hijacking conviction.

His mother, Michelle Balfour, of Chicago, has denied that her son had anything to do with the deaths.

Metric Re-Energized By New Material

Source:  www.thestar.com - Michael Oliveira,
The Canadian Press

(November 04, 2008) About a year ago, members of Metric were road weary, questioning the direction of their band and at their lowest point, some were feeling "emotionally bankrupt."

Now, the Toronto-based band is preparing to release a new album and is excited to tour again, but it was a long road to their collective catharsis.

For singer Emily Haines, it meant taking a trip to Buenos Aires for some time to re-examine her life, which "sucked" as she describes it in a video on Metric's website.

"I was very unhappy with that place," she says in the video, ``so I felt really like the music I was going to write for this next record, which will dictate the next whole chapter of my life, needed to be based in simplicity and just be really genuine."

One of the first songs she wrote in Buenos Aires called "Help, I'm Alive," which is also the name of the band's upcoming new album, hints at the vulnerability she felt with lyrics like, "I tremble/they're gonna eat me alive/if I stumble."

"It pretty much sums up the state that I've been in since I (went to Buenos Aires), since I was honest with myself and accepted that I'm really scared and I don't know where my life is going and I don't know, like, what I'm doing," she said. "I had actually given up on writing, which I didn't tell anybody that I work with.

``I just felt like ... nothing was ever going to be cool enough and nothing was ever going to be referential enough, and it's either going to sound like somebody else or not sound enough like somebody else."

But a year later, the band has rediscovered its mojo and is excited to be playing live again in the lead-up to the release of its fourth album sometime in early 2009.

Guitarist Jimmy Shaw said the band was left reeling last year after long stretches of touring and nomadic lifestyles took their toll.

But Shaw said the band is re-energized by its new material, which he describes as "Fleetwood Mac plays dance rock."

"It's really big, it's expansive and it sounds like it's made in some sort of huge place," he said.

Black Milk Detroit's New Hip-Hop King

Source:  www.thestar.com - Nick Aveling,
Staff Reporter

(November 04, 2008) Lyndon Johnson had JFK. Drew Carey has Bob Barker. But in the history of filling big shoes, few men in music have faced a tougher challenge than Black Milk, the 25-year-old MC-producer phenom also known as J Dilla's presumptive replacement.

Black inherited his throne in early 2006 when Dilla, the closest equivalent to John Lennon in underground hip hop, died from complications brought on by lupus. Tributes from colleagues came pouring in, while "J Dilla Changed My Life" T-shirts became a badge of honour among fans.

"They're both from Detroit. Dilla was kind of a mentor to (Black Milk) and was definitely a big influence being that they're from the same city," explains Luke Fox, senior editor at Toronto-based hip-hop magazine Pound. "They do have a bit of a similar style, but Black Milk is still young."

Black Milk, born Curtis Cross, has since become one of hip hop's most prolific contributors, working on projects with a list of artists that includes Toronto's
Kardinal Offishall, the venerated DJ Premier and the Wu-Tang Clan's GZA.

"Personally, I think Dilla is a genius and the dopest hip-hop producer ever, so if somebody thinks I'm even close to his sound, or if I capture with my music what he captured with his music, that's great," Black Milk said. "But at the same time, I'm trying to do my own thing with hip-hop music."

On his new album, Tronic, Black Milk doesn't tinker with the traditional hip-hop formula so much as attack it with a jackhammer. To start, he leaves his soul records in the corner, loading his MPC with "more obscure, abstract" samples instead. Next, he adds layers of synth keyboard and live instrumentation. As a final touch, one that builds on his previous work, he scaffolds the whole package in thunderous percussion.

"I'm using live horn players, live bass players ... live guitars, a little bit of live piano. I wanted to incorporate all that. I tried to make sure I used them without making the sound too watered down, too R&B and a little too musical. I had to keep sampling to keep that classic hip-hop feel in the tracks," Black Milk said.

"Nobody's really doing what I'm doing right now. I bring a whole new sound, a whole new style and a whole new approach to making hip-hop beats."

As an MC, Black Milk brings a producer's sense of metre to bear behind the mike. He knows when to hold on to syllables a split second longer and when to synchronize them with the beat. At times, his voice almost becomes its own percussive instrument, filling in the holes between kick and snare as each individual song requires. But there is a kind of melody there, too. If he has one defining lyrical trait, it's that he tends to punctuate his rhymes with words that point up, toward the next bar.

"I spent a little more time on (lyrics than usual)," Black Milk said. "Most people know that people who be doin' dope beats have a dope flow pattern on top of the track. But this time around I wanted to give them more of a taste.

"I think (Tronic) is my best work out of all my projects. Taking it to a new level, making a new sound – I kept that in mind. I was like, man, I really want to make a timeless piece of work, a classic."

Fans will have a chance to judge for themselves when Black Milk comes to Toronto. No word yet on whose T-shirts they'll be wearing.

Just the facts
WHO: Black Milk performs with Elzhi and House Shoes.
WHERE: Revival, 783 College St.
WHEN: Thursday, 9 p.m.
TICKETS: $20 at Play De Record, Rotate This and Livestock

We Remember: Music Industry Executive Jheryl Busby Dies At Age 59

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(November 05, 2008) *Urban music industry heavyweight Jheryl Busby, the one time CEO of Motown Records, has died. The Los Angeles native was 59.

Busby, who suffered from diabetes, was found early Tuesday in a hot tub at his home in Malibu, said Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter.

"It was a possible accident or else he died of natural causes," Winter told the AP.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jheryl Busby," said Motown great Smokey Robinson. "I had tremendous respect for the way he continued the Motown legacy and how he soldiered on through his long illness. My condolences to his family at this difficult time."

Busby attended Long Beach State College before launching his career as an inventory clerk at Mattel Toys, eventually working his way up to new-toy coordinator.

Later Busby joined Stax Records--the legendary Memphis-based 1960s soul alternative to Motown's crossover pop that, with its subsidiary, Volt, introduced Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Booker T. and the MGs, and the Staples Singers.

Eventually, Busby became head of West Coast promotion and marketing for the label. During the early 1980s, he did promotional work for several record companies, including Casablanca, CBS, A&M, and Atlantic.

 Employed by MCA Records as vice-president of the black music division in 1984, Busby enjoyed phenomenal success.

 His promotion of such established singers as Patti LaBelle and up-and-coming acts like New Edition catapulted record sales to $50 million in the mid-1980s. When he ended his career at MCA in the late 1980s--as president of the black music division--his sector was number one in the industry in black album sales.

Offered the opportunity to head Motown in 1988, Busby told Michael Lev in the New York Times, "I thought it couldn't get any better: president and CEO of probably the most important record label in America in terms of black music."

Busby also was a major shareholder in the nation's first black-owned national bank, Founders National Bank of Los Angeles, along with Magic Johnson and Janet Jackson.


Sarah McLachlan to Headline Olympics Countdown Concert

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Fiona Morrow

(October 28, 2008) VANCOUVER — Sarah McLachlan will headline the one-year countdown concert on Feb. 12 in Vancouver as part of the 2009 Cultural Olympiad. Also appearing on the bill at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be Halifax singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett and the Alberta Ballet, performing IF, which features the songs of Joni Mitchell and choreography from Jean Grand-Maître. The concert is just one of more than 400 performances that will take place between Feb. 1 and March 21, 2009.

Usher Already Sets Sights On New Album


(October 30, 2008) *Usher is about to launch his "One Night Stand Ladies Only" tour Sunday in Atlantic City, N.J. in support of his current CD "Here I Stand," but he's already plotting the logistics of his next album, telling Billboard.com it will be a "worldwide entertainment experience."  It's "all about adapting new musical styles in creating a unique blend between what I know works here in America and what I know will be appreciated worldwide," he says. "I may go to France and do some work. I may go to London ... Japan. "There's tons of artists I want to work with abroad. I can't give you specific (names) but I am interested in working with artists who are out of the range I'm accustomed to. I want to try new things." Usher said he hasn't started recording but that the album would be the next thing on his to-do list, following the tour and an "ensemble" movie that's among the film projects he's considering.  Leading up to the tour, Usher -- an outspoken supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama -- has released a socially conscious new single, "Hush," via iTunes. Proceeds from sales of the song will go to the singer's New Look Foundation.

Q-Tip Headed Out On Tour


(October 30, 2008) *2K Sports, the sports publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. presents the 4th annual Bounce Tour with headliner Q-Tip supported by his live band, which includes DJ Scratch from EPMD.  “Q-Tip killed it last year on the 2K8 Bounce Tour and we’re honoured to have him back on tour with us. He’s a legend in the game, and one of the most influential artists in hip-hop culture,” said Tim Rosa, director of brand and lifestyle marketing at 2K Sports.  The popular duo, The Cool Kids, will also be performing new material. In addition to the live music performances, the Bounce Tour will provide fans with an opportunity to play the latest games by 2K Sports, check out different visual vignettes of games displayed throughout the show, and receive exclusive gear and other exciting giveaways.

Jermaine Confirms Jackson 5 Reunion Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(October 31, 2008) *Jermaine Jackson says he and his famous siblings will reunite for a long-rumoured family tour that will include the brood's most famous offspring, Michael and Janet Jackson. "This has been a long time coming for the Jackson family to get back together," Jermaine told the Australian Associated Press. "It is just the timing, so what we've been doing is working on the music and all the logistics.   "It is going to be more like a family affair, Janet's going to open and, of course, the original Jackson 5 ... Michael, Randy and the whole family ... We're in the studio, we're planning on being out there next year." Jermaine confirmed the rumour while in Sydney this week for a TV industry function.  UPDATE ...  Not so fast Jermaine. MiJac denied on Thursday that he would take part in the reunion. "My brothers and sisters have my full love and support, and we've certainly shared many great experiences, but at this time I have no plans to record or tour with them," Michael Jackson said a statement. Jackson said he was in the studio working on "new and exciting projects."


Made In Jamaica: A Look At Music Born Though Turmoil

Source: www.thestar.com - Tony Wong, Toronto Star

Made In Jamaica
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f13530%5fAM8lvs4AAGz5SQtHVAHZjHkm0Gk&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f13530%5fAM8lvs4AAGz5SQtHVAHZjHkm0Gk&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f13530%5fAM8lvs4AAGz5SQtHVAHZjHkm0Gk&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)
A documentary directed by Jérôme Laperrousaz. 120 minutes. At AMC Yonge-Dundas. PG

(October 31, 2008) Made in Jamaica opens with the death of Kingston dancehall icon Bogle, as ministers, warlords and musicians attend his funeral, his body carried in an Escalade hearse.

"We are a great people and we will be great again," says a eulogist. "Our music is what put Jamaica on the map. It will not come from killing each other."

Using the 2005 shooting of the dancer as a starting point, director Jérôme Laperrousaz examines contemporary reggae music through the lens of its explosive and sometimes troubled dancehall culture.

Beautifully shot and mixed, Laperrousaz successfully juxtaposes the mayhem that is dancehall, a kind of amped-up and krunk-ified reggae, with the spiritual, socially conscious ballads of a Toots or a Bunny Wailer, while trying to answer how an island of three million ended up making some of the most influential music in the world.

Dancehall is the reggae of the 21st century – and you can find its rhythms in any Top-10 pop list in North America.

The problems – guns, violence, sex, drugs and corruption – are as real in Jamaica's Trench Town as they are in São Paulo , which gives the music tremendous reach.

"If everybody had a nice life, a business, a home, a family they wouldn't feel like life was worth nothing," says deejay Bounty Killer.

In Jamaica, musicians remain the unofficial opposition – a nation of Bob Dylans that at times have far more credibility than the average government minister.

"There is so much frivolous music out there, when the world is in so much turmoil," says Third World guitarist Stephen Coore to his musician son Shiah.

There is plenty of frivolity in dancehall as well, (as Lady Saw says, "Thank God for slackness") perhaps too much for the liking of old-school reggae stars. But there is room for both party anthem and song of protest in the new order.

Featuring 19 stars, Made In Jamaica is an ambitious undertaking, but ultimately overreaches. As Laperrousaz (who has been on this path before with the 1980 documentary Prisoners in the Street: Third World) glides from one legendary musician to the next, it becomes less an intended examination of Jamaican cultural consciousness and more of a lushly produced music video.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing since the music is simply incredible. But I would trade in some of the slickness for a sharper reality, as in Jeremy Marre's sublime 1977 doc Beats of the Heart: Roots Rock Reggae that took a grittier look at the social conditions and turmoil that helped to create the medium.

While there is some discussion of the hardier topics – poverty, abuse and the relationship of politics and gun violence – this is ultimately a celebration of the artists, so some key issues are not discussed. Elephant Man and Bounty Killer, both who are profiled extensively, aren't confronted on their controversial, homophobic lyrics and are given a free pass.

Still, the doc, which screened at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals takes a worthy look at a music born though turmoil with a vision that still resonates globally.

John Daly, Oscar-Winning Movie Producer, Dies At 71

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(November 1, 2008) LOS ANGELES–
John Daly, the British-born producer of 13 Oscar-winning movies including "Platoon" and "The Last Emperor'' who helped launch the careers of many A-list directors and actors, has died. He was 71.

Daly, who was chairman of Film and Music Entertainment, Inc., died in his sleep Friday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after struggling with cancer, said his daughter, Jenny Daly.

Over a career that spanned four decades, Daly's companies produced films that earned 13 Oscars for Best Picture and 21 Oscar nominations, as well as numerous Golden Globes and other awards.

Daly's companies boosted the career starts of seminal directors such as Oliver Stone (``Platoon,'' "Salvador''), Bernardo Bertolucci (``The Last Emperor''), and Robert Altman (``Images''), as well as actors Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Julia Roberts.

"John was truly a giant in the industry who changed filmmaking for the better," said Lawrence Lotman, chief financial officer and acting chief executive officer of Film and Music Entertainment Inc., in a statement.

Born in London, Daly started in show business in 1967 when he joined with British actor David Hemmings to form Hemdale, a company that managed rock bands such as Yes and Black Sabbath.

Hemdale later became a leading independent film producer and distributor in Britain with movies such as "Tommy," according to a biography issued by Film and Music Entertainment Inc.

Under Daly's stewardship, Hemdale produced more than 100 films that grossed more than $1.5 billion.

Since 2003, Daly had been at the helm of Film and Music Entertainment, Inc. In 2004, he produced, co-wrote and directed ``The Aryan Couple," starring Martin Landau, which received numerous awards at film festivals around the world.

He is survived by three sons: Michael, Julian and Timothy, and his daughter. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Watchmen Artist Gibbons On Film, Comic

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

(November 2, 2008) These days, the question might be:
Who doesn't watch the Watchmen?

While the loudest buzz definitely surrounds the Zack Snyder-directed film adaptation that arrives in March – just a little more than 20 years after the universally acclaimed
Watchmen graphic novel was first published – it is this afternoon's local appearance by artist Dave Gibbons at the World's Biggest Book Store that is the equivalent of nerdvana for fans of the dystopian superhero story.

Gibbons is coming to talk about his new book, Watching the Watchmen, a Chip Kidd-designed tome filled with formative character sketches, script pages and other ephemera filled out with text pieces from the artist, talking about the two years he and writer Alan Moore spent creating the comic book that has became a phenomenon and made Time's list of the 100 best novels of all time.

Even Gibbons is surprised by the ongoing life of these characters.

"Certainly when Alan and I came up with it, we figured it would run for the 12 issues over the space of a year, and then just kind of be consigned to the back-issue bins. We were trying to do it as well as we could, but really, that was the lifespan of any comic back in those days," he says.

Often hailed as the best comic series ever created, the book is notable for many reasons in terms of comics history: It helped kick off the graphic-novel movement, although technically it is a trade paperback, since it's a collection of previously published series. And along with other classics like Maus, it helped smash the comics-are-only-for-kids stereotype; and it also ushered in a much-copied trend of grim and gritty, supposedly more realistic comics.

Watching the Watchmen pulls the curtain back and shows much of the intricate design work that went into creating the character and series. Gibbons describes himself as a hoarder who kept much of his materials, and also someone who loves these kind of behind-the-scenes, making-of books. So when he met with DC Comics about the movie, he mentioned his idea for creating this kind of reference book, and they jumped at the opportunity.

He also describes Watching the Watchmen as "a celebration of the fun and the joy that we had in doing it," although he admits he does spend a lot of his time talking about Moore, who's considered a reclusive comics genius. Moore's work has been adapted into three disappointing films (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta), and he has washed his hands of Hollywood.

"Alan has had some problems with DC Comics, and he's also had some problems with Hollywood. And I think that he's reached a stage that it really isn't worth it any more, and he finds it so upsetting that he'd rather not be involved," Gibbons says.

"Alan and I are still friends and I just hope that at the end of the day that's still the case."

Because of Moore's decision, Gibbons has been the liaison with director Zack Snyder, and he's doing his part to allay fans' concerns about the adaptation of a story.

"Don't be worried. Rest easy, I've seen a rough cut of the whole thing and I wasn't disappointed, and I really don't think most fans will be either," Gibbons says.

As for himself, Gibbons says that while the book and the movie will keep him busy for the next six months or so, he has started to work on other projects, and actually another collection of another celebrated work – Martha Washington stories, the satirical tales of violent revolution he co-created with Frank Miller, the creator of Sin City and 300 now the director of the upcoming film The Spirit.

"I've been looking over the Martha Washington stuff, because Frank and I plan to release the whole thing in one huge exhaustive complete volume, which is going to be near 600 pages of material, with an introduction by Frank and some text by me."

Dave Gibbons appears today at 2 p.m. at the World's Biggest Bookstore, 20 Edward St.

Joaquin Phoenix Confirms He's Done With Movies

www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(November 02, 2008) LOS ANGELES — The writing on Joaquin Phoenix's fists said it all.

The words “Good Bye” were penned on the actor's knuckles at a premiere Saturday night for his latest film, Two Lovers, and Phoenix confirmed a surprise announcement he made last week: He's giving up movies.

“I think it's just moving on. It's rediscovering something else,” said Phoenix, 34, said in an interview with Associated Press Television News before Saturday's American Film Institute festival, which also premiered Che, starring Benicio Del Toro.

Two Lover s is his last film, he said. His publicist had disclosed Friday that the actor intended to focus on music.

Phoenix first mentioned his decision to Extra early last week at a fundraiser in San Francisco. He abruptly ended that interview after the reporter wondered whether he was joking about giving up acting for music.

Phoenix learned to play guitar and did his own singing to play country legend Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. His publicist also said Phoenix has been directing music videos in recent years.

“It's like greener pastures, you know what I mean?” Phoenix said Saturday. “And so, I'm just going to try and like, I'll just be doing the other thing. ... Hopefully, I will emotionally impact you with that, as well.”

Two Lovers stars Phoenix as a heartbroken man torn between a needy, neurotic neighbour (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the sensible woman (Vinessa Shaw) his parents want him to marry. The film, due in theatres early next year, was directed by James Gray, with whom Phoenix also worked on We Own the Night and The Yards.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman Takes Weird To New Level
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(November 05, 2008) The Oscar that Philip Seymour Hoffman won for the title role in Capote sits on "a regular shelf" in the actor's home in New York's West Village.

"Weeks will go by and I'll forget it's there," says the burly actor, 41, puffing on a cigarette he knows he's not supposed to smoke.

"And then I'll see it and it will be, `Wow, wow, that's wild!' You know what I mean?"

We certainly do know. Six years ago, when he was every stage and screen director's first pick to play freaks and perverts, Hoffman confided to the Star about the high ego toll of being the perpetual loser: "You put up with it because you know if you do it well, and you commit to it, it's going to pay off."

It paid off handsomely in 2005, when his uncanny portrayal of the late writer Truman Capote won him the golden statue and vastly improved options.

You'd think Hoffman's Oscar might deserve some kind of shrine in Hoffman's pad. But that would imply he was finally secure about his acting skills.

"Oh, God, no!" he says, rubbing the bushy beard he's sporting for an interview during the recent Toronto International Film Festival. (Two days later, he'd shaved it off.)

"The more you do and the older you get, the less you know. That cliché is really true. Acting is not like riding a bike.

"You can't just hop right back on and do it again. Not for me, anyway. You reacquaint yourself with it each time."

In his 40s, he's as insecure as ever, which makes him ideal for the role of besieged theatre director Caden in Synecdoche, New York, which opens Friday as the directing debut of writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation).

Synecdoche (pronounced si-nek-duh-kee) is titled for a Latin word about a part representing a whole and also as a pun for Schenectady, N.Y., the upstate city where the film takes place.

Hoffman's Caden is in the midst of a marital breakdown and responds to his wife's departure by mounting a vast stage depiction of his life that teeters between reality and fantasy.

Hoffman's character ages dramatically as people and images from his past, current and future lives confront him like Dickens' ghosts. On many mornings during the frantic 45-day shoot, he had to endure 4 1/2 hours of makeup and prosthetics.

Caden seems a cinch to be the weirdest character Hoffman has ever played – and that's saying something for a career that has included such ego-killing assignments as the masturbating phone stalker in Happiness, the porno filmmaker in Boogie Nights and the hick tornado chaser in Twister.

On the contrary, the role of Caden seemed entirely familiar to Hoffman. It's close to his personal status as a family man in his 40s – he and partner Michelle O'Donnell just welcomed their third child, a daughter – who is noticing how quickly life passes.

"Time starts to move faster. You start to wonder; you start to become more nostalgic than you used to be. You become more aware of your mortality in a way that you didn't before.

"Life never seemed like something that would end and now you realize that of course it's going to end! And that's weird. And children make it all that much faster and seem much more profound to you and much more heartbreaking. And beautiful!"

Hoffman is aware that Synecdoche, New York is not to everybody's tastes. Critics have fought over it since the film's debut at Cannes last May, and it's definitely a love it or hate it proposition. He has a suggestion for how best to view it.

"The more you sit there trying to wrestle it, the more you're going to be as upset with it as you would with your own life, you know what I mean? But everything surprises you if you're actually honest about it, if you actually let it happen."

Caden is too quirky a role to court much Oscar buzz. But next month Hoffman will be seen in another movie, Doubt, which has the golden glow.

He plays a Catholic priest and teacher accused by a nun (Meryl Streep) of molesting a student. The film is the directing debut of another top screenwriter, John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck), who adapted it from his hit off-Broadway play.

Hoffman has seen an early cut and pronounces it "terrific."

"It's a film that stays true to what was quite upsetting about the play: the unknown and the doubt that we all live with, and don't really want to. It's kind of like seeing Synecdoche!"


Dirty Dancer Clean Of Cancer

Source: www.thestar.com - Reuters News Agency

(October 31, 2008) Patrick Swayze, filming again less than a year after being given a grim diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, described chemotherapy as "hell on wheels" but said work had kept him feeling positive. Swayze, 56, best known for his dance instructor role in the movie Dirty Dancing, underwent months of chemotherapy and an experimental drug treatment to beat one of the most virulent forms of cancer, which experts say has only a 5 per cent five-year survival rate. After a dramatic weight loss, Swayze has gained 20 pounds by drinking muscle-building shakes and is now working a 12-hour day as the lead actor in a new U.S. television police drama The Beast, which begins in January on A&E.  Swayze was diagnosed in January with pancreatic cancer, sparking a number of news reports that he was near death.

Whistler Film Festival Will Salute Late William Vince

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Fiona Morrow

(November 04, 2008) Vancouver — The Whistler Film Festival will host a tribute to the late film producer William Vince on Dec. 5 at the Whistler Conference Centre. Vancouver-born Vince succumbed to cancer in June this year at the age of 44. He had produced more than 35 feature films, including Capote, for which he received a best-picture Oscar nomination. Hosted by actor-director Charles Martin Smith, who worked with Vince on the forthcoming Stone of Destiny, the evening will feature clips and reminiscences from those who knew him well. Attendees will include Reservoir Dogs producer Roger Avary, Cruel Intentions director Roger Kumble and actor Barry Pepper. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to BC Film's William Vince Scholarship Fund to support the professional development of aspiring filmmakers.


Mulroney Weds Montreal Fashion Designer

Source: www.globeandmail.com  - Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

(October 31, 2008) MONTREAL — Ben Mulroney has never been one to conserve his words on camera, but the TV host uttered only one to describe his wedding Thursday night.

“Fantastic,” the son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney said as he ushered his bride, Jessica Brownstein, from a Montreal chapel to a waiting limousine.

Mr. Mulroney, 32, and Ms. Brownstein, 29, tied the knot at St. Patrick's Basilica in a mixed Roman Catholic and Jewish affair in downtown Montreal.

Mr. Mulroney wore a dark suit and dark tie, while Ms. Brownstein, a fashion designer and stylist, wore a white dress and white veil.

She was wrapped in a white fur cape when she arrived for the ceremony, but was not wearing it after the service when she stepped out of the chapel and into the two-degree weather.

“We've got to get her in the car,” her husband said as he led her through a gauntlet of journalists.

Brian Mulroney said there were about 75 people at the private ceremony and expects 350 guests to attend a reception Saturday night.

“It was very moving, very impressive,” he said.

The elder Mulroney said a rabbi blessed the ceremony and the priest conducted the service.

He also said the couple wrote their own vows, which he described as “poignant” and “lovely.”

“He's the oldest of three boys and he's been a very good son and we love him dearly,” Brian Mulroney said.

“We think that the best decision he's made in his whole life is today, so we're very pleased.

“He's been a wonderful son forever. We're very proud of him.”

Ben's aunt, Doreen Mulroney, had a big smile after the 30-minute ceremony.

“Beautiful bride, beautiful groom, they look so happy, we wish them a lifetime of happiness,” she said.

The couple had been together for about six months when Ben Mulroney popped the question last year during lunch at a restaurant in the city's moneyed Westmount suburb.

The pair, who both grew up in Westmount, have known each other since childhood.

Ben Mulroney is best known as the host of Canadian Idol and of CTV tabloid show eTalk Daily.

The last time a Mulroney was married in Montreal was when the former prime minister's daughter, Caroline, wed stockbroker Andrew Lapham in 2000.

That wedding attracted hundreds of onlookers and more than 400 guests, including former U.S. president George Bush and his wife Barbara, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and talk-show host Kathy Lee Gifford.

Except for noted Montreal businessman Paul Desmarais, Ben Mulroney's wedding guest list appeared to be a little more low key.

“I wish for them to be as happy as I have been with my wife for 55 years,” Mr. Desmarais of Power Corp. said before the ceremony.

Ben Mulroney arrived at the church at the same time as his parents and showed no signs of the jitters.

“I feel great. It was my idea,” he joked as he walked through a throng of media.

Asked before the service if he was nervous, Brian Mulroney, who was with his wife Mila, said, “No. I was 37 years ago,” referring to his own wedding.

“Now it's Ben's turn.”

New 30 Rock Season Loaded With Guest Stars

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(October 30, 2008) She's solid, solid like a Rock. Now if she can only get out from between that Rock and a hard place.

Enough bad puns – I'll leave those to the professionals. And no one is more professionally funny than Tina Fey, the creator, producer, head writer and star of
30 Rock, the multiple Emmy-honoured NBC sitcom (also seen here on Citytv) that returns to the schedule tonight at 9:30.

The show, for those of you who haven't seen it – and your numbers, alas, are legion – is loosely based on Fey's former life as the first female head writer on Saturday Night Live, struggling to crank out a weekly sketch show with erratic writers, even more erratic stars (Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski) and a power-player boss (the incomparable Alec Baldwin, who is among the show's Emmy winners, along with Fey and the show itself), who often gives the impression he has arrived from another planet.

Tonight's plot-crammed episode has Baldwin's Jack Donaghy returning from his Washington sojourn to confront usurper Devon Banks, played with snidely smiling smarm by Toronto-born Will Arnett, who is in real life Amy Poehler's baby papa.

And on that note, Fey's Liz Lemon is now actively seeking to adopt as a single mom. But first she has to get through an inspection by a ludicrously humourless and judgmental Megan Mullally, guesting in a role as far removed from her Karen Walker on Will & Grace (30 Rock's hit Thursday-night predecessor) as is humanly possible.

Mullally's guest spot will be followed this season by Oprah Winfrey, Steve Martin, Salma Hayek in a recurring role as Jack's new love interest and, next up, Jennifer Aniston, as Liz's former roommate. The guest stars are intended to beef up 30 Rock's audience to a number commensurate with its enthusiastic and unanimous critical and industry acclaim.

It's not too late to jump on board. Particularly with City running off episodes from the show's first and second seasons Thursdays at 9 immediately preceding the new ones.

Rock on.

The Simpsons Meet Charlie Brown

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

(October 31, 2008) Good grief! Are those really Peanuts characters getting sent up on The Simpsons?

It might appear that way as the 19th annual Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episode airs Sunday night at 8 on Fox and Global.

But instead of Lucy and Linus bouncing down those steps to the beat of a jazz score, it is Milhouse and Lisa heading toward the pumpkin patch where the "Grand," instead of the "Great" pumpkin might appear. Executive producer Al Jean explained recently that the change in pumpkin names is a "big legal difference."

Jean says The Simpsons have never done a Charlie Brown spoof before – incredible considering the animated series is in its 20th season. He calls the Peanuts segment, one of three "Treehouse of Horror" stories, a "reverent parody." In the other two Halloween-themed storylines, there is a spoof on the film Transformers (called "Untitled Robot Parody") and a goof on all those dead celebrity endorsements when Homer is called upon to kill celebs to boost their ad appeal.

Jean says there is never any shortage of Halloween ideas, the one time each year that the series steps out of the reality of the Springfield universe. He and his writers also took advantage of the timing to sneak in one last political jab before next Tuesday's U.S. elections. At the beginning of the episode, Homer goes to vote. As he touches the electronic screen for his candidate, Barack Obama (``C'mon, it's time for a change!" he tells the machine), it keeps defaulting for John McCain. Six times McCain's name lights up. ``It's our parody on what many Americans feel are irregularities in our voting system," Jean explains.

The Simpsons is generally not as political as other animated comedies such as South Park or even Family Guy, but they do take the occasional shot. Jean recalled that George W. Bush's father, the first president George Bush, once voiced his wish that the country be more like The Waltons than The Simpsons. To which Bart replied, "We're like The Waltons. We're praying for an end to a Depression, too." Bad as things were when that line was written, says Jean, the writers didn't know "how things would get worse."

Jean's comedy career began on another iconic TV series: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Fresh out of Harvard, where, like another Simpsons alum, Conan O'Brien, he worked on the Harvard Lampoon, Jean cranked out jokes for "Carnac" and other ``Mighty Carson Arts Players" sketches.

"It was like a one-of-a-kind thrill, like meeting JFK or something," Jean says of his Tonight Show experience, although in his 18-month stint on the show, he figures he only actually met Carson three or four times. "He was very polite, but he was a very private guy," he says.

The 47-year-old Detroit native has been with The Simpsons since it began as a series in 1989, taking only a brief time off to be the showrunner on another animated series, The Critic. That series was voiced by Jon Lovitz, one of Jean's favourite guest cast members.

"I try hard not to laugh just sitting in the room recording him," he says.

At 20 seasons and counting, The Simpsons has a shot at becoming TV's longest-ever running series. Jean notes that they are about 12 episodes ahead of their closest contemporary contender, NBC's original Law & Order. In terms of number of episodes, they still have a ways to catch the current leaders, Lassie and Gunsmoke. Those shows were made in the '50s '60s and '70s, when production costs were cheaper and studios cranked out more episodes per season, sometimes as many as 40.

The Simpsons, due mainly to the high salaries paid the core five-member voice cast (a reported $500,000 per episode, each), will run just 20 episodes this season.

Still, with the cast re-signed for another four years, the biggest production roadblock to series longevity has been cleared. If ratings hold (and, while they've slipped like everything else on network television, they are still one of Fox's best draws among younger viewers), the series will pass the 500-episode mark by the end of the current cast contracts.

At the time of last month's conference call, they had just recorded episode 445, says Jean, who keeps tabs on these things. That gets them past The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Bonanza. Lassie aired more than 500 and Gunsmoke an amazing 600 episodes.

Fox also cashes in on every DVD boxed set. The Simpsons are among the industry sales leaders, with the long-awaited Season 11 DVD set hitting stores later this month. As usual, it will feature commentaries on each and every episode.

The success of the recent Simpsons movie also suggests there is still plenty of life left in the franchise. Especially worldwide, where, as Jean notes, the movie did even better than it did domestically, pulling in $340 million in foreign box office receipts.

As Jean notes, "there are families like The Simpsons everywhere, and every country has a Homer."

TV Networks Dealt Blow By CRTC

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson

(October 30, 2008) GATINEAU, Que. — Canada's biggest television networks will be forced to take a hard look at their business models in the months ahead after federal regulators blocked a proposal to collect millions in new fees.

The broadcast networks, led by CTV and Global Television, wanted to start charging cable and satellite carriers for their signals, which would have been worth $300-million to the big broadcasters as they confront a deteriorating economy.

But a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to deny the move will inevitably leave the networks with some tough decisions to make, said Leonard Asper, the chief executive officer of CanWest Global Communications Corp.

“We're going to have to go back and look at our business models once again,” he said Thursday.

 “Nothing is too outrageous to consider.”

With the TV industry concerned about an economic downturn, CanWest is in a precarious spot with $3.6-billion of debt and limited financial flexibility.

Ratings service Moody's Thursday CanWest's rating under review.

Moody's said the move was “prompted by the likelihood that rapidly deteriorating general economic conditions will suppress advertising revenues while simultaneously causing business enterprise values to fall.”

The fees would have been worth about $75-million in annual revenue for Global TV, at a time when the networks have already started to see their profit margins erode.

While CTV is privately owned, CanWest is publicly traded, and is reliant on the advertising market for about 85 per cent of its revenue. Though Mr. Asper said he wasn't specifically referring to drastic cost-cutting measures such as layoffs, he said the big TV networks would have to start thinking hard about their operations in light of the fee proposal being refused.

The networks argued they should not be forced to give their signals free to distributors who turn around and offer them as part of their subscriber packages, and earn a healthy profit doing so.

The CRTC, however, said the networks failed to make a convincing argument that they needed the money.

“I'm trying to find a word that is sufficiently diplomatic here,” Mr. Asper said after the decision was handed down. CTV executives declined to comment, saying they were still reading the decision.

However, the CRTC did make a key concession to the networks to collect new revenue another way. The regulator said it would allow the networks to negotiate with cable carriers to charge for so-called distant signals, or time shifting. The networks estimate this is worth about $93-million for the industry.

But the signals fees were what the networks were really after. Unlike specialty channels, such as TSN, MTV and Showcase, which do charge monthly fees, customers don't pay for the national networks.

Arguing that the financial fortunes of network TV were are being eroded by competition from cable and other media sources, CTV and Global were proposing a fee of 50 cents per cable and satellite subscriber, which the distribution companies said they would pass onto consumers. The big networks rely solely on advertising revenue and have seen their profit margins drop to roughly 5 per cent, while cable margins – fed by those monthly fees – are as high as 20 per cent.

“While [the major networks] have shown a recent decline in profitability, they, as other enterprises, might first look at their own business plans before making a request for increased revenue from the commission,” the CRTC said in its decision.

“Neither the rationale for strategic initiatives by [over-the-air] broadcasters, such as recent major acquisitions, nor the basis for financing those initiatives or the impact of those initiatives on profitability were explained to the commission at the public hearing.”

The broadcasters had hoped to win the argument this time after they were turned down in their bid to charge fees in 2007.

Analyst Carl Bayard of Genuity Capital Markets said CanWest stood to gain the most if the fees were approved. “If fee-for-carriage is implemented in some form,” Mr. Bayard wrote in a research note before the ruling was released, “it could be a defining moment in CanWest's history.”

MySpace Ad Deal Lets Members Use Copyright Video

Source: www.thestar.com - Rachel Metz,
The Associated Press

(November 03, 2008) NEW YORK – Instead of trying to take down all copyright-protected videos that its members post, MySpace will let certain clips stay – and give the creators of the original content a cut of the revenue from advertising that will be attached to the snippets.

MySpace and online video ad technology company Auditude planned to announce a partnership Monday with Viacom Inc.-owned MTV Networks that will let ads be placed in clips of the network's shows that users upload to MySpace. These include Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" and MTV's reality show "The Hills."

MySpace generally tries to keep such clips off its social network along with other copyright-protected content that users post. The News Corp.-owned site removes clips at the request of the videos' copyright owners. Google Inc.'s YouTube has a similar policy, although Viacom is suing YouTube for allegedly profiting from clips of Viacom shows posted online.

Now MySpace will take a different approach with videos produced by partners it makes in its new ad deal.

Under this first partnership, MySpace users will be allowed to upload videos of MTV Networks shows. Technology from Auditude will detect and identify the clip, and overlay an ad on it. Revenue generated from the ads will be shared by MySpace, Auditude and the content copyright holders.

Auditude's chief executive, Adam Cahan, said the system will tag videos with a so-called "attribution overlay" – a semi-transparent bar across the bottom of a video that give viewers information like the episode's original air date and a link to buy the episode.

One of these will appear for about 10 to 15 seconds near the start of a video, and be followed by an ad.

The overlays and ads are expected to start showing up on MySpace in the coming weeks, and MySpace and Auditude predicted that new ad formats and ad partners will soon follow.

But will users be bothered by having ads tacked to videos they post to their MySpace pages?

Jeff Berman, MySpace's president of marketing and sales, thinks people will prefer that to having copyright-protected content filtered out entirely.

What The HBO Deal Means For Us

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(November 03, 2008) It would be easy to dismiss The Movie Network's new, dedicated HBO Canada channel as a mere rebranding of its existing service.

For years now, Astral's TMN (in partnership with Corus's western Movie Central) has been reliably cherry-picking the best of the American cable giant's prestige programming, and that of several others besides.

Its new "multiplex" Canadian service will offer additional access to the vast HBO library, from series like Oz and Ali G, to original movies and minis like Angels in America. It also adds fresh content, including Real Time with Bill Maher and World Championship Boxing.

It is nonetheless odd timing. HBO has long been the leading provider of cutting-edge content in the U.S., frequently raising the bar with such precedent-setting television as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Deadwood and The Wire.

But HBO's once exclusive cachet, at awards shows and in living rooms, is now being chipped away and appropriated by more aggressive competitors, including Showtime (Dexter, Weeds, Brotherhood), FX (The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Damages) and the newcomer AMC (Mad Men, Breaking Bad and, next up, a remake of The Prisoner).

None of which has dampened the Canadian cable conglomerate's considerable enthusiasm over the HBO deal, as heralded on billboards, bus shelters, on-air promotions and, last Friday, an expensive series of full-page ads in this paper.

The launch began unofficially last Tuesday night with a self-celebratory soiree where executives were invited to mingle with second-string HBO stars, munch mini-burger "sliders," poutine and oysters, and quaff bottomless flutes of cheap champagne.

The one real "star" of the visiting VIP contingent was affable Bill Paxton, the lead in Big Love, the irresistibly entertaining polygamist dramedy with an incomparable acting ensemble that also includes Toronto's own Douglas Smith, who took the opportunity to tag along for a quick visit home.

Paxton had much to say about Big Love's already-shot third season ... which we will have to sit on for now, since it won't even start until early next year.

Of more immediate interest, Rex Lee – Entourage's long-suffering Ari assistant, Lloyd – dropped a couple of hints as to what we can expect from the season's remaining episodes.

For example: Vince's ultimately successful pursuit of the second-billed role (opposite Jason Patric) in Smokejumpers is not going to end well.

"I wish I was being coy, but I'm not," Lee shrugged. "That's really all I remember.

"But it isn't going to be like previous seasons, where it ends with everything neatly resolved."

And speaking of neatness, I just had to ask how he scares his hair into that distinctive, spiky, multi-directional rooster faux-hawk.

"I spent years wishing I was a white person," Lee confessed. "I don't know how much you know about hair follicles, but mine are shaped in a way that makes my hair aggressively straight. So I finally decided that I needed to embrace what my hair does well."

YANKEE PANKY Never have I so looked forward to an American election. And it has nothing to do with politics – indeed, that's been the problem. Maybe with this thing decided once and for all, these guys can get back to actually running their country and stop trying to corner the market on gratuitous television exposure.

I am getting so sick of politicians tripping over one another on comedy and talk shows so they can pretend to be good sports, and even sicker of good comedians pretending to be politicians ...

With all this election nonsense finally over, Saturday Night Live can actually go back to just being live on Saturday nights.

That is, after tonight. SNL, already stretched to the max by the additional workload of those Thursday-night half-hours, takes one last kick at the candidates tonight with their traditional pre-vote Presidential Bash (9 p.m. on NBC and Global), which will at least have the benefit of padding out its two hours with some of the show's most memorable political parodies of the past.

Nothing In The Black Experience Is Safe From Grier

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

(November 04, 2008) NEW YORK — From a comedy standpoint, David Alan Grier is fine with whoever wins the U.S. election.

As the nation's first black president, Barack Obama could mean a wealth of material for
Chocolate News, Grier's fearless spoof of a black-oriented newsmagazine show.

"And if he loses," says Grier, chortling at how the pain of such a near miss could be salvaged for laughs, "it's material for the next 500 years!"

Either way, Grier is having a ball with Chocolate News, which airs on Comedy Central in the U.S. and the Comedy Network in Canada. The show bills itself as "the only source for pure, uncircumcised realness from an Afro-centric perspective" (in the bombastic words of DAG, the host Grier portrays).

The new series made it clear right away that nothing in the black experience would be spared from its lampooning. In a single half-hour on last month's premiere, it targeted hip-hop culture, the N-word and Maya Angelou (with the chameleonic Grier letter-perfect as this literary grande dame, just one of many impersonations he nails in the show's field reports).

Another report interviewed members of a Detroit street gang to find out how skyrocketing gas prices have crippled urban lawlessness.

"We can't even afford to do drive-bys," groused one thug. "What are we supposed to do - drive Smart cars? Ride bikes?"

In many ways, Chocolate News is a latter-day version of In Living Color, the innovative Fox series starring Keenan Ivory Wayans, where Grier first proved his skill in sketch comedy nearly two decades ago.

By then, he had already found success in his original pursuit, that of a dramatic actor, both in films and on Broadway.

After In Living Color ended in 1994, he continued his movie and stage work (including the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the New York Shakespeare Festival production of Richard III).

He also came and went in no fewer than four short-lived sitcoms.

"I decided sitcoms weren't for me," the 52-year-old Grier says with wry understatement during a recent chat in Manhattan.

A couple of years ago, he began monitoring TV to see what was missing. He found a conspicuous absence of black comedy shows, so he started plotting how to fill the sketch-comedy void left by Dave Chappelle's abrupt exit from series TV in early 2006.

In packaging his own sketch show, Grier decided to parody a "Tony Brown or Tavis Smiley quote-unquote black show - unrepentantly black, and only for black people. I thought that was where the comedy would be: Regardless of the issue, even if it had nothing to do with black people, we would find the blackness in it!"

Then Grier inflated his own soft-voiced, affable manner into DAG's overbearing personality: a program host who is pompous and preachy, full of urgency and pique, yet "above-the-fray in his peach suit," says Grier, chuckling.

The show's for-blacks-only masquerade is only part of the comic cocktail, which is also spiked with racial caricatures and satire that, in less capable hands, might leave the audience wondering just whom the joke is on.

Grier leaves no doubt that the joke is on everybody, for everybody.

"America is grappling with cultural diversity," he says, "and I just want to put a show on that represents the world in which I live."

In its first weeks, Chocolate News has averaged a healthy 1.9 million viewers, and Grier has found Comedy Central to be "in sync with us creatively, and for the most part giving us free rein. This has been the experience I've always been in search of."

But he hastens to add that he didn't figure on the rise of Barack Obama.

"I think he may have just started running when we began planning the show," Grier says. "Never in a million years did I think that he would get this far. He was a freshman senator! He was running against Hillary!"

Though an unexpected bonus for Chocolate News, the likelihood of an Obama administration disrupted the show's production schedule.

"We had planned to shoot all the shows before the election," Grier says. "But once it was clear he was going to be the nominee, we had to take a hiatus so we could respond to his candidacy."

Already, Chocolate News has expressed its doubts that Obama would be the ideal "brother in the White House."

For one thing, is he black enough?

"He's NOT black. He's HALF-black," argued DAG in a recent "commentary." Then he offered a tip "to the white folks who still can't bring themselves to pull that lever: Just vote for the white half."

Who knows what Chocolate News will have to say this week? Not even Grier, who will guarantee topicality by taping in-studio segments only hours before airtime Wednesday. No matter which candidate wins the election, Grier will be ready for him.


'The Wire's' Chad l. Coleman Heads To Fox

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(October 31, 2008) *"The Wire's"
Chad L. Coleman is leaving inner city Baltimore for outer space in the new Fox comedy "Boldly Going Nowhere," from the trio who created FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."  The 20th TV-produced sitcom is about what happens day-to-day on an intergalactic spaceship helmed by the rogue Capt. Ron Teague, played by Ben Koldyke. Coleman has been cast as Cobalt, the self-absorbed, intimidating head of security for the spaceship. The actor was last seen as Dennis "Cutty" Wise in HBO's "The Wire," which "you wouldn't normally say it in the same sentence with a broadcast comedy, but we've been going for fresh faces and strong actors," said executive producer Rob McElhenney.

Fox Cancels Animated Show King Of The Hill

Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(November 01, 2008) LOS ANGELES–King of the Hill is over the hill at Fox, which is cancelling the long-running animated comedy. Final episodes of the half-hour series, now in its 13th year, likely will air during the 2009-10 season, Fox said Friday. The network recently ordered 13 new episodes, and animated series have a long production schedule. King of the Hill chronicles the life of blue-collar family man Hank Hill of Texas and his family and friends. Hank is voiced by series co-creator and executive producer Mike Judge. Others in the cast include Kathy Najimy, Brittany Murphy and Stephen Root. The picture is brighter for another Sunday night animated show on Fox, American Dad, which was renewed for its fifth season. It has posted single-digit ratings gains among advertiser-favoured young adult viewers and total viewers. Ratings for King of the Hill have been relatively flat early this season. American Dad is about Stan Smith, a dedicated conservative, and his oddball family in Langley, Va. Series co-creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane voices Stan in the series, which also features the voices of Wendy Schaal, Rachael MacFarlane and Scott Grimes.

CTV Expands Police-Drama Pilot Into 11-Part Series

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Michael Posner

(November 04, 2008) Toronto — The Bridge, a two-hour pilot TV show based on the work of former Toronto police-union head Craig Bromell, is to become an 11-part series of one-hour dramas, CTV announced yesterday. The show is produced by Barna-Alper Productions, 990 Multi Media Entertainment Co. and Jonsworth Productions. A two-hour pilot, written and directed by Alan di Fiore, was shot this summer. CTV executives liked it well enough to commission a full series. The pilot will now air as the first two separate one-hour episodes. Production of the remaining nine episodes will start in January. The Bridge stars Aaron Frank as rank-and-file cop Frank Leo.


Camilla Scott Will Rock You

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

(November 01, 2008) Camilla Scott has played parts that were originated by the likes of Doris Day, Patti LuPone and Grace Kelly. But never before has she followed in the footsteps of Adam Brazier.

Yet that's exactly what's happening at the Panasonic Theatre, where We Will Rock You continues to play to packed houses of people who can't get enough of the music of Queen.

Scott has taken over the role of Khashoggi, the evil henchman to the Killer Queen in Ben Elton's dystopian fantasy about a world where live rock music is illegal.

It's a part that has always been played by a man, with the brawny Brazier as the role's most recent inhabitant.

So how did the curvy Scott react to a call from Mirvish Productions asking her if she'd take on the challenge?

"I said, `Well, I've got a little hair on my chest; I think I'd be good.' Seriously, I miss stage work, I've been doing too much film and TV."

Strange as it may seem, the vocal requirements of the songs present no problem to Scott at all. "Freddie Mercury's voice was so high for a man," she explains, "that all of his songs sit really well in a woman's chest voice. So I sing them in the same key as the guys ... I just belt the crap out of them!"

Scott has always been known as a straight-ahead, take-no-prisoners kind of gal. It's something she started early on in life.

"When I was about 10," she laughs, "I used to get all the kids on the block together and make them do shows with me. Afterwards, I'd lock myself in my room, play my LP of Barbra Streisand from Funny Girl and sing my lungs out along with her on `My Man.' Wow, I was such a geek!"

She was fairly chubby back then as well, but she took charge of that situation in a style that would herald the Scott of the future.

"All through high school, I had been the character girl and I wanted to be the leading lady, but they wouldn't let me because I was too fat. So I realized one day if I wanted to be an actress, I'd have to lose the weight."

Way back in the late '70s, long before he was famous, she signed up with Dr. Stanley Bernstein. "It was expensive," she admits. "But I took all the money I had saved being a cashier at Dominion. I had to get up at six every morning and travel all the way from my home in Etobicoke downtown to do it, but I wanted it and it worked."

Also motivating her at the time was her drama teacher, Barbara Young, who later wound up as the principal of the Etobicoke School of the Arts.

"Right out of high school she got me my first audition," Scott remembers fondly. "After I landed the job, she told me I should be going to Sheridan to study musical theatre."

Scott did, for a year. Then her gypsy feet got the best of her and she moved on to a whole series of jobs, landing star billing for the first time before she was 25, when she played Evita at the Limelight Dinner Theatre.

"They didn't have any money to pay a star salary, but my agent made them put my name above the title in every single ad that appeared. Suddenly people thought I was a star."

Shortly after that, she met actor Paul Eves, "who I've been in love with for 20 years," she announces proudly. She followed him out to Los Angeles.

One day she heard that the soap opera Days of Our Lives was looking for a young actress who could sing. Scott crashed her way into the casting office.

"Sing something," the woman behind the desk commanded.

Momentarily flummoxed, Scott thought of the last song she had heard on the car radio and immediately broke into her best Whitney Houston, wailing "I believe the children are the future..."

The casting agent cut her off. "You really can sing. Come back at four and read for the producer."

She started filming the next day and stayed on the series for two years.

She came back to Canada to star in Crazy for You with the Mirvish organization, and displayed another example of true Scott grit. "They wanted Cynthia Dale, but she wasn't available. And they told me I couldn't dance well enough. So they kept training me and reauditioning me until I finally got the part."

While doing a PR stint for the musical on The Dini Petty Show, she was approached by a producer who felt she was just what was needed for a new talk show being planned for CTV.

So The Camilla Scott Show was born, as was her parallel stint on Due South.

Lots of Grade A credits followed, but they all paled beside finally marrying Eves in 2002. When she asked him why they waited so long, he said, "I'll ask you when I'm ready to ask you, Camilla. You can't be in charge of everything."

Their son Jack followed in 2005. A beaming Scott admits, "It's nice not to be the most important person in your own life any more."

Yes, motherhood has claimed the ultimate overachiever. Another one bites the dust.

Stage Director Finds Success With The Single Man

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

(October 30, 2008) Jennifer Tarver is earning a reputation as a one-man woman.

We're not talking about the stage director's personal life, but her professional one.

Her last two hit shows (Thom Pain and Krapp's Last Tape) were solo vehicles for an impressive pair of actors: Tom McCamus and Brian Dennehy.

Now she's going for the hat trick with Bashir Lazhar, opening at Tarragon next week, with the one-person cast consisting of the equally skilled Raoul Bhaneja.

"I never planned it this way," she laughs about her current diet of monologues after a day of rehearsals, "but it certainly seems to have worked out that way."

She finds the discipline of working in a one-on-one situation to be more demanding, but ultimately capable of great rewards.

"Unlike a piece with a larger cast, all of your decisions in a way are part of the inner psyche of the actor. You need to seek permission in some way to get inside there."

This is when Tarver's "fierce, unwavering gaze," to quote Dennehy, comes into play, although she mockingly refers to herself as "stubborn, or maybe just bossy."

"Brian once defined a good director as being a pest," she recalls, "and I'm sure he was thinking of me.

"I find myself saying to the actor, `This is what I think the play is going to require; now what do you think?' That way you find out where they're coming from and get everything out in the open."

And despite – or maybe because of – the distinctive personalities that McCamus, Dennehy and Bhaneja possess, Tarver has found it all stimulating.

"The great thing with all three of these actors is that they'll meet you halfway."

Bashir Lazhar is written by Quebec author Evelyne de la Chenelière and translated by Morwyn Brebner, who enjoyed huge success at the Shaw Festival this summer with her adaptation of The President.

It tells the story of a Grade 6 substitute teacher who is replacing someone who committed suicide on the school grounds.

In Tarver's words, "We follow a multiple process of grieving, both for Bashir, who is a political refugee separated from his country and his family, and for the children, who are grieving the loss of their teacher.

"Their suffering is a cocoon that he enters to help process his own grief."

Tarver found it fascinating how closely the journey of Bashir mirrors the famous five stages outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Yet when she asked the author about it, she claimed to have never heard of them and said she hadn't structured the play that way.

"No matter," says the pragmatic Tarver. "That was the way I entered it."

She found it useful in dealing with Bashir's non-linear thoughts where "within one monologue, it would bleed into a more psychological or interior place and then back to the exterior world again.

"The way our emotions operate in grief is very unpredictable. The floor just drops out from under us. It's truly a roller-coaster ride and Raoul is the right actor to have on the journey because he's a really good roller-coaster kind of guy."

Yet she remains even-handed about her unanimously acclaimed production of Krapp's Last Tape, soberly saying that "I was happy with certain things, but Brian and I were equally daunted by (playwright Samuel) Beckett and that continued to the end."

The one-woman man strikes again.

Just the facts
WHAT: Bashir Lazhar

WHERE: Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave.

WHEN: In previews. Opening Nov. 5. Runs until Dec. 7

TICKETS: $19-$38, 416-531-1827 or tarragontheatre.com

A Powerful Vision Of The Plight Of South Asian Women

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

Written and performed by Anita Majumdar
Directed by Mark Cassidy
Fall Festival of Four Plays At Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

(October 30, 2008) There is more than one misfit in
The Misfit, one of playwright/actress Anita Majumdar's compelling stories containing both ironic humour and a strong message.

In Majumdar's second one-woman show (the last was the successful Fish Eyes), she plays four female and two male characters. The Misfit's narrator is Naz, a young Indo-Canadian woman living in India, where she is the choreographer and a dancer with the Taj Mahal Dance Company. The troupe earns its living performing at weddings. Through Majumdar's skilful performances, we meet the company's other two dancers, the lead and resident snob Nikki and the lesser vessel Su-su. We also encounter the wily and grasping Gustakhi, the Taj Mahal's director.

The three dancers all have man trouble, which in India can lead to outcast status. Naz ran off with the wannabe rock star Lucky Punjabi and has been disowned by her Canadian family. (Lucky and his extortionist uncle are the two other characters Majumdar plays.)

Nikki has shamed her family because she has been divorced by her husband. She lives in vain hope for his return. And the hapless Su-su, as a child, bounced on a branch of a mango tree and accidentally broke her hymen. Because she was deflowered by the tree, so to speak, her village married her off to the very tree.

Majumdar played the lead in the CBC-TV film Murder Unveiled, based on the real-life Jaswinder (Jassi) Kaur Sidhu, the young Indo-Canadian woman who was killed by her family for marrying a lower-class rickshaw driver.

Clearly, the plight of Sidhu hit a nerve. In The Misfit, Lucky dies saving Naz from the wrath of his fellow villagers - in other words, in a kind of an honour killing. As it turns out, Gustakhi was also involved in an honour killing.

As well as being a graduate of the National Theatre School, Majumdar is trained in the Indian classical dance style of kathak, and dance is an important metaphor in the play. The Taj Mahal performs knock-off Bollywood/classical fusion to British Top 40 songs (deliciously co-choreographed by Majumdar and Joanna Das). In fact, Majumdar's elaborate costume is taken from dance.

These solos danced by the Naz character are deliberate come-ons with their sexy moves, and depending on what scene they follow, can be desperate, satiric or mocking. Dance continues to embellish the theme when words have stopped.

While The Misfit can be enjoyed simply for Majumdar's razor-sharp character studies and very funny one-liners, at the heart, this is a feminist play that rages against the plight of South Asian women at the hands of both men and their own sisterhood. Clearly each generation of women must take some responsibility for perpetuating the injustices against their own.

Director Mark Cassidy has worked hard on the transitions to clearly delineate Majumdar's shifts between characters. Pacing is also sharp, because the sparkling Majumdar never flags. While some of the words are lost because of rapid speech and strong accents, her text raises important questions. The Misfit is provocative theatre.

The Misfit continues at Theatre Passe Muraille's Main Space until Nov. 15 (416-504-7529 or http://www.passemuraille.on.ca).

Bob Baker Is Celebrating 10 Years As Artistic Director Of The Citadel

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
J. Kelly Nestruck

(November 04, 2008) EDMONTON — Bob Baker is not shy about trumpeting his own successes.

Ask him to list his accomplishments at the Citadel Theatre, where the 56-year-old director is celebrating 10 years as artistic director, and he reels them off one after another, year by year.

Ask him if he has any regrets, however, and he comes up stumped. "I'm sounding arrogant," Baker says to himself. "Shut up."

But he doesn't. If any artistic director had cause to toot his own horn, it's Baker, the first Edmonton-born leader of the Citadel in its 43-year history.

In the 1980s, he resurrected the Edmonton Phoenix theatre company, leading it for five years that are still well-remembered in the city. Its legacy includes the Chalmers and Dora-award winning hit, B-Movie: The Play.

It was that play's success that brought Baker east to Toronto, where he was soon offered the artistic directorship of Canadian Stage Company, the country's largest contemporary theatre. He led the rescue of the financially imperilled company, which was having trouble making payroll at the time, and over eight years reduced its debt from $3-million to $700,000 and more than doubled subscriptions.

Moving back home to run the Citadel, Baker finally inherited a successful theatre and has guided it through a decade of "sustainable growth."

He has increased the number of plays offered from eight to 11, reviving the complex's intimate black-box Rice Theatre in the process, and created new-play-development and theatre-for-young-audiences programs.

Subscriptions have grown from 6,500 to 10,000, while overall attendance has risen from 95,000 to around 150,000. And the regional theatre has had a surplus during seven of his nine years in charge.

But Baker, looking young and lean in a jean shirt, is more interested in chatting about the Citadel's artistic achievements than the numbers as he sits down to dinner at EastBound, the Japanese-Italian restaurant on the main floor of the theatre's giant downtown complex.

(The Citadel contains three theatres - the 700-seat Shoctor and Maclab plus the smaller Rice - as well as an independent cinema and an indoor park complete with amphitheatre.) Baker speaks proudly about the diverse programming he has introduced to the institution, which he found a bit "tepid" when he arrived.

"It's just a matter of balance," says Baker, who had viewed the Citadel as "the establishment enemy" in his days running Phoenix.

"From [puppeteer] Ronnie Burkett's new show [for adults] to The Wizard of Oz to [Wajdi Mouawad's] Scorched, we have an audience for everything we do."

Not that there haven't been missteps: When Baker replaced the annual Christmas family musical with Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods in his first season and faced empty houses, he learned his lesson about messing with tradition. Since then, he's proved a master of crowd-pleasing entertainments, including an expensive production of A Christmas Carol adapted by Tom Wood that is returning for its ninth year.

As for new plays, Baker has learned from his experience at Canadian Stage Company, where the development program he started resulted in works that didn't make it from the page to the stage. His Citadel program "develops a production, rather than plays that end up in a drawer," he says. It's now in the theatre's mandate to produce two new shows every year.

This year, the Citadel is, in fact, presenting four new works by Albertan playwrights. The season opened with playwright (and Baker's partner of 38 years) Tom Wood's well-received adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which featured 14 emerging actors as part of a new professional-development partnership with the Banff Centre. The company is currently staging the world premieres of Burkett's Billy Twinkle and Marty Chan's new children's musical, The Forbidden Phoenix, while Ron Jenkins's Extinction Song is set for its world premiere at the Citadel in the spring. That Baker is regarded as a champion of Canadian playwrights in Edmonton is ironic, given that he repeatedly came under attack during his tenure at Canadian Stage for not programming enough homegrown plays.

But with CanStage producing not a single Canadian play on its main stage this year and struggling financially once more, Baker's reign is looking decidedly rosier 10 years after his surprise resignation.

While Baker kept mum about the reasons for his departure at the time, he now claims there was a power struggle with Marty Bragg, whom Baker had brought on as Canadian Stage's general manager in 1992 and who succeeded him as artistic producer.

Baker believes he and Bragg made a great team for two years. "And then ... every day became a battle to go to work," he says, leaning in intensely and emphasizing that what he says is "on the record."

Baker claims to be unsurprised by the recent artistic and financial crises - including the resignation of artistic director David Storch and the theatre's continuing deficit - that led to Bragg's announcement he will step down in June, 2009. "The only surprise is that it's taken this long," Baker says. (Bragg was unavailable for comment.) Baker admits to harbouring "some resentment" about his time in Toronto, which he calls "the city that welcomes you with folded arms."

"It's a bigger city than I'm comfortable living in," he says, noting that even when he worked at Stratford, he commuted from the nearby town of St. Mary's. "I don't like crowds. I don't like big cities." (Baker now has a country home about 60 kilometres outside of Edmonton.) While Baker says he has been ignoring calls and e-mails from the executive headhunter Canadian Stage has hired to replace Bragg, he does have an opinion about what needs to be done there. Most importantly, he feels, is a return to the old management structure of artistic director and general manager rather than a single artistic producer.

A firm believer in this theatrical separation of church and state, Baker is very satisfied with his relationship with Citadel executive director Penny Ritco; the two have known each other since 1975, when they met at the Stratford Festival.

"We are equal CEOs in a major corporation," he says. "I'm incredibly competitive and I'm incredibly ambitious, but not personally - the ambition is for the growth of the organization."

Baker, who has never stayed in one job for as long as he has at the Citadel, doesn't know how much longer he'll remain at the controls. After watching Phoenix and Canadian Stage struggle after his departures, however, he is not leaving succession planning to fate this time and is grooming his associate artistic director, James MacDonald, for the job.

When he does leave, Baker hopes to leave behind a sustainable Citadel and a legacy of plays by playwrights he has nurtured like Vern Thiessen and Marty Chan. "Creating memories is so ephemeral, when you've done it for 35 friggin' years. You can't capture it."


Pas De Deux: The Couple That Dances Together ...

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(November 05, 2008) Dance fans will soon to be able to take in the first-time principal partnering of two of the National Ballet's premier performers: newlyweds Greta Hodgkinson, 34, and Etienne Lavigne, 31.

The couple, who have dated for years and wed last summer at Toronto's Graydon Hall Manor, have rarely been paired onstage. This weekend, the duo will finally perform in a principal pas de deux in Symphony in C at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

Both Hodgkinson, a principal dancer, and Lavigne, a Montreal-born first soloist, say they are "exhilarated" to be teaming up in yet another aspect of their lives. "I've been with the company for 18 to 19 years, and I guess it's taken us so long [to dance together onstage] because our careers were just on different paths," explains Hodgkinson, who hails from Rhode Island and has been a principal dancer with the National Ballet since 1996.

"Now, there is the right repertoire and the right opportunity. Everything never matched up until now."

Lavigne, who joined the ballet in 1997, says he is eager and ready to take on a bigger part opposite his wife. "We've been onstage together before, doing smaller things. Mostly I've done bad guys with her, such as Rothbart in Swan Lake or Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet.

"She usually dances with the most senior person, which I wasn't yet," he adds. "I was promoted to first soloist with the ballet company last year. So she's basically given me time to catch up."

Lavigne acknowledges he is a little nervous. "I'd be more nervous if we were younger and less experienced. But I have her to fall back on. She's amazingly strong so, for me, it's pretty easy. Rehearsals have been seamless, and there have been no big blowups. We're still married," he says with a chuckle.

Lavigne and Hodgkinson perform Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.

Air-Raising Ballet Star Lands In Toronto

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

(November 05, 2008) Tonight on the Four Seasons Centre stage, Toronto ballet watchers will get to see what makes Ethan Stiefel – renowned for the purity of his line, the height of his jumps and all-round masculine esprit – one of the most in-demand dancers in ballet.

As a guest performer on opening night of the National Ballet of Canada's 2008-09 season, Stiefel will partner Jillian Vanstone in the explosive Third Movement of George Balanchine's Symphony in C.

There was big disappointment in Sydney earlier this year when Stiefel had to bow out of a guest role as Lascaux in the Australian Ballet's production of Manon because of his new duties as dean of the North Carolina School of the Arts dance division. But the American Ballet Theatre principal dancer and sometime movie star is honouring his commitment to guest with the National Ballet and perform for the first time in Toronto.

The Pennsylvania-born, Wisconsin-bred dancer took the fast route to ballet stardom. A gymnast and a peewee football player before he was in grade school, Stiefel followed his sister into ballet classes in Madison, Wis., at the age of 8.

On scholarships to American Ballet Theatre's School of Classical Ballet and The School of American Ballet, he was quickly noticed. He joined the corps de ballet of New York City Ballet at 16.

That was the year, nearly 20 years ago, when he first danced Symphony in C. Stiefel was enrolled in a special men's class at the company, where he trained alongside Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Fernando Bujones. Nowadays, he leads classes as well as takes them.

The fair-haired, all-American with the broad grin is thinking a lot about training as he begins his first year at the Winston-Salem, N.C., school, known for turning out both ballet dancers, such as Stiefel's frequent partner and girlfriend Gillian Murphy, and contemporary performers, among them Dan Joyce, Marianne Moore and Julie Worden of the Mark Morris Dance Group.

He wasn't looking to a post-stage career when the North Carolina school approached him. The school's principal was eager to have an active professional lead their program.

"I really feel compelled to do it. I want to have a positive and lasting effect, not for myself, but for the art form," the 35-year-old dancer says of teaching.

Stiefel's fame extended beyond the ballet world after he starred as Cooper Nielsen in the movie Centre Stage, released in 2000. He reprises his role in Centre Stage 2, airing this month on the Oxygen Channel before being released as a DVD.

It's a measure of Stiefel's all-embracing passion for dance that he does a 30-second hip-hop sequence in the new film.

Ask what he likes to dance and he'll recite a long list of choreographers, including Bournonville, Ashton, Balanchine and Robbins.

He mentions Jiri Kylian and Ohad Naharin as contemporary ballet creators whose works he enjoys dancing.

"At the same time I'd love to do some Broadway work; I've done some (Bob) Fosse solos and I'd like to explore that idiom."

Preparing for his role in Symphony in C (he'll dance it again Nov. 8), he sounds like an Olympic athlete.

"I've been taking barre, about two weeks ago started doing some jumping and focusing on my aerobic training for stamina, because the piece needs that. This week I'll start to do some full turns and basically just blow it out. For this piece – ask anybody – you may never feel ready. It's about will power as much as anything."


Fallout 3 Is So Much Fun To Explore

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko, Special To The Star

Fallout 3
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
For Xbox/360/PC. M

(November 01, 2008) Reviewing video games while maintaining something like a real human life calls for a sometimes-difficult degree of detachment.

As a medium, games, to be engaged with properly, require a time commitment far greater than, say, film. They're great time-suckers. The trick for a guy like me who's paid to play and write about games is knowing when to stop playing and start writing. Keeping with the comparison to film, imagine the situation of a film critic so wrapped up in one movie that he or she watches it 30 times over the course of a three-day weekend. Now you have some sense of my problem with
Fallout 3.

I should have seen it coming. Developer Bethesda Softworks has been responsible for the two games I've sunk the most of my life into, Oblivion, and before that Morrowind; their brand of go-anywhere, do-anything role-playing games set in open worlds realized in wonderful detail works with devilish efficiency on every game-receptor synapse in my nerd nervous system. I am compelled to look over the next hill, to poke into that next weird building, to talk to that next character, to move through that next mini-story in a world of interlocking mini-stories; days pass, and I'm lost.

Fallout 3 takes the Bethesda style and applies it to the near-legendary Fallout universe, an alternate world where the '50s went on for decades – until, finally, the bomb dropped. I'd never played the previous Fallout games – I haven't had a really gaming-capable PC since the early '80s – but back in the day, I was really into the series' "spiritual predecessor," Wasteland, and all the style and wit and black humour my teenage self loved in that game is in Fallout 3 multiplied and amplified to wonderful effect. Everywhere you look – seriously, everywhere, right down to the bathrooms and broom closets – there are details to soak in, little tableaux to experience, black-humour gags, breathtaking moments.

Of course, it is a game, and a very well tuned and balanced one. The weakest part of Oblivion and Morrowind, for me, was the combat system, which basically boiled down to either standing ground and reefing on the "attack" button or launching arrows while backpedalling furiously. Fallout 3 introduces an excellent hybrid combat system, in which you fight – with an assortment of wonderful and often hilarious weapons – in real time, either in first-person or third-person style, but also have the ability to freeze the action and enter a targeting mode. Here, you get to more precisely target your shots – going for the head, say, or shooting out an enemy's weapon – and watch them hit (or miss) in cinematic slo-mo. It works, and works well: one yardstick for evaluating a game is how often it produces "awesome!" moments, and Fallout 3 racks those up in almost every encounter.

It's the exploration, though, that gets me – discovering the people, places and things Bethesda's artists, writers and designers have so lovingly and carefully created for me to find. That's why my back aches from hours in front of the screen, why dishes have gone unwashed and correspondence unanswered.

iNexpensive iPhone apps

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(November 01, 2008) Gamers forced to keep an eye on their spending after their stock portfolio headed south won't have to twiddle their thumbs out of boredom.

Owners of an
iPhone or iPod Touch can download hundreds of games for a couple of bucks apiece from Apple's popular App Store (part of iTunes, apple.ca/iphone/appstore), instead of shelling out up to $60 for the latest console titles. In fact, a good handful of these digital diversions are free, such as Tapulous's musical challenge, Tap Tap Revenge, or Jason Linhart's Enjoy Sudoku Daily Free puzzler.

Most games, however, range from 99 cents to $9.99, and take advantage of the devices' touch-screen interface, built-in sensors and, in some cases, online connectivity.

The following are a few worthy iPhone and iPod Touch games to consider, each catering to a different type of player.

For the racing fan:
Cro-Mag Rally

Pangea Software, $1.99

Consider it a cross between The Flintstones and Formula 1 racing. You play as a speed-thirsty caveman (or cavewoman) who races prehistoric vehicles through deserts, jungles and snow-covered mountains. Collect power-ups, avoid dangerous obstacles and use primitive weaponry to take out rival riders before they reach the finish line. Players control the action by simply tilting the iPhone or iPod Touch in a given direction. The game houses two modes, nine race tracks and 11 unique vehicles.

For the aerospace buff:
X-Plane 9

Laminar Research, $9.99

This portable version of the popular flight simulator for PCs lets you take off in one of four commercial aircraft and use the iPhone or iPod Touch's built-in accelerometer to steer around a stunning view of Austrian mountains.

For an added challenge you can also adjust time of day, weather conditions and turbulence options.

For the problem solver:

Pangea Software, $1.99

If you're looking for a head-scratching collection of puzzles to solve, Enigmo is a real no-brainer. These Rube Goldberg-style contraptions challenge players to control the flow of liquid, such as water or lava, by manipulating items on a screen, including drums, bumpers and sponges. The goal for each of the levels is to guide the flow of the falling liquid toward its target using the items given, and tweaking their position and angle. Bonus points are awarded for fast completion.

For the card shark:
Texas Hold'em

Apple, $4.99

Apple's own Texas Hold'em is a virtual poker tournament that lets you play against intelligent computer-controlled opponents (featuring video clips of real people reacting to their cards) or even real players in the optional online mode. The more money you win, the fancier the locations get (and the bigger the stakes). Use your fingertip to push poker chips into the centre of the table or flick unwanted cards to fold, and turn the iPhone or iPod Touch horizontally to switch to an overhead table view.

For the aspiring Jedi:
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

THQ Wireless, $9.99

Feel the force in this portable version of the console game of the same name. You play as Starkiller, an apprentice to Darth Vader, on a quest to destroy the last of the Jedi. Unleash the power of this Sith-in-training by drawing symbols on the screen using your fingertip, which translates to the one of many Force powers available in the game, such as Push, Lightning, Grip and Jedi Mind Trick. The story is set between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, as you roam around dozens of beautifully rendered fantasy environments.

For the sports nut:
Real Soccer 2009

Gameloft, $9.99

Footy fans in search of a deep, 3-D soccer experience won't be disappointed with Real Soccer 2009 – as evidenced by the average score of 4.5 stars (out of 5) among the 68 customer reviews at the App Store. Choose from one of six modes, then take to the field as one of nearly 200 soccer teams from around the world (with real players' names) and use your thumbs to run, pass, shoot and defend. Soccer stadiums have been accurately modelled in 3-D, such as Manchester's and Madrid's, and players can select duration of play, difficulty level, weather, time of day, rules, and more.

For the treasure hunter:
Everest: Hidden Expedition

Big Fish Games, 99 cents

It's the hottest genre within the multi-billion-dollar "casual game" industry: Hidden object games, or HOGs, are a Where's Waldo-like exercise that challenges players to find a list of well-concealed objects in a messy scene within a certain amount of time. This attractive iPhone/iPod Touch version of the popular PC game lets you use your fingertips to drag the scene around and then tap when you find the objects listed at the bottom of the screen. Once you complete all of the objectives you move on to the next stage and unravel more of the story. Great fun for players age 6 to 106 – and at less than $1, it's a great price, too.

For the multi-tasker:
Diner Dash

PlayFirst, $4.99

The latest heroine to rock the computer gaming world isn't Lara Croft or any such half-dressed, gun-toting adventurer. It's Flo. With a menu in one hand and washcloth in another, this feisty restaurateur serves up plenty of fun in the time-management hit, Diner Dash. Now she's in mobile form, but her goal remains the same: Singlehandedly run the diner by simultaneously seating customers, taking orders, serving food and bussing their tables. This iPhone and iPod Touch version offers 50 levels, six types of customers and two game modes. Who knew waitressing was this much fun?

For the sci-fi strategist:

Hassey Enterprises, $4.99

Use your iPhone or iPod Touch to wage interplanetary war. Created by Phil Hassey originally for the PC, Galcon is a combat-heavy real-time strategy game set in space, whereby players assume the role of commander and use a fingertip to instruct fleets to defend or attack planets. This portable version features five unique game modes – Classic, Stealth, Vacuum, Beast and 3-Way – each of which can be played on 10 difficulty levels.

Beatles Songs Licensed To Rock Band Video Game

Source:  www.thestar.com -

(October 30, 2008) NEW YORK–MTV Networks announced Thursday a deal to use songs by 60s band The Beatles in a custom video game similar to its popular Rock Band video, marking the band's first key plunge into digital music.

MTV Networks said there was no release date or sale price for the game, but that it was due to be ready for release around the holidays next year. Jeff Jones, chief executive of The Beatles Apple Corps Ltd, said the game would include "samples of the whole (music) catalogue."

MTV Networks, owned by Viacom Inc's, said the game was creatively conceived by former Beatles Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and the wives of late Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.

"The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of The Beatles and their music. I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out," McCartney said in a statement.

Pop music fans consider The Beatles, who broke up in 1970, one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Surviving members of the group as well as its representatives have jealously guarded the distribution of their music online.

Rock Band – which is developed by MTV's Harmonix and published by Electronic Arts Inc –let fans play plastic guitars along with music on television screens.


Ecomii - A Green Lifestyle Website

I am helping to spread the word for a fine young man who has built quite a remarkable website.
The website is
www.ecomii.com, and was co-founded by my boss, Hon. David Peterson's son-in-law, Colton Dirksen.  The website is a one-stop-shop for all information regarding green technology and sustainable environmental practices, from gardening tips through to greater global issues facing the environment.  The website is quite informative and a 'must have' for me, very easy to navigate.  Colton is pitching in to make the world a little better for all of us and makes it easy to see how we can make individual changes that affect us globally.
Have a click.  Send it along to friends, kids, teachers, co - workers or anyone who might find it useful.  Below is a message from Colton himself.  By all means bug him with encouragement or suggestions.
Dear all,
I'm excited to announce the Beta launch of www.ecomii.com, a green lifestyle website.   My co-founders and I recognize that people are thinking about the environmental consequences of their actions, but with this comes many claims and much confusion on what we can do.  So we started ecomii to be the comprehensive and credible destination to help you make more environmentally-friendly lifestyle choices.
When you have a moment, I would love for you to visit the site and hear your feedback.  And of course, if you like it, please spread the word.  
A few areas of particular interest on ecomii:
- SmartFoodwww.ecomii.com/food: Find how to identify the tastiest and healthiest food
- Parentingwww.ecomii.com/parenting: Baby-friendly and earth-friendly baby-products and parenting options

- Green Building, www.ecomii.com/building : Learn cost-effective and green building & remodelling techniques
- Blogs, www.ecomii.com/blogs: Read about what's new in renewable energy, simple living and the political front
- Debatableswww.ecomii.com/debatables: Weigh in on an eco-dilemma and hear what others have to say
- ecomii Action, www.ecomii.com/action: Take on a few eco-goals or start a group and invite others

I look forward to hearing from you,

Colton Dirksen
Co-Founder, Environmental Director
ecomii LLC

Public Roll Call For Canada's War Dead

Source: www.thestar.com - Mitch Potter,
Europe Bureau

(November 03, 2008) LONDON–It will be one long and final march home for 68,000 lost Canadian souls.

When the sun sets over the British capital tomorrow night, an ambitious act of remembrance begins when the first name is projected against the walls of Canada House in Trafalgar Square. One after another, the names of each Canadian to fall in World War I will follow.

As the sun moves westward to Canada, the names will go with it, projected against buildings in six cities, including Toronto City Hall. The sequence continues with 9,700 names per night spread across 13-hour, sunset-to-sunrise vigils until the last name appears at the break of dawn on
Nov. 11.

Three years in the making, Vigil: 1914-1918 is the brainchild of Canadian actor/director R.H. Thomson and his co-creator, lighting designer Martin Conboy, a labour of deep respect that has taken on a life of its own.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, moved by the poignancy of the idea, now have confirmed their attendance at tomorrow's London launch. Public vigils are also to take place in Fredericton, Halifax, Regina and Edmonton, besides the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

As an aid to remembrance, a searchable website has been created – www.1914-1918.ca – to enable the families of Canada's war dead to mark the precise moment of their ancestor's turn in the passage of names, 90 years after the devastating war was brought to an end.

"This was the war that cost Europe its reputation as civilized. The war where Canadian families were forbidden from repatriating the bodies of their war dead, however much they wanted to," Thomson told the Star.

"So what we want to say to people is, `Watch. Watch these names move. This is the final march. The final roll.' "

For Thomson, it is personal. He lost seven great-uncles to war, including four of five brothers who fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force under British and Allied command in WWI. That toll formed the basis for Thomson's 2001 solo show, The Lost Boys.

Growing up in the shadows of such loss, Thomson says he has always been mindful of the "unearthed stories in the attics of so many Canadian families."

Thomson knew his own stories: how two of the brothers fell in the battlefields of Europe and how two more made it home, only to die in a sanatorium from the effects of gas poisoning. And how the fifth brother – "Uncle Art"– wandered through a subsequent life of adventure, from Africa to Egypt to northern Ontario, occasionally showing up at Christmas to teach his great-nephew how to play poker.

For a span of three years, Thomson and his collaborator Conboy have been amassing stories from other Canadian families to better understand what Thomson calls "the enduring slipstream of war."

"As artists, we are trying to present Vigil as a piece of social history. To say directly to Canadian families that we understand that when there is war it doesn't just stop at a certain date. There is this turbulence that goes on for generations," said Thomson.

"I spoke to hundreds of families, hearing stories of men screaming in their beds in the middle of the night, still fighting the war for years after the fact.

"I spoke to a man in his 90s who broke down and cried to me on the phone – cried to a complete stranger– as he told of his father's war. Another man told me that every time his father swore, he spoke out his service number from the war."

Thomson recognizes that where art intersects with remembrance the terrain can sometimes be tricky. At tomorrow's ceremony in London, for example, the Queen will meet a number of Canadian veterans, including some recently returned from Afghanistan.

"What we are doing is not anti-war statement nor a pro-war statement. For me, I have no difficulty thinking about these things in dimension; one can look sceptically at military action as a means of diplomacy and at the same time have complete and total respect for the men and women who are actually there," he said.

But, says Thomson, "I'm doing this more as a Canadian, rather than as an artist.

"What really struck us in preparing for this is how many families hold the last pieces of this war in their memories. But the memory is fading as people near the ends of their lives.

"So what happens after that? What happens in that moment in our country's history when the memory fades forever? My response would be: mark it. Do something unique, so that you will always remember that moment when it evaporated."


Argos Coach Don Matthews Departs

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

(November 01, 2008) The Toronto Argonauts are one of the oldest sports franchises in North America, but there's nothing traditional about them.

Consider what happened to them in the space of about 90 minutes yesterday after concluding a dismal 4-14 CFL season.

Just before noon, former Argos quarterback Michael Bishop pulled into the team parking lot to drop off Toronto receiver Obed Cetoute, 13 hours after Bishop's Saskatchewan Roughriders sent the Argos to their ninth consecutive loss.

Minutes later, Argos GM Adam Rita addressed the media, saying the team was on the right track and that he favoured
Don Matthews' return as head coach.

Less than an hour later, Matthews emerged to announce that he had just informed Rita and his players that he would not be back next season, or ever. The team's owners, he added, had yet to be notified.

Minutes after that, several players emerged from a team meeting apparently unaware that Matthews had quit.

Team co-owner Howard Sokolowski told the Star's Allan Ryan that Matthews' decision caught him off-guard. "I was very surprised, taken aback, to hear this," Sokolowski said. "I've been trying to reach him to talk to him, but I have a sense his decision has been made.

"I respect Don a great deal; the greatest coach in CFL history. If this is what he wants to do, we won't stand in his way."

Matthews said he made his decision not long after Saskatchewan sent him to his eighth loss in a row since returning as the Argos coach, 45-38 Thursday night, capped by a botched fake punt in the final minute for which he accepted full responsibility.

"My time is done," Matthews said. "Colour me toasted."

He said he made the decision based on his inability to win a game after arriving here in September to replace Rich Stubler. "I don't think I've affected the team enough and I don't know if I have that ability any more," Matthews said.

The CFL's winningest coach said a season-closing victory wouldn't have changed his mind.

"I would have been going out with a happier heart, but I think my time has come," he said. "I'm going to be 70 years old next year. I need to be able to enjoy the time that I have away from football because football is so consuming."

Matthews' departure adds one more duty to Rita's lengthy off-season list. After finding a new head coach, the first decisions will involve the future of veterans such as Mike O'Shea, Kenny Wheaton, Michael Fletcher and Jude St. John.

That will be followed by decisions on free agents: linebackers Kevin Eiben and Willie Pile and receiver Arland Bruce III.

As for other changes, Rita indicated they will be minimal because so many moves were made during the season. He also believes the team isn't far from being a contender again.

"I think we're going in the right direction," said Rita, whose contract runs through 2009. "It's up to us now to finish it."

With the offence hitting its stride in the season's final games, Rita said patching holes in a defence that surrendered a league-high 627 points will be a priority.

"Defensively, I think we have talent," he said. "They just happen to be a lot of new talent. It was a bigger task than what we had anticipated."

Rita defended the decision to change coaches and rebuild the team in mid-season, even though it did take the Argos out of the playoff picture.

"I think that you can investigate any way you want, but it was a decision that had to be made," he said. "Some people disagree with that, but they weren't working here."

He bristled when asked about recent reports that his relationship with CEO Michael (Pinball) Clemons was strained.

"Right now I think if it's strained, it's imagined," he said. "Things get said that sometimes get misconstrued."

Sokolowski also denied reports that he and co-owner David Cynamon were meddling in football affairs. "David and I are smart enough to not get involved in the football operations," he said. ``For us, it's enough to prowl the sidelines, getting very excited, getting very sad."

As for Clemons, Sokolowski said it was natural that he's part of the management team.

"Michael's on the business side now, but obviously he has a great sense of football operations, so we'd be foolish not to bring him into the decision-making," he said.

Senators' Alfredsson Signs 4-Year Extension

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(October 30, 2008) SUNRISE, Fla.–It looks like Ottawa's adopted son is going to remain a Senator for life.

Daniel Alfredsson has signed a $19.5-million, four-year extension with the only NHL team he’s ever known, putting the Senators captain under contract until the age of 40.

Ottawa selected Alfredsson in the sixth round of the 1994 draft and has since seen the Swede appear in more than 950 regular-season and playoff games for the team.

Alfredsson is thrilled to have the chance to spend his entire career with one organization.

"It's pretty special in today's pro sports," he said Thursday before the Senators faced the Florida Panthers. "We're really rooted in Ottawa, in the community. I really look forward to the challenges ahead both on the ice and off the ice as well.

"Like I said, Ottawa has become my hometown."

The respect seems to be mutual.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has long promised fans that Alfredsson would spend his whole career in Ottawa. The contract extension helps ensure that he can make good on that word.

"There's no question that he's the heart and soul of the franchise," said Melnyk.

That was never more evident to the team's management than last year's playoffs, when Alfredsson played two games with a ruptured medial collateral ligament. He suffered the knee injury late in the regular season and missed the start of a series with Pittsburgh before returning.

Even though the Sens were swept by the Penguins, it was a statement about Alfredsson's commitment to the organization.

"I don't even know how he put his skates on, never mind getting out there and actually inspiring a team and inspiring the fans," said Melnyk.

The core of the Senators is now locked up to long-term contracts. Top forwards Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Mike Fisher all signed lengthy deals last year while defenceman Chris Phillips is in the fold through the 2010-11 season.

Alfredsson's current deal would have expired at the end of this season if he appeared in 70 games or put up 70 points. Melnyk is happy that his captain's long-term status has now been cleared up.

"I don't care who you are, but that's distracting to a player," he said of not having a contract. "That's the last thing in the world I want to do. I want them all focused. There's no excuses for anybody – not that he needs excuses.

"I can guarantee you that he is very, very pleased that he does not have to worry about that part of his life anymore."

The most productive years of Alfredsson's career have come since the lockout ended three years ago. He had a career-best 103 points in 2005-06 and followed that with seasons of 87 and 89. Through eight games this year, Alfredsson had three goals and nine points.

The 35-year-old feels like he can continue to be productive moving forward.

"I've been happy about the way I've been playing since the lockout," said Alfredsson. "You always try to improve. As you get older, the biggest challenge is to stay healthy.

"If I can do that, my fitness is good enough that I should be able to play at a high level. I feel enthusiastic about everything."

Fans Roar As Phillies Parade Through City

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

(October 31, 2008) PHILADELPHIA – Manager Charlie Manuel hoisted the World Series trophy Friday while players basked in a swarm of confetti, the Phanatic mascot danced and hundreds of thousands of Phillies fans roared in celebration of the city's first major sports championship in 25 years.

Left-fielder Pat Burrell led the procession, riding a horse-drawn carriage and pumping his fists. Next came eight flatbed trucks filled with waving players and other members of the Phillies organization, including the furry green mascot.

Throngs of people in Phillies gear packed downtown sidewalks, making them almost impassable. Fans climbed trees, hung out of windows, watched from balconies, carried step ladders and stood on roofs to get a better view.

Centre-fielder Shane Victorino tossed soft pretzels to the crowd while shortstop Jimmy Rollins turned his hand-held video camera on the gathering.

World Series MVP Cole Hamels tried to fist bump a fan dressed like Philly's favourite fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa, but authorities intervened before they quite pulled it off.

The last time a Philadelphia team won a major title was in 1983, when the 76ers captured the NBA crown. The Phillies won their only other World Series in 1980. Current pitcher Jamie Moyer, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, skipped school to attend it.

"This is unbelievable. I'm starting to understand what it's really all about here," Moyer told The Associated Press as he rode down Broad Street. "I was at the parade in 1980 and that was pretty exciting, but today tops it by far."

Ben Anderson, a 25-year-old fan from Bear, Del., pleaded, "Come back! Come back next year!" to the team as the players rolled by. Others chanted, "Bring back Pat," a reference to Burrell, who will be a free agent next season.

The Phillies then greeted tens of thousands of fans who had watched the parade on big screens at the city's baseball and football stadiums. The team first stopped at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play.

"This is the biggest parade I've ever been in," Manuel told the fans. "It's like Christmas came two months early."

The Phillies then headed to their home field of Citizens Bank Park, which was about three-quarters full. Nearly all the fans were all in red, and many waved "Fightin' Phils" rally towels while waiting for the players.

Police were unable to immediately say if there were any disturbances or arrests along the parade route, but fans seemed mostly well behaved. Some sprayed champagne as officers in slow-rolling, foam string-covered police cruisers high-fived parade-watchers.

Organizers couldn't have asked for better weather. The clear, sunny skies and 16 C temperature contrasted with the miserable, frigid rain that forced an unprecedented suspension of Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Phillies won the title on Wednesday in wintry cold.

Bosh Gets Raptors Started On High Note

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith,
Sports Reporter

(October 30, 2008) PHILADELPHIA–To Chris Bosh's myriad skills, add chess player.

Always thinking one step ahead, sometimes two, every now and then three, Bosh befuddled the Philadelphia 76ers last night with a performance that got Toronto's NBA regular season off to an impressive start.

Bosh dominated Sam Dalembert after a sluggish first six minutes and combined with Jermaine O'Neal to provide the kind of frontcourt excellence they had talked about but not shown through the pre-season as the Raptors clubbed the Sixers 95-84 at the Wachovia Center.

After having a couple of his shots blocked in the opening quarter and looking out of sorts, Bosh exploded for 27 points and 11 boards, joining O'Neal to widely outplay Dalembert and Elton Brand in the first real meeting of two re-made Atlantic Division frontcourts.

"(I) just got with the rhythm of the game," said Bosh. "Sometimes that's how you start, but if you're tested early like that, you're either going to up or go down. We stayed relaxed, we didn't panic. A lot of guys would panic and get mad but we had to remember, this was the first live game."

And once he figured that out, and what Dalembert was doing to him, it was off to the races.

"I wanted to be more aggressive," said Bosh. "It was kind of like a chess match with me. If I do have an open shot, of course I'm going to take it, I'm not going to hesitate. The coaches are staying on me about settling, I want to keep the pressure on guys, I don't want them to just be able to check my shot all night. I want them to have to move their feet."

The coach isn't about to let up, either.

"The first six, seven minutes of the game, (Dalembert) had Chris timed pretty good," said Sam Mitchell. "He blocked a couple of his shots, made him take some tough shots, but I tell Chris every night, `Make them block them all, you're good enough to where they can't block them all.' I think once Chris hit a couple of jump shots, it softened them up a little bit and took the ball to the basket."

Once Bosh and O'Neal got the Sixers moving, there was little Philadelphia could do. O'Neal contributed 17 points and eight rebounds and while Brand got loose for 14 points and 17 boards, it wasn't enough.

"We want Chris and Jermaine to get in that post and demand the basketball and when they get it, we want them to go hard and quick (to the basket)," said Mitchell. "If they do that, then it's going to open up things for our shooters."

And the Raptor shooters took advantage. Jason Kapono, Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker each hit three three-pointers as the Sixers had to leave them alone because they were concentrating so much on the Raptor big men.

Now, it's not as if there weren't some weaknesses in Toronto's game, shortcomings that will have to be corrected quickly. The Raptors were hammered on the boards – 56-33 overall and they gave up an astounding 23 offensive boards – and were beaten to almost every loose ball by the quicker, more athletic Sixers.

"They understood what was happening to us. Everybody made a conscious effort to get to the glass and rebound the ball better," said Mitchell. "We didn't play great, we still did a lot of things wrong, but we competed."

Despite giving up all those offensive rebounds, the Raptors did limit the Sixers to 35 per cent shooting from the floor by playing most possessions well. One player who stood out was Kapono, who was always matched up against someone quicker but managed not to be a defensive liability.

"Jason Kapono's defence was good," said Mitchell. "It was a luxury for us to be able to keep him on the floor. He did his job. That's something he's worked on, his defence.

"He was guarding some quick guys. He ... was just keeping guys in front of him."

Davison And Dube Capture Skating Silver

Source: www.thestar.com - Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

(November 01, 2008) OTTAWA– Canadians Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison captured a silver medal in their season debut Saturday at HomeSense Skate Canada International.

Dube, from Drummondville, Que., and Davison, from Cambridge, Ont., who were third after Friday's short program, showed an edgier side in their performance to "Carmen" to win the free skate and finish second with 176.54 points.

Russians Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov scored 176.97 to narrowly beat the Canadians for gold.

"That certainly was close," Davison said. "We were really proud about how we came out and attacked that long really well, stayed in the character of the program better than we thought we would almost, and to be honest, that was a better long than we were expecting."

Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker were third with 161.51.

Dube and Davison had just one significant error in the catch of the triple twist, a manoeuvre where the male skater throws up the female parallel to the ice and catches her, and a move the Canadians have just added to their arsenal this season in an effort to move up the podium.

"Other than that, we felt really confident and smooth out there," Davison said.

Earlier in the day, Canadians Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier had the third best score in the original dance to leave them fifth overall.

Crone, from Aurora, Ont., and Poirier, from Unionville, Ont., scored 49.13 for their Ragtime performance and have 80.24 points overall.

"We were really happy with the way we performed the program in terms of interpretation and speed and bigness of movement," Poirier said. "And we think it really reflected in the program component score, so we're still happy with the performance."

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White had the best original dance to retain the overall lead with 90.65 points. Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France were sixth in the original dance but are in second overall with 81.27, while Americans Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, fourth in Saturday's program, are third with 80.35.

Andrea Chong of Toronto and Montreal Guillame Gfeller are eighth with 69.53 points.

With absence of Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the spotlight has shifted to Canada's No. 2 team Crone and Pourier this weekend in Ottawa.

"There's definitely a little bit more pressure," said Crone. ``But I think the Canadian crowd is amazing and once you get onto the ice and you hear them, everything just goes away from you, you don't think about anything, you're just happy to be representing your country."

Virtue and Moir, the silver medallists at last season's world championships, skipped Skate Canada as Virtue is recovering from surgery to relieve pain in her shins.


Iverson Traded To Pistons

Source: www.thestar.com - Larry Lage,
The Associated Press

(November 03, 2008)  DETROIT – The Detroit Pistons shook the NBA in a big way Monday – landing former MVP Allen Iverson from the Denver Nuggets. The Pistons gave up all-star point guard and former NBA finals MVP Chauncey Billups, top reserve Antonio McDyess and project Cheikh Samb. The trade was confirmed by Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, and a basketball official who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced. "He was very excited about the trade," Rose told The Associated Press. Pistons spokesperson Kevin Grigg declined to comment. Messages were left for a Nuggets spokesperson as well as for an agent representing Billups and McDyess. Iverson is in the final year of his contract, making US$20.8 million this season. Billups is in the second season of a four-year contract worth a guaranteed $46 million with a $14 million team option for a fifth year. The Pistons kept McDyess off the free-agent market by giving him a two-year contract extension, and they would love to have him back if the cost-cutting Nuggets buy out his contract. The blockbuster deal comes two games into the season for Detroit. The Pistons have been a model of consistency in recent years, but they were determined to change their core following a third straight exit from the Eastern Conference final last summer. The Pistons play at Charlotte on Monday night. The Bobcats are coached by Larry Brown, who led Billups and the Pistons to the 2004 NBA title and guided the Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers to a spot in the 2001 final. Billups returns to familiar surroundings – he was born in Denver and played in college at Colorado. McDyess also will be enjoying a homecoming of sorts, having been a Nugget from 1995-97 and 1998-02. Detroit plays the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night.


10 Ways to Break an Exercise Plateau

- By Raphael Calzadilla, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

(October 01, 2008) Does this sound familiar? You've been exercising for two or three months and things are going great. You're consistent, working up a sweat and using muscles you forgot you had. Your body fat is dropping and your energy is increasing. People are starting to comment on your changes, and you're not even worried about those occasional decadent moments when you go off your diet. You're so active, it just doesn't matter. Life is good.

Then, boom! You miss a day of exercise because something "comes up." You miss another day because something else "comes up." You experience a string of these days and then finally return to your exercise program. However, your resolve only lasts a day or two, and soon you're not looking forward to your workouts with the same enthusiasm. In fact, your workouts seem like a monumental struggle.

You're experiencing an exercise plateau.

Before you throw in the towel, know there is a solution to this dreaded dilemma. In fact, there are numerous solutions. The key is your plan of attack to counter it.

1. Get a workout partner. Find someone who has similar goals and try to work out with this person at least twice per week. If you know you have to meet someone at a specific time, you're bound to be accountable.

2. Hire a personal trainer. For five to 10 sessions, hire a personal trainer and make sure he/she trains you once or twice per week. You'll get the benefit of a structured workout program, as well as someone to monitor your progress and motivate you to achieve a more fit body. If you can't afford it, convince a friend to join you and pay for joint sessions with the trainer -- this will lower the price tag.

3. Plan a vacation to a warm climate. Like a destination where you can have fun and snorkel, swim, bike ride or go hiking.. Also, write down a few goals related to what you want your body fat, scale weight and measurements to be when you go on the trip. Planning for your vacation will be a constant source of motivation.

4. Join a club. There are many runners and walkers clubs, charity walk events, etc. Find one that appeals to you. The camaraderie and scheduled activities will be something you look forward to.

5. Exercise 10 minutes per day. One unorthodox routine I've given to several clients is 10 continuous minutes of exercise each day Monday thru Friday. The exercises are purely calisthenics, so all you need is your own body. For example, on Monday, perform a set of bent knee pushups followed by a set of abdominal crunches. There's no waiting between sets; you simply perform one exercise followed by the other for 10 consecutive minutes (make sure you warm up briefly before starting). On Tuesday, perform lunges and curls with dumbbells or cans. Wednesday, jump rope or walk briskly for 10 minutes. Thursday, repeat Monday's routine. Friday, perform all the exercises from Monday thru Thursday in succession.

6. Work out in the morning. I know it may be inconvenient and you have to get up earlier, but if you can manage three morning workouts per week you'll accomplish several things. You'll stimulate your metabolism for the rest of the day, decrease your appetite and, most importantly, start your day with success.

7. Consider getting some equipment for your home. You don't need a fully operational gym -- just some dumbbells, a jump rope and maybe a workout tape for when you can't get to the gym. Remember, we're looking for every opportunity to keep you on the right track. (Editor's note: Here's a great home workout!)

8. Scale back on workouts. If you find yourself slipping into an exercise funk, cut back on your workout time. For example, if you've been consistently exercising for an hour three to four days per week, cut back to 20-25 minutes and less days. This simple technique will keep you consistent and won't be mentally intimidating.

9. Plan your meals for the week. Try to cook healthy foods in advance. This sets the stage for nutritional success and is a deterrent to the "I'll just pick up a burger and fries" mentality. Allowing yourself some liberties on the weekends -- but planning your meals for the week -- will further guarantee success without suffering.

10. Pick one activity you want to get good at and focus on it. Something like improving your time on the treadmill, making your abs stronger, improving flexibility, being able to use heavier dumbbells. One goal can sometimes keep us focused and motivated.

You have the tips you need, so now put them to work. Don't let an exercise plateau beat you at its game. Fight back and win!

Fitness doesn't have to be something you force -- the key is finding a routine you like and a workout you look forward to. eDiets members get a free fitness program with their membership to help with this. Plus, get advice from our fitness pros on our Exercise & Fitness support board whenever you need a little motivation!

Please consult with your physician prior to starting any exercise program.


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com
— John Maxwell

"A difficult time can be more readily endured if we retain the conviction that our existence holds a purpose - a cause to pursue, a person to love, a goal to achieve."